Wenige Wochen ist es her, da habe ich in How About That? eine neue Indie-Lieblingsplatte gefunden. Warum besagter 2004er Output bei all seiner unverschämten catchyness nicht zum gefeierten Szene-Darling wurde, war dabei nur eine von vielen Fragen, die sich mir aufdrängten. Umso schöner, dass ich Gisli, den Protagonisten hinter der Platte, dazu bewegen konnte, sich hinter die Tastatur zu klemmen und mir in einigen Punkten Rede und Antwort zu stehen. Die kleine Schaffenswerkschau folgt in englischer Sprache und lässt den Blick in die Vergangenheit, Gegenwart und Zukunft des Songwriters, Sängers, Instrumentalisten und Produzenten schweifen! Keine Ausreden mehr und diesen Typen jetzt entdecken!
„I’m gonna be drunk and flat broke. I’m gonna be tired, old and bitter. And really messed up.“ – Gisli, I really do hope the lyrics of 2004’s Straight To Hell didn’t become bitter truth to you. How are you doing these days?
Well I’m definitely older, that’s for sure! Probably less messed up then I used to be but also perhaps a bit more tired, as you get when you grow older. Other than that I’m great thank you.
How About That? – 2004
I’ve just discovered your superb debut How About That? the other day and have to say that I dig each and every song, which has become a rare thing to me. How do you personally feel about that record nowadays?
I’m glad to hear that you like it. That makes me happy. Personally I have mixed feelings about that album. Musically it was very much a reaction to what was going on in music at the time so to my ears it sounds a bit dated but there are still a few songs there I still like a lot and I think still stand on their own, you know? Lyrically I thought it was fun to write hip-hop style lyrics to these pop songs, a lot was just stream-of-consciousness kind of stuff, which no-one was doing at the time but then a whole wave of bands came along and did just that so I guess it feels a lot less special now a days. Still a few good lines here and there I think. So you know, I’m proud of the album but I don’t listen to it.
A lot of critics compared you to Beck Hansen back in the day. Did you feel flattered by that or did it bug you?
No, never. I thought it was a massive compliment even though I’m not the biggest Beck fan in the world. I got weird sometimes when people tried to use it against me though. Dissing me for sounding like Beck but then saying someone else was great because they sounded just like the Rolling Stones or whatever… If you want to please hipsters you’ve got to rip of the right artists you know, but then you have to remember that pleasing hipsters doesn’t even pay the fucking rent! Haha
„Oh my god this world is fucked up“ – still your Most Frequent Thought?
Yup! Especially these days. The Panama Papers didn’t exactly strengthen my faith in politicians. We are dealing with this here in Iceland at the moment on a pretty big scale. I’m convinced this the beginning of the end for ”old politics” and that something new is right around the corner so I’m sure we can start thinking about something more uplifting soon.
Check Your Pants, Know What I’m Sayin‘, I Refuse… the ‚How About That?-era‘ also brought us some excellent B-Sides! And then there are these awesome demos you shared on soundcloud. Good stuff that is! I bet there are still some goodies left in the vault from that early period of your career…
Yes I’m sure there, somewhere. Every once in a while I find a song on one of my hard drives that I’ve forgotten about. Sometimes half written or half recorded or both! I can’t say the quality is always gold though.
Talking about unreleased stuff: What excactly kept you from releasing your 2nd album Build-Ups & Break-Downs? I mean, it’s up on soundcloud as well and it’s ace! Any chance of a physical release some day? It’s a shame that people don’t know about this…
I recorded that second album in Los Angeles and had a great time doing it. I had the best time with the best people and I was very happy with the result. Then we started planning the release and it was all taking very long and I couldn’t work out why until one day EMI Records was sold and the label put down. When that happened I had had enough of record company politics and also I was getting a bit tired of being a solo artist and just being an artist in general so I just stead in the studio, working with and for other people, writing and producing. It was the logical next step really. I got the rights to the album back from the label immediately but I wasn’t into doing that thing any longer. I might still release it though. In the meantime it’s free for anyone who can find me on Facebook and has the nerve to ask for a download link 🙂
You did a lot of touring back then with your band, sharing stages with The Dresden Dolls, The Magic Numbers and whatnot. Get onto the bus and headin‘ to the sun. Touring is fun! There must be tons of great memories! Like to share some?
