Leprous interview (10/2013)
|With:||Einar Solberg, Tor Oddmund Suhrke, Øystein Landsverk|
|Conducted by:||Ivor (in person)|
Recorded after the gig at Club Tapper, Tallinn, Estonia, 23.09.2013
We were supposed to do the interview at lunch time, just after the supposed arrival time. However, the band turned up only 15 minutes before the venue opening time and it was a busy time. Luckily I managed to get hold of the band after the show.
You're in the middle of the first leg of your European tour. How's it going so far?
ES: It's going very well. This is kind of the experimental part of the tour where we're trying out places where we didn't do any headliner shows before, mostly. So, it's a bit more "Whoo!" with attendances because it's places we don't know how the response is. Some places have been very, very good and others have been... less good. Especially some places in Norway. I think we'll skip next time. (Laughs.) We had a bit too many places in Norway. But except for that it's going very, very nice.
ØS: We went to Russia too.
Yeah, what happened? Why did you arrive so late? (Referring to the band coming from St. Petersburg and arriving in Tallinn 15 minutes before the doors opened.)
ES: Pfft... We were in Russia. (Laughs.)
ES: Russian border, yeah. Luckily we actually arrived. I've heard many stories about buses having to turn around and driving back again. Heard Rammstein actually had once to turn around with, like... how many semi-trailers?
ØS: 15 or something. I can't remember. Like, a million a day just to stand still.
So, you're schedule is pretty busy. How are you going to manage it?
ES: It's going fine. It's not so... When you're on tour, you're on tour. It's not so busy.
Tor Oddmund Suhkre: Photo of the Correct Man
(Here Tor interrupts and says that, to my great embarrassment, it's not him on the photo I've given him. Everyone gets a good laugh at this. While I try to apologise for the faux pas, he laughs it off, and says he can still sign him, and makes me promise to get him a picture of him the next time. I'll remember that one, Tor.)
Right... So, there's going to be the next part of the tour as well. And if I remember correctly you're going to drop in Japan in the middle?
ES: Yes. It's just a bit more than one and a half week, or two weeks we're going to Japan now. In two weeks. So, that's going to be very cool.
Initially you were going on tour with Ørkenkjøtt. So, why did they drop out? And how did you come by Vulture Industries?
ES: Ørkenkjøtt dropped out because that had nothing to do with the tour. It's just that they needed a break with the band for some reason. For that reason I think you need to ask them because I'm not completely sure what the reason is. But they are not active these days. So, they're having a break.
Ah, OK. So it was kind of their decision to drop out.
ES: Yeah. So, therefore we just spread the word that we needed a support band and we got in contact with Vulture Industries. I know the band a bit from before so it was good choice, I think.
Did you have any other options?
ES: Yeah, we had many options. And then, suddenly, the bands just went "Oh, no, we cannot do it anyway." (Laughs.)
ØS: We actually had a Facebook campaign.
Yeah, I remember that you posted that you needed a support band.
ES: I think one of the reasons is because the other part of the tour had a support band like that (and snaps his fingers) because it's the popular area to play. Now we're doing more, kind of, unusual places that are not so typical, like Russia, and many places around. Lot's of places in Norway. It's kind of not the typical market, in a way. So, I think that's a reason why it was kind of a bit more... therefore it was natural also to have a Norwegian band on that part, since it also emphasised Scandinavia.
I was told that Vulture Industries are good band. Didn't believe until I saw it. Very good choice for that... You were playing now here for the second time. Actually, not exactly here but in Tallinn. Last time you were supporting Amorphis. How do you recall that show?
ES: It was the first show of the tour for us, so I remember it very, very well. It was very nice and it was a lot of butterflies in the belly. We're going out on kind of the biggest tour so far in our career. And we just had released a new album. I remember it very well, it was very cool to play here.
TOS: I remember very well being at home. (Laughs.) With other obligations. So... And hearing about how it went. (Laughs.) It was because it was the first show and it was the first few shows that I weren't able to be on.
So, you joined later on?
ØS: It was about a week.
TOS: Something, I think.
OK, you have been supporting Opeth, Pagan's Mind, Therion, and Amorphis in the past. Currently you're doing your headlining tour. In what way are these two types of tours different for you?
