Interview With Leprous

Categories: Interviews
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Published on: August 19, 2011

One of the finest releases in the progressive rock and metal spere so far this, is Bilateral by Norwegian avant-garde/prog rock outfit Leprous. It’s incredibly free spirited and dauntless musical experience which gives bigger and more established bands a run for their money. Guitarist Oddmund Suhrke was more than happy to answer my burning questions about the album, his view on progressive rock and the European Songfestival…

Hi there and thank you for doing this interview. Your new album, Bilateral, really blows me away. Are you happy how the album turned out?

Hi, you’re welcome and I really appreciate your interest in Leprous. Yes, I’m very satisfied with how the album turned out, since I think we’ve managed to take it one step further since our previous album, Tall Poppy Syndrome. Bilateral is more complex, yet still easy listening, and even though we never sat down and planned how this album should sound like form the beginning, I think that this was our unconscious goal.

Bilateral is a very ambitious, yet balanced album which covers many different musical styles, ranging from Pink Floyd inspired prog rock, jazz up to Meshuggah inspired polyrhythms. Pushing musical boundaries is your forte. What is your take on this?

I must agree with you on this, as we’ve always said that we take pride in creating something new things, pushing the boundaries of what kinds of musical styles that can be combined. We try as hard as we can not to be trapped in ONE specific genre, so that we can be free to take our music in any direction we like. There’s a lot of bands that release album after album that sounds more or less the same, not naming any in particular, but I guess that’s just a matter of taste. Some like it predictable and “true”, while some like it original and new.

Leprous also served as the backing back for Ihsahn (ex Emperor). To what extent did his music inspire you on tracks like Thorn and Waste Of Air?

I can definitely see why you’re asking, but to speak for myself I won’t say that Ihsahn has inspired me directly as regards to the way I compose music, meaning it has never been my intention to copy his musical style. Indirectly, though, is a different story. I can get inspiration from everything that surrounds me, being physical things or experiences as well as for example music I hear both random and on purpose. When it comes to Ihsahn he has been the creator of some of my favourite music, he was my guitar tutor when I learned to play guitar and now that I’ve played his own songs with him for some years, of course that has been a great influence on me as a guitarist and composing musician. As to your question, I see why those two songs I particular can be seen as being inspired by Ihsahn, but I must say that being the guitarist in both Leprous and Ihsahn, in my opinion we have very different ways of arranging and playing.

You guys seem to embrace the free-spirited creative approach of bands lik Arcturus, Ulver and Age Of Silence. Are you guys inspired by any of these bands?

Personally the only band I’ve listened to, of the ones you’ve mentioned, is Ulver. As I said in my last answer I can get inspired by all music I hear, and that may also be the case with Ulver, even though I’ve never seen Ulver as one of my main inspirations.

What was the band’s collective mindset during the creative process of Bilateral?

We always say that we try to be as open minded as possible when we’re creating music, and I think on making Bilateral we’ve become better at this. That means that we haven’t put down any preconditions before starting the creative process of creating the album, but while making the individual songs we’ve made some different alterations underway, so that we get the variety that we want in the track list. As I’ve said earlier, I think that our unconscious goal was to create something more complex than earlier at the same time as it’s easy listening, and I think that we managed to reach that goal.

Another remarkable thing is the clear and powerful production of your new album. How did you manage to achieve this?

It’s difficult to point out what exactly is the reason why we end up with the final product, but of course it’s a combination between all the elements that both the creative and technical process that creating an album consists of. We have the the band’s effort in creating music that sound good in this format and taking the time necessary while recording, as well as the highly professional technicians that’s contributed, like Vegard “Ihsahn” Tveitan, Heidi S. Tveitan and Jens Borgen.

Nowadays every band with some off-beat timing and couple of fancy guitar solos is considered “prog”. It’s almost laughable. What do you think?

I agree. I think that the general concept of what’s progressive has been lost somewhere along the way. As you say you can get considered as being a progressive band simply if you just play a part in 7/8, while having some off-beat marking, and even though that may have been progressive once, it stops being progressive the moment you copy yourself or each other doing things like that. “Prog” in my dictionary means that it has to consist of something new and exciting, and it should trigger your curiosity when you listen to it. I understand that people like to use genres in a way that you know what you can expect, but for the “Prog” genre I think that it should mean that you have no idea what to expect.

Irony has it that many leading bands in the prog genre are pretty deadlocked in their own style. Dream Theater and Opeth are good examples of this. Bands like Vintersorg, Borknagar, Solefald and Enslaved are really pushing their boundaries and they’re not considered “prog”. What are your thoughts on this?

Of the bands you mention, I’m most familiar with Enslaved, and I agree with you that there’s several bands that’s more progressive than the ones categorized as “prog metal”. I disagree, though, that Opeth’s only copying themselves, since I actually admire them for being willing to try new and daring things. The little I’ve heard from their upcoming album sounds like they’ve taken it one step further, and I’m excitingly anticipating listening to the rest of the album. As for Dream Theatre I agree that they’re probably not the most evolving band around, but still, they’re Dream Theatre, and I guess that they have a genre of it’s own. They are the founders of the progressive metal genre that many other bands are trying to copy, and even though I would love to be surprised when listening to their next album, I guess that most dedicated fans would be outraged if they didn’t sound like the way they’re used to. It’ll be exciting to see what effect their recent change in band member will have on their musical expression.

Leprous also served as the backing band for Ihsahn. What did you learn from him as far as experience and music goes? Can you share any fancy tour stories?

Disappointingly, no extraordinary stories come to mind, but I can say that having the opportunity to be travelling around playing with him is nothing more than a pure treat. A part from him being a great guy, we get a lot of live show experience, and of course being a part of the headliner is something else than what we’re used to with Leprous. So all in all I’m really looking forward to our continued cooperation with him.

Bands like Keep of Kalessin and Susperia had their bit in the Eurovision Songfestival. Would you ever consider taking part in this event? I’m sure it would give you great exposure.

In my opinion the Eurovision Song Contest has gotten a better reputaion the last years after more genres are represented. Personally I wouldn’t say that Leprous never could consider doing something like that, since I’ve already said that we try to have as little preconditional rules as possible, and therefore be open to whatever should interest us at any given time. On the other hand, even though participating in Eurovision could be of a huge promotional value, I’m more a believer of hard work being the source of getting somewhere, and that an occational lucky strike rather should be considered a bonus.

Time for the final question. When can we expect you guys here in the Netherlands?

Well, we’ve played in the Netherlands both on ProgPower Europe 2010 and during our tour with Theiron in 2010, and I’m sure I speak for the entire band when I say that we would love to come back to the Netherlands as soon as possible. We’re currently considering some tour alternatives, and hopefully the Netherlands will be a part of this. We would of course also be very interested to play if any dutch promoters invites us. To stay tuned of our upcoming shows you should check out http://www.leprous.net/tours.html from time to time.

Any final thoughts or remarks?

Thank you for your interest in Leprous, and I hope that as many of you as possible will check out our music, and come to our shows in a not too far distant future.

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