From Iceland — Drummer Vs. Drummer, Muck Vs. Pink Street Boys

Drummer Vs. Drummer, Muck Vs. Pink Street Boys

Published May 29, 2015

Drummer Vs. Drummer, Muck Vs. Pink Street Boys
Gabríel Benjamin
Photo by
Hörður Sveinsson

When interviewing Muck and Pink Street Boys, we kept thinking, “It would be really interesting to hear the other band’s thoughts on this.” So, rather than engage in lengthy back-and-forths, we invited drummers Ási Þórðarson and Einar Björn Þórarinsson to just hash it out over a pack of beers. What follows is a lightly edited transcript.

You’ve both said that you are the loudest band in Reykjavík. How well do you think the other band measures up to that claim?

Ási: I think the deal with Muck and Pink Street is that they are both the best Icelandic bands around today. What these bands are doing is being real and fuckin’ in your face, and that’s something I don’t think other bands dare to do. Are we the loudest? Yeah, you know, we said we were the loudest, and they said so as well, and we’re both bloody loud. But what really matters is that we’re the best.

Einar: Yeah, what he said [Einar laughs].

Ási, you’ve said in a previous interview that you’re a much better drummer than Einar. Is that true?

[Both laugh loudly]

E: Well, I only started playing drums when Pink Street Boys came around, and that was just two years ago. I’ve been playing bass since I was twelve years old and was in another band with Axel—we had a drummer in that band, but he was always so late to practice so I’d play around on the drums until he arrived and teach myself.

Á: I remember when Elli Bang [one of Ojba Rasta‘s drummers, Celestine‘s former drummer] was interviewed in the Eistnaflug film, he said, “When I go up on stage, I just think to myself I’m going to fucking demolish the other bands,” and it’s the same for me—I’m simply going to be the best! Much better than the bands that went on before me, and the ones that’ll go after me, and that’s how it is. When I said I was better than Einar on the drums, it was like that, I was talking shit, because when I go on stage, I plan on blowing everyone away.

E: That’s exactly what I think about when I go on the drums, I’m just going to put everything into it.

Á: And that’s fucking it! The music we’re in, it’s not about a competition, but you have to have a competitive mind-set going into it. You have to be fantastic when you’re on stage, and you motivate yourself up by telling yourself you’re much better than everyone else.

Dangerous, Loud, Irreverent

Einar, your bandmates talked about how important attitude and alter egos were, and how they set PSB apart from your older bands. Do you also feel that way?

E: Oh yeah. Our old band, Dandelion Seeds, was just a 60s psychedelic pop band. We enjoyed it, but we didn’t have nearly as much fun as PSB, where we can blast away and rock out! PSB allows us to talk trash, and be dicks [Einar laughs]. Our stage presence is much livelier, too.

Á: How long has it been since a band has talked so much trash and been this provocative in the Icelandic music scene? When I first saw PSB live, I thought it was the same fucking shit as Klink or Mínus! It was a fucking dangerous band! It was exactly what was needed, and they gave Muck a real kick in the ass, shifting us into the right gear and away from the neutered Icelandic music scene. To be fucking angry and fucking scream and talk trash, that’s what it’s about, and that’s why people are absolutely eating up everything that PSB is doing, because it’s provoking.

E: It’s funny how everything changes—one year it’s really good to be super sensitive and in touch with your emotions, and then the next being cocky is in, and then now it’s about being angry, but this fashion, it’s all really so trivial.

PSB had numerous names, including Kid Twist and Dandelion Seeds, before settling on their current one, while Muck were Muck from day one. Why do you think the other band went the way they did with their choosing their name?

E: That’s a really good question.

Á: I think fundamentally it’s the wrong question to ask [Both laugh loudly]. It’s because PSB are not Dandelion Seeds, and they’re not Kid Twist. They’re not changing their name, these are completely new bands.

E: Yeah, we changed everything. But Muck, has it always been the same band?

Á: Yeah, we’ve been the same, except, well, we fired our singer Villi [Ási laughs]. There were five of us at one point, and we had another bass player, but we fired him pretty quickly because he played terribly. When we recorded our ‘Vultures’ album, he was so bad that we had to ask Addi from Celestine to record over them.

