Ever since their debut EP ‘Til Vahallar’ was released in 1996, Sólstafir have been mainstays of the Icelandic metal community. But the release of their 2009 Album ‘Köld’ and heavy touring in Europe have seen them achieve significant success among the European metal scene. More and more folks are getting to know about them. We sat down for a pint with singer Aðalbjörn and drummer Gummi to ask them about their steadily growing notoriety.
You guys have been pretty busy since Köld was released?
Aðalbjörn: Yeah, it’s been practically a full time job since April. A lot of travel, a lot of touring and driving around Europe. And of course there have been a lot of beers that needed drinking. We always say: never a beer left behind.
That sounds pretty tiring…
Gummi: The touring itself isn’t really tiring. Last fall we did a thirty-date tour and we were a little tired at the end, but I could have gone on for another month or two easy. The really tiring bit is getting home and realising that you don’t have anything to do. It’s a self-discipline thing. You‘ve got a sense of purpose on tour, knowing where you go next, when to wake up, when to perform.
Any particular highlights?
A: There wasn’t anything that you’d call a massive highlight. We played the likes of Roskilde and Wacken in Germany, big exciting festivals, but we were only there for twelve hours and we didn’t see anything! We did the Summerbreeze festival in Germany, which was a small festival, only 50.000 people. We spent two and a half days there. The weather was great, we made lots of new friends, signed autographs and the just had a great time in general.
Sólstafir have been around for nearly fifteen years. How does it feel being considered now as the “elder statesmen” of the Icelandic metal scene?
G: It feels kinda strange. Bands that we used to look up to way back then now look up to us in a way. It’s good but I don’t know…
A: I don’t really think in those terms. We’re still the same band after all this time and there are people in the scene that you could say are our peers, but we still look up to them. Bands like HAM for example. No matter how big we could ever get, I always think those are the guys who will be our idols. But we’ve never felt any such burden. We’ve never been the flavour of the week, the month or really much of the decade. Some bands have had that burden of being the main attraction but we’ve never had that to be honest.
G: I mean look at us. We’re too old to be the new hope!
A: Yeah we’re more like the new old fucks of Iceland metal! And the only change has been that we’ve started getting some girls to like us now.
After all this time how does the group dynamic work? Are you close friends outside the band?
G: It’s kind of like having a girlfriend you know. It’s nice to spend a lot of quality time with her, but you definitely need your own personal pace. I mean, after we recorded ‘Köld’ we really didn’t speak much to each other for about three months.
But it’s so important that we’re friends. I was talking to the friend in another band that had broken up. He said that he looked at all his bandmates and he felt that they had all forgotten how to be friends with each other. They were just colleagues. I wouldn’t want to be in a band where that would happen. I couldn’t handle it.
I was listening to your early stuff and it’s interesting to hear how the band’s sound has changed so much from those early days. How do you look back upon that time?
G: I like the early stuff and I still listen to it occasionally. Obviously there is nothing we’ve released that we’re ashamed of. But we were sixteen when we started the band. Now we’re in our thirties and obviously our musical tastes have changed. I wouldn’t want to be playing the same music now as when I was sixteen. I mean we were just screaming like crazy fucks back then.
Can you still play the old stuff?
A: I could but only a couple of songs, and I wouldn’t be singing any clean vocals after that. But it’s a matter of technique. Way back then, we never played live, and some of those early songs have never actually been played live. Some of the stuff from ‘Til Valhallar’ has only been sung in the studio.
You’re playing at Iceland Airwaves again. How do you think the festival has changed over time?
A: Well in the past, Airwaves have given the metal community shit. It really has. They’d get some token metal bands from Iceland and the odd flavour of the week band from abroad, and put them here in this little corner so they could continue with the festival and the bands they really wanted to deal with.
G: Now they’re under new management, however, and we’re quite excited about the Metal Hammer night they’re having, so perhaps this will change. I do hope that we are seeing a new and better festival now.
What’s happening after Airwaves? Is there any new material in the pipeline?
We actually have about half the new album done. We haven’t discussed yet how we’re going to release it though.
How do you go about writing the music?
A: Well one rule is that we never drink during rehearsal. We drink water, smoke lots of cigarettes and when we’ve played the same riff for about three hours and everybody has forgotten themselves, and we’re not sick of it, then it’s a good riff and we’ll use it.
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