Reykjavik!’s erstwhile guitarist Valdimar Jóhansson breaks out into production of all kinds…
Now you may have noticed that Iceland’s favourite pleasure rockers, Reykjavik!, have just released ‘Hellbound Heart,’ the first track from their at-the-time-of-writing untitled third LP. But their guitarist Valdimar Jóhannsson, the man behind those fresh hooks and fist pumping harmonies has been a busy man lately. Along with recording with Reykjavik!, he’s produced the second album from noise artist AMFJ, ‘Bæn,’ is working on the debut album from Lazyblood, the side project he runs with his partner, dancer Erna Ómarsdóttir, as well as producing music for dance pieces such as ‘We Saw Monsters.’
On top of that, he’s also become a dad for the first time!
We braved the smell of used nappies to find out how he does it.
I notice a lot of harmonising in your new tunes, which is sort of new for you guys. How did that happen?
Bóas and I sat and discussed it for a long time; we wanted to do proper vocalisations. Lots of backing vocals and overdubs. You know, a lot of ‘90s “Aaaaaaa, Ohhhhhhh” type sounds.
With your last album, ‘THE BLOOD,’ your working description was ‘Slayer.’ With this album, what was the direction you wanted to take?
I think at the back of all our heads we all wanted to make the same album. We’re massive fans of the band Ride, and for a long time in our youth we would hang out and listen to their albums forever and ever. We all just wanted to make a Ride album basically! I think we got closer to that with this album than the previous ones.
I do though think that now’s the time for us to be making an album like this, an album with us putting more thought, into it. With ‘The Blood,’ we wanted to take the energy and make a LOUD album. Which we did. I admit that I find it difficult to listen to it for a long time. I can only take it in ten minute chunks.
You’ve stated Ride, The Lemonheads and Deftones as reference albums in your production What elements from those albums were you hoping to incorporate into yours?
With Ride, for obvious reason, the vocals and overall sound that they had. The track ‘Leave Them All Behind’ is just amazing. With the Lemonheads, I’ve always liked the drum sounds in the early albums, when there wasn’t so much acoustic guitar. And Deftones? Well, it’s Deftones isn’t it? ‘White Pony’ is their best album in my opinion.
Now, you’ve branched out, producing AMFJ’s latest album, ‘Bæn.’ How did that go down?
Well it was a very different experience for me as it was my first proper glimpse into noise music. I thought when he came to me with the rough tracks, it sounded quite interesting. With those tracks, I would look for the really interesting pieces, and accentuate those. We also did a lot of experimentation, in making a new sound.
It sounds very different from his first album, a lot more rhythm and structure.
Yeah, and he was also really easy to work with. Normally when you show an idea to an artist, they’ll be a bit ‘Meh, I don’t know,’ because it’s their music, their baby. But with AMFJ, I’d come to him with an idea on a track and he was always like ‘Right! Yeah! Let’s go for that!’ Like on the track ‘Retoría,’ where we doubled up his usual affected vocals with just his bare voice. I really liked the idea of having a dry, rasping vocal underneath because I like the way his voice is. He’s the Icelandic noise preacher man, like the Icelandic priests when they’re toning.
So what’s happening with Lazyblood at the moment?
I should be done mixing the Lazyblood album by December so it should be out sometime in the new year. Then I´ll be mixing the EP Lazyblood did with Reykjavik!, ‘The Tickling Death Machine,’ which we’ll be doing next January. We’re looking to take that show to Japan and Australia next year.
You’re also now a dad. Congratulations! A chip off the old block?
Cheers. Yeah, he did his first crowd surfing when he was six months old, in his mother’s belly! And he was a week late when we went to the recent HAM album release concert and Erna’s waters just about broke!
Crikey! Does the fact that most of the members of the band are now fathers change how you all put your music together?
Nah, I don’t think so. Actually we’ve always been child friendly. We’ve played gigs for kids and they’ve loved it! They love the energy. You don’t have to make ‘kid’ music for kids. Kids just love proper music. You don’t have to have silly lyrics or a stupid voice for them to like it.
So there’s you’re not becoming Pollapönk just yet?
[laughs] No, not yet.
By Bob Cluness