Metal1.info does have several Leprous fans among their staff and of course we keep the tradition alive to report about them as often as possible. Thus we caught up with Einar Solberg before their gig in Cologne on October 30, 2017, to have a brief chat about the recent incidents.
Your first full-lenght album from 2009, „Tall Poppy Syndrome“, has just been re-released. I believe I remember you once said, Leprous do not very much relate to the music anymore. So, why did you re-release it?
Because I didn’t release it for me to listen to it. (laughs) There are people who like it. And who am I to tell them „You shouldn’t listen to it“, you know.
But the fans also request the reissuance of „Silent waters“ and „Aeolia“, the first two demos. So, can we hope for that as well?
None of them were ever intended to be officially released. They were just more home-made. But „Tall Poppy Syndrome“ was made to be our debut album, the first album with a label. So, even though I think the album was a very important step in our carrier, you are right that I don’t appreciate the music anymore. We started to make songs for „Tall poppy syndrome“ in 2007, that was 10 years ago. I was in my twenties and a lot of things have happened since then, with my personality and with who we are as a band. And that’s why we don’t really relate or to it anymore. I really think we hadn’t found our own thing yet, back then. I don’t mind that it’s out there, I just don’t want to play anything or at least very rarely anything from that album, because it doesn’t feel right.
Is it a remastered version? Or is it the original?
It’s the original, just as a digipak version. We just wanted to reprint it, because it was out of print. And a lot of people were asking for it. We were always intending to get it back, but our old record deal has exceeded. So it took us a while to get it back up for sale.
Did you see that on Amazon the original some time ago was for sale for 200 EUR, one even for 600 EUR?
Yeah, that’s 10 times more than I would pay for the album. (laughs) It always happens with stuff that is rare. These kinds of things will always be out of our control. People who have bought something, are allowed to sell it at whatever price they want. Even though I think it’s ridiculous, I think nothing can really be done about it. The weird thing is that people buy it for that price.
Is there absolutely nothing new on TPS, like maybe something new in the booklet, a look back to the past or suchlike?
No, not on this version. We don’t have any bonus songs or anything. We were looking for „What can we include here?“, but we were thinking „Let’s keep it like it was“, because we don’t really have anything to add. We didn’t want to remaster it, because honestly I don’t like how it sounds now, but I don’t think I would like it with a remastering either. So we kept it like it is, how people like it. Some people are really into that album and it’s better to keep it like they prefer it.
How many copies have you produced now?
500. So it’s very limited. It’s been produced by the band. You can buy it during this tour and on Omerch, for now. For the future, we’ll see. It’s a temporary thing at the moment. We’ll see if we do something more with it later.
The setlist is constantly changing during this tour. You are driving your fans crazy with this. Whose idea was it?
That was my idea. We have done the complete opposite in the past and it’s much safer and yes, the show is more bullet-proof. But it’s less magical in a way. When you dare to challenge yourself like that, I mean when I go on stage being a tiny bit nervous, that’s how you can create magic between you and the audience. When there’s excitement, when people really don’t know what we’re gonna do, it can go both ways: it can be a disappointment, but it can also be something good for people and for us as well. We prefer to try this way and to have a much more dynamic tour, a much more exciting tour. When we do it like that, the highs are higher and the lows are lower than before.
So when did you decide about each setlist?
Months ago actually.
So all setlists are already fixed until the end of the tour?
Yes. Sometimes during the tour we’re thinking „Okay, we can have a break from this song, it wasn’t that cool on the last show.“ Sometimes we cross out something. We can do that, but normally we don’t. Normally we stick to the setlist that we have created.
Are the setlists repeating after a certain amount of gigs, or is every setlist new?
Every setlist is new. But in every list there is „Bonneville“ and „Stuck“ in the beginning. Because we need something stable every night. Or else it’s going to be complete chaos. I remember in Helsinki when we were going on stage, I thought „Damn it, this is a super risky setlist“, because there were a bunch of songs that we either had never played live before, or we haven’t played them live in ages. But it went great, so it was a really, really special performance, even though it was a super unexpected setlist.
But you rehearsed…
Of course. But that’s another thing. To rehearse and to play live is a different thing. It’s a very different feeling. Once we start to play songs like „The flood“ and „The price“, then it’s like „Okay, let’s roll“. It’s easy because we have done it thousands of times. But when we do songs from „Malina“ (some of them we’re not playing every night) or if we play older songs that we haven’t really played before, then it’s different.
