Australia has one of the strongest prog scenes in the world, a characteristic celebrated by the annual Progfest. Starting in 2008 and expanding in 2018 to include Sydney and Brisbane, this year’s Progfest will be headlined by international prog heavyweights, Norway’s Leprous. “We’re stoked to be playing this tour,” Leprous frontman Einar Solberg says. “I can’t wait to get back to Australia. I like it when the audiences are people who love music, not just musicians, which is something you find in the prog community in Australia.”
One thing that makes this tour particularly exciting for Leprous fans is that the setlist is very much up in the air. “We’ll have a different set every night in Australia,” Solberg says. “We haven’t even decided what to play where. We did that with very big success on the EU tour we just finished. We changed up the setlist every night for 33 shows. That’s 33 totally different setlists. It was a big success for everyone because it was much more exciting for us, the crowd, and the crew to do something different each night.”
Speaking of changes, Solberg’s keyboard rig has just undergone a total transformation, and he’s now the first keyboard player to endorse the Kemper Profiling Amp. “I run my keyboards through a Kemper which gives me a lot of options for diversity,” he says. “I used a lot of guitar amplifiers in the studio, but then I was like, ‘How do I make this happen in a live setting?’ I wanted to do something similar, and then our sound engineer suggested Kemper. I was already in contact with the guys because they visited one of our shows and gave us their cards ... and I contacted them and we all got ourselves some Kempers. The guitar players are mixing the Kempers with a Fender Twin or a Vox AC30. For me, I run the new Prophet 6 analogue synth into the Kemper.
“Sometimes I just bypass the Kemper because I don’t want to have the amplifier sound from the keyboard, because the Prophet sounds very fat by itself,” Solberg continues. “Sometimes you lose some of the sub when you go through an amplifier. So sometimes I use it, sometimes I bypass it but still use the effects. But it’s a fantastic new world for me to work with the Kemper and Prophet.”
Aside from his talent as a keyboard player, Solberg also has an incredible vocal range – and it didn’t come easily. “At first I was singing along to a lot of female vocals and that was okay - I always had that head-voice part that I use quite extensively in Leprous. But then I started singing in a punk and grunge cover band when I was fifteen, and it was like Nirvana, Sex Pistols, Rage Against The Machine. I’m still a big fan of Rage Against The Machine even though it’s not a very direct reference to what I’m doing now. But I got some really good feedback from those early gigs, so I started taking lessons, but then the quality of my singing was just horrible because I became so focused on technique that the way I expressed myself became too exaggerated.”
Fortunately, Solberg developed his vocals gradually, citing experience and extensive touring as the greatest influencers to his improvement. He’s a firm believer that a musician should constantly analyse their work, and he doesn’t hold back from sharing his advice to other singers.
“Singing is very personal, and you can get easily embarrassed if something goes wrong, so what I do is think, ‘Where is the part where I’m sounding bad or my voice doesn’t work?’ And I find ways to work with it or work around it. Find the faults, work with them, and the rest is experience.”
Leprous will be headlining Progfest 2018 which kicks off in Sydney on Saturday January 20. Malina is out now via Inside Out/Century Media.