Tor Oddmund Suhrke - Leprous - Uber Rock Interview Exclusive Print E-mail
Written by Jim Rowland   
Sunday, 07 July 2013 04:00

Norwegian rockers Leprous aren’t an easy band to categorise. They combine elements of progressive rock, metal and pop to produce an intense sound that really is quite unique. With close connections to former Emperor frontman Ihsahn, the band’s last album ‘Bilateral’ made a lot of waves on the underground scene, and their new album ‘Coal’ is set to build on that reputation. I recently caught up with the band’s co-founder, lyricist and guitarist Tor Oddmund Suhrke to find out a bit more about what Leprous are all about.


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Tor thank you for taking the time to talk with Uber Rock today, I’d like to start with the ‘Bilateral’ record if I can, which was extremely well received and helped raise the band’s profile hugely. Were you guys surprised by its success, and how important was your record label (Inside Out) to the album’s success?


Yes, the feedback we got for ‘Bilateral’ was very good, and we were of course very satisfied with that. Not that we expected that many positive reviews, but still I won't say we were very surprised either. We've always had a strong belief in our music, and that other people appreciate it as well, is just a very welcoming acknowledgement. As to the role Inside Out had in its success, I would say that they probably helped getting the media's attention. Simply being signed to a big label makes people open their eyes and ears to it. The creative side of the album, though, Inside Out didn't play any role, as we had already made everything before they came into the picture.


leprous cover blSo was there much pressure on you to follow up ‘Bilateral’ with the recording of your new record ‘Coal’?


No, I wouldn't say that. When we start the creative process of a new album, we always put the previous album behind us, and start with completely new ideas and inspiration. We never wanted to make something based on the fact that it would be compared to ‘Bilateral’, but of course I realise that this is what will happen.


So did you as a band have any pre conceived ideas of how you wanted ‘Coal’ to sound like before you started the aforementioned writing process?


The writing process for ‘Coal’ started right after our European tour with Amorphis ended in January 2012, and we immediately started presenting ideas to each other. We always arrange the songs together at rehearsals, and that way, the different songs kind of live their own life as it gets moulded by all the band members. We didn't start off with any defined goal of how the album was supposed to sound, but we often get an idea of where we're headed as the album gets shaped. We try to rid our minds of boundaries, so that the creativity can flow freely, and although this can lead to many ideas that we end up not pursuing further, it also leads us to many of the best sequences.


‘Coal’ to me seems a little darker and more melancholic than its predecessor, it’s also a little bit less aggressive musically. Are there any obvious reasons for this?


I agree wiith your description and can't say that there's any obvious reasons for this, as we didn't necessarily plan for this. The music and lyrics are both rather honest, and they're inspired by what goes on in our daily lives. As some songs are made, there may be that we get inspired by the direction the album is headed, and that may be a reason for how the album has the same kind of mood event though this was not planned.


Coal album coverIt’s hard to categorise the music of Leprous, apart from placing it loosely under the ‘Progressive’ banner, how would you describe your music?


As you say, it's hard, and it’s not actually something I see the value of doing. I think people have  too big of a need to categorise things in genres, I guess so that they can know what to expect. We want our music to be free of the expectations you get from hearing the name of the genre, so that people never can be totally certain of what they can expect. Of course I can see why people want this ‘heads up’, but still I think many people like this uncertainty.


Okay so what bands would you cite as influences on Leprous, both in your formative years and currently?


I know that all the band members listen to a very large spectre of music, something that makes it difficult to point out our main influences of today. In our earlier years when we started as a youth band though, it was probably easier to see this. Bands like Opeth, Pain Of Salvation, Porcupine Tree, Judas Priest, The Mars Volta, The Dillinger Escape Plan, and many more, are bands that I can say had a big impact at least on my earlier years as a guitarist.


And are there any bands you particularly admire right now?


Lately I've started listening to Arvo Pärt, after having heard Einar talking very highly if his compositions, and I must say that it's very soothing to listen to, and filled with emotion at the same time.


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Emperor legend Ihsahn makes a guest appearance on the album’s epic closing track ‘Contaminate Me’. Tell us about your relationship with Ihsahn.


We've had contact with Ihsahn and his wife Heidi for as long as Leprous has existed, since it was they that encouraged us to start play in a band when we were 15 years old. They helped us with recording our first EP ‘Silent Waters’ (2004) and the LP ‘Aeolia’ (2006), and after we released ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ in 2009, Ihsahn asked if we wanted to be his band when he was taking his solo project to the stage. We're still his backing band, and they also helped us out with a big part of the recording of ‘Bilateral’ (2011) and now ‘Coal’. How we ended up with his vocals on ‘Contaminate Me’ was because we thought that his voice would fit that part very well, and since he was in the studio anyway he tried out, and I think we used the first take he did since it sounded so good.


Which brings me to my final question for you Tor. When can UK fans get to see Leprous live?


We'll play at the Underworld in London on November 9th, on our upcoming Headliner tour. We would also love to tour a bit more in the UK soon, but so far the right offers haven't reached us. We hope to see as many of you as possible there!


Photographs by Bjorn Tore Moen


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