Exclusive interview for hellfest.fr: ENSLAVED [Ivar Bjørnson (guitar)]
“We put substance into it. We take chances. Sometimes we are pompous or overly serious but it works. People appreciate that” – Ivar Bjørnson – Sunday 19 June 2016
How the hell are you?
I’m very good thanks, I’m excited to be at Hellfest on the closing night. Normally we are here on Fridays!
How has the experience been?
It’s fantastic every time. Hellfest begins when they start announcing the lineup because it’s always crazy. People joke that every band in the world is on Hellfest, but the compliment in there is that it’s every band who matter. So today after our show we can run and see Black Sabbath and King Diamond. It’s really exciting. It’s surreal!
What’s it been like working with your manager Simon?
Pretty fantastic. He is an extremely positive force. Last summer our old manager, my wife had to pull out. She had been working with us since 2005 but there was a career opportunity for her that was too good to be missed so she pulled out. I was doing things myself from Last autumn up until February or March when Simon came in. It’s been fantastic. It will take a while to get him situated in the world of Enslaved but working with him is fantastic.
What was it like having your wife manage your band – that’s usually a bad idea…
I heard that too! Jokingly we called her Yoko. The difference between her and those horror stories is not to my advantage. I can be unreasonable. I write all the music and I can get some tunnel vision as to how to do things. I have a tendency to lose the bigger perspective. It was my idea in 2000 that we should have outside management which made it weird when my wife came on board – she wasn’t my wife at the time. She became our manager because she had her own opinions. It was a healthy thing that a lot of those opinions were quite contradictory to my own. I think there was a handful of times during those ten years there were conflicts within the band and most of the time she wasn’t siding with me. It’s a good thing that she got involved because there was sometimes tension in the band and the way she handled those agreements showed she didn’t care who she was married too she cared about what was best for the band.
What were these disagreements?
The first really hard one happened when Arve (Isdal – guitar) started to focus more on Audrey Horne – ironically I helped start it. That was a problem for me in terms of loyalty, for him to go out and play with his other band on the same festival. I would get upset that he would be too engaged with his other band. For me having sacrificed so much I didn’t take it well. It got really personal and emotional for both of us and she was the one who had to sit me down and explain how things worked and make compromises. Arve needed to have his own outlet. He needs to have his own way of letting out his creativity. That solved the whole thing.
What about the other ones?
Silliness! The first one has the most substance!
Obviously the last time we met was on the Between The Buried and Me/Enslaved tour. Tonight you will be playing to twenty times as many people – how does that feel?
It used to feel crazy. It’s the same as with jetlag. Your mind gets confused and your body is affected. We’ve gotten better at it now. Both things are exciting. At first I was a little worried about it, being on the big stages and then going to the clubs. But it worked the other way around. When you play in a club you have people right in front of you and there is a lot more communication. We get to joke around and have some tension. Even in London when we played the By Norse shows and did the first night only playing the really old stuff and people still asked for old stuff! It sounds like I’m annoyed but I’m not. It just shows that people want more. They are really excited about us.
The superfans alone are enough to keep going…
Exactly. For them Enslaved means so much. They have their favorites. They have it linked to important events in their lives.
Why does Enslaved matter to people?
Because we put substance into it. We take chances. Sometimes we are pompous or overly serious but it works. People appreciate that.
So what bands don’t have substance? (Laughter)
It’s not up to me to judge that. People will find meaning on the side of a milk carton and who am I to say that there is no meaning than that. I can have my own opinions but the end consumer – if it’s a 12 year old girl who likes a fashionable metal band – if that helps her I can’t argue against that!
Interview: Matt Bacon.