RETRÖN is a strange animal. Loved by hipsters and metalheads alike, there’s much to be said about this unique band. With their debut, Swordplay & Guitarslay, on the streets via Kimi records, we got Retrön guitar god Kolli to tell us about the band, its ideology and and what the hell they’re on about.
“This is actually sort of our third attempt at making this record,” says Kolli. “The first two were unsuccessful, because we didn’t really know at the time that the band was supposed to be a rock band. We were stuck in the beginning as an IBM PC Speaker 8-bit sort of thing. We didn’t have a drummer then and didn’t know how to make things sound good without them being rock. So now, almost three attempts later, we have a drummer and a bunch of synthesizers complimenting what we thought the band needed for extra awesomeness plus it rocks cancer into your balls, GWAR-style – with extra volume. I want my rock as well as my shampoo with extra volume!
You been working on this record for what seems to be aeons now. How has it affected the band and your feelings towards the material?
I think it has been good for the band. If the record had come out earlier, it would have been way too immature and aged badly. Now we sort of know better what Retrön is and what the band can be. Also the record would be by this time older and therefore less virgin!
Music for PC speakers
So, this idea of a band playing a computer-influenced music or just to cover songs from computer games it isn’t a new one. There are plenty of bands doing that. However, you guys seem to have forsaken the idea in lieu of doing more original material. What is the reason for this development and what do you offer that other computer-bands do not?
Well I don’t want to say that our band is any better or worse than other videogame based outfits out there, but we don’t consider ourselves a totally videogame based band and maybe we never have. The thing that is different with Retrön and maybe some of the other bands is that we actually started out as a computer game. Kári and I actually made a mini game with a bunch of levels that was called Retrön. There was a bunch of music in the game that was all made in a text file on a program that Kári wrote. That music was all made with the PC speaker (the thing that goes bleep when you turn on your old computer). Then people started to hear the music and started asking us if we could play the music live. So we started thinking, ‘How can we play this music without it being a boring laptop band?’ That’s where we decided to pick up the guitars and learn the music for the game. So it’s all kinda backwards.
The first bunch of songs that we performed live were all written for the PC speaker. After that we started to implement the computer more as a part of a band, and that’s how we played for a long time. Made the PC speaker mostly do drums and some leads. So, we were not only trying to be a rock band playing video game cover songs, it was sort of just means to be able to play the Retrön game music live.
There are still remnants from the game in one of our visual programs that we use in concert sometimes. And we have only ever covered one video game song, Koji Kondo’s theme from Zelda. This record will go a long way to terminate the misunderstanding that Retrön is a videogame cover band. But we have gradually been going away from using pre-programmed stuff, so now we have a drummer and try to capture the atmosphere of the old game inspired songs with synths.
Real men love them some metal
The music has become considerably more metal sounding. Why is that? I know all you guys are real men, and thus love your metal, but please give me a more educated insight into this development.
The real reason is that getting a drummer made everything sound heavier. We have not knowingly changed our approach to writing the guitar riffs. It used to be me and Kári chugging away on unplugged electric guitars, but now we can try out instantly what sounds right.
Has your background as an performance artist at all bled into Retrön?
I think you can’t escape what you are, but Retrön is supposed to be a rock band, not a fucking performance piece, goddamnit! Art performances can be great, but in most people’s mind they are just a perverted weak evilness made to burden people. I would rather say that a bunch of Retrön has leaked into my performances than the other way round.
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