Norwegian prog monsters Leprous have honed their craft as the backing band for the legendary Ihsahn. With their own third album Coal ready to blow a few brains out later this month, we caught up with vocalist and guitarist Tor Oddmund Suhrke to introduce us to his merry band of metallers.
Please introduce Leprous to the TMF readership.
Leprous is a so-called "progressive" metal band that blends many different influences into what is described by many as an interesting mix. Our sound has evolved considerably since we started as a young band in 2001, and on our upcoming album Coal the sound is a bit more dark and serious than our previous releases. We try to avoid confining ourselves to one specific genre, but among bands we've been compared to by others I can mention Opeth, The Mars Volta, Porcupine Tree, Emperor, King Crimson, Devin Townsend, Dillinger Escape Plan, etc...
Tell us a little about it the new album
Coal consists of eight tracks which takes you through a dynamic, musical experience before it ends up at its most dark, lonely and unpleasant place in the end of our final track 'Contaminate Me'. The songs were all made in the months between our two European tours of 2012, something that’s a bit different than our previous albums when we’ve used material that were written over maybe a two year period.
How do you think the band has progressed since 'Bilateral'?
As a band we strive to constantly evolve both live and in studio. Since there has been a lot of touring after Bilateral we’ve of course evolved a lot as a live band in the sense of being more confident and energetic, but maybe without trying too hard. Musically and creatively speaking I think we’ve succeeded with our new songs in the way that we haven’t copied anything from Bilateral, but at the same time kept the sound that makes you recognize that you’re listening to Leprous.
I think the relatively tight deadline we gave ourselves to make this album has given the songs a special energy and we’ve also become more focused on trying to nurture the foundation of each song instead of mashing together all the crazy ideas we have inside our five heads.
It is mainly festival appearances for you this summer, so how do you go about preparing for them, picking the setlist etc…? Are there any you’re not playing at but wish you were?
Yes, we’re playing mostly festivals now before heading out on tour again in September, and I think we really nailed some of the greatest festivals this time around. Of course we would love to play at all the festivals, but there’s always next year.
When it comes to picking the setlist, this becomes harder and harder for each album we make. Especially on festivals since that usually means less time on stage. We try to vary our setlist from show to show, both for our own sake and for the audience, so that they never know what they can expect. We’re also thinking of varying the setlist from show to show on our upcoming tour so that no one can be given any heads up from the previous shows on the tour.
When we prepare for our live shows we spend most of the time focusing on how well we play together, rather than just practice all the instrumentation to perfection. I think there should be a difference between our music on album and how we present it on stage, and we want the audience to feel the same intensity that we feel ourselves when we’re playing. That ability is something you don’t get by just rehearsing, but you have to learn it by doing it on stage.
As a band you spent a long time on the road with Ihsahn - how did working with him for so long shape the band?
Our cooperation with Ihsahn goes a long way back, actually all the way to when we started the band in 2001. He was one of our big inspirations, and through the years he’s been the guitar tutor for some of us, and he’s been a big part on most of our recordings so far. When he asked us to be his live band this turned out to be a big win/win situation for the both of us, as he got an already rehearsed and enthusiastic backing band, while we got the opportunity to travel around playing at some of the biggest festivals there is and at the same time given the opportunity to promote Leprous to a big audience.
As Leprous grows bigger it’s of course a bit more difficult to get time for both projects, but since we've managed to combine playing with both Ihsahn and Leprous at most of the festivals this summer we’ll still be his backing band for all his shows in 2013, and then we’ll see where it goes from there.
Do you have an earliest musical memory? Was there a record or act that made you think "I want to do this"?
Actually my first record was a U2 album that I won through a drawing competition when I was seven, and I can’t say that that gave me much of an inspiration! My second album was a signed Scatman John album, which didn’t give me that much of an inspiration either!
Actually, my interest in spending so much time doing this has been gradually evolving through the years. As I've said, Leprous was my first musical project which we started in 2001, just a couple of month after I first laid hands on an electric guitar, and from the very beginning we’ve never thought that there was any end to how far we could go. Since this has been something I’ve kept on doing since then it’s just such a natural part of my life that it would be difficult to imagine how my life would be like without it. I think that "never giving up" is the best way of succeeding, and we’re still doing it.
If we were to look at your MP3 player, is there anything on it you'd rather we didn't see? Do you have your own stuff on there?
(Laughs) Well, I don't listen much to the Leprous recordings in my daily living, but you would probably find them there. What I would rather you didn’t find must be all the recordings we have done from Leprous rehearsals and pre-productions of tracks that never made it to an album, and I promise you that there's a lot of it!
Is there any style of music you just don't get?
I can honestly say that I understand how every genre in music can give meaning to someone, and I think that I could probably find something to like in all genres. That being said, I haven’t taken the time to find the qualities in all styles of music and if I have to point out an example of a genre that hasn’t grown much on me yet I could point you in the direction of slow, lyrically repetitive and nasal 90s R&B.
What's on the Leprous goals list for this year?
World domination would be nice, but I could also settle with Album of the Year for Coal, a sold-out European tour from September to November and interest from all major festivals and independent promoters for us to come play in 2014.
What's the question we should have asked you today?
You could have asked me if I would like to send my thanks to all our fans and to remind them to check out where they can come check us out in 2013 by checking our Facebook page or leprous.net. I would have said yes ;)
Coal is out via InsideOut Music on 20th May.