From Iceland — Playing It By Ear: The Musical Universe of Kosmodod

Playing It By Ear: The Musical Universe of Kosmodod

Published February 14, 2017

Playing It By Ear: The Musical Universe of Kosmodod
Parker Yamasaki
Photo by
Magnús Andersen

Samaris is not a secret. The hazy electronic trio has been garnering attention from record labels, press, and, of course, adoring fans at home and abroad, since their debut in 2011. But success comes in different strokes. While some are “born to be stars”, it can take others by surprise. It was the latter for Þórður Kári Steinþórsson—better known by his nickname, Doddi—the beatmaker and producer behind Samaris. “I always kind of knew that music was what I should be doing,” he says, “but Samaris definitely threw us into the deep end.”

Purpose is process

In interviews following the release of their last album, ‘Black Lights’, Doddi gave straight-forward answers that were, like the music, not premeditated.
“What do you want to say with ‘Wanted 2 Say?’” the interviewer asked.
“It’s a good pop song,” Doddi responded.
“What is the purpose with Samaris?” she asked.
“What is the purpose with music?” he laughed.

For Doddi, the purpose is the process itself. “I think it’s great that so many people can connect to our music,” he says, “but I don’t think too much of it because that can have dangerous impacts. You shouldn’t think about the result, or what you’re going to do with it in the end. It’s the experiment that counts. And if it fails, you just have to do another one.”

True to his word, he’s a mix-master-mad-scientist. He explains that his samples come from: “Everything I get ahold of, basically. You can always make something out of nothing.” In his old studio, he was constantly taking advantage of having a space where friends would store their hardware. “I’d squeeze all the sounds I could get from their machines, before they came to pick them up,” he says. “I have a huge library of sounds now, and when I’m away from my hardware I can just sample my own stuff.” Ableton Live glues it all together, which suits his workflow well: “Because I get bored really quick,” Doddi says.

Hands on

Alongside his work with Samaris, Doddi makes solo material as Kosmodod, which he releases via Sweaty Records, the record label he co-created. He’s currently working on his first full Kosmodod album, at the rate of one or two songs per day. “I honestly think it helps keep me sane,” he says.

Musically inclined from the start, Doddi studied music as a child. “I always played by ear, and even faked reading from the sheets,” he recalls. Music, for Doddi, is tactile; it’s experimental and experiential. “I get a lot out of messing with gear,” he says. “It’s more hands on and can take you somewhere you didn’t expect to go. That can be really inspiring—sometimes a whole new sonic universe opens up just from that one unexpected sound.” When that universe has spawned constellations like Samaris, Kosmodod and Sweaty Records, it’s no wonder that Doddi is always ready to blast head first into the unexpected.

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