Yeah I did an awful lot of touring, and it was amazing! I remember standing on stage in front of about 5.000 people at a festival in Germany the moment I realized that the next line in the song was: I’m like the 2nd world war without the nazis… I chickened out and just went silent for that line. Some journalists gave me a hard time afterwards for not saying it though. I also remember the last thing I did before walking on stage at Glastonbury was to throw up because I was so hung over. Then I walk on stage and was met by the loudest roar I had ever heard from the crowd, which I was´t expecting at all. It freaked me out so much I almost threw up again on the stage. Good times…
You used to have that talented band of handsome gentlemen around you. What are those guys up to? Do you still work together?
Keeping bands together is hard work! The bassplayer had a hard time with touring so he turned into a raging alcoholic and had some kind of a breakdown on our last tour. I’ve worked with the guitar player (Bjørn) a little bit and the drummer (Odd) was also in a new line-up that I had for a couple of UK tours where we were playing the second album. They are all doing music in some form I think but I’ve moved countries a couple of times since that so we don’t really stay in touch that much.
Seemingly out of nowhere, 2012 saw you releasing some catchy stripped-down new material and rumors are up that you’re working on new material lately? New release? New label? New shows? New band? New New? How about that, yeah?
Hell yeah, I’ve never stopped writing and recording my own music. I just didn’t want to do all the other stuff like releasing and making whole albums. At the moment I am making an album though. I would say I’m about 70% done. It’s not all stripped down and easy either, there’s all kinds of stuff going on. It will be out this year, hopefully this summer.
You co-produced and co-wrote Briefly Shaking by Anja Garbarek and played a bunch of instruments on the album as well! Just gave it a spin and it’s the bomb! How do you feel about that record?
That was such a fun thing to do. She’s an amazing artist and had no musical restrictions or boundaries when we were working, always open to anything. That album got director Luc Besson interested in working with her so one of the songs we wrote together (Can I keep him) ended up in his movie called Angel-A which was very cool indeed.
Although you haven’t released that much stuff of your own these last couple of years you haven’t been lazy when it comes to producing records with other artists: Duffy, Roisin Murphy, Cathy Dennis, Mick Jones, Joe McElderry… you name it! Are you able to make a living out of working in studios and whith whom did you work recently?
Against all odds I’ve made a living of music for 12-13 years. It’s a lot harder after moving to Iceland though as the music business here is tiny so I work in TV and radio here too. But I’m still very busy producing and mixing for people, mainly people outside of Iceland for some reason. Just finished an album with the Norwegian singersongwriter-pop-star William Hut. That is such a good album!!
Who’s on your wishlist to work with and is there a producer you admire?
I want to go to a really shitty english pub with Jeff Lynne, and I really really want to make music with Buck65.
You grew up in Iceland. I’ve been planning to go there for ages and certainly will some day. Which spots shouldn’t be missed when one is travelling this country? Recommendations for magic, obscure and odd places are highly appreciated!
I don’t want to disappoint you but it’s getting pretty commercial here now. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a magical place! It really is. You can just get into a car and drive anywhere and it will blow you away. I promise. Or you could come visit the town where I live which has about 90 residence and not much else. That’s pretty cool too.
I’d like to quote you one last time in the following: „In Iceland there are people actually making pieces somewhere in the middle of ‚real art and high kitsch’“. In my view, this statement doesn’t only fit your own music perfectly but is getting me curious as well! Who’s your favourite artist from back home?
That line is something I picked up from a Buck65 song actually but it’s always stuck with me. I too think it describes what I’m always trying to do so, well spotted! There’s a lot of good music in Iceland at the moment but all of a sudden these bands are getting all
international. Kaleo, Of Monsters And Men and a few other bands are doing really good things. There’s a guy here called Junius Meyvant who’s really good and Sóley, she’s touring a lot all over the world I think. I don’t think I have any favorites at the moment though.. except Eliza Newman my girlfriend! She’s amazing!
Mr. Kristjansson, thank you so much for your time and I’m really looking forward to your upcoming stuff!
It was a pleasure, sir. I had to think while answering these questions.
That doesn’t happen very often!
Interview vom 11.04.2016
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