Are you aware that some fans might be disappointed or think they have a disadvantage when their favorite song is not on the setlist of the gig they’re attending?
Yeah, but that would be the same, if we had the same setlist every night. It’s just that then they wouldn’t know they had a disadvantage. That’s the only difference. Now they can be positively surprised. Yesterday, for example, was the first time that we played „Third law“, for example, and there was this one person saying „YESSS! This was the only song I was asking for!“ So we thought „Okay, cool.“ What I can see from reactions is that people are really excited about it, more than anything else. Actually I got the idea when I was at a RADIOHEAD show. I realized „Oh, they are having different setlists“ and I got really obsessed with it. I wondered if they played a song that I wanted to hear in another show. It was very exciting in a way to pay attention and I thought „Hm, this is something that we’re really missing“. We’re super predictable. And then I tried to convince the guys in the band for a while. Some were on the idea right away, others were more like „Ah, sounds like a lot of work“. Because, we don’t only play the songs, but also the lights are programmed to every song. We have 30 or 32 songs in rotation for the whole tour, and that’s 3 and a half hours music that we have programmed, we have programmed visuals, we have programmed lights, and I need to sit down for at least one and a half hour every day to program my keyboards, program effects, then I have to program the computer with a click track for each night, so it’s a lot of work. But it’s paying off.
Raphael has joined the band as a guest musician on the Cello. Where do you know him from? Does he play only a few songs, or all evening long?
He actually joins in quite a lot. He’s a pretty big part of the show. He is one of the greatest musicians I’ve ever played with, to be honest.
Where does he come from? Should I have heard about him before?
No. Because he’s pretty young, 25 or so. We met him by coincidence. They were local support for us in Canada. And I thought „Wow, this guy is amazing!“ I knew that I had written a lot of string arrangements for the new album „Malina“ and I knew that I need to hire a cellist or several people to play it. So I reached out to him right after the show and asked him if he wants to play on our new album, and he said yes. I asked him later if he wanted to join the tour and he said yes. He turned out to be one of the best musicians and nicest guys I’ve ever toured with. It’s a very lucky thing that we’ve found him.
„The Last Milestone“ is on some of those setlists. I’ve read somewhere that you don’t want to talk about the song, as it’s too sad. But then you sing it every 4th or 5th night and go through the pain. How is this possible then?
It’s much easier to go through emotions through music than through words, to my opinion. It’s definitely the hardest song to perform live for me, that’s why I don’t do it all that often. It’s super emotional for me. It doesn’t always work in the context, you know. Maybe some people are out there to have fun and they laugh and drink, then they are not in the same place as I am at that moment. So I want to be careful of where to put it. It’s definitely not there every night for that reason. I feel in a way very weird after performing the song, so that’s not a feeling that I want to have in the show every night. Still it’s a very strong emotional song for me personally, so I need to perform it also in a way.
How’s the tour going so far?
In general the tour is going fantastic in that sense that we are selling out venues, and there are so much more people than before. Today we have a capacity of 500, and it’s sold out a long time ago, so they could have definitely booked a bigger club. I think the shows in Germany we haven’t done that well before. But it changed with „Malina“. We feel a big difference now. Germany is suddenly the highest selling country for us, from being on the lowest selling. It took us a while, but now finally we’re there. Next time they’re probably putting us in a bigger venue.
There were heavy storms in Germany in the last nights. I was worried if the tour bus comes through without Problems.
We had some struggles. There was a bridge in Denmark that was closed, so they needed to take the ferry instead.
The tour in general is very long. Aren’t you afraid to get exhausted?
Yeah. So far, so good. But we’re pretty early in the tour. We’re a bit skeptical about the lack of off-days, to be honest. We wanted a day off each week. But it didn’t work out like that, because all the shows were already booked and we didn’t want to remove any shows either. So we thought „Let’s try and see if it works“.
So you still enjoy?
Of course. But I realized that Leprous need bigger stages than for instance the „Logo“ in Hamburg has. The stage there was not made for the production we have. The shape of it is very weird and there’s a pillar in the middle of the stage. So it was really hard to interact with the audience like we did on the other shows. So, Leprous work better on bigger stages like that. We don’t need massive stages, but bigger than „Logo“.
How come that you offer VIP tickets now?
