Ivar Skontorp Peersen, best known by his stage name Ivar Bjørnson (born 27 November 1977 in Etne) is a Norwegian composer/guitarist for the progressive black/viking metal band Enslaved.
1.) WHICH RECORD HAS HAD THE MOST PROFOUND INFLUENCE ON YOU?
For me it stands between Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Bathory’s Hammerheart.
Even though Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon was the album that spurred me on to really go deep into music and for the concept album, with the use of in-between sounds and musical theatre between songs, the use of sequencer, all that important stuff, it is still Bathory’s Hammerheart that ‘wins’ because that was what defined the direction of Enslaved. It still does. I would say together with Twilight of the Gods, the album that followed, constituting the Viking or Norse albums by the band. Those albums led to so many things that have defined my life, so I would have to say Bathory’s Hammerheart.
2.) HOW MANY HOURS DO YOU SPEND A WEEK RECORDING/PLAYING/CREATING?
I don’t know, it’s a statistical nightmare because it’s so uneven. Last week I was working on a new Enslaved thing for pretty much all of the day. Something like 10 to 12 hours is not unusual.
Most days I’ll drive my youngest daughter to school at 8:00 AM and then start working when I’m back home again at 8:30. It is just interrupted by a few office or business tasks that I have to do.
I work in my home studio or in my downtown office space/studio well into the afternoon. I work on things that are not purely dependent on inspiration, stuff like fixing recordings and editing, trying out solutions for song structures, arrangements, that kind of thing, or even a simple rehearsal on the guitar in the living room with my kids and my wife around. They can interrupt me if they have something that’s important, which for me is pretty much everything, so I’ll never disagree even if they want to show me something they have drawn, that will be the kids by the way, the wife is not that much into drawing any more. Family is definitely an important thing and the work will have to wait.
When they go to bed I’ll keep working until the late hours. So it can be anything up to 15 hours, with at least 10 – 12 during busy weeks.
There’ll be some weeks when songs are done, or if I need to break, which I do if I have been writing successively for several weeks. I force myself to have breaks to make sure that things are sort of fresh and have a new perspective and don’t get worn out. But I do wish that I could work non stop, at some point I’ll start doing that again. When they move out.
3.) WHICH OF YOUR OWN CREATIONS IS YOUR FAVOURITE?
I’ll leave out the last Enslaved album because it’s still too new, because we’re still sort of living within it, so I would say the Enslaved album Below the Lights from 2003. It was such a career defining album, it really was also an important album for us. I don’t want to say it was a daring album because that’s so stupid to say about one of your own albums. But we took Enslaved in a different direction and it really made who we are today.
I also think it’s worth mentioning a single song from the new album, Urjotun, which is this sort of a New Wave/Kraut tribute. It’s a point where I was finally able to integrate my interest in electronic music and sequencers into Enslaved, that’s been a dream for a long time.
So that’s one album and a single, but I’d like to mention one concert which was Hugsjá with Einar Selvik, a concert that we performed in 2017. It also became an album but it was a concert first which I’m really really proud of. We did lots of research on local and national history and we created something really new. That album’s been doing spectacularly well, just quietly, the streaming figures are insane. But that’s not what I’m proud of, I’m proud of the album itself and how we managed to create something new out of an already worn out genre, crossover folk rock.
4.) WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST REGRET?
For some reason people say they have no regrets, like they think that’s a value in itself. But I don’t agree about the premise of that, it’s the same as guilty pleasures, for me there’s no guilty pleasures.
In the same way I don’t see regrets as being problematic or weak or anything like that. Seeing regrets is being analytical and actually a source of information which you can use to perform better or find a better life
I would say my main regret is that I started taking time off and creating pockets of time too late. It’s a new thing for me, I started a couple months ago, I clamped down on the brakes in the middle of a lot of things.
I had this realisation that I’ve passed the point of growing older and went past the point where it’s about counting down and starting the end of my life which is actually a very very good thing. But I think it created a bit of panic in me, when I realised how little time I set aside for the really important things.
I spent a lot of time doing what could have been easily be done by other people. I spent a lot of resources and time on providing management services because I know what that is about since I’ve had managers myself for 30 years. I’m quite good with office work and so on, but I realised that I was doing a half assed job. No matter how good I do it, on my own scale, it’s never going to be on par with the level that I can do as a musician or composer or writer whatever and the things that I do well.
I quit a lot of things, made spaces in the calendar, cancelled a lot of things. It was painful in itself. A lot of my clients and projects were with friends, since they were friends, they understood the situation and I was quite frank with them so they understood why. So yes, I regret not having done that a long time ago. I’ve missed a lot of my kids first few years when I should have spent more time at home and less in the office and so on. Now I know. New projects? No thank you!
5.) WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?
