Interview: SÓLSTAFIR
Title: Inimitable

When they started in Reykjavík in 1995, the band's current orientation was not even beginning. Album by album, these wonderfully cranky individualists came up with new elements, positive surprises and extremely unusual songs.

And Sólstafir were still getting better. A piece of art in the truest sense of the word, for which the fewest are able to do so accomplished and clean.

Sólstafir go on like this. From the initial Viking Black Metal to today's ‚Atmospheric Icelandic Rock and Roll‘, it was a wide and winding path, that was always pursued in an upright ideal line.

The new album „Berdreyminn“ confirms on a broad artistic level that the rocky bunch around guitarist and singer Aðalbjörn ‚Addi‘ Tryggvason is also absolutely unique in every respect in 2017.

Addi, are you satisfied with the global results and the reactions for „Ótta“? 

„Yes, very much so. It’s been quite a while since we started working on that album, and we recorded it in December 2013, and toured with a lot. 2014-2015 we were doing 200 gigs a year, and the last leg of the tour in may 2016 we added 4 string players and a live piano player to the show, and to me that was the highlight of touring career so far. This all only happened due to a high demand of booking the band and making shows greater since people were really into that album. The album before, “Svartir Sandar” was a success as well on our standard, so at the time of writing “Ótta”, I wasn’t sure if we would be able to make a better album, but then it sort of comes down when you are mixing it, the writing and record session is over and you can have a better overview what that band was creating and recording, cause you go so deep in it.“

Do you feel as a band sufficiently understood by the people out there? 

„Well that’s a tricky question, since we sing in Icelandic. So language wise of course we are. Then there is creatively, I guess there is part of our audience that don’t understand where we are coming from, then there others that don’t understand where we are going, or why we are even going there. Then on the other hand, we often come across people who we meet at shows who have followed us for years, and they don’t ask questions such as “why this”, “why that” and they simply understand us, there you have it, they “understand us”.“

How do you feel now, after having finished these new collection of often deeply touching songs?

„It’s almost like that we have only done some certain amount of pre work, since we have never toured those new songs, they will gain a new form of life after that. Some of them are very personal, and include some dark matters, I don’t know how it’s gonna be, sometimes can cause you a mindfuck if you are singing stuff that gets to you constantly while singing about it, times shall tell how it goes.“

What is the most important for you on the new release of Sólstafir?

„That we are proud of the album, and knowing that we managed to make something different than the last one, without even trying. Then again, we could never actually try that, since you can only make a real album from the heart in retrospect to how your life is at that given time.“

The new album „Berdreyminn“ sounds anew ‚own‘, ‚casual‘, and sheer even more organic and timeless as the previous one … fits again perfect to the songs itself.

Please report the most relevant and interesting things about it!

„Thank you, I take those words as compliment, since timeless and organic are two words we are keen on. I think “Ótta” was pretty timeless as well, maybe a bit 70’s sounding, but then again, music such as “Ótta” did not exist back in the 70’s. It’s a lot of small things that can make an album sound different, or the right way. First of all, we would never do an album with modern over production, EMG, LDT, 5150 and all that cocktail, we are way much more into being ourselves, expanding our personalities via music, I know that sounds a bit over dramatic, but I guess that’s the closest I can get trying to explain. Then again, just a new snare drum coming on the kit, is gonna alter any vibe of a song or an album.“

Also your new release is musically archetypical for Icelanders ... do you agree? 

„Guess that’s not for me to tell. But we are from here, so I guess I’m not gonna argue to much about that.“

Be so kind and describe the main musical character of „Berdreyminn“ with your very own words!

„We took the aspect of simplicity even further on this album, there is more simply solid beats, less complex arrangements, and even some songs have similar chord progression, without the songs sounding the same. The voice of the album, or lets say the character, is more angry, as in mourning, betrayed, or narrating an obituary. All our so to say, classic elements are here, same guitar sound, bass is a little bit more Steve Harris than before, drums are more on the surface, rather than being buried down in the valley of reverb.“

The often touching tearful as well as 'healthy desperately' vocals fitting one more time simply perfect to the material in each facet. Please tell about the development of the new vocal work.

„It was deliberate to have the vocals more over all soft on “Ótta”, and while touring that album, it kinda made me miss having more aggression in them, and on top of that, when life hits you with all sorts of shit storm, it will alter your way of expression. When i discovered this voice of mine that I use now, was while writing “Masterpiece Of Bitterness”, and after that I did experiments with going even further into clean singing from “Köld” - “Ótta”. Now I’m confident with both, and given the state you are in, it’s gonna affect the way you write vocal lines and songs.“

Any noteworthy small differences to the previous album(s) are waiting now for the curious listeners? Please tell a bit deeper about Sólstafir's newest material!

„We are using Orange amp on this album,for the first time, and without going too much into advertising, it simply gives it such a fresh new tone if you ask me. Last 2-3 albums have been with vintage Marshall amps, so this is a rather big change for us. There is the same piano and string department as there has been on the last 2 albums. New drummer of course, and he has a big loud Ludwig kit, and that of course adds a certain tone to the album.“

What’s your very own personal view about the ‚Vintage Spirit‘ of the new album?

„Timeless is what I would prefer, “Vintage Spirit” sounds nice though. There is no sign of modern technology on this album, and of course we use tons of old gear, old German microphones and all sorts of stuff, big live room, old school stylish organs, it all counts.“

The new music of Sólstafir is extremely emotional, but appears fully genuine … what kind of emotions dominate these songs?

