Singapore Sling are one of the finer constants of Icelandic music. Throughout the last decade, the band has consistently released stunning music and played jaw-dropping, death-affirming shows while maintaining a pure and icy cool exterior of the sort that’s been inspiring young kids to start rock bands since way before those were even invented. Icelandic music owes a large debt to Sling, their leader Henrik Björnsson and his patented brand of nihilistic deathgaze—without them the last decade (and our current scene) would be a lot different. And it would suck a lot harder.
You maybe won’t know this if you’ve just arrived in Iceland. In fact, these days Iceland is sorely missing some Singapore Sling in it, some Henrik in it. Oh, we’ve got our Seabears and our FM Belfasts and our Diktas and whatnot, they are all fine and unique bands that enrich our community. But none of them are Singapore Sling. None of them have that unique Slingness, the one that can make you feel at once invincible, invisible and tall as a mountain. All due respect, no other local band is as stubborn, uncompromising and full of righteous attitude as the Sling.
Nothing was heard from the Singapore Sling camp for a long while, and we started getting all sad and wistful. Imagine our surprise, then, when out of the blue, Henrik pops up at the Grapevine offices early last December, bearing two CDs packed with new, excellent music. One of them featured a project he made with his spouse, Elsa María Blöndal, called Go-Go Darkness. The other one was the long-awaited Hank & Tank long-player, an album that has been eagerly anticipated for the last seven years or so.
Both albums kick ass, and you should get them. Since Henrik was at our office, we used the opportunity to ask him a few questions about what’s going on with him and within the Singapore Sling camp. The below is a transcript of our conversation, which happened six months ago.
You have been noticeably absent from the Reykjavík music scene as of late. What gives?
Last September I had a serious accident. After the hospital I spent a long time in rehabilitation. It’s been a long and anti-social road to recovery since.
Then you out of the blue popped up with two decidedly awesome releases to your name, Go-Go Darkness and Hank & Tank. Again: What gives?
The Go-Go Darkness was ready last summer. We were going to release it in the fall, but we obviously had to wait a bit. Hank & Tank was recorded years ago but mixed and mastered last summer. Both these records were ready, and having them manufactured didn’t take much effort.
Tell us about Hank & Tank… we hear it’s been a looooong time in the making…
Well, it was mostly written before the first Singapore Sling record was released, and recorded shortly before the second one (as I recall), so I guess it was recorded in 2004. One of them strange years. Tank left Singapore Sling and we didn’t communicate for some time. Of course we wanted to put these songs out, so after another long time of wondering how and where to mix the record and how to release it, we decided to do everything ourselves. For some reason we did this last year.
Now tell us about Go-Go Darkness. This is a collaboration with your spouse, right? It’s a lot less sonically removed from Singapore Sling than H&T are—why the side-project? Wouldn’t these have been perfectly good Sling songs?
No they wouldn’t. This is my and Elsa’s project and never meant to be anything else. I have used drum machine and organ in Singapore Sling, as well as Elsa’s voice, but not in this measure… if there’s other sonic similarities between The Go-Go Darkness and Singapore Sling I guess it’s because both are very close to my heart and soul, and I am the producer. Also I am a person who makes music and I like doing different projects. I don’t consider them side-projects, just projects. Dead Skeletons is yet another one…
How is collaborating with your spouse working out for you?
It’s been mostly Heaven.
The creative arguments must be that much more weighty…
There are no creative arguments.
You have been a fixture of the Reykjavík music scene for a long time. Would you care to reflect on how it has changed or evolved since you first started making your voice and jagged guitar heard? Are any of these changes positive or negative in your opinion, and if so, how so?
Hell I don’t know… I don’t pay much attention. But it seems like there’s always some crap that people just love to swallow. But that’s universal. The majority is awful, the minority is great. The same as it was in the beginning of the millennium. The same as it’s always been.
What are some of your favourite local acts operating at this point, and why?
Kid Twist are my absolute favourite band. They have an awesome noisy surfy sound. They don’t belong to any scene. I also enjoyed the one show I saw with Skelkur í Bringu. I like seeing and hearing new bands who are in their own world doing their own thing. Then there’s all-time favourites like Evil Madness and The Bang Gang...
What is missing from Reykjavík music, if anything?
Reykjavík music is a little busy being Reykjavík music. Either it wants to be very serious or it wants to be a joke. It needs more guts maybe… more rock’n’roll.
Looking back upon your entire career—which is full of accomplishments, great albums and excellent concerts—do you have any regrets? Anything you wish you would have done differently?
Well, yes, of course there are things. Like awful contracts. Well… mainly that. I am happy with all the records. And a lot of the gigs have been great.
Why are all of your songs so sad and/or detached?
Most things I do not care about, but the things I care about tend to make me sad. But sadness is very important and underrated. Beauty doesn’t exist without sadness. As for detached… The world can be such a horrible FM place and can really get me down, so I like to detach myself from it every chance I get.
A word of advice?
Don’t trust white people.