ICS Vortex catches up the time

A vortex is, literally, a whirlwind, or figuratively a strong influence that draws uncontrollably everything towards its center. That’s exactly what is happening with Dimmu Borgir’s former bass player since he’s been evicted from the band. His departure must have created a vacant space, and as Nature hates emptyness, this space had to be filled. Consequently, since then, ICS Vortex, whose real name is Simen Hestnæs, swallows up everything that gravitates around him: Lamented Souls, Borknagar ou Arcturus, bands he had to neglect because of his involvement in Shagrath’s band, and with which he’s going to try and catch up.

This is for the best: at last, Lamented Soul is going to release its first full-on album, Borkanagar can treat itself to a first-rate vocal duet to spur on its creativity, and the genius band Arcturus is miraculously alive again. Everybody wins there, all the more so that Dimmu Borgir proved to be doing just fine even without the very talented singer-bass player.

On top of that, ICS Vortex offers us this year his first solo album. A varied, personal and undeniably accomplished album. To such an extent that the project turned into a real band that plan to go on the road. Needless to say, ICS Vortex has a lot on his plate. And as he told us, all these things are only “the tip of the iceberg”!

ICS Vortex tells us everything in the following interview.

« Dimmu Borgir is a very comfortable place to be. I guess I became curious, and I wanted to do things differently. »

Radio Metal: You’re about to release your first solo album. Was this something you had planned for a long time?

ICS Vortex: The songs had been there in the background for a long time. I’ve been talking about it for quite some time, so it was well overdue, some would say! The time was right, I had the time to do it, so I did it.

Were these compositions all meant to be featured on your solo album from the start or are there some ideas left over from past projects or even Dimmu Borgir?

I played “The Blackmobile” to Dimmu Borgir in 2009, I think, even though it’s a really old song. I jammed on the first riff on some stage, I think it was during the first tour we ever did. Then I forgot about it, but later, I played it to Dimmu. I think it was the guitar solo, which is the worst riff in the whole song! (laughs) It never got developed with Dimmu. Now it’s totally different from what I expected in the first place, ‘cause it was written for grim vocals, really. I turned it totally upside down, and now it’s a beat song about a car! I never thought that would happen, but it did! I wanted to make something different. All my lyrics have always been extremely depressing and dark and gloomy and very metal. I just wanted to do something else. So there’s the lyrics to “Blackmobile”, and there’s the one about poker, too. That’s quite different from what I’ve done in the past.

Is the music on Storm Seeker what resembles your personality the most?

Yeah. The inspiration came from stuff I’m really into. This is a personal album, and it represents me well.

This album has this particularity to be very diverse. Do you think this is the result of your strong and rich past experiences?

Yeah, and also because some of the material was written over a long period of time. I get inspired by different stuff all the time. I can have black metal periods, or Black Sabbath periods. So it’s the result of different inputs. And it was collected over so many years, so it comes from that, too.

Storm Seeker features some 70’s progressive rock and even psychedelic flavors, especially on the title song or “The Sub Mariner”. This is something we have barely heard from you up to now. Is this one of your musical sides you wanted to explore and show your fans a little bit more?

I have a lot of material like that. I’ve been a fan of that sound since I was a little boy. I think there’s a lot of cool stuff in that universe, waiting to be explored. It’s just one of the things that comes really naturally to me, and I wanted to add it to the album. I have a lot of material just like that. Maybe I’ll put it on the next album, if there’s another one. So I definitely wanted to show this side of me, yes.

There are no black metal vocals on Storm Seeker. Is this because there was not enough to explore from this side of your vocal spectrum compared to your clean vocals?

I’ve been thinking about that, actually. I’ve done some grim vocals in the past, and there’s a project coming up that has lots of grim vocals in it, too. I thought it didn’t fit my music at all, and I haven’t been doing grim vocals at all for the last ten years! It’s been a long time. When I picked it up again recently, I was wondering if I could even do it, because my vocal chords are different now from what they were ten years ago.

« it is a lot of work, and it does feel like I’m a little overbooked sometimes. What you just mentioned is actually just the tip of the iceberg! There’s a lot of other projects in that list, too. But I don’t feel any pressure in terms of time anymore. »

Apparently this project has evolved after its recording and turned into an ambitioned band who will tour to support the album. What triggered the evolution of the project’s status?

It’s always good to have more people to play ball with, if you can say that. It’s a Norwegian saying. You get to develop ideas, shit like that. I don’t know, it’s always easier to have more people to work on a project. They’re great composers too, those guys. I just wanted to take this out of my studio and out of my floppy disk.

So this is a real band now, not just a solo project?

Yes. That’s the plan, anyway. We haven’t started to rehearse so far, because my drummer is in Vegas. He will be there for four weeks or so, playing. So it’s like summer mode here at the moment. But we definitely want to take this out on the road – in Europe, for starters, and then hopefully we’ll be able to go to North America. We’ll see what happens after that.

Two years ago you left Dimmu Borgir in a not very friendly way. You have blamed greed and music industry issues for this separation. Why?

