Leprous Talks About Gear, Recording In A Church, And Prog Bands
Band Photo: Leprous (?)
The five talented Norwegian lads backing Ihsahn at ProgPower USA had actually played at the previous year’s ProgPower already. Vocalist/keyboardist Einar Solberg, drummer Tobias Ørnes Andersen, bassist Rein Blomquist, guitarist Øystein Landsverk, and guitarist Tor Oddmund Suhrke comprise the daring anomaly known as Leprous. Now returning sophomores of the festival, the band found themselves playing a whirlwind of black and prog metal behind the former Emperor frontman.
In MetalUnderground.com’s previous interview with Leprous, we tackled their latest CD, “Bilateral (reviewed here,)” and the band’s connection to Ihsahn. Because we were at the ProgPower festival, I thought it’d be nice to pick the band’s collective brain about progressive music, music gear, and some other things. As we sat down at the Artmore hotel courtyard down the street from the venue, I could sense that the band was eager to get back on stage, having just played the night before. They were also quite eager to talk. The interview is below.
Frank Serafine (Progressivity_In_All): Is Leprous going to be touring the US soon?
Einar Solberg: Not soon, but hopefully in 2012. Hopefully!
FS: Are there any bands here at the festival that you’re especially excited to see?
Tor Suhrke: Well, I must say, since we toured with Therion last November, we think it’s funny to meet up with them again because they’re very nice. We listened to their show like 29 times last November, so, listening to it again now, it’s a bit almost nostalgic! (band agrees)
FS: It’s like a homecoming for you guys?
FS: How is it to be playing Ihsahn’s music? I know they are not easy parts to play.
Einar: It’s very cool to do something that’s completely different from what we are doing, ourselves. For me, it’s not extremely challenging, but for the rest of the guys… I’m quite easy-going on the keyboards. For the guitarist, the drummer…
Øystein Landsverk: It’s quite technical. There is definitely a challenge there, but we practice a lot. I guess it’s been like 3 years now? Since we started out?
Tor: When he makes new music, it’s harder to play. So, as we’re getting better at having the energy on stage, the harder he makes it for us to actually move around! Because we have to keep our focus on the guitar instead. Sometimes, it’s hard to play, but we really like to evolve. You’re learning a completely different kind of approach.
FS: Some of you have actually studied with Ihsahn – which ones?
Tor: Well, he was my guitar tutor for half a year in the local music school in Notodden, but of course, we’ve known him for several years. We picked up a lot of things on the way. He’s helped us in previous recordings, and he’s taught us many things.
Øystein: Yeah, he tutored me for about three years when I first started out. That’s a long time ago!
FS: For the gear junkies, would each of you like to explain your setup?
Einar: Who should start?
FS: (To Tobias) That end?
Tobias Andersen: I use a really simple setup. I’ve got two toms, a kick drum, a snare, and a couple of cymbals.
FS: What brands? (laughs)
Tobias: I have Sonar drum kits that I normally use. I mostly use Sabian cymbals. I really like really big cymbals with a lot of wash. I’m really picky with the cymbals, but the drums can be any kind, and are usually tuned really low.
FS: Sonar and Sabian, mostly.
Tobias: Mostly! Yeah.
Tor: I’m sitting right next to my new purchased guitar! I think it’s a PRS MC.
FS: The red one that you had last night on stage?
Tor: No, this is a new one, but it actually looks very much like the one. It’s a bit darker in color, but it’s also red. It’s an MC-58 I think. I haven’t tried it that much yet. (laughs) And the other guitar is a PRS Custom 22. I also have this eight string guitar Ibanez.
Øystein: An RG-228. It’s one of the first eight string models, I think.
FS: Ah, okay.
Tor: For the amplifier, I’ve been using a Dual Rectifier, the Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier. Just a week ago, I bought a Blackstar, the 200 series one. I think I’m very satisfied with that as well. We just tried it at one show so far, but it sounded really good.
FS: This show?
Tor: No, not here.
Øystein: We played a release show on Wednesday for our new album. We got to try it out there.
Tor: That’s it, but I’ve got a Crybaby.
FS: That’s a classic wah pedal.
Rein Blomquist: I play a Lakland bass, Skyline series. I use Eden amplifiers – Eden Electronics. I use some pedals as well. I have two overdrive pedals. One is really really gritty and angry. One just has a little bit of crunch in it. I also sometimes use some octave pedals.
