Norwegian prog masters of the unconventional Leprous are on the road supporting the intriguing 'Coal'. Before their London show, eGigs.co.uk are lucky enough to nab frontman Einar Solberg for a chat on the new release and how Leprous are aided in making their music.
How are you?
I'm mostly very good. A bit hungry, a bit tired but aside from that, I'm very good.
Will that be fixed before you go on stage?
Very easily fixable things. You fix them by eating and relaxing a little bit and then you're good to go [laughs].
How's the tour been so far?
It's been very nice mostly. It's kind of been a bit of an experiment to try out all the territories in Europe to see which ones we will return to later and which ones we won't [laughs].
Fingers crossed you'll come back to London!
Yeah, London is obvious, one of the biggest cities.
We're not guinea pigs! I understand you had Vulture Industries on the first half of this tour. Why do you have a different support band for each part of this tour?
Firstly, it's because the first part of the tour was mostly interesting for Norwegian and Scandinavian bands. We did mostly Norwegian and Scandinavian dates. It made them the most interesting market for those kinds of bands. We immediately had a lot of applicants for the second part of the tour - this part - which is the main part and the most important areas. We had a band lined up and we liked the music and the people so it was an easy choice. Then we were in contact with Vulture Industries for the first part. To be a support band, it's no secret that it's economical suicide. We did it many times ourselves too but it's important to do. It's like building a company, the first years you invest some money and [laughs].
Yes, you don't expect to see it back until later! How did the fans and critics react to your newest album 'Coal'?
It's been mainly very good. All the reviews I've read have been very nice, even though some of the people expecting a new 'Bilateral' can be quite disappointed because it's quite different. We've always [said] each album would be something different from the previous one because it's [a] different period of our lives. In general, the feedback has been very nice.
How would you say 'Coal' compares to your other two albums?
'Bilateral' is more extroverted in a way and more "Look at us! We can do this! We can do that!" and 'Coal' is more focused, melancholic and repetitive. The main idea behind that album is to remove a lot of the ingredients and focus on making fewer ingredients better and purify it more.
How is the writing process different in that respect?
Much more intense and shorter. The same amount of hours but in a much shorter period. 'Bilateral' is written over a two year period and you can hear it's an evolution. With 'Coal', if you know it, it's easy to hear that it has been written in a short period of time because all the songs are more connected to each other. Even though there's a different kind of attitude in the songs, there are not huge jumps in the atmosphere. It's kind of on-going, melancholic mood throughout the entire record.
Do you prefer working that way or over a longer period of time?
Quicker or else you just waste a lot of time. Deadlines are very nice to work with because it makes you work better and harder. I guess everybody knows that from school or wherever when you have a deadline: "Now, it's actually just one week and I have to deliver it somehow," or else it's just: "Yeah, I still have time." I prefer it like that.
You have Ihsahn singing on the last track 'Contaminate Me'. Obviously, you have very close relationships with him but why did you choose him to sing on this one?
Because I knew my voice wouldn't fit that well. I know my strengths but I know my limits too. He's much better at screaming with emotions whereas I'm more rhythmical in my way of screaming and I'm more of a clean singer. I immediately thought I knew this song was going to be cooler with him than with me so I just asked him.
Did you have any idea to involve him before you started writing the album?
No, just when we wrote the song, I realised it was going to be a very good match to have him on that song.
You did a music video for the track 'The Cloak'. Why did you choose this song?
Mostly because of the length of the song [laughs]! That's it.
Could you explain the concept behind the video?
It's in a mine inside a mountain in Norway and that's to build the mood you have in the lyrics. It's taken a bit from the 'coal' mood so we were thinking it would be great to find an actual mine to shoot the video, even though it's not a concept album and that song in particular is not related to the subject of coal in anyway. We just thought it would fit the melancholic and dark mood so that's how it was. It's not very comfortable to stay there for an entire day in February in Norway.
It must have been freezing but an interesting experience nonetheless. You don't really see many videos filmed in a coalmine.
No, I guess because there aren't many. You have a quite few in England.
Yeah, there's quite a few up north. What I've noticed actually about Norway is that you have these unusual and strange progressive metal bands like Arcturus and Borknagar. You do something different and Leprous can be added to that list too. Why do you think that Norway has this heritage of unusual and truly progressive avant garde bands?
I don't know to be honest. There really are a lot of bands from Norway in general compared to the very small population but that's because it's easier to be honest in the expression because we have quite a good economy in Norway. No matter if you get economic problems by doing your art, there is always some help to get somewhere because there is always a good social system. Also, there's a lot of money put away for culture and art. I think actually that's one of the main reasons because it's doable to a bigger degree than many other places because you can get a lot of government financial support.
People have more time and resources to experiment with?
Yeah because there's a big emphasis on smaller genres, you can often get a lot of support financially just to get a wider and richer cultural life.
It's very unusual. There are a lot of progressive bands in Norway.
There are a lot in Sweden too.
Yeah but Norway have so many, like Green Carnation, Enslaved, Ihsahn
Yeah, Enslaved are an example of a band that gets a lot of financial support [laughs] but we get it. If you show that you proceed with all your ambitions, you go through with it and you show time after time that you actually go through with your plans then it's easier to get it because they know that you're serious.
Does the support go towards touring or recording?
Touring, recordings, everything.
So you get that still today? It's not just something to help you start up?
Yes, we got something for this tour. I think it's one of the reasons why there are so many bands because if we lived in Croatia for example, it wouldn't be possible.
Does the government get any proceeds from the tour or any profits? Does anything go back to them?
No, you present it on your website that it's sponsored by [the government].
Wow, that's a really different system. I could never imagine anything like that happening in the UK.
I heard that it's quite like that in the Netherlands. Netherlands have the best venues in Europe so probably the venues there get help. When you go to the Netherlands venues, everything is perfect there [laughs].
Where do your influences come from musically?
We take it from all different genres in a way. I really don't care about genres. For example, I am a very big fan of Radiohead and Massive Attack and I'm a big fan of classical music like Arvo Pärt. He's contemporary classical; he's still alive. He's very spiritual, very pure and clean. In a way, quite simple but still interesting. That's just me. Others have different [influences]. There is a lot I appreciate in the prog and metal world but the problem is when I listen to it, I cannot help but analyse it because I know it, I know the genre. It's like a plumber checking the work of another plumber in a way [laughs]. I'm a big fan of Michael Jackson and Prince.
Everyone is! Classic '80s pop music. After this tour, what are your future plans with Leprous?
A couple of weeks break before we want to see the others' faces again [laughs] then we start writing new music again for the next album. We're going to spend even more time on this one because we're very ambitious about the next album.
Do you have any ideas yet?
No, there's no point having ideas in advance because every time, it just ends up something different to what I had planned. It just has to live its own life in a way.
That's the end of my questions. Do you have any final words?
Oh, that's always the hardest question! Um [laughs]. Final words are always the hardest.
If you can't think of any, that's fine! You don't have to but thank you very much for the interview.
Thank you very much.