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ICS Vortex

Van 1999 tot 2009 was ICS Vortex (echte naam: Simen Hestnaes) de man van de cleane vocalen en ronkende baspartijen in Dimmu Borgir, maar daarnaast was de rijzige, blonde Noor ook regelmatig verbonden met innovatieve gezelschappen zoals Arcturus en Borknagar. Nu zijn verplichtingen met Dimmu Borgir erop zaten, kwam er tijd vrij voor bezinning. Hij werkte een aantal songs af die hij al een poosje op de plank had liggen en vulde ze aan met nieuw materiaal. Zo ontstond 'Storm Seeker' dat eind augustus uitgebracht werd als debuut van ICS Vortex. Daar hoort een aimabel gesprek met de getalenteerde muzikant bij!

Door: Vera | Archiveer onder black metal

band imageIt has been a time of changes for you. What was on your mind when you left Dimmu Borgir?
(laughs) I did not leave, I got fired, but this was not like a thunderbolt in a blue sky. When I did the last concert with Dimmu Borgir, I knew it was the last concert. That felt strange. Things were going down for a while. I was in Dimmu Borgir for ten years and then you get to know all the bad sides of everybody. It is just a classic issue in a rock 'n' roll band, not dramatic. It was time for something new.

Indeed, now it is time to start a new chapter. What can we see as the main challenges you wanted to achieve and change with ICS Vortex?
I just started ICS Vortex as a project and it turned into a band in the end. I had all the songs, went into the studio as a solo project, but I got some help of Asgeir (Mickelson – ex-drummer from Borknagar and Testament, also known from Sarke and Spiral Architect) and Terje 'Cyrus' Andersen (Susperia, ex-Dimmu Borgir) did some leads and guitar solos on the album. Only after the recordings it turned into a real band. That opens the opportunity for some shows and we are working on that right now. Recently I also rehearsed with Arcturus again. I have known all these guys for a long time. We are back together and it is inspiring for everyone to be in the rehearsal place. We are working on a new album.

How are you going to manage to bring them all together for the live shows?
I hope that will work out and it depends on the deals of course. You'll never know about the future, but at the moment it is a little bit quiet in Satyricon, so Steinar will be right there to play the bass parts, so I can focus on my vocals. By far, Steinar is the best technical musician of all of us. After a few rehearsals he knew the songs better than anybody else. Actually he did not make any mistake in any of the rehearsals. He plays the songs right away, so I can focus on remembering the lyrics. He is the kind of guy you want in the band, because he is a colossus when it comes down on being confident in yourself. Great musicians always inspire each other. By them the project eventually developed into what I actually wanted.

But I think it is a blessing that you have such a concentration of good musicians in Bergen as well as in Oslo, isn't it?
That's true, I have known all these guys too for a long time. The vibe is right when we get together. I think we will be working on the next album together as well. People who come together think alike here and it is comfortable to hang out in the scene. We like each other's company and stuff like that. It is important for the vibe in the tour bus when we get out. People are chosen because they have that particular kind of attitude. We want to do a good job.

The album has any seventies progressive influences. Aren't there parallels with Opeth, starting with harsh material and developing the older bands later?
I don't know if we can call this the Opeth way (laughs), I am not so much into Opeth although they have some extremely cool material. 'The Window Pane' is one of my favourites in their newer history. I have no idea if it is going into the Opeth way with what I write (laughs),

On 'Storm Seeker' there is also that kind of raw rock 'n rock feel, or wasn't that done on purpose?
The important thing to me is to be honest and to release what I think is good enough from the material I have. I do not think or analyze as much as some people do. It is easy not to think about what people might think of it when you are in the middle of recording. Now that the album is finished and will be released, it will lead a life on its own.

The lyrical album theme should be centred around storm: storm in men and storm as a natural phenomenon. Can you tell a bit more about that?
I do like to write in metaphors and use a lot of them in my lyrics. This record I have chosen a theme for the metaphors to connect the whole album together. It is not a concept album, because all these songs are about different themes. They are connected, but not in a way that we can speak of a red thread or a story. The songs are personal on some level, I do like to write about things that are close to me. A song like 'Skoal!' might not be very personal, but that's written as a little hail to Norway, you know. I also brought in some lighter topics on this album, because there are a lot of topics about the storm in man, like the title track 'Storm Seeker' for instance, It is about a guy that has a bad addiction, but you can see it as something in your life that you are yearning back for as well. When you get it, maybe it is not as cool as you thought it was. You get lost in the storm on the way and you loose yourself. You loose everything that you are in the end.