The ultimate cliché, I go for a walk. I go for nature. For some years after becoming a parent I forgot about it because there’s always exhaustion and hours of sleep to catch up with. But recently, the last few years, I’ve realised how easy it is. You don’t have to go into the massive wilderness and rub shoulders with David Attenborough. You can just go to whatever little patch of forest you have nearby and sort of make a walk and have a pause and stop and be part of it. All you have to do is get your toe into nature and be part of it for a few seconds and that relaxes me. It’s pretty black metal actually, or should I have been excited in the forest? Is that more black metal? Who knows?
6.) OTHER THAN FRIENDS AND FAMILY WHAT IS YOUR MOST CHERISHED POSSESSION?
That would be my analog monophonic synthesizer, a Roland SH-1, which I bought from my very sweet and encouraging supportive music teacher in the ninth grade.
We discussed Pink Floyd and I was showing him some demo stuff from early Enslaved. We spoke about analog synthesizers and we were heavily into Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, David Bowie’s Low and dark gloomy synthesizer things.
He brought the synthesizer to one of the classes. I played around with it and I really loved it and he let me buy it. I heard recently that he really regrets selling it. It’s been put to good use, it still is, it’s been with us from the very first Enslaved album Vikingligr Veldi until the latest.
7.) TELL ME THREE OF YOUR HEROES/HEROINES?
My wife Tonje. You know one of the things that really attracted me to her was her drive, her non compromising intense will, combined with endless kindness and compassion. She’s just amazing and especially now during this last period of me isolating myself a little bit more from the business, show business side of things and spending more time with family and in the studio in the forest. It’s given me a break to see what really what she does and how much she must have been doing for these years when I went globe trotting with the metal and folk bands. It’s pretty amazing.
The second one would be my mother. She’s a psychologist who is now retired but worked at the university of Bergen. She had teaching chores for students, guiding them, but also having clients as a clinical therapist and she’s been working with children and troubled families for all these years. I’ve come to understand the depths of what she’s been involved in at work. Very horrible family situations, suicidal teenagers and whatnot. She’s always been able to keep up a good mood at home. When she was working with that level of trauma she was also obliged to go into therapy herself which I guess must have helped. I admire that she dedicated her entire professional life to doing this. She kept studying until the very last day when she retired and she was gaining more and competence all along her career path because this was really something she was dedicated to, had a passion for and now as a pensioner she is volunteering as a Red Cross volunteer to help immigrant women with mental issues and adaptive problems. Instead of being in the garden all week and enjoying the retired life she’s still in there fighting the good fight.
And the third one – I’d say Robert Fripp from King Crimson. I don’t know much about him on a personal level but that’s also some of the allure to be honest because he seems to be a musical icon where it’s about the music from the beginning to the end. Of course there might be one or two people who are into Robert Fripp just because of his tie and his spotless way of dressing but then I think most of us are just really admiring his guitar style, his way of innovating sound, his spectre of being everything from a pop studio brilliant guitarist to an experimental way out or psychedelic soundscape maker and, of course, King Crimson who are heroes.
8.) WHERE IS YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE IN THE WORLD?
Before the pandemic I would probably say New York, parts of New York at least because it’s urban enough to have a magical vibe of urbanism in itself. It’s chaotic and massive.
Now, I don’t know, I think perspectives have changed quite a lot during Covid, seeing the nature of how people have acted, getting a reset on the control on life. I would say that I’m more intrigued by a bunch of small places in my own neighbourhood. We had to go on vacation locally, not that we go that far normally with the kids, but I found a local place called Austrheim, which would be ‘the home in the east’ translated from Old Norse. It’s only two and a half hours away from Bergen. We found a little cottage on the coastline. It’s just beautiful and isolated, remote and quiet and great, so we’ll be going back there.
9.) IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE YOUR ART WHAT OCCUPATION DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD BE DOING?
I started in education and informational science, databases, data mining, all that stuff and I was heading for taking a major in system dynamics which I found deeply fascinating. I think I would have done something within that, system dynamics is about quantifying parameters in seemingly chaotic systems using database and interface programming, but it’s more on a level of trying to put numbers on probable movements and so on and finding equilibriums in big shaky systems which I found very fascinating. Being a nerd would put me around computers 24/7 and that’s something I would like a lot.
10.) IF THERE IS ONE THING THAT YOU WOULD WANT THE WORLD TO KNOW ABOUT YOU THAT YOU HAVE NEVER CONVEYED IN AN INTERVIEW BEFORE WHAT WOULD THAT BE?
Yet again, a little bit torn here about the clichés of being a private person and so on. I’m think I’m going to stick with that because I think you can divulge too much private information. Some private information of course can be interesting and sort of spice things up for people listening to the music, but with a band like Enslaved that have been so present, there’s no corpse paint, there’s no fantastic stage names and so on. I’ve done interviews since our first release in ’93 and that amounts to quite a lot of interviews. I think if there’s something I haven’t said already it’s probably not worth starting saying it now. I don’t want our music to be old. People lose the associations with imagination and fantastic, magical imagery that they conjure up in their heads. Mixing that up with me doing the laundry at home or something that would sort of ruin it.
Ok, one thing people don’t know is I’m actually a funny guy.