Through almost 100 albums over a span of 10 years, Möller Records has delivered cutting-edge premium electronic music to a market of just around 360,000 people. Árni Grétar, or Futuregrapher as he calls himself, compares the survival of the label to how people get weirdly obsessed with golf and then just do it all the time forever. Pure resilience, he explains.
We couldn’t meet with Árni Grétar in-person because of COVID-19 so we decided to talk together for three days through email about Möller Records’ upcoming anniversary and 100th release, which they are currently crowdfunding through Karolina Fund. Here is that unfiltered email conversation.
Valur@Grapevine.is: Now then, you started Möller records a decade ago in the turmoil of Iceland’s total financial collapse, a decade before the worst pandemic outbreak in the last 100 years and, during all that, there’s been an incredible global surge of populism, fascist ideology and just overall political insanity. How the hell have you survived all of this as a small electro-indie label in Iceland?!
firstname.lastname@example.org: I would like to think that staying outside of politics and what others are doing around you has helped quite a bit. And what has helped a small label like Möller to stay alive and to grow is the drive from the inside—because if we look into the whole electronic scene here in Iceland, then it’s quite big if you compare it to other countries.
We have many artists and a lot of labels who are doing great here. And the music is getting around globally—thankfully—and that is first and foremost because of the quality. Lastly, I would like to say that all good things come out of passion and love—and we got that here. And Frosti (Bistro Boy) has held this together very nicely the last few years. He is the Obi-Wan and has the best ears. I started this with Jóhann (Skurken) only to release music from us two and maybe a few other friends. But Möller is still here.
Valur@Grapevine.is: So what you’re saying is that you are technically on another planet, where you have nothing less than Techno-Jedis? Makes sense actually. But it’s true what you say, the scene here is quite strong in electronic music. Why is that? Does the Icelandic scene have a unique sound? And I can’t help wondering—what Jedi or space creature would Futuregrapher be?
email@example.com : Maybe we are… far, far away in another galaxy. But yeah, if you look at it, we have such a strong scene. I think it is because it starts from digging yourself out of something. And Icelanders are good at that, right?
You get a drum machine, you get a synth and you try to make it work. And in the meantime there is really bad weather outside—windy and cold—so you just stay inside until you have mastered the craft.
The Icelandic scene has a bit of ambient in it all and is very experimental. We have great talents in all genres of the electronica world, but to me, there is a great soundtrack to them all. That cold, windy stuff… yet beautiful.
I am a Han Solo type. The Jedi’s are the likes of Bistro Boy, Skurken, Ruxpin and such.
Valur@Grapevine.is: Talking about cold, windy stuff. How the hell has Möller records managed to release 99 albums? Have you not slept for a decade? And what was the hardest one to get out or the most memorable (you have to choose one biz story here)?
firstname.lastname@example.org: Well, it takes hard dedication to do pretty much nothing else than focusing on music. Which I do pretty much myself, [as do] Frosti and the people around us. We are just those kinds of people. Some people play golf—we do this. The first releases were mastered by Jóhann (Skurken) and then I took over in some projects and for the last few years, Frosti has been managing this with pride.
Not every release is physical, so that helps. But still a lot of work. But we like it. The hardest one to put out at first was probably my first solo album as Futuregrapher which was entitled “LP” and came out in 2012 (Helga012). It was supposed to be one of the first releases, but I was still drinking at the time and partying so it always got postponed. But after many sleepless nights—literally—it finally came out in August and I sobered up and have been sober ever since.
Also me and Jóhann were good friends with Bjössi Biogen who was also my mentor in the biz. We were talking about putting out an album with stuff from him. He was excited and we were stoked. But he said goodbye before that happened. We still miss him and I will always love him. Möller wouldn’t have happened without him, because I met Skurken through Bjössi at a Weirdcore event at Jacobsen many moons ago.
Valur@Grapevine.is: We have to talk about money. I’m truly sorry, everybody hates it but needs it at the same time. How does one finance such an underground label in such a niche market? Is an electro musician perhaps the poet of the 21st century, always broke but full of wonderful ideas?
email@example.com: Haha, I like that. Poets of the 21st century. I’ll take that <3 There is little or like no money in this business. That’s why we all have day jobs. Like I said, to us—this is like golf. A hobby. We are good at it, for sure, but we aren’t working professionals. Some might think we don’t take it seriously then, but the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This is what makes us happy.
We have always kept a policy at Möller Records that the artists own the rights to their songs and if they want to do physical copies of their releases, then the artist themselves will pay for it and get all the money for those sales themselves. We help them to make it happen and point them in the right direction. But mainly we are focusing on Spotify, Bandcamp.com and the digital venues. Many artists on the label have also got some help financially in making their physical copies from applying for national grants or to make it happen via Karolina Fund (like we are doing now).
And because the artists own their songs they get their collected royalties via Stef or another collecting society. So Möller is kinda like an umbrella over the artists who are releasing here.
Valur@Grapevine.is: Tell me more about this project about the hundredth album you are crowdfunding for? What artist will be on it, and how has the older stuff aged?
firstname.lastname@example.org: This is basically music from most of the artists that have been releasing on Möller for the past 10 years and will be available in double LP—which will be four records in total. Bistro Boy, EinarIndra, Skurken, Futuregrapher, Steve Sampling, Tanya & Marlon, Röskva, Subminimal, Gunnar Jónsson Collider, Fu Kaisha and many more will be on it. We are working on the final arrangements, so the tracklist isn’t 100% ready, but it will be a great spotlight on all those years and great compilation. The older stuff has aged really well and the first few albums on Möller got a lot of praise and were critically acclaimed.
Listening back to the catalogue is great and some of the first albums are in my honest opinion very, very good. It will be a great addition to the collection for any electronica fan.
Emails have been edited for formatting. Here you can support Möller’s birthday record.
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