Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen

Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen

Published December 7, 2007

You and Einar Bárðarson really come from opposite ends of the Icelandic music scene, how did you end up writing a book with him?
Yes, people have wondered about this. Einar sent me an email last April and presented me with the idea of writing a textbook on how to manage a band. After a little toing and froing between the editor, and me, the idea for the book was born. I told Einar he would have to step forward and tell his story, which he agreed to do. Then we just approached it in a cold and calculated manner. I’ve been a music journalist for six years, Einar started coming into his own as an agent and manager around the same time, and we have always enjoyed a good professional relationship. He always played it cool, even if when I trashed some of his bands. So our cooperation was very natural, but I can understand when people look at the two of us… they place us in certain boxes.
On some level, I can’t help thinking of this as a publicity stunt on Einar’s behalf, getting the arch-enemy, so to speak, to write a book about him.
Exactly, Einar is clever, and to some extent, this was a publicity stunt. He said to me, ‘now I have the left field covered,’ meaning that doing this with me, someone who comes from the complete opposite end of the music scene, and I tend to agree with him, gives the book more weight. If he had done this alone, it would have come off as a total ego-trip. But, with me, he had someone to keep that in check, and control what needed to go in and what should be kept out.
You mentioned the left side, and that is something I noticed in the book, how Einar continually refers to music in the political terms, left vs. right.
Exactly, the book is written as an ‘as told to’ book, I did my best to maintain his voice in the book and use the phrases he uses, and this is his terminology. He is involved with right wing pop music, and then he talks about the left field, and ‘his people’ if I allow myself to generalise about the fm-pop crowd that is around him; they talk like this. But as he says in the book, he is at home on the right wing, and he’s never attempted to reach out to the other side much. He is strongly rooted in market friendly pop-music with a strong suburban flavour. He’d be the first man to admit this and he often does. He often disarms people by just coming straight out with that fact up front.
Do you think that this left-right analysis is a viable theory to dissect the music industry?
Well, up to a point maybe, I don’t know how far you could take it by putting it in political terms, but I understand the difference he is trying to make, the way he uses it to define mass marketfriendly pop-music and more indie type of music. I understand what people are referring to when they use this definition, but I am not sure it applies as a whole.
How did you feel about this yourself, a person firmly placed in the ‘left wing’ to become a mouthpiece for a leading figure of the ‘right wing’?
I have thought about it, naturally. As a music journalist for Morgunblaðið, I have been writing about all sorts of music, and different kinds of people, and always on an objective level. I think I was able to approach this the same way. But I can imagine that people think this affects my credibility or that people imagine that I jump at any project for the money – and nota bene, there is no money in writing books – or that people see me as a sell out. But people who think that, obviously have no idea what I have been doing for the last few years. I think I can stand up for myself.
Has your own image of Einar changed during this project?
Naturally, I have seen more sides to the man than the general public. I think this could have gone either way really, but I must admit, I walked away from this project pretty impressed with him. He doesn’t take things very seriously. I always imagined a manager like that being on the phone, going nuts all the time, but Einar is always calm as a placid lake. Nothing sets him off balance.
One thing I wondered about when I read the book was that in the beginning, he talks about being in this industry for his love for the game, and his love for music. He was having fun doing something he loved in working with the artists and helping them out. Towards the end of the book, he’s stopped talking in that manner, and started speaking of the artists and his work in financial terms, he talks about investment opportunities, required rate of return for big investors who have invested in his artists, and so on. It seems that the whole thing has now become a business to him. Do you think that is true?
No, I think I would have to disagree with that. Of course, in the chapter about his adventures with [Icelandic tenor singer] Garðar Cortez and how he has managed to attract investors to try to establish him as an opera star, then we are talking about a heavy weight fight for finances. Maybe this is a good example. Einar wants to take Garðar Cortez all the way in the opera world, and in order to do it, he needed financial back-up to play the game. He asked large Icelandic investors for one million British pounds, so he could concentrate on advancing his career without thinking about money. Einar is very sincere in his work to establish Garðar Cortez, because he enjoys doing it. People might have a mental image of the fat, greedy agent, but that’s not how it is in reality.
One of the things Einar has been criticised for is making manufactured mass marketing pop music, like his girl band Nylon or his boy band Luxor, Do you think there is going to be a backlash for him when people realise the extent to which this is actually manufactured? When people realise that he actually had some of the richest men in Iceland investing in his idea to create an international supergroup, like Nylon?
I think this is just something he is interested in. He says himself that he did not really see himself as a musician, standing on stage, but he enjoyed the work around it and making things happen. Of course it is open for debate, whether the whole manufactured pop scene – from the Spice Girls, or Take That, all the way back to The Monkeys – is inherently evil. Many people think it is. This will probably create a backlash from some people, but others will admire him for being smart. But obviously, how justified this is, or even how tasteful, will always be debatable. But that is a material for a different book.

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