That was something that we all discussed together. A lot of bands are doing that these days.
So, the VIP tickets were not established as part of a plan to be able to live only from the music in general?
The VIP tickets we did, because there has been a request. A lot of people asked for it. We never really did it before. But friends of us have done that and it worked out well for them before. Some people always want to have more than a regular ticket and we just wanted to provide that option for people.
Will you anyway try to meet your fans outside of that? At the merch stand after the gig or suchlike?
We do that, but not every day. Because I’m completely done after the gigs and I need to shower and everything. So, for the super patient people, yes, we’ll meet them. But it’s not that I run straight out to the fans. Even though we like to interact with the fans, it can be a bit overwhelming sometimes, if it’s too many people. It’s hard to get to speak to everyone. So, we need some time after the gig, at least I do. Baard is normally running straight out to the people, hahaha, because he has a different personality than me.
You recently were live on Facebook with your fans and they could ask you questions for about one and a half hour. This was great fun for us to watch. I liked the relaxed atmosphere, your sense of humor and the good relation between your fans and you. How was it for you? Will you do that more often now?
It was a lot of fun, actually. It was really funny. It’s funny to answer directly to the fans and completely unfiltered. We will probably do that again. Yeah. On the tour we didn’t really have time to do anything like that.
Did you have time to visit some sights?
No. Not at this tour, because of this setlist thing. It takes a lot of time to prepare. When I’m on tour, it’s mostly about the music for me. When I want to do tourism, then I go on a trip with my wife.
On your new album „Malina“ you have written more lyrics than on the previous albums. When you sing a song live on stage, does it make a difference feelingwise, if you have written the lyrics or if Tor has written them?
It depends. Some lyrics go deeper than others. I feel more emotional about some lyrics. On others it doesn’t really matter much if it’s me or Tor. It depends on how deep it goes. Not all lyrics are supposed to go very deep in the emotional register, and I don’t think it should be like that, because then everything becomes all of a sudden to heavy.
Do you have a favorite from your own songs?
You mean musically? Or lyrically?
I mean the overall feeling.
I think „Bonneville“ is my favorite actually from „Malina“, and maybe from all the songs, at the moment.
Did you ever think about doing a cover version of any song from your befriended prog bands?
I would never cover a prog song. If we were to cover something, that would probably be some other style. Because when things become too close to what you’re doing yourself, it’s not really an interest or challenge in doing that, in a way. I don’t really listen that much to prog myself. It’s the same like with the Agent Fresco guys. We were just put in that genre. I’m a huge fan of Radiohead or Massive Attack and stuff like that, just gloomy music. Music that is melancholic and pretty gloomy. I listen a lot to classical stuff and electronic.
Have you ever considered to be all frontman live on stage? What I mean is: you could let someone else play the keyboards live on stage, then you could concentrate on singing and „performing“ when the music demands it. Or are you incomplete on stage without your keyboards?
I AM all frontman! With the keyboards! For me it’s a good balance now. I would be really bored by only doing that. I wouldn’t feel that I was part of the band in the same way. I’m not really only like an instrumentalist for keyboards, for me it’s all about making soundscapes and I love to do that. But it needs to be the right kind of keyboards. I can do one or two full songs without playing keyboard, no problem, but in general I like to play, you know.
Which songs from the current setlists are without you being on the keys?
„The Last Milestone“. „Malina“ mostly, it’s the bass player who plays the keyboards there. Simen does a good job on the keyboards, he was learning it. Like for instance in „Malina“ as an example, I feel that I need to focus on the vocals.
I have read that you made a crowdfunding campaign to be able to produce your live DVD „Live at Rockefeller Music Hall“. I was completely surprised to hear that. You collected money from your fans? Why did your label not pay for it?
Firstly, it’s something that mostly WE wanted to do. And we asked the label if they thought that was a good idea, and they said „yes“, so we got some funds from the label as well, but that was nearly nothing. To do a live album businesswise is one of the most stupid things that you can do, because it’s twice as expensive as a regular album, but it sells much, much, much less. But we are so much a live band, and we wanted to do a manifestation of that, so we did that. We wanted to try that crowdfunding option once. It was a lot of work. It was nice, but don’t expect us to do a new one in the near future.
Whose idea was it to bring both drummers on stage for that?
