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Leprous’ Øystein Landsverk & Tor Oddmund Suhrke: Artist Entrance Interview

Leprous is a band consistently pushing the boundaries of what music can be, and their guitarists Øystein Landsverk & Tor Oddmund Suhrke are no different. Aristides is proud to welcome both to the artist family. Read more about their songwriting process and experience with Aristides guitars so far!

Aristides Instruments: Welcome to the Aristides Family, guys! What led you to our guitars?

Tor Oddmund Suhrke:Thanks a lot! I was introduced to the Aristides guitars by my good friend Ihsahn, and I was lucky enough that he also introduced me to you guys. After trying out your guitars live in the Netherlands on our 2016 European tour, and being invited to your factory the following day, I was sold.

Especially the difference of playing on your 080s compared to other 8-string guitars I’ve tried was so extreme, so when you invited me to be a part of your family I didn’t need to think twice.

Øystein Landsverk: I’m happy to be a part! I’m extremely excited about being endorsed by such an awesome guitar brand! We are currently deciding the specs for my new 8-string, and I truly feel like a kid in a candy store! Like TorO said, were introduced to Aristides through our good friend Ihsahn, who himself is an Aristides artist. I was very intrigued by the story of these mythical guitars that weren’t made of wood, yet still sounded natural!

Ihsahn absolutely loved them, and when we met with Aristides at one of our shows in The Netherlands, I just couldn’t pass the chance. I quickly adjusted my amp and jumped into it by playing through our whole set with a stunning white 060. Needless to say, I had a very good experience! They played great and they sit really well in the mix. Somehow, magically, they are more focused and easier to mix.

A: Your music is really creative and experimental, but still comes across as genuine. What’s your songwriting process like?

O: We have been through a lot of ways to write songs. In the beginning it was extremely collaborative and we wrote almost everything together at the rehearsal space. It has naturally progressed and we don’t spend as much time together writing as we did before, and ideas and songs are almost completely arranged before presented to the others. On the last album, ‘The Congregation,’ we actually tried spending a weekend at a cabin, speed writing riffs… It was a lot of fun, but not a raging success I would say.

On ‘The Congregation’ and the album we are writing now, we voted over which one of 30 sketches we would like to proceed with, and then threw away the rest. We listen for potential, and try to visualize what the end result might be. Then we do our best to improve the sketches with the highest potential, and either rehearse the songs a bit first, or just skip that all together, before sitting down to record it. This time, a lot of work and experimentation will happen in the studio.

T: I appreciate the kind words! We’ve had several different ways of writing songs through the years. We started out as a young band when I was 15 years old and had just began playing guitar, and we’ve developed our own way of being creative along the way. The voting process Øystein mentioned has been very helpful.

I previously thought that being creative was something that could only happen when you feel inspired, but I’ve been surprised to realize that being creative is something that often comes from forcing yourself to sit down and create something, even though you might not feel inspired at all. Of course it doesn’t always work, but then again, being inspired often doesn’t lead to anything either.

Being a guitarist in Leprous also comes with another challenge, as most of the songs are composed by our vocalist/keyboard player, Einar Solberg. He never takes into consideration the fact that what he makes must actually be played on a guitar, which means that we have to transfer his “impossible” riffs into actual playable riffs.

This unconventional way of creating guitar riffs, though, often results in very original and experimental riffs since no guitarist in his/her right mind would ever make something as insane as some of the things he does!

A: I assume working with Ihsahn must have had some influence on you?

T: Ihsahn has been an important part of my career as a guitarist and also for Leprous as a band. First of all, he was part of creating the scene where youths in our home town, Notodden, got the possibility to start playing in bands to begin with, which is also how I started playing guitar and also how we founded Leprous in 2001. Then he continued helping us by recording our first demos in his studio, and he was also my guitar teacher for a while. When we reached a more professional level as musicians, we started playing as his backing band, travelling around meeting important people in the business, and we also continued using him in studio both as a technician, producer and guest vocalist.

Recently we had to stop being his backing band, since the amount of touring with Leprous was a bit to much to be combined with his touring, but our last cooperation was when we shared the stage a few weeks ago during Leprous’ first ever live recording at Rockefeller Music Hall in Oslo. Today I consider him as my good friend and colleague, and I’m looking forward to being in the Aristides family with him as well.

O: I remember when he asked us to play with him. We were super stoked about it, and obviously TorO was! Even though we had been playing together as a band for many years and we felt pretty solid ourselves, it really was at an early stage of Leprous’ career. Early usually means inexperienced, so we hadn’t played many live shows at all. That made us extremely motivated to play our very best, and we rehearsed our asses off to make his songs sound good.

We actually put Leprous completely aside for awhile, and when we went back, we sounded like a new band. I think that was the turning point when we realized that this is exactly what we should do with Leprous. Practice, practice and practice, until you just can’t get it wrong.

A: Well ‘The Congregation’ definitely sounded killer. How was the tour in support of that? You crowdfunded that live recording in Oslo, right?

O: Thanks for that! We’ve done quite a lot of shows in support of ‘The Congregation.’ We did a month-long tour in Europe last fall, another shorter one in Australia in early 2016 with Voyager (AUS), a third one in Europe around April along with a few single shows. All those tours were really good, and I especially enjoyed visiting Australia for the first time. We even had quite some days off there, so we had time to hang out with the amazing people in Voyager and they showed us around.

And yes, we did a crowdfunding campaign for a Live DVD show we just finished at the Rockefeller Music Hall in Oslo, Norway. We were hoping to reach 20,000 EUR, but we actually ended up 5,000 EUR about above our goal, so it turned out amazing for us. The show and the recording was expensive to do, but it was my best experience on a stage ever. Easily the high-point in Leprous’ career so far! We will be releasing a DVD and live album from that show, and I can’t wait to see how it will turn out. We did the show with Ihsahn, so all guitars were actually Aristides guitars on that show!

T: Like Øystein said, we toured a lot, and it was a blast! We also got nominated to the Norwegian grammy for it, which is a great honor. Later this year we’ll continue through the festival summer and then we’ll be touring to some new territories, but nothing official yet, and we also have some massive plans for 2017!

We’re very grateful that our fans helped us reach our goal for the live video, and then some! I’m really ecstatic that we managed to do the entire show using only Aristides guitars, and you can all look forward to seeing the massive gathering of Aristides guitars on stage during the final song of the show!

A: It sounds like you really enjoyed using our guitars for that show! What value do Aristides Instruments have to you as guitarists?

T: Since I started using 8-string guitars some years ago, I’ve been looking for one that not only sounds good but is also comfortable to play, and I never experienced that until I tried the Aristides 080 and 080s. Now I’m addicted! The difference in both playability and sound quality is so big from all other 8-strings I’ve tried, so to be invited to join your family is truly an honor, and I’m very much looking forward to see where this is going!

O: These guitars will replace our battle-torn Ibanez 8-strings (RG2228) that we bought when we started out playing with Ihsahn, for his songs from “After”. We were never really happy with them, and the instant we tried the Aristides 8-strings, it was just a new world.

The low end clarity is unbeatable and it was a big game changer for our live sound. You can really hear the tone on those low notes, and it lifts the whole sound tremendously. Instead of being a bit embarrassed of the 8-string sound, we can now be proud! Which will probably lead to more 8-string usage.

A: We’re glad to hear that, guys! Again, welcome aboard: we’re looking forward to supporting you in the future.

O: Thanks a lot! We’re extremely excited about being endorsed by such a perfectionist guitar brand!