From Iceland — Death Of An Ego

Death Of An Ego

Published June 25, 2024

Death Of An Ego
Photo by
Kristín Anna Kristjánsdóttir

Biggi Maus battles the mind and music on his latest album Litli dauði / Stóri hvellur

Birgir Örn Steinarsson’s music career has mostly been synonymous with the alternative-rock band Maus. Coming to prominence in 1994, the indelible act rode the wave of grunge and noise rock sweeping most of the Western hemisphere. Birgir’s foundational years in Maus have never left him, with the band becoming so intimately entwined with him that the musician ultimately took on a solo moniker which directly references his band.

The most recent solo output of Biggi Maus, Litli Dauði / Stóri Hvellur (Little death / Big Bang) is not the artists’ first foray on his own two feet. Having previously explored the possibilities of a solo career, most notably as Bigital and Króna, Biggi Maus now finds himself starting anew.

Me, myself, and the present

As his previous solo projects did not necessarily focus on new material — rather reworkings of older music he had lying around — Birgir was adamant this time around about writing music which wouldn’t resemble his old band. According to him, that mindset is behind him.

I allowed myself to follow the flow of creation, instead of playing into pre-planned ideas,

“I realised later that Maus, this idea of worrying that the songs would turn out too close to Maus, was ridiculous,” he says, continuing, “Because when I wrote for Maus I wasn’t thinking they should sound any particular way.”

This time around, Birgir focuses on all-new material. “It’s the first time where I’m presenting new songs. Most of these songs are written around the time of recording. So it’s not me and my old past, but myself and the present,” he explains.

Death of rock / Birth of pop

Litli dauði / Stóri Hvellur portrays an interesting amalgamation of influences, most notably 80s era new-wave and neo-romanticism. Focusing on lush synthesiser arpeggios and pouncing basslines, the album steers away from being boxed within a specific frame, delivering a listening experience full of surprises.

“Gleymdu mér” starts out with a programmed drum beat diving into a bout of post-punk nihilism until waves of all-encompassing electric guitars muddy the track. In “Óargardýr,” Biggi sings about making peace with the beast-like facet of human nature under the accompaniment of a tender piano. These two tracks are notable outliers on an album which embraces the artist’s vulnerability.

“I’m 40-something years old and I’m a pop fan deep inside. I experienced a lot more freedom to allow each and every song to take its own necessary direction. I allowed myself to follow the flow of creation, instead of playing into pre-planned ideas,” Biggi smiles, commenting on “Óargardýr”, “I didn’t intend to write a piano song — it just happened.”

While the album’s intention was never to project an overt conceptual idea, Biggi later decided to maintain philosophical ties with his debut solo album, id from 2006. Being very interested in psychology from a young age — Biggi later trained to become a psychiatrist — the musician was especially fascinated by Sigmund Freud’s teachings on the id, ego and superego.

If you’d asked me a year ago, I wouldn’t have known I’d be releasing this album

“My first album is a direct reference to Freud. It was always the plan that my next album would be called Ego,” he starts to clarify, “But what happened in the meantime — if anything has happened with me is that I managed to put the ego aside. I wouldn’t say the death of an ego, but close to it.”

Litli dauði / Stóri hvellur references the French expression la petit mort — a sudden weakening of the consciousness post-coitus — and conceptualises the battle taking place within the mind. “In French, Litli dauði / Stóri hvellur can mean ‘Orgasm / Boom’. Alternatively, it can mean ‘Death of an ego / Enlightenment,’” Biggi says grinning as he weaves in his psychology expertise.

A serendipitous creation

Biggi Maus’ re-entry into the world of music was not on his five-year plan. Having established himself as a clinical psychiatrist in Reykjavík, the artist moved to Akureyri in 2021 to open a new branch of the the suicide-prevention association Píeta.

In fact, the album came together quite serendipitously. With the help from and through the close collaboration with producer Þorgils Gíslason (Toggi), the album started taking shape. “If you’d asked me a year ago, I wouldn’t have known I’d be releasing this album,” Biggi admits.

Having worked together on Biggi’s singles “Má ég snúsa meir?” and “Ekki vera að eyða mínum tíma” in early 2023, the pair clicked. “The idea came after Toggi and I had worked on these songs. And we just had this great atmosphere between us, good flow and understanding of each other.”

Ultimately, it was Toggi who picked out the album tracks from Biggi’s enormous catalogue of demos. Following the reunion of Maus at Gamla Bíó in 2023, Biggi was determined to finish the album. “I recorded the vocal tracks two days after that show. It was one of the most rockstar weeks of my life,” Biggi jokes. ”I’d sort of regained my mojo.” Celebrating rave reviews, Biggi plans to bring the album to life in September.

Litli dauði / Stóri hvellur is out on available streaming platforms. The physical edition features two bonus tracks and will be distributed to stores in early July.


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