ES: It's very, very different. When you are a support band it's kind of you have to fight very hard to impress the audience and you need to just... They're there for the main band mostly, so you need to kind of try to steal as many as you can, the fans of the main band. And also it's a lot more time to just go around and do things, go around in the city in the leisure time.
TOS: But then again it's a lot less time playing on the stage. That's a big downside.
ØS: Trade off.
ES: But the good thing now is that we can deliver our full production, we can do exactly what we want, we can have the sound we want, lights we want, and everything. I prefer headliner shows because then we can choose more ourselves, the package.
ØS: And the people that show up are there to see us. That's also better.
TOS: And also after being on a headliner tour it's not that tempting to go back to being the support band unless it's like the craziest thing ever. (Laughs.) Or, maybe, some split thing. It's very nice to be able to play the exact show that you want.
Einar Solberg: In Formal Attire
You've made formal attire - I mean suits and ties - part of your band image. How important is it to have a consistent image on stage? What kind of effect does it have on your shows?
ES: For us it's very important to have a full package in a way it seems that it's actually very thought through, what we wear on stage, and that we don't just go there with our everyday random clothes. Because, I don't know, for me that's very lazy.
TOS: It's a bit uninspiring to look at band shirt, or something. And I think also that the recognition effect... Kind of, like, when you enter the stage and then you are the band that people have come to watch instead of just people that you know from the band, if you know what I mean.
So, you mean it's like putting on your work clothes?
TOS: Yeah! And you also get a bit into I'm not sure you can call it character, but you get this extra dimension on what you're doing instead of just hanging around "OK, we're going to play and then go back again afterwards." It's like you step a bit into that role that's being in the band. I think also it does something with us...
A paradigm shift?
TOS: Yeah, you feel more ready to do what you're supposed to.
That's great to hear! How do you perceive your audience from the stage?[/b]
ØS: Depends totally on where we are, it's very different.
How was it today?
ES: Today was...
ØS: The front row was very active! 2-3 first rows were very into it and the others were more like...
ES: A bit back and forth between the bar... (Laughs.)
ØS: … careful and listening more, I guess.
It's actually interesting. I'd say you're kind of a bit lucky to have a front row. It's that kind of a gig.
ES: Is it typical Estonia not to have it?
I don't know. It kind of seems like the people at the front are standing in a semi-circle farther from the stage. Were you here when Vulture Industries started? They had this kind of a semi-circle until the singer said "Come on, come closer!" And it's one of the rare times that has actually worked.
ES: So, people from Estonia are shy people, is that what you're saying? (Laughs.)
I don't know. I usually kind of refer to it as a kind of distance of respect, or something like that.
ES: Ah, OK. (Laughs.)
TOS: I also think that what I see in many places, it doesn't matter how intense the audience are, or where they stand, but you can see how they react to the music. And if you see that people are standing very calmly but they are very into it and listening, and they are, like, living with the music, that's also a very giving thing when you're playing. You don't have to, like, be headbanging, because everybody can do that without actually listening to the song.
What do you do if the audience is not into you or your performance?
ES: We deliver exactly the same show no matter what. Because maybe 10 people there are into us and they deserve to have exactly same show no matter what.
ØS: And the chance of them actually liking it later in the show is much better, much higher if you work as hard as you can.
ES: It's a bit funny to take the challenge "OK, this audience horrible. Let's turn them around!" (Grrr!)
ØS: Come on, come on!
TOS: Some artists and bands kind of get angry at the audience sometimes, if they're, like, talking to each other or whatever. As I said, in a way they just give us extra will to deliver even more intense shows. So they will stop talking to each other and maybe not consider going back to the bar, and sit there and buy a beer, but rather just stay there listening. I think we often succeed. (Laughs.)
What's your most horrible show so far?
ES & ØS: On this tour?
No, in general, as a band.
ES: Actually I had personally quite horrible show on this tour, for my sake. But the show itself wasn't horrible, just for me it felt really, really horrible because I got ill, my voice didn't work at all and every time I was singing or doing anything it was like somebody was slamming me with a hammer in the head. It was so extremely painful. That was very horrible for me personally. But the show itself was decent. It was OK. But we've done some really horrible shows too.
