Einar Solberg of Leprous: I’m quite tired of black metal
Vocalist of the Norwegian prog metal band on being the backing band of black metal veteran Ihsahn, who is also his brother-in-law
Being a backing band for one of metal’s most well-known artists can have its drawbacks, but it certainly has its advantages. Norwegian prog metal band Leprous usually goes one up by being Ihsahn’s backing band and gets a slot themselves. Leprous plays at the day-long second edition of Bangalore Open Air and later returns to Japan for the second time [both Ihsahn and Leprous played in Japan in 2011]. Frontman Einar Solberg says, “We have a tour coming up in Europe; it’s a headliner tour. We’re playing many more shows [on our own]. But of course, he [Ihsahn] has managed to open up some really nice doors for us.”
Leprous started their association with Ihsahn in 2008, possibly because Solberg is the former Emperor guitarist’s brother-in-law. “We [Leprous] rehearsed the songs and he was very satisfied, he didn’t even have to join the rehearsal. It’s a win-win situation now,” says Solberg. The band is promoting their third full-length album, Coal, which released in May and features experimental/progressive metal that borrows from classical music as much as bands such as Porcupine Tree and Opeth. Excerpts from a phone interview conducted, as is the case with international bands, at a horrid, witching hour in this part of the world.
How did your gig at BOA come about?
From what I know, Ihsahn got an offer for the spot and his manager also presented the idea of Leprous and it’s exactly the same people so, it’s kind of”¦ [laughs], it’s exactly the same people, except Ihsahn. It’s often that we do this two-in-one package.
What is it like touring with Ihsahn? What is he like offstage?
With Ihsahn, we only do single shows, no tours. We do festival appearances once in a while. Offstage, he’s very inspiring and gentle and nice to work with.
We actually had an interview with Ihsahn as well. He told us a bit about his upcoming album. Are the guys from Leprous associated with it any way?
The drummer plays on it, but except for that, we don’t have anything to do with it. We only help perform it live.
Is it difficult or easy to play as a backing band and then go on to play Leprous material?
For me, it’s a different role, because I’m the lead singer in Leprous while in Ihsahn, I have a comparatively small role. We have to jump quickly from one role to another, but it’s very cool because the expression of those shows is very different. First we do Leprous, which is much calmer, and then we do extreme metal stuff with Ihsahn. It’s really a cool experience to do it like that. Â A Leprous show for me is quite physically straining. With Ihsahn, it’s not like that since I’m just on keyboard. It’s not that hard, to be honest. With Leprous, we are always a little annoyed if we play too little. We like to play [longer sets].
You guys have been playing for close to a decade now. When did you start off with Ihsahn? How did it all start?
It started like five years ago, our collaboration. It was in 2008, we got the idea from him. We already knew him really well since he’s married to my sister. He knew when we’re given a task we take it very seriously. We [Leprous] rehearsed the songs and he was very satisfied, he didn’t even have to join the rehearsal. It’s a win-win situation until now. [laughs]
It’s kind of an advantage to play with Ihsahn, would you agree?Â
But of course, he [Ihsahn] has managed to open up some really nice doors for us. We originally didn’t have a market in a lot of places, like in Japan, but now we’re coming back there. It’s very rewarding, to say the least.
Leprous’s music definitely seems like prog metal that’s very experimental. I even hear a bit of Queen/Freddie Mercury in your vocals.
That’s the thing with the band ”“ we have so many influences and it doesn’t have anything to do with genres. We take it [influences] out in our own way. These days, I don’t listen to much metal because when I listen to metal, I start to analyze it. I can’t listen to metal and enjoy it in a way because it’s something I know how to make myself.Â I prefer to listen to electronic, classical music and many other kinds. I really don’t care as long as it sounds authentic and good [laughs].
Â How difficult is it to be Norwegian and not like black metal?
[laughs] Personally, I’m quite tired of that genre, after many years of listening to it. There’s nothing new and interesting that comes from that genre these days. It’s not something we’re particularly inspired at the moment. Of course, we have a lot of inspirations in our sub-consciousness, listening to it over the ages. I was influenced by it when I was younger but I think that inspiration [of black metal] is still present. The thing is, we never think of genres when we create music.
I read an interview where one of you mentioned your favorite bands were Porcupine Tree and The Mars Volta. Both of them are not really active right now. What does a musician do when some of his favorite bands stop making music?
I didn’t listen to those bands in the later years. I was interested in what they did before. I listen to classical composers. And I think now the problem is”¦ I just like less and less music! [laughs] And I don’t discover new things. I just end up with nothing on my record player any more.Â So yeah, even though The Mars Volta and Porcupine Tree aren’t around any more, it doesn’t influence in a negative or positive way.
What is your setlist going to be like at Bangalore Open Air, and what kind of plans have you got while you’re here?
Unfortunately, the setlist is very short, because there is a strict curfew on the festival. Not many of the artists have a long setlist, from what I hear. So, it will be a short but emotional setlist, with emphasis on our latest album, Coal.
I’m looking forward to it. I’ve never been there before, actually. We have only one day off, but I will use it as good as I can. So if you have any good suggestions, throw them out.
Bengaluru has a lot of places to go to in one day, but exploring any places out of Bengaluru might be a bit of a stretch.
And I really love Indian food, so that’s one treat I’m looking forward to. I’m a vegetarian and from what I know, Indian vegetarian food is my favorite.
Are you writing any new material with Leprous?
We haven’t started yet. We’ll do the tour and focus on delivering a better package than we ever did before. Since at festivals, it’s a usually shorter setlist, we have everything planned down to detail.
Have you got anything else to add?
Yeah, you should get some sleep [laughs].Â