From Iceland — Rip It Up and Start Again

Rip It Up and Start Again

Published September 7, 2010

Rip It Up and Start Again

Þeyr, an Icelandic musical  phenomenon shrouded in  a veil of mystery and deliberately  obscure, recorded  seven albums from 1980-  1983 and were undoubtedly  the most progressive band of  the Icelandic new wave/punk  scene. The band employed  experimental recording and  composition techniques and  was characterised by an ideology  of ancient wisdom, the  occult and efforts to transcend  awful truths and conspiracies.
They split-up in 1983, after Þorsteinn  “Stanya” Magnússon left, but were reunited  in 2006 to perform alongside  Icelandic legend Megas, a choir and  a dozen instrumentalists. Now they’re pseudo-reuniting again (though don’t  call it a reunion), with an ensemble  of twelve musicians at the 100th anniversary  of the Icelandic vinyl record  at the Nordic House on August 23rd.  The Grapevine caught up with Þeyr’s guitarist and founder, Guðlaugur Kristinn  Óttarsson – or Godkrist if you’re so  inclined – to see what this non-reunion  will be about. 
For the vinyl event, why change from the original electric sound to unplugged string ensembles?
Each member is free to do as he pleases.  We will have a piano player, an opera  singer, string instruments. We are not playing together, but each member will contribute on his own. We take old Þeyr songs and arrange them for the  ensemble. It’s a very vibrant project, artists are constantly joining and departing. 
Why are you playing at the anniversary?
We think that we undoubtedly have to attend vinyl’s 100 anniversary, because  we broke the status quo and kick-started  the exporting of Icelandic music; we  made three albums a year for two years.  We spent most of our time touring overseas,  in Britain and Scandinavia.  
What will your program at the Nordic  House consist of?
It starts out with a documentary about  Þeyr’s career; from the latter part of  1980 to 1983 with our last project,  the Killing Joke affair [Jaz Coleman  and Kenneth Walker of Killing Joke  moved to Iceland in 1983 and recorded  a never-released demo with Þeyr].  There’s also a vinyl performance [followed  by a series of performances of  “Þeyrverk” (Þeyr compositions) and a  lecture on sound experimentation titled  “Þeysvísindi” (Þeyr science).]  
Why did the Killing Joke affair yield  nothing?
 Killing Joke had a bullet-proof contract  with E.G. Records and the group  had foundered. The demos fell into obscurity but the multi-tracks still exist, I  think Jaz Coleman has them. We keep  the demos in a safe locker. There are  filmmakers coming here in the autumn,  making a documentary on Killing Joke.  Maybe Jaz and Geordie will show up.  
What will the vinyl performance be  like?  
The vinyl player will sit on an altar, on  its throne. I’m not at liberty to say anything  more about it. [Laughs] But we  always used to put on huge shows.  Swedish dancers, boy scouts, fire, poetry  readings. We got really good press,  the newspapers went crazy when they  heard Þeyr were playing a gig. Once  Bruni BB [an infamous art/music collective  that were sued for decapitating  chickens on stage] were our opening  band. We always got bands from the grassroots to play with us. We were like cultivators, helping bands to grow.  
You worked alot with sound equipment that you built yourself. Will you use any of that?  
Yes, there will be a special segment about the “Scriabin” and the “Fourier”  (devices created to affect the audience  in various forms). Þeyr did many experiments with “in-sound” and “outsound”,  both in studio and on stage.
What is “in-sound” and “outsound”?  
“Out-sound” are sounds that are above  the human hearing range. “In-sound” might be referred to as a disguised sound; imagine walls that extend and  contract – you don’t hear anything but  the acoustics change so you log information  into the acoustics. This is called  “space modulation”. That’s how we integrated messages into the music. The original idea was to make Bubbi Morthens  [Icelandic pop-star and former  punk] hear voices.  
Are there any plans to reissue some of the LPs that are now out of the  public’s reach?
 On Þeyr’s 20th anniversary I issued  “Mjötviður til fóta,” which is a compilation of tracks from “Mjötviður Mær”  and “Iður til Fóta.” On the 30th anniversary we will maybe issue “As Above”  and “The Fourth Reich.”  Þeyr are known for being shrouded  in a veil of ideology.
Would you say that your theories about universal  truths and systematic brainwashing  are as relevant now as they were in  the ’80s?  
Yes, their relevance is escalating. The world resembles a herd though the individual still stands strong. We’re the birds, overlooking the herd.

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