TOS: But mostly in the past, it's a very long time ago. I would guess, if you were to point out the worst show... You know, we started as a youth band over 12 years ago and you can imagine we've had quite some shows that... (Laughs.)
ES: I remember once we were playing a cover of the Swedish band Finntroll, when we were still teenagers...
ØS: Quite some years ago...
ES: ... quite some years ago, yeah. And then I came to this, kind of, section where I was playing keyboard thing alone and then I was just "Uh, what's here? I cannot remember!"
ØS: The whole band stopped and he was supposed to play.
ES: I just forgot it completely. "OK, OK, we'll take this song again."
TOS: So, we just started the song over.
ES: Now, of course, if I forgot I would just stop a while and pretend that I was "OK... Ah, now, I start!" and just pretend that it was on purpose. That's what you learn through the years, to make a mistake into something intentional.
ØS: It doesn't really become a mistake unless you choose it yourself. Because of "Ah... Ah..."
TOS: I think we've learned many things by just doing the mistakes and then learning from them. And I think that's helped us a lot.
Learning from mistakes is always good. Not learning is bad.
ES: Yeah, there are many people who don't learn...
Let's talk about the new album (Coal). There's a feeling of considerable change since your previous album (Bilateral). You might even say this new one has kind of a grown up feeling to it. How do you perceive your progress over the albums, and especially now with Coal?
ØS: For me the earliest were like a lot of experimenting. I guess we just tried everything, just wanted to see how things sounded and just went for anything we could possibly try. All ideas we had we just put into a song and when the song was long enough we started a new song. And it has a riff that might as well have been in the previous song, if you know what I mean. I guess we kind of...
TOS: I think we matured a bit.
ØS: ... matured a bit, yeah, over the years.
TOS: I think in comparison to what Øystein said we've grown up to be more confident in the main idea of the song and maybe try to develop the songs out of just fewer ideas. And that makes this a bit more... I'm not sure. I mean, it's not all over the place like many others and that not necessarily is a bad thing. I know that people also prefer that. We tried that. And we've always tried to develop and try something new. And then this time this was what we felt was more ideal? And if it feels more mature then I guess it's natural since we are evolving and, I guess, maturing.
ES: How I feel also is that not necessarily that we're trying to evolve but that we're kind of just following our natural evolution instead of denying it.
TOS: We're not trying to stick to the success from earlier.
ES: Yeah. You can say also that it's more severe, and melancholic mood in the album comparing to the previous one. And it's more, yes, consistent, feeling throughout the entire album.
Einar Solberg: Giving Everything
Playing your older material alongside the new one, do you feel like you'd want to change something in the older songs?
ØS: Yeah, we always did something...
TOS: That's why we change it when we play live.
ES: Yeah! We already do it. Just not huge changes but, like, "OK, this is unnecessary there..."
TOS: We might do this better, so we'll try it.
ES: But still, we have to still let the songs be the songs without completely renewing them. But we are never afraid of just making a minor changes to make things work better in a live setting because that's something we gained a lot of experience since Bilateral. It's a live experience. And to know also just what sounds good in a live context. Also to just have the common sound as the emphasis and not just "Oh, I want to play this! I want to play this!" Just put away your ego and think that "OK, maybe it's cool that I actually play a bit less here than more."
ØS: I think it's also about choosing what songs fit. We don't play just anything from the old stuff, we kind of choose the songs that we think fit best into the new sound. Make it consistent, if you know what I mean.
So, probably quite a lot of songs you don't play now.
ES: Yeah, yeah. It's a lot of songs we could have played. Some days we have an encore, when we have time for it, but today since we arrived late and everything... We do sometimes an encore with some older things. It depends on the days.
You have been saying in interviews that Coal is kind of spontaneous and honest, and it's flowing better and is less jumpy than Bilateral. How does having a deeper album kind of affect writing, or playing, or listening experience?
ES: I'm not completely sure I understood the question...
TOS: How it is to play more serious things?
Yeah, or write, or listen...
ES: It was, at least for me, when I wrote my parts for the album, it was much more emotional period, for me personally. A lot of things happened for me personally. I don't know, it was easier to just dig deeper than earlier and when I made something not be afraid of delivering out myself through the music. So, that's one way of seeing it and how it is to play it, I think it's very nice. Because, I don't know, it feels very natural still to play it.
