History Of Jóhann: The Composer's Path Through The Reykjavík Scene - The Reykjavik Grapevine

History Of Jóhann: The Composer’s Path Through The Reykjavík Scene

History Of Jóhann: The Composer’s Path Through The Reykjavík Scene

Jóhann Jóhannson’s career has taken him through a broad range of bands and collaborations, some of which are profiled below. In our in-depth interview, he cited Reykjavík’s scene as a formative factor on his working method, saying: “One of the great things about growing up as a musician and an artist in Iceland is the closeness of the artistic community. It’s collaborative—people call you up and ask if you wanna do something in the studio and you say ‘Sure, why not!’”

daisy hill by Björg Sveinsdóttir

Daisy Hill
“My first band was Daisy Hill—a droney guitar feedback pre-shoegaze band that was very interested in J&MC, Loop and Spacemen 3. We did a couple of EPs with a British label in the late 80s, which was a big deal at the time. We were played by John Peel and got a fan letter from Steve Albini. But it slowly atrophied—it was a three-piece, then a two-piece, then me on my own with a sampler, a sequencer and an Atari in a garage somewhere, sculpting sound by layering guitars. And it’s still basically the same—I layer and sculpt sound, just with a slightly faster computer.”

HAM (as seen in main article picture)
“HAM kind of coopted me into the band, and brought me during the last days of the band’s first phase. HAM taught me a lot about how to create a massive sound onstage, and how to collaborate… and how not to. It was a good experience—HAM is a powerful band, especially live. I think their last album is the best thing they’ve recorded. It really captures the live sound.”

KITCHEN-MOTORS-CREW

Kitchen Motors
“Kitchen Motors was definitely formative. It was mostly a curatorial project. We were three people from different backgrounds. Hilmar Jensson was an improv/jazz player. Kira Kira was from an experimental electronic art school background, and then myself, from the electronic and alternative rock bands. But I was getting interested in contemporary classical and old electronic music—musique concrète, music of the 50s and 60s, and Andrew McKenzie and Hafler Trio. Andrew himself had a big influence on how I work now—he had a vast tape and vinyl collection, when things weren’t as accessible as today, when you had to spend the time and dig for good music. It opened out my perspective.”

Apparat Organ Quartet

Apparat Organ Quartet
“Apparat started as a one-off musical installation. I rang some people I didn’t know well, but knew of—Úlfur, Hörður and Sighvatur—who I knew shared my interest in organs. The idea was to do something vaguely inspired by the Steve Reich piece “Four Organs.” But maybe inevitably, given the equipment, it evolved into krautrock. We got a new new drummer, Addi from HAM. It was a conscious move—the music was becoming more abrasive and mechanical, and we wanted to try and put some real rock ’n’ roll power behind that, to propel it. We all enjoyed that process. It’s interesting how it evolved quite far from the original intentions.”

Read the full Jóhann interview here.


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