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Ihsahn on Former Emperor Bandmate Faust: “Once You’ve Done Your Time, You Can Start Over”

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Being an Ihsahn fan is complicated. The dude is undeniably a major talent; his work with the legendary Emperor alone secured his place in the metal history books, but as icing on the cake, his solo output has been fairly incredible, too. Still, some of us have felt hesitant to support Ihsahn in light of the fact that he has never publicly decried his Emperor bandmates Samoth (né Tomas Thormodsæter Haugen) and Faust (né Bård Eithun). Samoth, who is still a member of Emperor, was once convicted of burning down a church, while Faust, who performed with Emperor as recently as 2014,  was convicted of murdering a gay man, Magne Andreassen. Neither has been particularly repentant in public; the last time Samoth seems to have spoken about his crime was in 1996, when he said that “I still stand by the concept of” church burning, while Faust only did slightly better in 2008, claiming that “I put behind me the hatred and negativity” which led to Andreassen’s murder without commenting on the bigoted nature of his crime itself.

So did Ihsahn ever feel any hesitation to work with these guys again? During a recent interview for The MetalSucks Podcast, we went ahead and asked him:

If somebody just got into Emperor right now, and they heard of the hate crime that Faust committed, and then they see that you guys reunited together on stage like you did for the Nightshade Eclipse reunion tour, they might think that you’re giving Faust a pass for his past actions. Was there ever a moment when you told yourself “I have to be okay with what these guys did in the past” before performing with them?

Not at all. I can understand from an outside point of view, you see a person that committed a crime, and then that’s all you know about a person. If somebody from your family does something like that, that’s just a part of the person you know.  We just have to admit to ourselves that we have different parameters for the people close to us than those who are distant. It’s just individual perception. But we got some criticism, especially for bringing Faust with us on stage. People thought that by us doing that, we were condoning the actions he did in the past, and the potential audience would be condoning it by watching the show with him on stage. But my reply to that was ‘Okay, we can all have individual souls and ideas about what is the right penance for a crime.’ Some think the death penalty is okay, some think it should be milder, but in Europe we don’t have the death penalty. We have a justice system that says for this crime, you serve that amount of time. Once you’ve done your time, you can start over. You can have your individual perceptions of whether that is fair or not, but if it’s morally okay for the bureaucratic legal system, and it’s still not morally right enough for you, or politically correct enough for you, maybe black metal isn’t for you. You can’t have true black metal without the craziness. There’s nothing kvlt about politically correct black metal. You really don’t get to choose. It’s like a big author with alcohol problems – does that affect the quality of their writing? People change, people say ‘It’s all in the past, and now they’re successful, so it’s okay.’ It’s not just black metal. You hear stories of Mötley Crüe in the 80s, who had twelve-year-old girls on the rider, which is far less than okay. [Editor’s note: Not sure where this story comes from. It’s been well documented that Mötley Crüe had twelve-foot-boa-constrictors on their rider, but unless that was code for something, the band requesting underage girls is news to us.]

I completely agree with perception and family mentality of knowing a human being and being represented negatively through the press. It defines someone.

It’s like saying you condone drug use if you like Jimi Hendrix.

I can see both viewpoints. If there was a sincere expression of regret, a public apology to the media, do you think it would be fulfilling for people, or that it wouldn’t matter anyway?

It probably wouldn’t matter. In my experience, it has never really mattered what we did or what we said. People’s perceptions and attitudes towards me and what we’re doing have always been what they chose it to be. When people decided we were crap, they treated us as such, and when they decided we were successful, they wanted to be a part of it. People aren’t going to say ‘Oh, it’s so nice now that you’ve regretted everything and you’ve changed your ways.’ Of course I’ve changed as a person, but my intentions and my reasons for doing the music that I do, dealing with the existential questions that I write about, is very much the same as when I started out. It’s just that everybody around it have changed how they want to relate to it.

Do you feel that Ihsahn’s stance is fair? Should he be harder on Faust and Samoth, or, having served their time, are they indeed deserving of a fresh beginning? Listen to the entire interview below, then head to the comments section to discuss. Keep it relatively civil, please.

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