ICS Vortex | Interview with Simen Hestnæs

Following an acrimonious split with Dimmu Borgir, ICS Vortex aka Simen Hestnæs didn’t sit around feeling sorry for himself and decided to roll up his sleeves and start working on a number of projects that have been laying dormant for the last few years like Arcturus and Lamented Souls, plus he rejoined Borknagar and even had time to create his first solo effort.

[ICS Vortex]

Recently issued by Century Media, “Storm Seeker” might surprise a few people as ICS Vortex probes more emotional, progressive territory and lets his creative spark get more expansive than ever before. The progressive and hard-rock style contrasts heavily with ICS Vortex previous endeavours, yet the ambitious instrumentation and dazzling songcraft proves that the musician’s name holds up pretty well on its own. ICS Vortex discusses the making of the album and his future plans.

Now that the Dimmu Borgir chapter is closed, Hestanes says that the relationships between him and his former band members are pretty much broken and there’s no chance of collaborating with them again, ICS Vortex is determined to give a new lease of life to some of his long lost, but highly missed projects like Arcturus and Lamented Souls and to finally to commit to tape some ideas that have gestating in his mind for quite some time.
“I had these songs in the back of my mind for quite some time now. I had a lot of material laying around in minidiscs, tapes and hard discs and I started collecting the material and produce it. There’s stuff that goes back to 2001, songs that wouldn’t fit in any of my other projects or bands. Songs like ‘Blackmobile’ had been finished for a long time, I think I first jammed that song with Nicholas Barker and the other guys on our first tour with Dimmu Borgir in 2001 I believe. I’ve just added the clean vocals and it turned out quite better that I thought it would.”

Although most of the songs featured in his first record have been laying around, waiting to be recorded for quite some time, “Storm Seeker” has very few ties with the symphonic black metal of Dimmu Borgir or Borknagar, in fact it will surely surprise a few people as ICS Vortex probes a more emotional, progressive territory and lets his creative spark get more expansive than ever before. The progressive and hard-rock style of some of these new songs contrasts heavily with Hestanaes previous endeavours.
“I found it to be extremely diverse when I first listened to it in the studio as a whole. I thought wow this is going to surprise some people for sure, it’s a bit more challenging. There was lot of hard work and effort involved as I’ve tried to make it all work together, to make all these diverse influences to sound like a complete package.”

Were you ever concerned how the fans might react to this record? I guess a lot of them were expecting a more black-metal sound.
“I don’t know, it depends on how big fans they’re, I know I have some die hard fans, probably not that many, ah ah. But for people who know about my other bands like Lamented Souls and previous stuff it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. I thought it was going to be more complaining about the material but it has been a lot of pads in the back and I guess a lot of people just matured in the same sort of way as I did and now we’re on the level and they can relate to my music and my lyrics and maybe they think it’s ok not to scream all the time ah ah ah.”

As mentioned before, “Storm Seeker” displays Hestnaes’ affection for hard-rock music, “Windward” for instance is hands down the mellowest song he ever written and reminds me of Kiss at certain times, while songs like the title theme evokes some influences of artists like Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin.

Excuse me did you just say Kiss? Hestaenes interjects.

Yeah, somehow the song’s vibe reminds me of Kiss.

“Well Kiss is one of mine all time favourite bands so it’s great you say that yeah. I can see that.”

So, could you elaborate on the effect hard-rock and acts like Kiss, Led Zeppelin had on your sound?

“Overall, they’re all bands that I grew up listening to. I started following Kiss even before I’ve heard of hard rock music. As a kid, like when I was four or five years old I started collecting these trading Kiss cards and all the kids wanted to play in Kiss because of these cool cards, so you know that’s how it started and the first Kiss tape I’ve heard I was like five or six year old, it was the ‘Hotter than Hell’ record and that was an excellent start. It’s was Kiss, then Wasp, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, a lot of punk stuff and also some alternative things like Sonic Youth, Nick Cave and The Birthday Party and then I evolved to more hardcore bands, Megadeth, Slayer and then some Norwegian black metal bands. It’s been music, music all the time for me, that’s what my life had been based around you know. And I never wanted to be narrowed minded when it comes to music, even though there was a time in the beginning of the 90’s where a lot of Norwegians were narrow minded including me for a time I admit.”

So Kiss was the band that touched you in a way where you knew it would always be part of your life and wanted to be a musician and play in a band?

What’s been most challenging aspect of your career following the split with Dimmu Borgir?
“Humm, I don’t know, I’ve been working hard in making new music since then, but I’d say working with so many creative and talented people has definitely been a challenge for me.”

Indeed, Hestaenes have been extremely busy in the last few years, not only he crafted his first solo effort, he also rejoined Borknagar and even brought Arcturus back from limbo.
“That’s fantastic and I’m really happy that it happened really, I’m especially optimistic for Arcturus as the album we’ve prepared is going to sound massive.”

Regarding Arcturus, is it the same line-up as before?
“Well Tore is not with us anymore, but the rest remains the same and we’re back to only one guitar player and that’s Knut Valle.”

And hey, let’s not forget about Lamented Souls, I thought the band was buried considering your involvement with Dimmu Borgir and Einar’s focus on Duplicate Records.
“Lamented Souls was never really dead, it’s just been inactive for so many years. You know we always wanted to record another album, but really haven’t had the time to put it together. We’ve been trading e-mails back and forth with ideas, and we’ve the songs finished, we just need to write the lyrics and find time to put it together and I hope there’s a new record out in 2012.”

What about these other projects that were announced recently like Artisan and God of Atheist?
“Well it’s interesting that you mention God of Atheist ‘cause I just mentioned it a couple of times, but that’s Asgeir Mickelson band and he recorded all the drums of album, I’m going to mention the rest of the line-up, but there’s going to be some big names on that album. I’m set to do the vocals and it’s going more technical metal like Atheist and stuff like that.”
“Artisan is a project that Jens has just started, but before I do that I just have to finish the recordings of the new Borknagar album, which I did the bass lines and some vocals. So there’s a lot of stuff going on.”

David Alexandre

More info at: www.icsvortex.com