It’s been a rather busy 12 months for DJ/musician Frímann Ísleifur Frímannsson and designer Nicolas Kunysz. Frímann launched Skeleton Horse, a magazine of art, music and other assorted paraphernalia that harks to the classic era of the DIY punk/hardcore zine movement. Meanwhile Nicolas set up The Makery, a consultancy design studio that has produced items for Icelandic designers such as Mundi. Now the two have teamed up together to create Lady Boy Records, a DIY music label that seeks to create a symbiosis between experimental music and format/graphic design, recently releasing their first record, a compilation of local musicians on limited cassette.
So what motivated you to start up Skeleton Horse in the first place, Frímann?
Frímann: I felt that it was something that was needed in the area, that there wasn’t a certain platform where people could express themselves. There is the Grapevine and then there’s the Internet. But I really liked the idea of self-publishing a small circulation zine. You don’t need anyone’s permission to do it.
How did it all actually come about?
F: I simply sent a mass e-mail to everyone I knew. I told them that I was setting up a paper and that they were free to do what they wanted to do and I’d print it. At the time I was asking people for reviews, articles about their favourite bands, designers doing sketches, food recipes. Nicolas even put some computer code in there.
You’re about to publish your tenth issue. What’s it been like?
F: Hmm… I would say that the first couple of issues were quite hard, but once I got the ball rolling, and everyone was in some sort of a rhythm, then it was rather easy. I still have to chase people up every day to tell them to hand their stuff in. I would say that’s the hardest part of it all.
And now you and Nicolas have set up a music label, Ladyboy Records. How did you two meet up initially?
N: Well I was working for the designer Sruli Recht at the time, and one day Frímann came to the studio to buy a bow tie. And I was the only one there!
F: Yup, it was love at first sight!
N: After that, we’d bump into each other at places like Kaffibarinn and the old Bakkus. We started making music when Frímann was in London and I was asked to provide the music for an art show. I said yes to this, but I remembered speaking with Frímann in the past about making some music together. I sent him an e-mail and he said, ‘yes let’s do it.’ So when he got back, we got together and created the group Pyrodulia.
At what point did it go from making music to creating a record label?
F: Well we were looking at the labels around in Iceland and the majority of it was really crap. It’s all this pre-packaged indie bullshit that’s ready for export. I found we didn’t have anything musical in common with these labels. But we didn’t want to go abroad to get stuff released. I wanted to keep it in Iceland so I approached Nicolas with the concept of making the label ourselves.
N: He dropped this name, ‘Ladyboy Records,’ and I really liked it. I slept on the idea overnight, and I came back to him saying that I wanted to do something slightly different. As a designer I have several projects that have to do with sound. And I wanted to see if there was some way we could combine music closely with design. That way it would give me something more to do with the label.
How does the dynamic work? Who does what?
N: For the art direction we’re 50/50. We decide and confirm everything together. I’m more involved with visual artwork, but if Frímann doesn’t like it, then we don’t do it. I’m more into the designs, the graphic visuals and the stencilling and Frímann is this energetic, hyper guy who runs around and gets things organised. He’s the one who’s listening to everything and coming to me saying, ‘Hey there’s this guy who wants to do something with us. We should check him out.’ He’s the one who deals with people.
Your first release was a compilation on a tape where the info was laser etched onto the casing. How important is the idea of formats and music to you and the label in general?
F: It’s so important. I believe formats such as cassettes are a far more intimate way of listening to music than just pressing play on your MacBook and going to wash the dishes. You press play sit down and stay with a cassette. Then after a while you have to get up and physically change the side. You’re much more involved.
N: There’s also the collectable value of some formats. And while I don’t collect that much myself, I do like to make items that are collectable. I like this aspect. With this cassette release we had songs released that I wouldn’t have released on other formats, but on cassette it works because of the sound quality it provides.
With both a label and a zine in action, what can we expect from you in 2013?
N: I think we can sneak a couple more releases in this year. I think there will be one release on vinyl. That will be a recording from playing sessions from Lady Boy Record nights and a retreat with some musicians. We’ll record everything over a couple of days, sort everything out and see what comes from that.
F: As for Skeleton Horse, after the first 12 issues I’m looking to set the magazine up as an independent publishing entity that will look to publish poetry, short stories and comics. In fact, one of the first releases will be a book of poetry from Skeleton Horse contributor and Spacemen 3/Spiritualized bass player Will Carruthers.