Einar: I use Clavia Nord keyboards. I have one Nord Stage 88, the first model, actually, and I have one Nord Wave. I’m kind of trying to make my own things, my own sounds, rather than use the fabricated setup, you know. I feel that there are extremely good possibilities of making authentic and really original sounds on the Clavia keyboards, compared to many other brands because it’s so easy to use the knobs and use filters and amplification simulation, reverb, delay…
I kind of do a lot of things live in turning knobs, filters… So I don’t usually do the same thing every concert.
FS: That makes it unique every show.
Einar: It depends on the inspiration. (laughs) If I don’t have too much inspiration, I just do whatever I usually do. That’s it. I use Clavia Nord keyboards and I’m planning to continue doing that because I love them. Microphone? Whatever’s good. (laughs)
Øystein: I bought the new amp like him, but I use the 100-watt version, the 104EL34. Up til now, I’ve used an Elmwood M6. It’s a small Swedish company. It’s a kind of boutique amp. They’ve got 3 models. I like it. For guitars, I use the RG that we mention that we bought for the Ihsahn shows and we used it on our CD as well. My main guitar is an Ibanez J-Custom RG-8670. That’s mostly what I use. Some Blackstar effects.
FS: Okay. Some Blackstar effects? They have pedals?
Øystein: Oh yeah, quite a number. They have valves in them as well. I haven’t gotten to try them that much. They look cool!
FS: Since we’re at ProgPower, what are some of your favorite progressive records?
Einar: Should I start? Does the old stuff count?
FS: Absolutely. Anything from 30-40 years ago on.
Einar: Everything from King Crimson, basically. They’re my favorite prog band, without doubt.
FS: Are you looking forward to the Steven Wilson remixes?
Einar: I haven’t heard of them!
FS: He actually remixed “In the Court of the Crimson King” in 5.1.
Einar: Has he? Oh ho! Yes, I’m absolutely looking forward to that.
Øystein: Oh? I haven’t heard that. Cool.
Tor: Now I’m looking forward!
FS: He’s doing a lot of work for the King Crimson back catalogue right now.
Einar: Yeah, and of course, some newer stuff I really enjoy – Porcupine Tree, Mars Volta, yeah.
Tor: Norwegian Shining, if that counts as a progressive band.
FS: Norwegian Shining?
Tor: The Shining. There’s a Swedish Shining and a Norwegian Shining.
Øystein: They actually play a version of “21st Century Schizoid Man.” It’s really cool – you should check it out!
Tor: And Jørgen Munkeby from Shining was the saxophone player on the last Ihsahn
Rein: The “After” record.
Tor: And we also play a couple of shows with him when he’s around.
FS: Cool. I noticed you (Einar) did the saxophone parts during the show at the end. You sang them.
Einar: It was just improvising! I hadn’t planned what to do at all. It was just improvising with both the keys and it’s just a fun thing to do. Last time I did it in Portugal, it really sucked. (band laughs) I was kind of inspired to do it way better, and I think it worked out well.
FS: The crowd thought it worked out well.
Einar: Cool, thanks a lot.
FS: What sort of unorthodox combination of musical styles do you want to hear next in metal? I know you guys are bringing your own blend, but more along the lines of what Ihsahn’s doing? I know he threw the saxophone in.
Einar: The thing is, the bands who make the most daring music are the bands who don’t try too much. The bands just do whatever feels natural for them. Like I always say, it’s impossible to try to be original. If you’re original, time will show.
Tor: So just be open to anything. If you feel like, “well this part, maybe we can try something else there. What about… try… trumpet!” We thought about, on our latest album. If it’s cool, then it’s cool and if it’s not, then we’ll try something else. Instead of planning from the beginning like, “Now, we’re supposed to do this, this, and this…”
Rein: I think you can make some really cool electronic metal music, because you have so much possibilities with the electronics. There’s a band in Norway called Kill. It’s like a metal band. They only play digital instruments, so it’s all electronics.
FS: I’ll have to look into that. (Interviewer’s Note: I have not found information about this band.) Do you consider Leprous to be more of a studio band or a live band?
Band: Live band!
Einar: Both. If we compare ourselves to Ihsahn, who is definitely more of a studio musician… He loves being in the studio. We also love to be in the studio, but live is…
Tor: The way we make music is in a live setting in the rehearsals, so it’s not that you just sit and write everything down and then play it. We create things while we’re playing. So, we create them as a live band, and then of course in the studios we can do something special. Bottom line, these are live tracks that we are making. So, when we’re playing live, we can do almost all the things that we do in the studio as well.