After that storm I think the record flows into calmer overtones. Can we call it psychedelic or what would you say about the tracks 'Flaskeskipper' and 'The Submariner'?
(chuckles) I don't know if we can call this psychedelic, but I do listen a lot to ambient stuff. I grew up listening to Tangerine Dream a lot, a friend of mine introduced me to them when I was still very young. Later in life, when I was grown up I listened a lot to them when I was going to bed as well, especially albums like 'Atem', 'Encore', 'Zeit' and 'Green Desert'. There are a lot of subgenres and rooms in metal and music.

You worked with Børge Finstad. What was, more precisely, his work in the entire process?
His function is pretty much to put all the microphones up, that's pretty important. When we recorded the drums, Asgeir used to produce them himself most of the time, but this guy edited all the drums, vocals and guitars.

There should be a kind of Shakespearian influence. Can you tell about that?
That's one lyric which is rather Shakespearian. It is based on an experience I had in the house of a friend. It is extremely certain that there are things beyond visuals we see. It was really showing that someone was moving just outside the door in the hallway and woke me up. I was scared about that. Then I added a little drama of course (laughs) and a little Shakespeare with a touch of This Mortal Coil. We're talking about the song 'When Shuffled Off'.

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The new website will be launched at the 15th of August. What can we expect?
A little more inside information. I want to make the site interesting by adding a lot of stuff that I know people would like to see. I have recorded videos of me playing parts from the guitar players in the band. I would like to show how the songs were played originally. Maybe I will go a bit deeper into the lyrics for people who want to know what they are about. Sometimes the metaphors are not that obvious (laughs). Things like that, I like to be creative on that level. Stuff for people who long to know the material even better. Of course, the standard stuff with tour dates and a little competition here and there.

What are the plans with the other bands or projects you are involved in, like Arcturus, Borknagar and Lamented Souls?
As I told you before, we have practised with Arcturus to do some shows again. Since I contributed to the latest Borknagar album 'Universal' in 2010, it pleased me so much that I decided to be a full member again, next to Vintersorg as the other vocalist. The next album will be for the beginning of 2012. With my original doom metal band Lamented Soul I have all the songs ready for a full length album.

Indeed, you have much to offer! What is most important for you?
It is difficult to say. I think ICS Vortex is my home base from now on. It is good to have a band of your own, next to my other engagements.

Recently the world was shocked by the massive attack of innocent people on the island Utoya in Norway by a guy called Breivik. What are your feelings about that, being an inhabitant of Oslo?
Yes, he blew up 77 people and even more are seriously injured, I don't know the exact figures. I was down the harbour with my family and we heard the blast from the explosion. It happened to be the same guy from the other assassin. Yes, this was completely shocking, surreal and extremely sad. My concerns go out to all the victim's families. Unreal.

I would not expect it in a Norway environment…
Nobody did and that's why it is so extremely surrealistic. I don't think there is much chance it will happen again, but it definitely has changed Norway forever. I am living in Norway and it scares me to have such people around here. This is one weird person who thinks he is King Lionheart or something. Fucking bullshit! While Norway is such an extremely peaceful country, compared to other places in Europe, you are still pretty safe here. By the way, how much time do you have no government at the moment in Belgium?

For more than a year and five months. I am ashamed to be Belgian…
Well, nevertheless, Belgium has extremely good beer, that is why I should live in Belgium. With all the bands I travelled this fact kept on my mind. You'll get a government some day (laughs)

Let's hope (laughs) What are exactly the plans to play live with ICS Vortex?
As I told you, that was the main reason for choosing the line-up. That was the main reason I have made this a band instead of a solo project, because I want to get it out on stage. As far as now there will be a show in October in Spain and we are in contact with all the major cities in Europe at the moment. We haven't heard from Belgium yet, but we hope to come over there.

Who did the artwork for the album?
That has been created by Asgeir and myself. Asgeir is a professional designer, as you know, and he is going to do the website as well. He did great work on the album and well, he is a multi-talented guy and it is just great to have him around. Such a productive guy is great, he also did our last photo session and we are also thinking about doing shooting a video. We like to do as much as possible by ourselves. It is underground, it is old school, back to basics, but that's the way I like it.

Yes, I remember you came down to Borknagar main chief Oystein to do the recording sessions from 'My Domain' (latest Borknagar album 'Universal') with the particular car…
The blackmobile! Yeah! I don't have that same car anymore; I had to sell the car in order to record the record. You know how much I love playing music…

That's too bad but it illustrates the genuine musical approach of ICS Vortex. We talked about ancient cars to occlude our conversation and thumbs up to see ICS Vortex pretty soon live on stage with this amazing material from the debut 'Storm Seeker'. I bet it will be a storm – and vortex – blowing you away!

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