Following the release of their fourth album last spring, rock outfit Mínus came close to breaking up as the band chemistry turned sour. After much speculation about the band’s future, Camp Mínus announced that two members, bass player Þröstur and guitarist Frosti, would not continue with the band, but the remaining three members would continue to work together under the Mínus name and recruited a new bass player to fill out their line-up. I had a sit down with guitarist Bjarni and singer Krummi to find out what was going on and where the band was heading.
“People were just growing in different directions, as often happens with bands that have been going at it this long,” says Krummi when we get to the subject of the departed band members. “There was little creative spark when we rehearsed and it was difficult for us to go into our practice space and play together like we used to do. The most logical step was to split the band really. We had to create a fresher atmosphere to be able to write together and have everybody on the same page in rehearsals. This was the only way to go really, other than just break up the band.”
This summer, rumours suggested that this was exactly what would happen: the band was about to fold, due to irrevocable differences between members. According to Bjarni, the rumours where not far off-base: “That was pretty much how we felt at the time. This was the only solution for us to keep on going. This was a step that we needed to take in order for us to evolve. Just so we could get that feeling back that we wanted to hang out together and create music together. That had been missing for four years”
When the news finally broke, that two members of the band would head off in a different direction, everyone involved approached the subject with great diplomacy. The move was explained by citing “creative differences” and a tight lid was kept on what had gone down behind the scenes. “No one will ever hear the full story of what happened,” says Krummi, hinting that the split might not have been as peaceful as originally suggested. “Obviously, there was some resentment at first, that is natural. But heals such wounds. This was all done in a brotherly manner,” he continues, while Bjarni adds. “We decided to treat each other with respect, instead of fighting.”
So, was this a mutual decision?
“You could say that,” says Krummi.
“Eventually,” adds Bjarni.
“Eventually it was a mutual decision, and everyone walked away content, so everything is OK, and we are not enemies or anything like that,” says Krummi. “Bjarni, [drummer] Bjössi and myself, we want to work as professional musicians, Þröstur and Frosti did that for awhile as well, but everyone had started to go off in a different direction, both in musical tastes and musical creation. This was the most logical conclusion.”
When pushed on the subject of their differences, Krummi maintains that it was never about any one person. Rehearsals were difficult, and no one put in the extra effort to try to come up with new riffs or new ideas. Bjarni adds: “Towards the end, everything we did just smelled of cock. That was not exactly a situation we wanted to be in.”
As it turns out though, some band members had less of a disagreement than the others. “Bjarni and I, we listen to the same kind of music,” Krummi states. “We are both fans of old ’60 and ’70s music, prog rock, blues, jazz and Southern rock, and Bjössi as well. We work very easily together, and pick up things from one another, how we want things to sound, while Frosti is more into new music and finding new bands, instead of listening to retro music. There were never any real differences; there were just different tastes. I could relate to Bjarni and Bjössi when I was speaking about music, while could not do that as well with the others. Even if we managed to write great songs for the last album and worked together, that was the last goodbye, working together on that record.”
Apparently, this subject is still approached with diplomacy and care. It doesn’t take much to notice that the band’s chemistry was not good. But it is not exactly difficult to read between the lines either, and conclude that there are still unresolved issues.
The three reaming members approached Future Future’s singer Sigurður Oddson to join the band as a bass player. They sound genuinely pleased with their new member, and when talk turns to him, they smile and look almost fatherly. Here is a full transcript:
Grapevine: How did you end up hiring Siggi?
Krummi: “We have known Siggi since he was a teenager.”
Bjarni: “Siggi came to the first show we ever played in Laugardalshöll.”
Krummi: “He was 13 or 14 years old.”
Bjarni: “Asking for autographs.”
Krummi: “In a broken voice, if his voice was even broke at the time?”
Bjarni: “No, no.”
Krummi: “He had just moved home from Canada, where he lived for a few years.”
Bjarni: “And spoke with an American accent.”
Krummi: “He came to all our shows. He even put up a website for us. He is very clever, you could see that at once. He thought a lot about music and made the T-shirt for us and he was our first real fan in Iceland. Then he just sort of grew up with us from that time.”