FS: Alright. Let’s touch a bit of a serious topic here, for a change. Arguably, illegal download has made a bunch of European bands very well-known in America, so it’s kind of a double-edged sword, but what do you guys think of illegal downloading and piracy in general?
Tor: Being an up-and-coming band, if I’m allowed to say, (laughs) it’s easier to get your music out there if it’s allowed for people to get hold of it illegally. (laughs) Of course, I get the point that, I don’t feel that in the long run it should be that way, that both the band and the record labels should be able to make a living. Things are going in the wrong direction that way.
Einar: I’m very split on that. I haven’t made up my mind on that subject, to be honest.
Tor: I think there’s pros and cons.
Tobias: I don’t think there’s a way to stop downloading. Recorded music – there’s no money in it, so we have to think differently and maybe thirty or twenty years ago, you could make a living being a studio musician or an artist just making records. Now, you have to play live or you have to produce stuff.
Tor: So, making records is more like a promotional thing, so that people get hold of you and get interested.
Øystein: Especially for metal bands, I think.
Tor: When it’s so easy to get ahold of, it’s easy for you to get your music out to whoever. But then again, there’s so much out there, so it’s more difficult to stand out, you know, from all the other bands. So it’s also important to have a good label or promotional tools behind you.
Tobias: Even though you don’t earn money, it’s important to have big labels.
Tor: Just to get reviews, to get the interest of the people.
FS: What’s the most enjoyable song that you play live? It can be Ihsahn or Leprous.
Einar: “Forced Entry.”
(band agrees verbally)
Tor: That’s one of my favorites.
Einar: It’s very complex, but at the same time it’s very easy to be very energetic on stage. It’s difficult, but it’s easy at the same time.
Tor: And it’s long and it consists of very different parts, so you get to present Leprous in all the different ways because it’s pretty versatile.
Rein: But at the same time, it has this energy throughout the song, and it’s like really intense all the way.
Einar: We always play that song live.
Øystein: It doesn’t really come down. I feel it’s up there all the time.
FS: Now, what inspired going to the church you recorded the horn parts on “Bilateral” at?
Tor: He worked there! (points to Tobias) He’s a priest! (laughs)
Tobias: Last year I was a civil worker in this culture church. It’s a culture place where there’s mostly concerts. So I had access to the place and there’s a lot of really good gear – mics and stuff. A friend of mine who is a really good sound technician also works there, so he was the technician for the recording. I think it gets an edge to it, when you have the volume up really loud and real reverb, not software.
They’re just details, but…
Tor: And since it was an option, of course we thought “That would be cool to try out.” We have some synth and the trumpets.
Einar: We also did some keyboard amplification there. We re-amped some other stuff and recorded through a guitar amp and just put the gain on full. (laughs) We used the whole reverb from the church.
Tor: The acoustics.
Einar: We hadn’t planned any of these things from the beginning. It was just… We felt something was missing on one of the parts on “Thorn,” because we really liked the song, but it was just one part that didn’t make sense and we couldn’t cut it away. So, it’s like, “Let’s do something crazy there that nobody expects.” (laughs) So we just recorded and found a trumpet player.
Tor: That’s actually why we chose the trumpet. Because we don’t know anybody that plays something different. (laughs) I knew a guy that played the accordion, but well… maybe not…We can try the trumpet.
Einar: We didn’t know anything about his level.
Rein: He basically hadn’t heard the song either. He just showed up, “here’s your part, play something, do something.” (laughs) No pressure, just do something.
Einar: We just edited – cutting and pasting afterwards. “This part is good… This part is good…”
Tor: Now, we’ve tried to play with him live as well. We did it on the release, and he has to learn. “Well, I’ve never played this…” Because they’re just cut-and-pastes. It’s very cool. And of course, it’s a very nice energy to have live trumpet-playing on stage. When he isn’t there, we can manage to get it in there with backing tracks.
FS: I bet that improvisation adds a cool element to it.
Einar: Because the rest of the music is quite set.
FS: Nice! Well, if it’s alright, that ends the interview!
Tor: Well, that’s not alright. We want more questions!
To read more questions and answers relating to the band, “Bilateral,” and Einar Solberg’s background, the previous interview has some great info.
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