Øystein Landsverk: Recreating a Feeling
ØS: I think for me it's more about recreating kind of a feeling than an exact riff itself, if you know what I mean, in comparison to the older albums where we were more about exactly this "Nooo! You can't play that 16th note there! That's totally different!" Now it's more "Ah, it's not such a big deal, it's the feel of it," you know what I mean.
ES: Yeah! That's what we did also in the recording of the album. With Bilateral we were just sitting there doing very, very small details, and just moving, and just playing just again, and again, and again, and again. But now it's just like "OK, this sounds cool!" You don't have to do it anything with now. It's sounds good and it sounds more convincing than if you just killed the nerve completely by just splitting it down to very, very small sections.
So, you're kind of going from technical side to your emotional side?
ØS: I guess, kind of.
There's an interesting quote from the review on Metal Storm: "Throughout the album you'll notice Solberg's voice as clearly as a canary in a coal mine." What was you challenge as a singer and what have you achieved with Coal?
ES: It's without doubt an extremely challenging album for the voice, very hard. That's something I've really felt on the tour, especially now to combine songs like "Contaminate Me" and "The Cloak" in the same set lists. Some days I just had to cut away "The Cloak" because "Contaminate Me" destroyed a bit… But in the studio it was quite nice, actually. Because I hadn't planned anything at all when I went into the studio with the vocals. I just had really good days in the studio and I was really inspired, and I managed to just, yes, do things more spontaneously. It ended up being a very vocal-based album even though that was not the plan initially. It's just because I was very inspired, and just "OK, this section lacks something. Ah, let's put vocals there!" (Laughs.) Vocals. Vocals Vocals, and everything.
Instead of a technical riff?
ØS: And then live he is like... (Starts hyperventilating really hard.)
ES: Yeah, especially on the first three songs... four songs we played today I have like one or two breaks for a few seconds. And then it's just singing, singing, singing, singing, singing... Very hard vocals all the time. (Laughs.)
Coal has an interesting album cover. Especially in a way that it reminds me of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
But, it's kind of hard to imagine your album being a soundtrack to that kind of a movie. So, what kind of a movie is your album a soundtrack to?
(A long pause settles in.)
ES: Hmm... That's a good question. Something quite...
ØS: Dark and emotional, I guess.
ES: ... dark, and melancholic, and bit, how to say... quite floating. It's a bit hard to say exactly if it's an action - not an action but...
TOS: David Lynch meets Lars von Trier? No, I'm not sure.
ES: Ah, it's not exactly David Lynch, this one, I think. Because it's too... maybe some of it.
TOS: But still, but still. I think he's got movies with a lot of emotion, even though many of them maybe don't make that much sense.
ES: Personally, me I felt the surrealism was the stronger element in the previous album.
TOS: Yeah, but it's not the part of music being surrealistic, it's more like the mood in the movie.
ES: Ah, I understand. Yeah, some of it. It's very hard to say.
So, doesn't any kind of a title pop up in your mind?
TOS: No, actually no.
A new movie. What would it be about?
ØS: The life of a miner.
A lone miner.
ES: It could be actually cool to have a movie where the entire movie was filmed inside the coal mine.
All right, there you have a new idea for a project... How do you write and record your music and how has it changed over time?
ØS: Mostly we have a few ideas that we write at home and we present them to the band at the rehearsal room. And then we try to make something out of it. It could be an entire song or it could be just a small idea that we try to work on. But what changed this time is with previous albums we spent a lot more time, like maybe 2 years on writing the material. But Coal was written in a, I don't know...
TOS: 6 months.
ØS: ... yeah, half a year, or something. So, the whole process was a lot faster.
ES: That doesn't mean that we worked more with Bilateral. It just means that we were much slower in the working process.
TOS: Yeah, more intense.
ØS: So, it ended up more diverse, or kind of different throughout the album but Coal is more focused, I think. It sounds like it's more from the same period of time, maybe, than the previous stuff. But the recording is pretty much the same, I guess. With Tall Poppy Syndrome we did everything in a studio in Sweden. Bilateral we did a lot of stuff at home, like the rhythm guitars, and the keyboards, and the base. And then we kind of put everything together in the studio. We do vocals in the studio and some lead guitars, and maybe some more synthesizery stuff, and the drums as well. And we did that on both, Bilateral and Coal. Then we put everything together in a studio here at home. On the last two albums we sent it to Fascination Street to mix it, and mastering.
