Frosti “Gringó” Runólfsson is a well-known musician and filmmaker in Iceland as well as a larger-than-life figure. He is also a vocal advocate for homeless people, after one of his best friends, Loftur Gunnarsson, died far too young on the streets of Reykjavík. We sat down with Frosti to learn what made him the artist he is today.
When I was four years old, my uncle gave me this album and I still have that exact, beat-up vinyl to this day. I was mesmerized by the cover artwork. They look like rock’n roll superheroes in the bowels of hell. I especially connected to a song called “God Of Thunder” because throughout the song you hear a little girl ranting and hollering and to me, she seemed to be in trouble and battling evil forces.
My earliest memories are of watching random Harold Lloyd and Looney Tunes episodes on an old VHS tape. Later I’d watch ‘Matlock,’ ‘Murder She Wrote,’ ‘Magnum P.I.,’ ‘Miami Vice,’ ‘Hunter’ and countless other TV shows. I loved being catapulted into this dreamworld of stories and beautiful characters—I still do. Every day after school I’d stop by the video rental store and get something freaky like ‘Maniac Cop’ or ‘Street Trash’ and watch these movies over and over again.
My mom and I have always had a special relationship. I love her and I owe her everything. We’d go camping together and listen to Bubbi cassettes. Almost every weekend she’d cook me breakfast with my cartoons, then we’d go to Mokka Kaffi and later to the cinema. There was a scruffy looking weirdo who was ALWAYS sitting at Mokka Kaffi, smoking a pipe, and we nick-named him “the smiling hippy” and made up stories about his life. Now, thinking about it, he must’ve been mentally ill. Mom made me learn Icelandic poetry by heart from this big old book she had, and on Fridays, I’d recite it to her and if I did well she’d give me 500 ISK. Looking back, I’m sure that that sculpted my passion for language and poetry. She’s a hip, hip lady!
My brothers are nine years older than me and they partly raised me, for good or bad. Mom and Dad would travel a lot and my brothers would throw debauched parties and I’d bear witness to all their twisted rituals. These parties lasted for days and there seemed to be a lot of throwing up? The Jet Black Joe crew used to hang out and I was stoked by their coolness, clothes, and carefree attitude. On my birthdays and for Christmas they would give me albums that they themselves wanted. So very early on I was well versed in music from The Doors, Sabbath, Zeppelin,Sadus, Sex Pistols, Sepultura and everything in between. This threw me into a rock and roll journey on which I am still travelling.
As a teenager, I got heavily into Charles Bukowski and I still think he is one of the greatest writers to ever put down the written word. I collect his books, I have about 40 of them and one of them is an autographed and illustrated copy of “A Crucifix In A Death-Hand” published in 1964 in 3,200 copies! One day, smoking pot in her kitchen, the Icelandic poet Didda gave me that book. Bukowski was a tough bastard, a tragic and drunken loner that understood humans to their core. His thoughts have taught me everything from endurance to originality, wittiness and humour, cats…compassion…curiosity, the beauty of simplicity and the common man. And of course a healthy disdain for the pretentiousness of artists!
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