After a 4-year hiatus, Peccatum returns with an excellent new CD. The sound is hard to define but it's a wonderful listen that will challenge the most progressive of metal fans. Sea Of Tranquility's Duncan Glenday interviewed Ihsahn and discussed the new album, the new record label, and Peccatum's future.
Click here to view our review of Peccatum's new album Lost In Reverie
Duncan Glenday – Sea Of Tranquility : Are you at all familiar with the Sea Of Tranquility site, or its previous incarnation as a hard-copy magazine?
Vegard Tveitan "Ihsahn" – Peccatum : Until recently we have not been familiar with Sea Of Tranquility.
SoT : Some Sea Of Tranquility readers know Peccatum, but for those who are not yet familiar with you – can you give us a very brief overview? The band's background, where you live, how you perceive your style of music, etc.
Ihsahn : We founded Peccatum in 1998 together with PZ [from Norwegian band "Source of Tide"], and soon made a deal with Candlelight Records (UK). In 1999 we released our debut Strangling from Within, and this release was followed by tours in Europe and North-America. The following year we released the EP Oh My Regrets and the second full-length Amor Fati, which in turn were supported by shows on the Mystic Art Festival in Poland in 2000, and the Inferno Festival in Norway in 2001.
Cover Art For Peccatum's Albums
It has now been four years since the release of Amor Fati, and Peccatum is now back as a duo. PZ has left the band and devoted himself entirely to Source of Tide. Meanwhile, I have written the last chapters of the Emperor story, while Ihriel has released her solo-album Iter.Viator under the name Star of Ash - on Jester Records.
SoT : How did you get into music, and what training did you have?
Ihsahn : I was generally interested in music at an early age, and started with piano-lessons at seven. I got my first guitar when I was eleven and practically learned playing from Iron Maiden tab-books. At 13 I started playing in a metal band. After a while, I moved from more straight forward Metal through Trash and Death Metal to Black Metal. Ihriel comes from a musical family and has had her fair share of music-lessons at an early age, and we've both taken lessons in classical singing and composition.
SoT : What is keeping you busy these days? How do you spend a typical day when away from Peccatum?
Ihsahn : We're working with music and other cultural activities full-time. At present we're also building our new record label, Mnemosyne Productions. Hence, a typical day for me is to be indulged in musical or business related topics.
SoT : As we understand, the two core band members, Ihsahn and Ihriel, are husband and wife. Doesn't your working together put a strain on your relationship?
Ihsahn : No, the collaboration between us is a constant process – something we do almost every day. We're both professional about our work, and know well how to sort out musical differences. What we are conscious about though, is trying not to get caught in a monotonous loop, but to keep evolving both musically and in our working methods.
Ihsahn : SoT : Where does the name "Peccatum" come from?
Ihsahn : The word peccatum is Latin derived from Greek, and means mistake, or sin. Originally the word was connected to the hero and the fall.
SoT : The band's lineup changed a bit for the new CD. Where do you go from here?
Ihsahn : Yes, PZ left to give full priority to his other band, "Source Of Tide". Also, he has always been much more of a live band musician, whereas we have turned more to the studio environment. We're quite happy writing and producing material like this and will rather hire in the necessary musicians when acquired.
SoT : I believe you're both involved in side projects outside of Peccatum. Can you tell us a bit about them, and if they're in the same style as the music in Lost In Reverie?
Ihsahn : I'd say the musical style of this album is fairly new to both of us. Our previous albums are more metal-related. Still, Ihriel's Star of Ash album is perhaps somewhat closer to Lost in Reverie in its quiet and epic expression.
SoT : Back to Peccatum for a while – how have the band's sales been in the USA vs. other parts of the world, and where are you the most popular?
Ihsahn : For Lost in Reverie sales are not know as yet. The album is newly distributed throughout Europe, and not yet available in North America. It is also difficult to pinpoint where we are most popular, but our impression is that our listeners are scattered around the world and growing in numbers.
SoT : What is for you the most difficult aspect of the metal music business?
Ihsahn : It seems to me that the current scene is somewhat overcrowded and it is hard to come by the really good bands among all the mediocre. In addition, the metal scene has a tendency to nostalgia which makes it even harder for new acts to stand out.
SoT : What other bands do you feel are in the same class as Peccatum?
Ihsahn : As most musicians, I am so subjective to the things I'm involved with, that it's hard to compare it to other acts.
SoT : Your web site says the lineup is Ihriel: Vocals and instruments; and you on vocals and instruments. Who played which instruments?
Ihsahn : I play strings, synths and do programming, and Ihriel plays synths and do programming. As we are very much a studio act, we just switch places between being performer and engineer.
SoT : Peccatum is generally marketed as a "metal" band. But like some of the other great bands I've encountered through The End Records, your music could equally well be categorized as progressive, or heavy rock, or even avante garde in places. I don't like labels any more than you do, but on which shelves would you prefer to see your CD stacked on the record shops?
