They would have been surprised that I found Michael Pollock, guitarist for Utangarðsmenn and returning solo artist, at the city library. We talked briefly and agreed to conduct an interview at the Dubliner over a beer. One beer.
Punk rock pro´s don´t drink
“It’s great to speak in English. Icelandic really isn’t my native tongue,” Pollock tells me as soon as I sit down.
He doesn’t have the Ozzy Osbourne stutter I was expecting. He doesn’t smell of booze, or lack attention span. He is clean cut to a degree only a fifty year old man can get away with – hair impossibly short and gelled at the same time. He speaks English with a slight suburban California grate to his accent.
I can’t help myself. I ask him how comfortable he is with the bar, with an afternoon beer. You expect a fifty year old punk rocker to drink a lot or be 12-step.
“I drink a glass of wine a day. My profession doesn’t allow heavy drinking.”
But a good punk rocker has to have a history, right? I haven’t even heard stories about this man, people just shake their heads. I ask him how he got his reputation.
“One of Icelander’s favorite hobbies is gossiping. If they can’t find anything, they’ll make it up.”
He gives a brief laugh. “I did go out when I was younger. But you grow up.”
Pollock stands to take a break from the interview. He goes to the bar, orders a pack of cigarettes and asks to borrow the 700 krónur from me.
The greatest troubadour in Iceland
Pollock has a tendency to launch into exhaustive speeches instead of straightforward responses. He does not throw up at the table, shout obscenities, disappear to the john and return with dilated pupils. He is the great anomaly, a punk rock guitarist who has grown up.
We talk briefly about Megas, “the greatest troubadour in Iceland,” Pollock states. Pollock hopes to introduce Megas’ works to the rest of the world in English translations.
Then we get to the duty of the interview, to talk about his new CD´s.
“I always enjoyed just being an accompanist, never a solo artist. But last year I was turning fifty. A friend started pushing me… and I decided to make a CD that touched base with every kind of music that has influenced me as I’ve gone through life.”
He goes on. Not to describe chords or influences, but to describe life in the way healthy fifty year old men tend to do in Irish pubs. “There are only two kinds of music: good and bad,” he states. I nod.
“Good music is honest as it is straight from the heart, passionate.”
Fifteen minutes later he’s still talking about honest music. He by now has mentioned that art “got divorced from the tribal community.”
He looks down at my notebook over his cigarette to make sure I jot this down correctly.
“Anybody can be clever.”
Another speech follows about great music and the Garden of Eden. More about being real and being honest. An attack on the publishing industry. An attack on the music industry. A slight to Britney Spears.
“Nothing is to be taken for granted. I could go in a minute. Heart attack on the table,” he says.
No, that is not possible. Michael Pollock won’t be going in a minute. He has been speaking for an hour, and he is every bit as full of energy as he was the second I came in. He could go on for hours.
He gives his manifesto: “Too many writers are too clever. Anybody can be clever, very few people dare to be real.”
Whatever complaints might be made against Pollock, he lives by this credo. Every word he speaks he believes. In his music and in his live performances, unguarded honesty can make up for a lot.
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