It’s a Wednesday afternoon and I’m passing the time at Prikið while waiting for Karl “Kalli” Tryggvason, DJ and member of drum and bass collective Breakbeat.is, to appear. When he arrives, we’re making our introductions when out of the blue, two strangers hand him 5000 ISK and they shake hands. As I look on bemused, Kalli turns to me and laughs, saying “Oh random strangers are always giving me money!”
Any notions of illegal activity however are quickly dispelled as it turns out that the two men are merely giving donations for Breakbeat.is’s latest project, ‘Taktabrot: Veggspjöld, flugumiðar og annað prentefni úr starfi Breakbeat.is 2000-2012’ (‘Breakbeat: Posters, tickets and other printed material from breakbeast.is 2002 – 2012’), a book detailing the graphical history of the collective. Over the last decade, Breatbeat.is has been behind radio shows such as “Skýjum ofar” (“Above The Clouds”) on Rás 2 and “Tæknir” on X-ið, as well as hosting Iceland’s longest running regular club nights.
A CHALLENGE OF DESIGN
As I sit down with Kalli and the collective’s main designer, Ragnar Freyr Pálsson, they tell me how they came up with the idea of making a book. “It’s something that’s been in the works for a while now,” Ragnar explains. “It’s been an idea probably since the tenth poster I made for Breakbeat.is and they’ve been gathering up now for a good few years.”
Kalli adds, “All the different things that we do, they’re rather fleeting. They don’t leave much of a tangible trace. The radio shows, for example, are recorded, but all of that could be lost if our hard drives crashed. So this is a good opportunity to record our memories of what we have done.”
The intention of making the book, ‘Taktabrot,’ is to document the posters and flyers that were designed for Breakbeat.is’s regular club nights and special events. “The bulk of the book is made up of sixty or so posters from the poster challenge, which we started in 2004,” Kalli explains. “That was when Ragnar designed a poster, and then challenged one of his colleagues to do the next one.” Thanks to this challenge, the collective have produced designs from numerous young designers, as well as well-known artists such as Ghostigital frontman Einar Örn Benediktsson and LHÍ professor Guðmundur Oddur Magnússon (better known as Goddur). Having a high level of design is something that’s important to the collective as a whole. “I think there’s an aesthetic line throughout all the posters we’ve done, even some of the poster challenge projects,” Kalli says.
“The music itself has been an important factor in the each poster design,” Ragnar explains. “I think that the look of the posters is determined in a way by the designers and their handle on what music we make. Some of them might see a drum and bass futuristic style, all sleek and metallic, some see something psychedelic, almost cosmic, while others see an avenue for doing something completely different.”
In order for ‘Taktabrot’ to be realised, Breakbeat.is have turned to crowdsourcing funds through the Kickstarter model of receiving donations from supporters. “The thing is, this is something that we do for fun,” Kalli says. “Money from the club nights goes towards doing more nights, running the server for the website, and producing the posters for future club nights. So we came up with the idea of fundraising through our own website, which details the project and the donation packages that are available. A donation of 1000 ISK will give you a credit in the book saying that you supported us, 3500 ISK gives you credit and a copy of the book, and a donation of 5000 ISK or more gives you credit, a copy of the book, and a guest list place on the launch night.”
Kalli believes that asking the public and followers to help with financing fits with the overall ethos of Breakbeat.is as a collective. “Many of our followers and supporters will be buying the book, so they can buy into making it happen. While it is a lot of money for something that you do as a hobby, I think it’s definitely worth it.”
Kalli and Ragnar explain Breakbeat.is’ long-lasting success differently. “We’re very proud that it’s the longest running club night and our perseverance is a part of it,” Kalli muses. “We’ve gone through times when the music was fashionable and everyone shows up, and times when it’s not so trendy and only five people turn up. So we just keep on, but right now we have the second generation of people now running the collective, and we’re seeing the third generation starting to come through.”
Ragnar explains their longevity in terms of the variety of music that they have played. “Our first love is with drum and bass and jungle, even though many people would consider it a bit past its heyday,” he says. “But we do keep our eyes on the horizon and try to pick up breakbeat related genres and bass sounds that no one else is playing around here that much. For example we had our first dubstep night in 2007 when no one was touching it. We’ve also booked artists, such as Hudson Mohawke back in 2009 just as he was starting out.”
BLAWAN BASS IN YOUR FACE!
In keeping with the idea of playing new sounds in Iceland, Breakbeat.is are bringing one of Britain’s brightest producers, Blawan, to perform at the book’s launch night next month. “It is a big deal getting Blawan to come and play,” says Kalli. “He’s got a very unique, interesting sound and he’s an up-and-coming guy. His last couple of releases have a techno/acid house feel to them, but as with dubstep, no one in Iceland is picking it up, so we might as well bring him here. And he definitely bridges the gap between techno and other forms of bass music.”
With a book coming out and the prospect of more acts coming to perform in Iceland, 2012 could be a defining year for Breakbeat.is. “As with everything else, the Kreppa put a big hole in bringing DJs over, and we’ve certainly slowed down a bit,” Kalli explains. “But this is a good chance to see if we can get that ball rolling again. There’s a lot of interesting things happening out there. I hope we go from strength to strength on the back of this and open people’s eyes to what’s going on out there.”
There is still time for you to make a donation towards the publishing of ‘Taktabrot’. If you want to make a donation, you can do so by going to their website at bok.breakbeat.is (warning – the site is in Icelandic). There is also an exhibition of several posters from Breakbeat.is at Artíma Gallerí (Smiðjustígur 10) from the February 24 to March 4.
The ‘Taktabrot’ book launch party is on March 24 at Faktorý