Ihsahn : As musicians we really don't care which shelves we end up on, but from a record label's point of view, the best-seller shelf is always a winner! [Laughs]
SoT : [Laughs] Yeah, that's the right shelf! Tell me - who writes the songs, and how democratic is Peccatum?
Ihsahn : Peccatum is a democratic constellation where we both equally share responsibility, work and input. For Lost in Reverie everything is so co-written that it is hard to pinpoint who had the different original ideas for themes, arrangements, instrumentation and so on.
SoT : Speaking of original ideas, what elements of metal - or of music in general - would you like to try in the future?
Ihsahn : For now we'd like to refine and develop our current expression and first see where that takes us.
SoT : What do you do to refine your playing? How do you practice, and how often? Have you developed any special exercises?
Ihsahn : Any improvement in any subject is always about rehearsing as well as gaining new knowledge. With a lot of studio work, I guess the all-round competence grows faster than certain specified technical skills. As for exercises, I'm also teaching electric guitar and bass, and thus forced to keep up with this topic.
SoT : Your website accurately (I think) describes Peccatum's sound as a "desolate and melancholic beauty". Why is it so desolate and melancholy?
Ihsahn : It is music from the heart.
SoT : Along with the other Scandinavian / Nordic countries, Norway seems to be becoming something of a leader in black metal, goth, death, doom metal - and so on. Why do you think that's happening?
Ihsahn : I'm not very updated on the Scandinavian / Nordic scene, so I have no valuable input on this topic I'm afraid.
SoT : Where did the album's title come from?
Ihsahn : With most of our albums the title is the last thing to fall into place. We simply chose this title as we felt it summed up the overall content of the album in a fine manner.
SoT : What does the artwork on your latest album mean? Do you have much input on the cover art?
Ihsahn : We are very happy with how the artwork turned out this time. The greatest step forward for us was not only to work with the right people – art-fashion photographer Siren Lauvdal and the designer duo Trine and Kim – but also to take control of all aspects concerning the final result of the album. With music being a very abstract art form, the visuals on an album becomes its clothing and how you'd like to present and elaborate it.
SoT : What is the marketing plan for the new album?
Ihsahn : At present our work in this field consists of doing a lot of international press as well as having our website up and running. All further promotion like advertising etc. will be done in cooperation with our partners VME and The End Records.
SoT : You had a release per year for 3 years until 2001, when you released Amor Fati - why was there such a long delay between CDs? Were you guys doing a lot of side projects in that time?
Ihsahn : Yes, it's been four years since Amor Fati, which is quite a long time between albums. However, we have been occupied with other projects, Ihriel with the Star of Ash album and me with the last Emperor album. In addition to this we have spent one and a half year making Lost in Reverie, probably throwing away enough material for two albums in the process. We wanted to seek out a new direction, and needed time to experiment. That part is often the most fun one as well, so it's easy to get caught in that phase of a recording!
SoT : What's your favorite moment on the new album?
Ihsahn : That's impossible to pinpoint. It may vary every time I listen to the album.
SoT : We understand that Lost in Reverie is not a concept album, but it is strongly themed … can you discuss the themes behind this album?
Ihsahn : Yes, there's no chronological order or subjective theme behind this album, but it's consistent in its dark and experimental clothing. There are mainly three aspects that had a great influence on this record. The dreamy and ruthless movement of water, Theodor Kittilsen's "Svartedauen" ("The Black Plague") and French Surrealism. It all felt well suited to underline as well as build the decadent claustrophobic and unpredictable atmosphere we wished to create with Lost in Reverie.
SoT : I understand you have your own label – how is that progressing? Are you looking to sign up any other bands?
Ihsahn : That's right. Mnemosyne Productions is our own record and production label, and Lost in Reverie is our first release. We have a deal with the Norwegian company Voices Music & Entertainment, and they are handling the world-wide distribution for all Mnemosyne releases for now. Lost in Reverie is also licensed to The End Records in the US, and they will handle the North-American distribution and promotion. This label is not just an outlet for our own projects, so we are currently looking for new talent. It will take some time to build a catalogue, but a couple of releases are already set for next year.
SoT : What is the relationship between your label and The End records?
Ihsahn : Ihriel had good experiences with them as they did the North-American distribution and promotion for Star of Ash. So it was natural for us to follow up on this cooperation, and we're very pleased with their work.
SoT : What's next for Peccatum in terms of albums?
Ihsahn : At present we're writing and recording material for an upcoming EP, and hope to release it together with a video this autumn.
SoT : Are you planning any tours?
Ihsahn : We have no immediate plans to follow up this release with tours or live performances in general. This is merely due to lack of time with building a new label as well as constantly creating new music. On the practical side we would need to hire quite a few session musicians to get this show on the road, and that in itself is quite a big project. However, we've already had quite a few offers for live performances, so we might want to follow up on this at a later point.
SoT : I think our time is running out – do you have any closing messages for your listeners?
Ihsahn : Thanks to everyone who've followed our work, and thanks to Sea of Tranquility for the support! May you live long and prosper.
SoT : Well, thanks very much for taking the time to talk to us! The new album is great, and we hope it helps accelerate your penetration into the American market. Take care!