Sunday, November 21, 2010

Interview with Herbrand Larsen and Ice Dale of Enslaved

Eleven studio records into their career, Enslaved have yet again pushed the limits of what they can do with their new record, Axioma Ethica Odini. I was able to meet up with Herbrand Larsen, vocals and keyboards, and Ice Dale, lead guitar, before their performance in Chicago on their current 'Circle Above and Within' North American tour. Great guys, amazing performance, I highly recommend seeing Enslaved live as soon as you possibly can! 

You can listen to the audio interview here:

 Enslaved Interview (3 Parts) by theinarguable 

-I am blown away with Axioma Ethica Odini. Can you tell me, from your perspective, how Enslaved is able to continually push the limits of the genre and how you have once again created a fresh sounding record this far into your career?
Herbrand: We actually don’t know ourselves, I guess, because we are not planning too much when we are writing and recording music. We kind of go with the flow, and sometimes we are a bit surprised ourselves when we finally hear the result. (Laughs)
Ice: Now the lineup has been stable for the last 6 years we really know ourselves as musicians and as a band from touring and playing togeher. The recording sessions this time were very relaxed and had great atmosphere because we recorded it all in Bergen. We took the time to get it all right and if we were having a bad day we took a break and did something else. Whatever felt right we recorded.
-I feel that each of your individual roles in amplified on Axioma Ethica Odini. Herbrand, your vocals take the songs to new heights and Ice, in my opinion, it is some of your greatest guitar playing/writing recorded yet. Herbrand, One can notice the blending in of keyboard textures, yet your vocals are placed more toward the forefront. How has your role altered with this new album? Do you feel you're playing a bigger part this time around?
-Herbrand: I guess so, especially the clean vocals, but its not like we have been planning that way. Grutle and I get together during the preproduction and figure out when to growl and when to sing. Stuff like that. We try different things and maybe I am getting more confident singing also Jens Bogren, the guy who mixed the record, he played the vocals more in front and I also guess that more of the vocal lines are more in front now then maybe on Isa or Ruun.
-Did you feel like you had to change anything compared to writing/recording Vertebrae ?
Ice: We did all the recordings in Bergen this time, except the drums, we did everything in Herbrand and me’s studio. That’s the main difference. We also practiced together a lot before recording so we could relax and get the right sounds on the guitars, bass, keyboards, vocals. That was the biggest change. The last two albums we have gone to Oslo and had only 2 days or so to do guitars.
Herbrand: Also, recording in our own studio, Earshot Studios, we knew what we wanted sound and guitar wise and we went for it, especially for the guitars. We had a clear idea of how we wanted it to sound. Jens the mixer understood everything. He enhanced everything. He is really good.
-Ice, What is your solo routine like? Does Ivar show you riffs, and let you take the reigns and go wild?
Ice: For the solo parts I always do them at the end when the song is recorded and the vocals are done. I have to play in the mood of the song, not to the riffs. I used to record the solos before the vocals on previous records but I would have to go back and change the solos because they would not fit the song. That’s the routine. For the guitars, we try some different stuff when we record. If it sounds good, it’s good. If something doesn’t sound right, you have to change it. And again, recording it ourselves gave us more time for that stuff, like checking it out and redoing it if it’s no good enough.
Herbrand: He (Ice) is very picky, he is like, ‘oh I’m not certain about this one” and we say, “Oh come on, it’s great!” (Laughs)
-I saw all the photos of when you traveled to Jens Bogren’s studio in Sweden. It is always interesting for me to watch other musicians work ‘behind the scenes’ so to speak. How was working with Jens?
Herbrand: He was really easy to work with. I was there during the mixing all the time then we went back with the mix to the other guys. The next day if there were any changes we just did that, but some songs there were no changes and that was it. Some times when I was sitting there, I would be thinking of a change and thought to myself, “Let’s just wait ten minutes.” He usually made the change I was thinking of without me saying anything. He really understood what we were doing, really easy to work with, really nice guy, good guy.
-I know that you both run Earshot Studios in Bergen. What is it like living as a musician in Bergen? Do you have day jobs?
Ice: I don’t, some of the guys do.
Grutle is a bouncer? (Laughs)
Ice: He’s a bouncer and a stamper, it’s like right next door to the studio. We send all the guys if we have bands in the studio. We kick them down to him. He can kick them out they get drunk.
-I know it can be quite difficult to live a balanced lifestyle in the US while being a musician. How do you both maintain jobs while out on tour?
Herbrand: It’s the same in Norway, it’s really hard.
Ice: Especially now with record sales going down, you have to tour more.