E: Did you ever tell him about it?

Á: No, we didn’t, and he never found out.

Whoops, sorry, I think he knows now.

[Both laugh loudly]

Á: But yeah, we’ve always been Muck. Kalli [Karl] and I were together in another band before that. When we started with Muck, we were super heavy and sludgy, and then when Villi left we sped up.

E: I remember when I saw you live without Villi, I thought Muck was my favourite band.

Á: Lately, we’ve been thinking about what a long process it’s been… The band started in 2007, so we’ve been active for a really long time, and always been at it. We’ve never thought: “OK, this isn’t working for us.” No, we’re always practicing, two, three, or four times a week. We’re always meeting up, jamming out, and have something going on.

E: Are you still in your old practice space?

Á: We are, but we’re moving to a new place in Grandi that we’ll be sharing with Skúli Mennski and Boogie Trouble. We’re getting our own space, it’s pretty cheap and much better than what we’ve had.

E: Well, we came over to your place a while ago, and we weren’t really digging it.

Á: No, it’s got a super strong stoner vibe to it. We’ve been talking about moving out for years, but I don’t know, it kept getting delayed. We had our expectations of what we could do in there, and had our ambitions of playing and rehearsing, but the people that share the place aren’t necessarily on the same page. For them music is perhaps just a hobby, but us guys, we’re all in fucking Muck! It’s what we want to do, and we want to be around likeminded people, or be in a space where we can just mind our own business and work at our own pace.

Members from both bands have band tattoos. Do you think having a shared tattoo or tattoo theme brought your bands closer?

E: I’ve never really thought of it.

Á: I don’t know… I think it’s just a stupid thing to do. I got a Muck tattoo back in 2009 or 2010, and it’s a logo we’re not using any more. I thought it looked cool. I wasn’t really thinking about it at the time.

E: This is my only tattoo, and I got it because it’s my band, I enjoy it and it’s allowed.

Á: Your band is just your best friends, man.

E: Yeah, and I feel like it’s cool that we all have a tattoo together.

Were there more ink virgins in PSB before you all got your band tattoos together?

E: Yeah, Alfreð also got his first one when the band got theirs, as did Víðir. Alfreð is now hooked on ink, he’s always getting more at RVS Tattoo, and they’re all the ugly heroin-junky kind.

Á: Those are my favourite, like this one here [Ási rolls up his sleeves to show a line-art drumstick tattoo].

E: Hey, I was thinking of getting one of those myself.

Á: Indriði inked it onto me. Me, Bjössi from Mínus and Frosti Gnarr, who used to be Fufanu’s drummer, we all got ones like this. And I feel it’s just like the Muck tattoos, there’s something cool about getting tattoos together with your friends.

What do you like about the other band, and when do you want to play together again?

E: I’ll play with Muck any time.

Á: And me with PSB.

E: And what do I like about Muck? They’re ballsy, they’re all good friends and play good music. They play powerfully.

Á: Yeah, I think it’s the same. We’ve all known each other for a while, and what I like about PSB is that there’s no bullshit, they just are what they are, and it’s great.

Dangerous, Loud, Irreverent

Einar, you’re in fantastically good shape, and Ási, you’ve been training at Mjölnir [that’s the gym Gunnar Nelson trains at] for a while. Who do you think would win in a fight?

Á: Oh man, I don’t know. Einar is always lifting weights at World Class, while I’m really good at taking people down.

E: I think Ási could beat me, but I don’t know, I’m pretty crafty in a fight even if I don’t have any technique.

Á: I think you have more experience since you’ve had more fights than me. Maybe it’d be a pretty even fight. But tell me Einar, are you stressed when you get up on the stage?

E: No, I’m more nervous when few people show up to a gig, and also disappointed—I feel like I need to do something to turn it around. But if there’s a good vibe with lots of people where everyone’s wasted, then I’m super psyched. Is it the same for you?

Á: Yeah, sort of. I’m a very intense person, so I always get nervous, but that’s something I’m working on. I remember when I started playing, I was very critical of my own performance, similar to how I think Axel is. When there aren’t many people, I get even more stressed, because I feel like people focus more on my performance, whereas when there are more people, it’s more laid back. When we were touring with Hexis in Denmark, the singer told us he always aimed for fifteen people—when they were starting out, nobody showed up, so to stay sane, he always told himself if fifteen people showed up, that it was an awesome gig. But sometimes I feel 30 is terrible, and on other days that’s a great number.

