Far more interesting than my usual navel-gazing posts are the conversations I had with Icelandic musicians who are among the most intelligent, interesting, and entertaining people I have ever met. I left every interview with a better understanding of not only their music, but of music in general.
Back in December, I posted a list of these interviews. At the time I was still working on more, each of which, in one way or another, posed some kind of writerly challenge. Even though my mistakes are perhaps more apparent here than on the first batch, I hope you get more from these interviews than just my lessons-learned. There is some great music here.
Gone Postal (with Svartidauði)
Gone Postal started out as teenagers who, by their own admission, played a bunch of riffs in a row and called it death metal. Over the years, they’ve grown as songwriters, adding post-rock and black metal influences. Their new blackened death sound is drenched in doomy atmosphere that I think a lot of people would like if the band ever gets around to putting out an album.
Since their guitar player is also part of Svartidauði, the gold standard of black metal in Iceland, I was also able to ask about that band. Svartidauði released a new album, Flesh Cathedral, only a couple weeks after this interview, and I can confirm their guitar player’s statement that it is “really trippy shit.”
The interview itself was kind of a trip, too. Airwaves was already in full swing before I caught up with the band, and to top it off it was after their 2 am show – which means it was the middle of rúntur. Transcribing an interview with five subjects in a party setting was a professional challenge, to say the least. Read the interview here.
Good thing I ran into Birgir Thorgeirsson (left) at a show later in the week since I forgot to take pix at the interview.
I requested an interview with Kontinuum before I even heard their music – I could tell from the review on Angry Metal Guy that it would be right up my alley. The recovering witchy goth-girl in me swoons for the moody atmosphere, but the black metal and especially the industrial elements are what keep me coming back for more. Killing Joke was the soundtrack to an entire phase of my life that I unfortunately don’t remember much about. So until it came up in the interview, I didn’t identify the tremendous impact of Killing Joke amidst the many other, sometimes unexpected, influences on this album. Also, great vocals; gloomy cleans that land somewhere between Peter Steele and Peter Murphy are supplemented with occasional spine-tingling lupine howls – but therein lay the problem.
Press photo taken by the other guy in the first photo.
No Clean Singing focuses on extreme metal. Three Imaginary Girls cover indie and punk bands that are just as heavy as Kontinuum, but they don’t cover metal. So I split the interview. Selective cutting, without rearranging or adding anything, resulted in two separate interviews; one focused on the band’s black metal history and the other on the album’s indie influences. It was a great writing exercise, and lots of fun. But my editors both got a piece that didn’t quite fit their websites, and I didn’t do the band any branding favors. Music Birgir mentioned in the interview led me to a whole subgenre of ambient black metal (which, it turns out, I like a lot better than other kinds). In retrospect, I should have kept the interview intact and found a single outlet for the piece. I could have used a broad platform site like CultureMob, or found a site whose readers would be interested in something labeled “ambient black metal.” Metal interview here. Indie interview here. Also, I forgot to take pictures.
I won’t talk about their music here, because I want you to read the interview, and the review I wrote of their album. For this post, I’ll just talk about what I learned.
It pains me to confess; after I boarded my plane in SeaTac, and before I inserted the sim card in my European smart phone, Skálmöld confirmed our interview the following Sunday. Somehow, I didn’t see the email until three weeks after I got home.
I only ended up getting an interview at all because the guys from Skálmöld are every bit as friendly and down-to-earth as everyone in Iceland told me they were, and granted an email interview. For about a week, in the most fun exchange I’ve ever had on email, I got to dig into the details of Icelandic poetry and music history with their bass player as my personal tutor.
Lessons learned: Check your spam folder every day. When checking email, always scroll all the way down to the old messages.
Although they are probably sick of hearing this, if Sigur Rós played heavy metal, they would be Sólstafir. And you all are probably sick of hearing about how much I love this band, how they are one of the reasons I went to Iceland in the first place, and how I will never be the same after hearing them play. Fortunately, I got to interview their drummer before that show, or I would never have had the nerve to do the interview.
Guðmundur was such a friendly and easy-going guy, though, that instead of being awestruck, I found myself asking for camera advice (he’s a trained photographer). But easy-going is not always easy interviewing, and from a professional standpoint, this one went a little sideways. Worse, it was a rant against vegetarians and in favor of eating whale meat! As a 20-year vegetarian environmentalist, I cringe to think that someone might eat whale because of something I wrote.
Hey kids, check it out! This super-cool rock star that thinks whale meat is awesome. He makes some pretty good points, too, and I’m not even going to argue because I’m trying be a neutral journalist who doesn’t piss off my interviews with off-topic arguments.
But you know – whatever. He was funny and interesting, and gave good answers about the band. He was whip smart and would have been tough to argue with if I had decided to engage on whaling. (I wouldn’t anyway, since I agree with him about not telling other people what to eat.)
Actually, I wouldn’t do anything differently about that interview. It was fun and I loved every minute of it. Lesson learned: Just roll with it.