I think it was my idea. The funny thing is, we announced a special guest, but at that moment we didn’t really have a special guest. So when we discussed about those „special guests“, we thought „Let’s ask Tobias“. We thought it would be nice to do something with him again. And of course Ihsahn, he’s the very obvious special guest.
How long had they rehearsed the songs to be so synchronic?
They didn’t have to rehearse very much. Because they are very good, both of them. They had a couple of rehearsals together.
I read that you are a vegetarian and care for animal welfare. Have you ever considered to go a step further? Like to give your voice or your face for a campaign of any animal protection association?
I could definitely do that under the right circumstances. But I don’t want to be moralizing either, you know. Sometimes some of these organizations can be too moralizing, which normally has the opposite effect on most people, feeling pushed. I could certainly do it under the right circumstances. But I don’t really long to be a public figure outside of the music. People only recognize me when I’m at Leprous shows. Outside of that I’m not recognized anywhere and that’s comfortable.
I have collected a few questions from your fans. Some things that seemingly have remained unanswered in the past (or wasn’t fully answered to your fans‘ satisfaction). Here we go:
What was the lyric you accidentally wrote in „Norwegian English“ and had to re-record? What’s the story behind that?
That was „Stuck“. We knew that this was going to be one of the singles as well. But for instance we recorded „Only time will show“ instead of „Only time will tell“. Not a big mistake, but it’s a very typical direct Norwegian translation. I was so annoyed every time I heard it. There were a couple more things. So I flew to the studio. It was the shortest stay in the studio ever. I flew to Stockholm from Oslo, went straight to the studio, recorded for about 10 minutes, and then went back to Oslo again.
Regarding future shows, will you strive to do more open air concerts and keep the indoor club scene available or are you moving away from it?
I don’t think any band in the world is moving away from either of those things. That’s a weird question. All bands that I know, they do both. We’ll continue to do both.
Maybe that fan is afraid that little club gigs like today will not take place anymore once you’re more famous…
They will take place, but in bigger clubs, because it’s nicer. Then the show is going to sound and look better. It doesn’t need to be massive. I really like to play clubs, and I like to play open airs. I like the combination. I don’t like too small places, I have to be honest about that. It doesn’t work with the atmosphere and attitude that Leprous are creating. We’re not this intimate kind of band, you know. It works better for Agent Fresco. It works for them in both ways, on big stages and on small stages, and they interact with the fans. It’s a bit hard to describe it, but for us, we have a kind of distance from us to the audience. We don’t really interact that much. It’s more like a show. And that works so much better at the larger venues.
As a vocalist, do you have any personal rules for maintaining your voice healthy? Any routines or habits in order to keep your singing sounding at its best?
I’m warming up for quite a while before every show for half an hour or 40 minutes. That’s pretty much it. If my voice gets completely croaky, then I need to do more than that, like inhaling etc. etc. For now, it’s not perfect, but after warming up I can do the show properly so far.
And at home, when there’s no Show?
Then I definitely don’t warm up my voice, hahaha.
I mean, do you practice singing every day?
No, not really. Not anymore. Because we are rehearsing so much with the band. I’m spending so much time, making vocal lines and so on. Sometimes it’s nice for progression also to have a break. And then when you go back to it, you’re really into it.
It seems that you have a Surprise Egg in store for us in the video for Illuminate. You filmed this in Romania. It’s „Hotel Mirage“ which you can see very shortly at minute 1:29. Is there a story behind it?
That was a big coincidence. We were filming „Illuminate“ with Costin and then I saw in the background „Hotel Mirage“ and I just thought it was funny and somebody definitely is going to notice that, and we just did it for the fun of it, actually.
I wonder if you have some music recommendations for us that have nothing to do with prog (or Radiohead or Massive Attack)?
No. I don’t really have much time to check out new stuff anymore. I should definitely pay more attention than I do.
Is there any question you would like to be asked but never have been yet?
No. It’s not like me sitting at home, hoping for questions all the time.
Done with the fans’ questions!
Traditional metal1.info brainstorming time! What comes in your mind when hearing this?
Wacken Open Air: leather waist coats and new Rock boots
Fans with Leprous tattoos: dedication
You favorite „Game Of Thrones“ character: I think actually Ramsey Bolton is the nicest character there, hahaha. No. Just kidding. I don’t have a favorite.
Nordic Gods: totally uninterested
True Norwegian Black Metal: Been there, done that!