The past few months have been very eventful for young DG. In addition to finishing his final term of school, his band Misþyrming has enjoyed an incredible year. Following their performance at Eistnaflug, they were selected as the artists in residence at the renowned Roadburn festival and played at Nidrosian Black Mass. Appearing on countless year-end lists the world over, Misþyrming’s debut album, ‘Söngvar elds og óreiðu’, was named as 2015’s ninth best album by Vice, along with receiving a Kraumur award. Minutes after accepting the latter prize, we sat down with DG to hear his thoughts on it all. What follows is a lightly edited transcription.
The last few months have been very eventful for you.
Yeah, the big thing has been the tour we went on, to the Nidrosian Black Mass. I believe it is the most respected festival in this black metal world, and we appeared alongside some of the biggest names on the scene. Afterwards, the festival organiser Leslie decided to take four bands and tour with them. We went to Leiden, London, Paris, Salzburg, Prague, and Krakow, and it was crazy!
We were with Mgła, One Tail, One Head, and Kringa—the last of which is probably the least known, but a good band nevertheless. We drove on average six hours a day, had to unpack everything from our car, set up, play, pack it up again, sleep for four hours, and then do it all again.
So it was very DIY?
Oh yeah, very much.
Did you take turns driving?
No, we had drivers—three guys that were sober, which couldn’t have been easy for them because we had a party every night. But then in Krakow, Mgła’s hometown, everyone came together and partied hard. There were some thousand people there, and it was crazy fun.
You mentioned that you had had to accept that your graduation would get delayed because of all the touring you did, right?
Yeah… I’ve taken my time finishing upper secondary school because I’ve been running Vánagandr record label with [bandmate] Tómas, and it’s been going well. But when the band and label are doing well, it’s difficult to stop that momentum to focus on my studies—it wouldn’t have worked, so I prioritised my band. I was supposed to graduate this semester, but when things started going well for my band, I knew I’d have to delay my graduation in order to go on tour and everything.
But then when I returned home I was told that I could graduate if I took my mathematic final today, so I went to the library and studied for three whole days. It was really stressful, and I was anxious about the exam because I hadn’t been focusing on my subjects—but it’s not like I was idle during the term. Our drummer, Helgi, he’s a chemical-physics PhD student, so he was more than capable of teaching me the topics. I kicked my own ass into gear and passed the exam.
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Congratulations! You’re known in the international black metal community, but in Iceland you exist more on the fringes. What is it like having your album selected as one of THE albums by a respectable establishment like Kraumur?
I think it’s great. I listen to a lot of Icelandic music from various genres, and much of it’s great. Black metal has generally existed on the fringes, so it’s great to see more people getting into it, even though it can be hard to get into—it’s loud, fast, complicated, and to the untrained ear it’s difficult to understand completely, because it’s so off-putting… It’s aggressive, filled with chaos and inaccessible, so many people give up. But if you have patience and allow yourself to be pulled under, you can understand it.
There’s been a lot of growth in the Icelandic black metal scene of late, but the Icelandic media hasn’t been interested in black metal up until now. After we got the recognition from Vice, the local papers started picking up on it even if they didn’t understand what it was about. I think it’s wonderful that we’re getting recognition for all of the blood, sweat and tears that went into making our album, and that people outside of the closed scene can appreciate what we’re doing. Misþyrming isn’t the only good Icelandic black metal band though, there are many others that are doing fantastic things, and the local scene is getting worldwide recognition.
At Roadburn, you’re playing a set entirely composed of new material called “Algleymi,” or “Oblivion.” At what stage are those songs? Are they still work in progress, or are they ready to be recorded?
We’re aiming to record the new album this spring. I’ve written 80-90% of it, and we’ve rehearsed the songs, playing a few on our last tour. We’re also making a split album with an unnamed black metal band, which will have a new song on it.
Our first night at Roadburn is called “Algleymi,” and I can announce that that is the name of our upcoming album, which we’ll be premiere in its entirety. We haven’t finalised the set yet, but if we can, we’ll also play the new song from the split as well.
Where does that name come from?
The last song on the album is called “Algleymi,” and it’s a dreamy song that’s about being on the brink of losing consciousness, which is what the word means. It can also mean being an idiot that’s not aware of his environment, but that’s not what we mean [the common English translation for “algleymi” is “oblivion”]. When I make music, I make the text from the feeling that the song creates, putting something of myself into it. The music tells me how to write the text, and “Algleymi” was the perfect name for that song.
You mentioned that you listen to a lot of Icelandic music—what non-black metal bands do you like?
Hmm… The first two that come to mind are without a doubt Mammút and Gusgus. Both are great live and in the studio. I also want to mention dj. flugvél og geimskip—I know Steinunn a little bit, and her music is great, absolutely full of her personality, which comes out clearly when she’s performing live. She and her music are absolutely unique.
I’m not really a modern rap fan, but I have a lot of respect for a few Icelandic rappers, for example Emmsjé Gauti; I feel like he conducts himself well as an artist, and knows what he’s doing. I have a lot of respect for that, even if his music isn’t my cup of tea.
I can’t think of any other bands on the spot, but there’s a lot happening in the Icelandic music scene. I once heard that when a country’s economy is in the gutter, the arts rise up, and since 2008, we’ve seen a lot of that in Iceland, in particular with the black metal scene.
Yeah, absolutely. And in the last seven years, we’ve had a lot of hip-hop acts sticking it to the man, telling the government and the status quo to fuck itself, while before the economic crash it was more about getting money and being famous.
The American dream, essentially. I’m really happy with this development, and I wanted to mention how much I like GKR.
I was just about to ask you if you were digging “Morgunmatur”.
Like I said, modern rap doesn’t’ really appeal to me, but what I love about acts like GKR is that he’s rapping about reality. If you don’t have anything more to rap about than breakfast, then that’s what you do! He says “I eat my breakfast, and then I do my thang,” and you know that that guy isn’t phoney, he just wants to rap and says things the way they are—it’s really simple, and I dig GKR.
We have it so good in Iceland that rappers don’t have much to talk about, although XXX Rotweiller did… [frontman] Erpur is an educated man, and he knows what’s happening in politics, both locally and in the world, and he raps about that, and I think that’s great. Then there are others that just talk shit, like Gísli Pálmi who raps about the most stupid things.
If you want to rap and don’t have anything to rap about, you just do what GKR is doing. You just rap about doing your thang.
How about Reykjavíkurdætur?
[laughs] Are you trying to make this controversial?
Hey, you’re the one that brought up politics, and they’re deeply political!
Yeah, they are very feminist and political. I really like the idea behind Reykjavíkurdætur, although their music doesn’t really appeal to me. They’ve clearly seen a lot of bad stuff, and I admire that they’re rising up and speaking about abuse and inequality that women have to live with today. Even though the times are changing, women are still experiencing terrible shit.
Misþyrming KILLED IT at Friday’s Anti-Christian bash. Check our review of the event, here.
Note: most of the accompanying photos were shot when Misþyrming performed in our offices during Iceland Airwaves 2015. What a blast that was. Thank you, Misþyrming!