I hate talking about the Dimmu stuff. It can easily get into slander. For me it was a classic break-up. There are so many bands that do it in that exact way… It was just non-professional issues that had been building up for years. It was really sad that it happened that way, but life goes on. It definitely opened new possibilities, and it’s far more dangerous being out at sea now than in the safe harbor of Dimmu Borgir! I’m just thinking of the side effects of this break up.

By the way, have you heard Abrahadabra, the new Dimmu Borgir album?

I have. It’s good.

Are there some bits of composition on this album that come from you?

No, none at all.

Since your departure from Dimmu Borgir, you have revived or rejoined Borknagar, Lamented Souls, Arcturus, you did your solo album and you’re going to tour for it. This is a lot to carry for one man! Aren’t you afraid to be overwhelmed by the amount of work and involvement?

Yes, it is a lot of work, and it does feel like I’m a little overbooked sometimes. What you just mentioned is actually just the tip of the iceberg! There’s a lot of other projects in that list, too. But I don’t feel any pressure in terms of time anymore. I just want to get the album out, that’s the most important thing for me. We are working on the new Arcturus material, and there are some shows coming up. There are no plans for long tours or anything, but we’re gonna do selected shows here and there. As for Borknagar, we just finished recording the drums for the new album, now we’re doing guitars. Of course that’s gonna involve a lot of work, but it’s gonna be a lot of fun. Once you just sit down, it’s not that time-consuming. For Lamented Souls, there’s this record we’ve been wanting to finish for years and years. There are still developments. We have all the songs ready, more or less! (laughs) We are just lacking some lyrics, and we’re making lists of this and that. We’re out there for sure, but we’re not stressing it. I guess you can call that a hobby project, in a way. But we really want to release this material, we love it. We’ll just take it from there, one day at a time. And of course, there’s a lot of other projects, but it’s easier to have a home studio: we can send files back and forth, it’s an easy way to develop songs.

How, from returning as a live member, did you end up rejoining Borknagar as a permanent member?

It started with the Universal album: I did some vocals there, for the song “My Domain”. That’s how I got to work with the boys again. The guitar player is one of my absolute best friends, we hang out together all the time, we even go on vacation together, with our families and stuff. So it was very natural to be involved in a more professional way. It feels right to be in such an environment. I’ve always been a fan of Vintersorg’s vocals as well. It’s just a great place to be.

Both Vintersorg and you are going to sing in the band now. That’s a big change but are you confident about the way you are going to share the vocal duties?

I see myself as a bass player in Borknagar. I guess we’ll have to think about how to divide the vocals, who wants to sing what. I haven’t thought about it, really, but I don’t think it will be a problem. We just want to do what fits the music, I have no ambition of taking over the singer’s place or anything like that! (laughs) I have written one song for the album, I guess I’ll do the main vocals there. Then maybe we’ll have some backing vocals for the rest of the tracks, and we’ll just see who’s the most eager, I guess. I can see Vintersorg doing a lot of the vocals and me backing him up.

« I don’t look upon myself as a particularly good vocalist, more like the drunken guy who likes to sing harmonies. »

Does it mean the album will be more vocal-centered?


The announcement of your reintegration in the band was extremely enthusiastic. Do you think that having two singers was the kind of “extra” element the band needed at this point in their career to continue on their creative path?

Change is always good for creativity, that’s for sure. And there’s Lars, too: he’s a great vocalist, so the band already has enough good singers! I don’t look upon myself as a particularly good vocalist, more like the drunken guy who likes to sing harmonies. But it will be fun to collaborate with different vocalists, both Lars and Vintersorg. When I did stuff like that in the past, the product tended to be a lot better, because we could help each other out, usually.

Around 2000 you were given an ultimatum by Borknagar and you had to choose from touring with them or quitting and continuing with Dimmu Borgir. Do you think there was no other choice for the band? I think you said a few years ago that, without this ultimatum, you would have remained in Borknagar…

Yeah, but I could see Øystein’s point of view too. He needed somebody who could concentrate fully on Borknagar. For me, it would have been the other way around: I would probably have said goodbye to Dimmu Borgir. But for me, the process of making an album is much more important than going out on tour, and it will always be like that. We were young, everything had to be either like this or like that, things had to be a little dramatic. It would never happen today, I think! Now we would sit down, talk about it and find a way around it, but it was a different attitude back then. It was all a bit dramatic.

You said earlier that you were working on new material with Arcturus. What can we expect from the band? Will there be a new album?

We don’t know yet, to be honest. But things have been happening in the camp, and there are two new songs on the table. That’s several songs now, if you count all the demos. So there are developments there, and there are also some gigs booked. There’s a Polish gig on January 21st, I think. And there’s the Inferno festival, which both Borknagar and Arcturus are billed to play. We have an agent we’re working with. The plan is to do selected shows in Europe and wherever the fee is good, so we don’t have to pay to play! (laughs)

How come you had to wait to leave Dimmu Borgir to go back and play with those bands again or make a solo album? Was Dimmu Borgir too time-consuming?

Dimmu Borgir is a very comfortable place to be. I guess I became curious, and I wanted to do things differently.

Interview conducted on Tuesday 12 of July, 2011 by phone.
Transcription: Saff

ICS Vortex’s official website: www.icsvortex.com

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