„Thank you. Well, it’s not “faking it”, that’s for sure. Life brings you all sorts of stuff, like everyone knows, but taking those things into lyrics, and making it work in Rock and Roll songs, can be a bit tricky. You have to put some “poetic stamps here and there”, but most of the stuff is just genuine anger, frustration, disappointment, spiritual awakening, serenity, empathy, betrayal, grudge, pity, hope, mental disorders, domestic violence. Some of those topics may not sound too sexy, but when it hits home, either it being yourself, or someone you love, its different, it will make an impact on you, and often it will be a live changing turning point. Point of never returning back how it used to be.“

Which special visions are raising in your mind while performing these new material? 

„None, we just go out there and play the new stuff, some will fit better to the live set than others, so far we haven’t played any of them live. But we already have some ideas, we have been playing 2-3 new songs lately, rehearsing for the upcoming June tour. Apart from that, you just hit that stage, close your eyes, and trust the darkness.“

If you want, please be so kind and describe yourself as a personality, character and musician.

„To begin with, I too often experience myself as a clown, I will say inappropriate things at inappropriate moments, thinking it’s be having sense of humor, and suddenly no one is laughing. I’m ADHD, I have no patience, I’m very spontaneous, and that can cause problems and tension around those who aren’t, I love my friends dearly, many of them I have had since I was 12, I used to be a bass player in Death Metal bands, then in ’94 me and Halldór talked about forming a Black Metal band, and I had never played guitar before that, but we needed a guitar player for that, so I started playing guitar. All my favorite guitar players use Stratocaster, Ritchie Blackmore, Billy Corgan and Fast Eddie.“

Is it allowed to ask you about special musical influences which eventually led to the new songs?

„Nothing new under the sun here. But of course certain songs have working titles, cause first idea reminded someone of something, but in most cases the song in progress goes thru so many phases that the original idea gets gets buried. But there is stuff directly influenced by Townes Van Zandt, Neu!, then there is directs tributes to our beloved Fields Of The Nephilim, that have influenced this band from day one, and we just have such huge respect for.“

„Berdreyminn“ - what is behind these album title? 

„“Dreamer of forthcoming events”. It was not my idea, but when it was brought up I voted for it right away, since I would dream of things to come as a kid. Then again, we had so much dark spirit and negativity in the band in the recent years that we would all day dream of how thing would turn out, would the band die, would we survive, and if so, in what form? So all this questions had been asked, and often the answers would be scary to comprehend.“ 

The songwriting process itself, what is to tell about in general, any changes to the past?

„No not really, we had been touring 2-3 years after “Ótta” came out, so we hadn’t written a single song in 3 years. We just did the same thing we had done for the last two albums, we took time off, and spent about 2 months writing music every day, it takes a bit of time to turn on the creation spirit, but when it’s on, you better have a recording device next to you, and we did, and we wrote like 14-15 songs. 8 ended up the album.“

Who wrote the lion’s share of the new songs and how long was the work in total for all the material? 

„Back in the day I would write all the music myself, but when we started being the live band we are today, lets say around ´03/´04, Sæþór (Seathor) would start writing a lot as well, then Svavar would come up with stuff as well. Then the 4 of us would arrange everything together, no one ever shows up with a fully written song. And ever since then, it has pretty much stayed like that. Time time around it was the same, Hallgrímur was of course the new guy, and he is a very skilled vocalist as well with drumming, so he would be coming up with all sorts of harmony ideas, along with writing piano melodies. We write a lot of things together in the room, on organs and piano, bouncing ideas.“

Please tell about the line-up change and what brought it into the band!

„After having a creative band chemistry for such a long time with the same 4 members, it was of course a pretty unknown ground, having someone new in there. We had toured with Hallgrimur for 1 and a half year, but we had never been in writing mode. Like I said before, he is a multi skilled musician, being piano, vocals or drums, so that of course added a lot of new options. But then again, Gummi was a great band member, we always agreed on the big picture where to head, sonically, music vise we worked together great, Hallgrimur would sometimes be a bit shy coming up with ideas, and i totally understand him, since the 3 of us have been writing music together for such a long time. On a personal level, there is no negative force in the band anymore, no one is dreading going touring, there is no drunk violent behavior anymore, so it’s a bit like you have reached the surface again and you can finally breathe normally after being underwater for such a long time.“

What drives you mainly to play in these sworn bunch of 100% individualists? 

„Not sure I understand your question here, but I’m pretty sure the answer is the love of music. Since no matter how tired, pissed off, sad, full of grudge, and what ever can alter your mood, playing music on stage with your friends, with good bass drum sound in monitor, seeing people cry or smile in the audience, there is no greater feeling than that.“

What do you think about all the increasing trends in Metal, are they productive or anti-productive for the genre itself? 

„I just don’t think about it at all. I’m not really aware what is trendy in Metal to day, besides dis-liking Metallica. I love Metallica. Trends come and go, we have been here for 20 yeas now, and we just don’t care about trends, nor do we think of them. There are always waves, occult Rock, 70’s Rock and such, often it leads to great bands coming out of that, most of the time it doesn’t. Write music that you love, not to try to get popular or impress others.“

© Markus Eck, 17.05.2017

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