OK. You're also Ihsahn's backing band. How's that different from being your own band?
TOS: It's very different? (Laughs.)
In what way? Do influences kind of cross over?
ES: I guess in the subconsciousness but not, like, directly. Because we don't work close together in the daily life.
TOS: And also when we just play with different bands it's very different, at least as a guitarist, and especially also as a keyboardist, and vocalist.
ØS: It's more like a job, kind of, you know, it's a session.
TOS: And also the technical thing on playing. It's very different kinds of riffs, and things like that.
ES: It's maybe even more riff-based music, guitar riff based music than the one we have. It's a lot faster usually. Especially my role there, it's very, very different.
ØS: A lot to do for us, a lot less for him.
ES: Yeah. With Leprous I am always busy on stage with something but with Ihsahn I kind of have a lot of spare time.
When you started over, what, 10 years ago, or more, how did you get your foot in the music business?
ES: We just sent around the demo with Aeolia, the first one. And we had some interest from Sensory Records, from United States. But I think our goal was not to release that one but to release something new. But he wanted to release that one but we didn't want to because we were not that satisfied...
TOS: We wanted to re-record it but then we didn't want to because we had already made most of the songs for Tall Poppy Syndrome. So, we rather wanted to record that and then send that instead. So, when we sent that, Tall Poppy Syndrome, the finished recording to the same people, I remember we got a couple of hours, or maybe half an hour later from him "Where can I send the contract?" I remember especially because he was already interested in releasing the previous one. And he was waiting.
ES: And through them we got in contact with IntroMental management and booking, which we are using still, which booked this entire tour, which later on got us in contact with InsideOut, Century Media, for Bilateral. I think we've always shown to the people around us that we are in this fully and we give everything we have. Like that we become quite a high priority and therefore it's...
TOS: When it's obvious for the management that we are a band that really wants to go somewhere then they will also spend a lot of time on helping us. Because if we show no interest then they will be "OK, you can be here but nothing will happen." And I think just because we've just been staying focused, and developing, and being active, and I think that's the main way. I don't think you should wait and hang around to score the best record deal before you have done anything else. Just to stay in there is the best way.
If you were starting a band today how would you go about starting it?
ES: I wouldn't start it today. (Everybody laughs.) If I knew all the things I had to do again.
ØS: I was actually thinking about it on stage today. What would it be like to do this all over again. (Laughs.) Start from scratch.
ES: I wouldn't have the motivation to do all the bottom steps of the stairs.
Einar Solberg: I wouldn't start it today
TOS: But the thing is that if you were starting a band you should try to find out where you want to go and try to just do something that you feel is honest and something that you really want to put your heart into instead of just trying to be that other band that you like. Try to develop your own sound and of course it's not done in a snap. Just start with that and then after a while you will develop your ability to play and to play it together in the band, and to develop music and you will probably make a couple shitty demos. And then maybe after a while you will sit there with something very good. I think that's a realistic way of thinking but of course I'm not saying that nobody out there is talented enough to make it right away. But I think that's a realistic way of thinking.
ES: And the problem with most bands that start these days is that they are really in a hurry to get big and then they get complete disappointment when they see that it doesn't work like that anymore. You have to climb the ladder very slowly and it's very, very hard at times but also, of course, it's very rewarding. But still just imagine we've sacrificed a lot, a lot, a lot for Leprous to get where we are now. And we still have some time to go before we can completely live from it. Even though it's getting better every year.
TOS: Yeah. So, just be stubborn and believe in what you do.
ØS: Don't give up.
TOS: And also be aware that it will probably cost a lot of money before you start earning anything.
Of course. It's always like that with dreams, isn't it?
ES: But that's with everything. If you start another kind of company, it costs the first years. For most people they give up before...
TOS: We know many bands, and I know that's one of the main reasons why bands stop. Because they tried so long and they aren't making any money and they just give up. They wanted to do something else and get some regular jobs.
How do you think the modern music distribution, and music availability affects the band?