E: So this next question isn’t really drumming-related, but if you were to spend a day with me, how would you plan it?

[both laugh loudly]

Á: Fuck, man, it’d be an awesome day! Fucking shit, I think if we had a whole day together, we’d clearly wake up early and have a sick breakfast together with coffee, and then we’d go lift weights [both laugh]! I’d really like that! We’d do lots of deadlifts, then we’d go drum a lot! Then we’d have a beer, and go to a gig together.

E: Yeah, for sure. Good answer!

Á: You have to lift.

E: And besides me, who is your favourite Icelandic drummer?

Á: I’m tempted to say Maggi [Magnús Tryggvason Ellíasen of Moses Hightower and many other bands], but I’m going to go with Stebbi from Gone Postal, who’s now in The Vintage Caravan.

E: Oh, he’s sick!

Á: Yeah, he’s crazy good. I’ve been watching him for a while, and I saw a drum-cam video from him last year, and it was crazy. He’s really good.

E: The old drummer from Vintage is also really something.

Á: Yeah, Gauji. How about you, who’s your favourite?

E: I’m not sure, there are a lot of really skilled drummers out there, and I’m not sure how they can play how they do, but I’m more interested in fun drummers. Bjössi from Mínus was great, as is Siggi from Jakobínarína.

Á: Oh, he’s good.

E: Yeah, and now he’s in Grísalappalísa. Pétur in Skelkur í Bringu is also fun [both laugh]. He’s maybe not the best drummer out there, but there’s something beautiful about how he plays. And then there’s you, Ási.

Á: Yeah, but remember, you’re not supposed to pick me!

E: Yeah, but I wanted to say it.

Á: Okay then, well, if we’re going to wank each other off like that, I want to say that what I dig about you is what a powerful drummer you are. I’ve noticed that when you’re playing and rocking out with sixteenth note beats, there’s a lot happening at once. The bass drum is going crazy, and I really like how much power you put into everything, and I think it’s really important for your band. But do you remember when we were playing together at Húrra?

E: At your album release concert?

Á: Yeah, I was out back watching you, and I really liked how consistent everything was—it was exactly where it should be.

E: A lot of drummers have told me that I’m drumming wrong. Do you agree with that?

Á: No, I don’t think so. I don’t think I drum correctly, but that doesn’t matter… It’s music, there’s no one way to play an instrument. If you’re performing your role, and you’re doing something for the music and the band, then you can’t be doing it wrong. But I don’t know… When I started formally learning how to play the drums, I learned a lot about hand positions and the rules, but they don’t really apply. I mean, if you hold your drumsticks too tightly, then that doesn’t do anything and maybe you’re playing wrong, but people just play their instruments differently.

E: OK. Shall we move onto the next question?

Wait, isn’t Ási going to get a compliment?

[both laugh]

E: Oh, of course! So at that very same concert, I was high as a kite and watching you [Ási laughs]. I recorded you playing, do you remember? I keep re-watching that video, and I’ve tried to learn a thing or two from it because you’re a really good drummer and a thousand times more technical than me. You’ve got a lot of power, and drum really hard. A lot of metal drummers, when they’re going, it looks super simple for them… They’re all playing super-fast with no emotion on their faces, and I find that to be super boring to watch. Drummers should be lively, it should be a show, and I feel like you play like that. I don’t know what else to say… You’re a cool dude as well.

Á: We’re both cool dudes [both laugh]! In fact, I think we’re the best dudes in our bands. But what would it be like if we had a drum-off? How about our fucking bands played together, together?

E: What? Play together, together?

Á: Yeah, if everyone went up on stage at the same time! There’d be two drum sets and we’d be playing against each other, and then together.

E: That’d be wicked!

Á: We’d be jamming together, and just rent out Húrra or something.

Is the stage big enough for both bands?

Á: I don’t know, sure. Or wait, do we have to be on the stage?

