It’s a story that has passed into Icelandic music legend. Of how a young drummer named Stefán ‘Stebbi’ Magnússon, having moved to the Eastfjords village of Neskaupstaður, invited several of his musician friends to come and play and have a party out of sheer boredom. From this chaos, the mighty Eistnaflug metal festival was created, becoming one of Icelandic music’s best-kept secrets. Now in its seventh year, and promising to be bigger than ever, we sat down with Stebbi and fellow organiser Guðný Lára Thorarensen to talk metal, tents and dancing to Mammút …
So how are the preparations going?
Guðný: It’s been pretty good. We’ve been working on the festival for about eleven months now. Last year’s festival was really professional, so we’re trying to continue that for this year. After last year finished, we decided that we wanted more foreign bands and have it bigger and better.
Are you finding it easier to do as the years go on?
Stebbi: It does get a bit easier as we’re just better prepared, have more connections and a better reputation in the metal scene now, which is important when you’re talking to foreign bands.
This year’s line up looks really diverse. Are you looking to open up the festival beyond the core metal audience?
G: We do try to do that. The heavy metal guys that come, they want to bring their friends and girlfriends and we want to make sure they enjoy themselves too so that they’ll come again next year. Plus, you can’t really listen to death and black metal continuously for three days.
S: It’s also rather funny seeing all the metal fans dancing away to the likes of Mammút!
G: But we’ve always tried to have a diverse line up. People forget that the likes of Agent Fresco and BOB actually played at Eistnaflug a couple of years ago. And don’t forget Reykjavík! and Me, The Slumbering Napoleon last year. I think people’s minds are a bit hazy and they tend to forget.
Now there are couple of acts on this year’s line up that have raised a few eyebrows, none more so that the Alice In Chains tribute band. So the question is, why??
G: Stebbi LOVES the Alice in Chains band!
S: Yup it’s just me!
So what you’re saying is that it’s your festival and you’ll have whoever the fuck you want on it?
S: That is EXACTLY what I’m saying [laughs] 100%!
G: He always puts on some odd bands. Whenever I turn away to do something, I come back and these bands are written down on the list! And he goes: “It’s my festival!”
Another thing that’s raised eyebrows, for different reasons, is that the original Icelandic metaller Eiríkur Hauksson is playing. How did you swing that?
S: He’s my uncle!
A fair point…
S: Well many of the younger people, they won’t have seen him perform what he’ll be doing at Eistnaflug.
G: Stebbi’s even made a special band for him.
But will he be performing his Eurovision Song Contest entry?
S: God, no no no. What he’ll be playing is some of his stuff from his Drýsill days, some tracks from his Norwegian group Artch, and some classic stuff.
Nice one. So this year you’ve got four foreign bands playing, more than ever. Did having Napalm Death perform last year make it easier to get these guys to come and play?
G: That, and we got a great review of the festival from Shane Embury [Napalm Death’s bass player], as well as the festival appearing in magazines like Terrorizer and Metal Hammer.
But also Icelandic bands are talking about the festival to their friends in Europe. Secrets Of The Moon, for example, are really good friends with Sólstafir. And Secrets Of The Moon are also good friends with Triptykon, and Stebbi had already spoken to them about playing.
S: Triptykon was a big one for us to get. They’re such a good band.
G: It was also interesting that all four of the bands kind of ‘fell into our lap’ so to speak. We didn’t have to woo them specifically. They wanted to come and play here.
There’s been some talk for a while that with the festival increasing in size, it will be moved from Egilsbúð to the sports hall nearby. What is the situation with that?
S: We’re working on that, but we won’t go there until we absolutely need to. For example, if we book a very big foreign metal band.
G: But we will definitely not turn it into a mainstream festival. Eistnaflug will always be a metal and rock festival.
So is this going to be the best Eistnaflug yet then?
S: I can ASSURE you that with this year’s festival, we’ve never put as much work into this one that we have in previous years.
G: It’s going to be fantastic!
ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW
What is it?
Iceland’s biggest and wildest metal music festival.
Where is it?
Neskaupstaður, East Iceland.
How to get there:
Car: Travel on Route 1, follow the road signs. Plane: Flights are available to and from Egilsstaðir (see www.airiceland.is). Bus: Coaches from Egilsstaðir to Neskaupstaður are available (www.austfjardaleid.is), but be aware that there is no bus service on Sundays.
Agent Fresco, Celestine, Atrum, Benny Crespo’s Gang, Dr. Spock, HAM, Eiríkur Hauksson, Skálmöld, Sólstafir, Innvortis, Mammút, Manslaughter, Momentum, Black Earth, Brain Police, Carpe Noctem, Chao, Dánarbeð, Dimma, Elín Helena, Gone Postal, Muck, Offerings, Plastic Gods, SH Draumur, Saktmóðigur, Sign, Trassar, Witches, Secrets Of The Moon (GER), The Monolith Deathcult (NL), Triptykon (SWI), Hamferð (FOR)
STEBBI’S TOP TIPS FOR SURVIVING EISTNAFLUG!
Check the weather: This is Iceland. The climate in Neskaupstaður is different from Reykjavík, and it’s been pretty cold this year. Prepare for pretty changeable weather.
Take your time to get there: One of the great things about Eistnaflug is the road trip, which can be up to 12 hours by car. That can often be as much fun as the festival itself. Make sure you buy beer in Höfn as well!
Bring swimming trunks: The pool at Neskaupstaður is a perfect hangover cure. The sight of so many metalheads in the hot tub is a fun one to behold.
Bring a tent that works!: You will be thankful for this if it starts raining.
What happens in Eistnaflug stays in Eistnaflug: Have a great time and take part in fun, crazy shit. But please make sure you’re careful, lest you have an annoyed partner waiting for you when you get home!