Norwegian Proggers Leprous are on their way up. They absolutley deserve to be up there. Their very one-of-a-Kind, emotional Prog-Metal is still getting better and better. At Euroblast Festival in Cologne I had the opportunity to talk to their Musical mastermind Einar Solberg. This is the raw, almost unedited, english Version of the Interview. There’s a German Translation available at Whiskey-Soda Webzine. Enjoy!
WS: You’re on tour now to promote your latest album „The Congregation“, which has just been released a few weeks ago. How has everything been so far?
ES: Well, the response has been really awesome and everything. It’s very nice for us to get such good feedback. But still, we need to distance ourselves a little bit from all the feedback, wether it’s positive or negative we need to keep focused on the music and do things better. The problem is that everyone has his different opinions and when you start considering them, it just becomes chaos. And that really leads you off the path in a way. A lot of people set their opinions as facts, so you just need to keep focused.
WS: Although I’ve been doing it for a few years now, it’s very hard to write about music. You can describe it and try to get something said about it, but it’s still very subjective. More than to write about video games or movies for example. A lot of it is a matter of taste of course. So you gotta keep true to yourself.
ES: It’s the only thing that you can do as an artist actually. That’s why it is very important to us during the writing process of new music to really isolate ourselves. Of course, there are a few selected people, that we share our thoughts, because we trust in their opinion. It’s nice to get some outside views sometimes, but it has to be somebody that we really trust and who knows what he is talking about. I’m the same like this when it comes to other subjects, I have a lot to say, but when it all comes down, I haven’t got a clue (Laughs). Doesn’t matter if its politics or other stuff. Everyone has a lot more opinion then knowledge.
WS: One thing were you obviously don’t care about how your audience reacts is the way you present your vocals. They are intense in a way, but also quite soft considered the style of other vocals in metal bands or even compared to the hard riffs in your music. Is it your natural tone, was it an intentional decision to sing this way? Why do you sing the way you do?
ES: Well, I still scream from time to time, but more like an effect than to sing vocals. It’s still a part of Leprous, but it will never be a main part. The more I develop, the less I think about how to sing. Also I think that you can not sing properly unless you relax yourself – that’s true to a lot of other stuff as well.
WS: Yeah, if you have listened to the last few albums of Leprous you gotta notice that you developed very much as a singer. From time to time you remind me of a famous singer. Can you guess who I mean?
ES: Well, of course I have been told before. There are different people. Because I listen to a lot of Radiohead people tell me that I remind them of Muse – because they are also inspired by Radiohead. Was it Muse?
WS: It’s a guy that comes from Norway and is very famous there.
ES: Morten Harket?
ES: Hmm, I’ve heard that one before amongst other names. But he’s normally singing much clearer than me. But if you think about ‚The Cloak‘, I understand what you mean. Some memories create associations. And of course he’s an awesome vocalist. But I like A-ha very much, so it’s definitely a compliment.
WS: You started your musical career as the Keyboarder of Isahn of Emperor, who is your brother in law I believe. I was asking myself how that experience in particular as a part of the Black Metal Scene influenced the music you went on making later on.
ES: Everything you do, that you spend time on is a part of your shaping of who you are in a way, you cannot control that. I’m not very directly inspired by black metal any more, but still I really appreciate dark and melancholic music in general. Much more than other stuff. So of course a lot of Extreme Metal falls in that category. We still have some sections here and there that resamble that. My favourite record the last year was Behemoth, „The Satanist“. Even though I’m not that much into Extreme Metal any more. Because I think the most of the bands keep repeating themselves.
WS: What did you like about it specifically?
ES: They had the passion – like they were meaning every single note that they were playing. That’s what I need in music – I need a passion, really going deeply into it. That’s what I love about it. I had absolutely zero relation to the band until I saw them live and they played a few songs from that album. I’ve always thought they were not that interesting, but then I saw them live. So I really don’t mind genres in music. I mind mood and atmosphere. Some electronic or pop bands can be darker and more intense than some extreme metal Bands in my opinion. It’s about going deep and some people I believe are playing music just on the surface. When I go on big metal festivals I always think: Same, same, same… Another thing that is very important that a band or their music has it’s own character. I don’t even have to like it, but it needs to have some character. Regardless if I like their music or not. You can recognize that within five seconds. Their are a lot of bands that I don’t like, but I respect them very much for having it. Just take one of your german superstars from Rammstein. I don’t like them, but I respect them very much for having their own sound. You recognize them in two seconds. And that’s what is most important in my opinion. Being true to themselves and not trying to fit into something.
WS: You told me of Behemoth and I talked about Emperor earlier. So there’s another question on my mind now. Do you think their passion for their music is linked up with their personal view of the world, their beliefs, all the occult and satanistic stuff?
ES: I don’t take that part of it so serious, to be honest. I think it’s more like a gimmick for them. The musical, emotional part of it – that seems to be very very sincere. Like giving their whole soul into making it.
WS: I read an interview of the Bandleader of Behemoth, Nergal, a while ago in a christian metal magazine. And it was very, very interesting. He was very respectful, but also very clear in his words that the occult ideas are something that he relates to very much. Almost like a sort of personal belief. I think, that may be at least a part of the sincerety that you feel.
ES: Well. Maybe.
WS: Artistic Dreams.
ES: The only thing, that I really, really want to do, is to be able to live fully out of the music – and it’s getting closer. So that’s my main dream – so that I can focus only on that. I’m kind of in a good circle now because until now, I had to work a lot besides the band. We’re all still trying to get things better, and the bigger the band gets – and it’s gradually getting better and better for us now – the more time I get to make it even better. I already have the live of my dreams – and now the next thing is to live off the music.
WS: That’s funny because Oystein was telling me the same when I asked him the same question in a e-mail-interview two years ago.
ES: Really? He isn’t that obsessed with living off the music. He’s that kind of guy that needs some of the „normal world“ besides the music. He needs that. And I don’t. (laughs)
Real world, go away, I want to focus on the music. I think everybody who sets long-term goals and works hard enough for them, will finally achieve them if they have the talent. At least in the western world, where you have the economical possibilities. It’s just about not giving up. It sounds like a clichee, but that’s the reason why it’s a clichee. Because it’s actually true.
WS: Did it help you to change to InsideOut Music?
ES: Yes, very much. Because they reach much more people than the last label we had. That definitely helped. And we have our own artistic freedom, sometimes we’re discussing a little bit, but in the end, WE chose what we do. Sometimes they make suggestions like „maybe you should put this there and cut away that song“ and stuff. Sometimes we listen if they got a point, but in the end it becomes what we’re convinced about. That’s also in our contract and that’s very cool. I don’t mind if they got opinions about our music – because sometimes you can get lost a bit in your own world. Sometimes it helps, to see things rationally.
WS: Well, I think it’s always a big tension between staying true to yourself and everything. But of cause these guys now about marketing and all that stuff.
ES: Yeah, that’s true. But sometimes label tend to overthinking everything. They sometimes make the audience more stupid then they are. We had a discussion regarding the length of the album. They wanted it shorter. But we said we won’t cut away two songs. It’s doesn’t matter if the album is long or short. It’s the same with movies. A four hour movie can seem short if you like it. And a 90 minutes movie can seem like an eternity if you don’t like it. That’s what I mean. It’s just numbers. But in the end we agreed and now they’re advertising it: „This 64 Minute Album“ (laughs). And of course a long album is not a bad thing in the Prog Scene.