Five Min­utes Alone: Ihsahn

The Nor­we­gian metal vi­sion­ary on mak­ing it and why Jonny Green­wood is a ge­nius…

Total Guitar - - CONTENTS - Ihsahn new solo al­bum Ámr is out 4 May via Candlelight

Got my first real six string

“It was a Fender Strat copy made by a com­pany called Boo­gie, which even had the Mesa-boo­gie logo. It could have been an early in­car­na­tion of the com­pany, or some­one just ripped it off. I’d say it’s prob­a­bly why I’ve al­ways ended up pre­fer­ring that Strat feel, I’ve never been into the base­ball bat-style Les Pauls. It was a cheap gui­tar, but my fa­ther took me to a lo­cal luthier who put some orig­i­nal Strat parts and pick­ups in there. I ac­tu­ally got it back from my dad a few years ago and I ended up record­ing with it!”

Can I play with mad­ness

“I had the tab book for Iron Maiden’s Sev­enth Son Of A Sev­enth Son and I learned a lot from play­ing along – that was my mu­si­cal ed­u­ca­tion! Even though I usu­ally play atonal ex­treme mu­sic, I al­ways try to find some melody in there. Even in the early days of Em­peror, back when [other gui­tarist] Samoth would come up with riffs that were mi­nor chords mov­ing in chro­matic in­ter­vals, I would still try to find that com­mon ground and cre­ate melodies on top. That prob­a­bly frus­trated him from time to time, but that whole idea of mi­nor riffs har­monised with ma­jor thirds comes from Iron Maiden.”

It’s a long way to the top…

“If you want to make it never have a plan B! There are al­ways peo­ple that want to start bands and also study be­cause that’s prob­a­bly the smartest thing to do – though be care­ful… if you have a plan B, you might not put every­thing into plan A! Com­ing from ru­ral Nor­way, the only rea­son I had a ca­reer was be­cause there was no backup plan. But then we never started a black metal band in 1991 in or­der to make it… there was noth­ing to be made! Those al­bums were born purely from artis­tic am­bi­tion. Think­ing smart can of­ten brush off the edges of what might make you unique. Don’t worry about the scene, you might end up in a jam of ev­ery­one’s thoughts and sounds. Make some­thing unique that will make peo­ple re­act. Rock mu­sic, un­like a lot of chart mu­sic, is about the in­tegrity of some­thing solid and heart­felt. Lose that and you might not cre­ate ex­cite­ment for peo­ple.”

Born to lose, live to win

“I’m not re­ally that nos­tal­gic. I don’t have a huge vinyl col­lec­tion and there’s no equip­ment that I’ve sold or had stolen or lost over the years that I miss. As much as I love gear, all these things are just tools to cre­ate. I try not to be that phys­i­cally at­tached to things, that way there’s noth­ing that lim­its me in the work I do… This also means I don’t have any ex­cuses; I can’t blame my tools! To be hon­est, I find ‘gear lust’ al­most a bit bor­ing even though I’m sure for many it’s in­cred­i­bly ex­cit­ing.”

Any­one can play gui­tar

“If I could have a les­son from any­one, it would be Jonny Green­wood – be­cause his ap­proach to gui­tar play­ing and mu­sic in gen­eral is sim­i­lar to mine, although I think he’s a lot more ex­otic with it. The way he uses the gui­tar to chan­nel dif­fer­ent sounds like those scratches be­fore the cho­rus in Creep… things like that are be­yond the in­stru­ment. I pre­fer the ap­proach to writ­ing mu­sic and form­ing sounds over the sports­man­ship of shred­ding. When you make an im­mensely suc­cess­ful ex­per­i­men­tal rock al­bum like OK Com­puter and fol­low it up with an elec­tron­ica record like Kid A, that shows in­cred­i­ble in­tegrity. And yet it still sounded like Ra­dio­head.”

“As much as i love gear... these things are just tools... i find ‘gear lust’ a bit bor­ing”

“Rock mu­sic, un­like a lot of chart mu­sic, is about in­tegrity”

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