Herbrand: Every band has to tour more, there is bigger competition everywhere actually. We have the studio and I work part time as a music teacher. The studio is getting better and better.
-The last time you were in the US you toured with Opeth, which was a dream come true for me. I felt there were many Opeth fans that had not been exposed to Enslaved and who enjoyed your set very much. Could you tell me a little about the tour and possible future plans for more US tours.
Herbrand: No, not really. We have been talking about doing some more, but when and where we have no idea.
Ice: I think it was a good combination doing the Opeth tour last year and now the Dimmu tour because I mean they are great bands and big bands, kind of different. It was a good opportunity for us to expand the audience. The Dimmu guys are great to travel with and they are good friends.
-Back in 2007, I was able to catch you guys on the Ruun part 2 tour, which stopped at the now closed down Pearl Room, here in Chicago land. What is the difference between headlining at a more intimate venue and directly supporting a larger band such as Dimmu at a larger venue?
Ice: It’s different. I like both actually. I like the intimate stuff and small clubs where you get closer to the audience, but it's also fun to play bigger venues in front of more people. It’s the same with festivals. Different but good. I think now you can almost see bigger bands almost putting together small festivals with five or six bands. It like a touring festival.
-For a technical gear standpoint, Herbrand, what kind of Mellotron samples do you use on recordings and for live playing? Have you ever used a real Mellotron on Enslaved recordings?
Herbrand: No real Mellotron actually. I use Clavia stuff, the Nordwave. They have sampled lots of old Mellotrons and you can actually go to their website and just download new stuff and they update that often. They are really good.
Ice, can you tell me a little about your gear setup and the reason you have stuck with Gibson’s all these years?
Ice: I used to play some different guitars, I had an Ibanez and a Fender Strat with a humbicker, but when I bought the Les Paul Custom I basically found ‘my’ guitar visually and sound wise. I have always used Peavey amps. In the studio we may change amps or guitars if we want a different sound, but for amps its basically the Peavey 6505+.
Herbrand: In the studio, we also used the Peavey Classic. For clean and half crunch sounds and some small dubs here and there.
-Did you guys use a different drum set for the first part in “Night Sight?” for a vintage tone?
Herbrand: We actually almost tricked Cato into playing a really small set; he actually didn’t know what was happening. We asked him to just play something, "Play here." A month later he asked, “What about the small drum kit, what was that all about?” We said, “Oh come on… you knew that....” (laughs) He played and he played really well, but he didn’t know the plan behind it (Laughs). It was a 70s Ludwig five piece.
-While fans can read other interviews regarding the Havamal's influence on the new album, what are YOUR opinions on the matter? Are you two more or less on the same page with the Norse stuff? (i.e. do you all have a soft spot for the lore and runic mysteries?)
Herbrand: I guess the concepts are Ivar and Grutle’s ideas basically. I guess we are more into the musical part.
Ice: It’s fascinating more or less. They (Ivar and Grutle) are the ones that are the most into it because they have always been.
-How does Norwegian society look upon the Norse times these days?
Ice: We learn about it in school, yeah.
Herbrand: It is a great part of out inheritance, of course, and I think every kid in Norway knows about Thor and Odin. I think most people are proud of it, it is a part of the Norwegian tradition.
-Where do you see Enslaved in 10 years? I know Grutle must have great vocal technique, but how long does he think he will be able to perform his growls consistently? Do you ever see the band going towards a prog rock act as you grow older or do you think you will continue with your current style for as long as possible?
Ice:  I don’t know. The prog elements have been there from the start but now are more in the front these days, more direct maybe.
Herbrand: As I said before, its not like we are thinking about it too much when we are making music so ten years, that is a long time. I think definitely, Grutle, he will be able to scream until he is 90-years-old I’m sure.
Herbrand, what have you done as the albums have progressed to work on your vocals?
Herbrand: I think just singing more and more, maybe thinking about phrasing more, and listening to a lot of music, nothing more than that.  
One last question:
-Ice- For workouts, Free weights and dumbbells or natural body movements? (Laughs)
Ice: We try some days to workout during the tour. Sometimes on the bus, sometimes fitness centers.
Herbrand: We are actually very creative during workouts. Sometimes it's like using what you have, bags and stuff, and sometimes there is a fitness center right next to you.
Ice: the last couple tours, we have actually brought some weights and some warm up stuff. It really helps to work out, not just sitting around, waiting, and drinking all night.

Thank you very much to Herbrand Larsen and Ice Dale for their excellent input and fantastic performance. 


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