Maybe it’d be cooler to just invite a few friends over, and they’d stand on the stage, watching you play against each other.

Á: Yeah, I think that’d be cool. But what do you think Einar, what’s the most boring band in Iceland?

E: The most boring? Oh, Dikta!

Á: Yeah, I agree. I was going to say Kaleo…

…but they’re not in the country any more.

Á: No, so it’s clearly Dikta.

E: I went to see Dikta at Airwaves a few years back, and I was so frustrated with how bad they were. I was so pissed off that I walked out cursing. But Kaleo is also an incredibly boring band.

I thought it was super funny how both of your bands had no shortage of hatred for Kaleo when I interviewed them, calling them a “mediocre bullshit band” [that didn’t make it into the final version of the articles].

Á: They’re just a joke. I was watching a Kaleo video the other day, don’t ask me why, but I could only watch a few minutes because I didn’t think it was real. It’s all bubble-gum bullshit, and then they were in this interview… [Ási spots the latest issue of the Grapevine sitting on a table] IT WAS THIS FUCKING PAPER! They were in the Grapevine! Yeah, and they’re talking about being authentic, which is the biggest heap of bullshit I’ve ever heard! They’re talking about being privileged, which they are, and it’s just crap. I don’t get it. They sign with some major label that plans to pimp them out like they’re the next Kings of Leon, and now they live in Austin, living the dream, but there’s nothing behind their music.

E: Exactly. I’ve heard a few of their songs, and I’ve got no idea what they’re doing with it. Their songs sound like some kind of Bon Iver shit… And then they had that “Rock ‘n’ Rolla” song… [both laugh]

I’ll admit when I first saw them at Airwaves, I thought they were OK. I was maybe a little tipsy, and started dancing to their beat, because I thought they were just doing cover songs and having fun. Then when I heard an actual cover song during their set, I realised everything else had been their serious attempt at making music. I felt ashamed of myself a few days later…

E: I’ve never seen them live, and I don’t want to. But moving on, Ási, you’re in a few projects, right?

Á: Yes and no… I used to be in a lot, but I’ve been cutting down lately, because I just want to be making music with Muck. I’ve been playing with Helgi Valur and FM Belfast, who I played a lot with over the summer when their drummer Ívar went away on paternity leave. I want to not limit myself, though, and play as much as I can. When I play with Muck, it’s really fast, and I’m hitting the drums really hard, and then when I’m with other bands I want to do something different. I really enjoy thinking about other things and trying on different genres and moods.

E: Because you learn from it?

Á: Yeah. What I do with Muck has an effect on my playing with FM Belfast or Markús Bjarnarson [of Markús and the Divergent Sessions fame], or whatever.

E: So if Kaleo were to call you up and ask to play with them, what would you say?

Á: I’d say no, I wouldn’t want to play with Kaleo. You have to have respect for yourself and what you’re doing. How about you? Are you only playing in PSB?

E: Yeah, that’s the only band I’m involved in. I wouldn’t mind trying something else, but we’re just practicing so fucking much, it’s like every other day.

Á: And you have to, to be the best. That’s why we’re the best. That’s all there is to it.

If you like these two bands, you will also be interested in the following articles:

Muck by Hörður SveinssonHardcore Band Muck Is Unrelenting And Uncompromising
Karl takes a bite out of his hot dog and laughs at Indriði for bringing vegetables to a barbeque. Loftur frets over there not being enough sauces and procures a beer from somewhere, while Ási and I work out the correct exchange rate between my hot dogs and his hamburgers. It’s a relaxed autumn afternoon in Hljómskálagarður park, and I’m sitting with the four members of Muck, a hardcore punk band I have ardently followed for the past two years.

Pink Street Boys by Hörður SveinssonPink Street Boys Are Dangerous, Loud, Irreverent
During a break between songs, a friend shouts into my ear, “They are too loud!” I try to respond, but my words are lost to Pink Street Boys’ onslaught of guitars, pedals, unintelligible vocals and loud drums. At a time when cultural export is the name of the game, with local bands cashing in on the world’s interest in the dreamy and cute Icelandic sound, Pink Street Boys are unruly, crass, full of attitude, unapologetic, and as my friend previously mentioned, loud. 

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