Bjarni: “He has played in many bands that have played with us.”
Krummi: “Yes, and he has developed into a very good musician and artist.”
As pleased as they sound about their new band member, it would be easy to imagine that he had been pegged for the spot long before the ultimate decision was made, which is something they strongly deny: “This is not something that we had decided before the band split up. But I remember when the three of us started to discuss replacements, he came to mind early on, since he knew all the songs and the band, and was a good friend of ours. I had seen him play bass with another band called Astara, which was a good retro sounding band. He was a good bass player and I enjoyed watching him, so he came to mind quickly,” Krummi says.
Mínus put the offer on the table, the only way they know how, apparently. “He thought we had come to beat him up when we approached him first,” Bjarni says. “Yeah… he was working and we stormed in and asked him to come outside to have a word with us. He turned white,” Krummi adds.
They gave him a day to think about their offer. He said yes.
“The good thing was that he said from the start that he didn’t want to be a session player in the band. He insisted on being a full member. He wanted to be a part of the song-writing process, which I thought was very ambitious,” Krummi explains.
I last saw the band play on September 6. Given, the circumstances were special, a fundraiser event for a local musician who passed away from leukaemia only days later. However, the band showed a new side to them with an experimental approach that received mix enthusiasm from the crowd. This year’s Airwaves festival, the band, an established metal act in the past, will not be playing their usual slot on the Kerrang stage, but will rather join bands like !!! and Jakóbínarína on the Clash Magazine stage. Is this a band in the midst of a rebirth?
“Well, that is unavoidable I guess. When you lose two pieces from a five piece band,” answers Bjarni. Krummi adds: The Kerrang night is great entertainment. Just a cool metal night. The Bronx are playing, a really cool punk band, so it is good fun. The thing is, we are just tired of being put into one corner and play metal nights. When we were doing hardcore music, we were doing alternative music for that genre. Very artistic, mixing many different styles. We just don’t want to be pigeonholed. We’re just glad to be able to play a different kind of night. It is just fun to be able to change it up a bit.”
Kerrang nights aside, the band makes no secret about their desire to change things up.
Krummi: “What we want to do, to be honest, is to reshape the band, make a new record and forget about the old stuff. We just want to move forward. We will always have this catalogue of songs, but we want to look ahead.”
And, perhaps justifiably, given their recent turmoil, Bjarni adds: “We have nothing to lose right now. At this point we really don’t care about anything else that is happening other than ourselves.”
Krummi: “We don’t care about the Icelandic music scene right now. It has been very difficult to get people to come to rock shows the last few years. There is not much going on, so bands just don’t want to be stuck in the same old tracks. It’s no fun to play a gig in some stinking bar downtown and be paid in beer and ten people show up. It is very difficult to be ambitious under those circumstances. But, we don’t give a fuck. We just want to be able to play music together, make records and tour, and be able to laugh and cry together. We just want to push the boundaries like we did when we were making Jesus Christ Bobby, to explore new things.”
Say what you want about Mínus, but they have undeniably always had the ‘take no prisoners’ approach when it comes to making music. The band has developed from the straight aggression- ridden hardcore band we first heard on Hey Johnny! To the grinding progcore sounds of Jesus Christ Bobby to the cock rock elements of Halldór Laxness to the more experimental hook ridden rock sound of their latest offering, The Great Northern Whalekill. So, in times when everything seems new and fresh to them, what comes next? Is there a new album in the pipelines?
“We haven’t done much, yet,” Krummi admits. “We just need to lock ourselves inside somewhere and not play any live shows for a while and really concentrate on song writing. But what we have been making, that’s not even going to be songs man, it is going to be an adventure, a trip.” Bjarni chimes in: “It is like nothing you have ever heard before.”
When I ask them to expound on this thought a bit, they sound a little unsure of what direction they are heading in themselves. “It is just conceptual and very progressive rock,” Krummi says. “We don’t even know what we are doing when we are doing it. But we will reveal something new at Airwaves.”