TOS: Well, it won't be easy to earn money, at least. (Laughs.) But it's easier to get exposure. So, if you're very good at social media and things like that, and making interesting things, like music videos, things that fascinate people. But to get it somewhere that people actually notice it. That's very difficult because it's so easy for everyone to do it.
Yeah, there's an abundance of new bands.
TOS: But that's an even bigger reason that you have to try to make something that distinguishes a bit, stands out from the rest.
Well, you are not, let's say, out-right crazy like Shining (NOR), or Diablo Swing Orchestra, or similar bands. It's probably not easy to surprise your listener, or any listener nowadays.
ES: Yeah, but it's kind of as long as you're ready to take the slow road, eventually you will get there, I think. Just as long as you continue and never stop trying to improve your work and every time to try to do something better.
TOS: You should never be satisfied.
Mm... So, you're not satisfied with your new album?
TOS: Everything can be better. (Laughs.)
ES: It's maybe not the correct word, to never be satisfied, but you should never, kind of, settle for just "OK, now we're here, now it's good enough." It's just like "That's good enough for what we could do then but now we can still do better." You have to have that humbleness, you have to be a bit humble and realise that you're not the greatest in the world at what you do. Always something new to learn, always something to improve. So, that goes for everything, in a way. Always something new to learn about the subject.
What is the best environment to enjoy a Leprous album?
ES: Ah, that's a very subjective thing.
TOS: I don't want to tell anyone how they... Because some people can have the best way of listening to it at home, dark room and some other people might enjoy it most in the car while driving somewhere.
ES: What I can say is that it's best to listen to it in its entirety.
TOS: Yeah, it's more based on the entire album than each single song.
ES: Even though, of course, we have some stand out songs.
OK, so that's your advice to...
ØS: Take your time.
TOS: Yeah, you should take your time because it's many things that you just need to... you have to feel it, I guess. It's not necessarily only impressive riffs, it's more the feeling. So you have to be focused, I think.
I can agree with that.
ØS: I like to have headsets for that kind of things, so you can get into and hear all the details nicely.
Yeah, but this album takes time to settle in.
ØS: I think it's because it takes a few spins before some people like it. They are kind of surprised at the first listen and they need a few more spins to get everything. But Bilateral was more like in your face.
Yeah, people were kind of, I wouldn't say disappointed, but surprised, a bit unpleasantly surprised.
ES: Both, both. We have many different reactions. It really depends from person to person. But I think mostly we had a better success with this album than the previous in total. In a way because it's more consistent it's also has a wider appeal, in a way. Even though, maybe, the one's who were expecting us to be here, and there, and there, and there, they were thinking "Oh, oh, they're not crazy any more." But, I don't know, it's just a natural evolution and it's completely OK to prefer Bilateral to Tall Poppy Syndrome because it's just a different mood. But it's another thing to expect that album to come again. That's something I don't understand. Because if they already have the album they don't need it to come again, they need something new. They can prefer it or they can not like. It's just two different pieces of music, that's all.
OK, it is getting kind of long. (The guys laugh at that.) I'll ask the last question. Do you already feel the satisfaction of the completed album fading and the need to start the work on the new one?
ES: I guess, yeah.
ØS: I think right now I'm focused on the tour. But I'm always looking forward to the beginning of the new writing period. That's always a lot of fun because we try not to put any restrictions on ourselves and think about expectations and all that. So we usually just go completely, like, with the open mind into it. So it's a lot of fun to write new music and see where it takes us.
ES: But it's not going to be immediately after the tour. Just a small break.
TOS: Yeah, small break. (Laughs.)
But do you get ideas while touring?
ES: Not now. Not yet.
TOS: No, I haven't either.
ES: It takes so much energy and time. It's very hard to be more creative because the show... Today we played like not the full show even, and it's quite long. When we play the full show it's 1:45, a bit more than that. That's quite long just to do that every day with our intensity. It's not really room for me to... I just want to do brain-dead activities when we have off days.
Not much creativity left over.
ES: No, not now. If we had a support tour, it could be different.
So, any last words?
(Silence stretches out, then they laugh.)
ØS: No, I guess not.
TOS: Then we'd have to be creative and we're not. (Everyone laughs again.) We spent all our creativity, so...
Thanks to the guys for agreeing to do it after the show.
Posted on 09.10.2013 by
I shoot people.
Sometimes, I also write about it.
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