Published October 7, 2016
Forging your own way doesn’t always take you down the most comfortable path, but it’s always a scenic one. And DJ Gunni Ewok has seen a lot. In 2002 he was a part of Breakbeat.is, a radio show and club-night host that stood out at the forefront of drum & bass music in Iceland. Through Breakbeat.is, Gunni was among the first to introduce dubstep in its earlier forms, and the first to put grime on Iceland’s radio stations. In 2013 Ewok called it quits with Breakbeat.is and formed its subsequent and currently running project, Plútó. We thought we’d catch up with Ewok at this point along the path to ask him about what he’s seen on the scene so far, and where he hopes to go from here.
How (or when, or where, or with who) did techno begin for you?
Hard to say, there was no “eureka moment” as such for me. I have two brothers, nine and ten years older than me, so I got exposed to a lot of music through them. Probably the first electronic dance music was connected to breakdancing. My brothers were into that so I was into that too, even though I was only around five years old.
Things started really to click with me when my brothers let me hear stuff like M|A|R|R|S – “Pump Up The Volume,” Yello – “Oh Yeah,” KLF – ‘The White Room’, Technotronic – “Pump Up The Jam” and Snap! – ‘World Power’. From there I started to discover things from friends and radio and got into the UK hardcore sound via The Prodigy, 4hero, 2 Bad Mice and so on. That morphed into jungle which is still my biggest influence in music. The UK hardcore sound also led me down the house and techno rabbit hole. Ever since then I have been looking out for interesting music to listen to and to DJ.
Describe your style.
Kind of hard to say since I play so many different styles of music depending on where I’m playing and for what crowd. I like to try and introduce people to something a little bit different from what they are used to, but I try to do it in a context they know and understand. Context is everything thing when you are DJing. The right context can make a good song great and vice versa. Always try to push the boundaries while still keeping the party going.
How does your music fuel your lifestyle, and vice versa?
Music has been such a big part of my life for so long it’s just melded into one really. It mostly affects my wallet since I still try to buy most of my music on vinyl which has become really expensive here in Iceland. I have to order all the new stuff from abroad with all the extra costs.
What words would you use to describe Iceland’s techno scene—when you began DJing?
When I first started DJing it was mostly with Breakbeat.is which was at that time a drum & bass crew that had a weekly radio show and a monthly club night. At that time, back in 2002, techno and dance music was at an all-time low here in Iceland. Most places didn’t want to have anything to do with house music, especially not techno and drum & bass. So back then I didn’t really get a chance to play techno since those nights were few and far between.
Today vs. when I started is like day and night. It can always be better but I’m loving how much more kids are open nowadays. You can jump much more between genres then you could back in the day just as long as you know how to keep a good context. Now I can play a set in a dance club that spans music from the last 40 years and no one questions it. The radio show I have now with my Plútó crew on FM Xtra is a good example of this. It’s so many different styles of music—old and new—but still I feel people can tell almost right away that they are listening to Plútó.
What is one of your proudest moments as a DJ/musician in Reykjavík?
I have been a part of the scene here for such a long time as a DJ, radio show host and a promoter that it’s kind of hard to pick just one moment. I would say I’m most proud to have been able to contribute and influence the scene as much as I think and hope I have.
What are some of the biggest changes you have been witness to, for better or worse?
Well since I started to DJ at a time when dance music was looked down upon I’ll have to say they are much better now. But things could always be better and they can always get worse. When you live in such a small place like Iceland you can’t really expect too much and I think it’s a miracle what has been done here and is still being done when you understand just how small Iceland is.
On October 8 Ewok á la Plútó and FALK record label are hosting DJ PERC, an iconic and forward-thinking British producer, at Paloma Bar. More information on the event can be found here.