From Iceland — Morðingjarnir


Published May 9, 2008


So, your second album is out, and it has received glowing reviews from every critic.
Haukur: Well, I’m not going to tell you that it received better reviews that what we expected. We expected it to receive very good reviews. But it is still fun.

The punk scene has not been very prominent in Icelandic mainstream media. It has been a long time since I’ve seen a punk album receive such favourable reviews in the mainstream media. Is this the beginning of a punk revival you think?
Atli: I don’t know. Music is often difficult to define; I don’t really know who is doing punk anymore. Haukur: There is lot of punk bands actually, but most of them never make an album.
Atli: Yes, you often hear one song on Myspace, or see a band play live one or two times, and then they disappear. Nothing happens. Today it is really easy to make a record, using this new digital technology, so that shouldn’t be a problem. We did our first record for almost no money. But we are putting more into the second album.
Haukur: But I don’t know how truly punk we are. A lot of bands just make punk music as sort of a joke. And really, that’s how this band started initially, until we got more serious about it. But I think a lot true punkers, the one’s that have safety pins in their cheeks, they probably don’t think we are really punk.

I reviewed your album in the last issue, and I said that there was a lot of influence from (Icelandic punk greats) Innvortis on this album.
Haukur: Yes, that is a little strange; you are not the first person to say that. When we made our first album, we were listening to Innvortis a lot, and hanging out with them and we thought they were really cool.
Atli: They even played on one song on that album.
Haukur: But now, they could all be dead to me. I don’t see them and I don’t hear from them. And now we make an Innvortis album. This was not a conscious decision.

It must have seeped in at the time.
Haukur: Probably. But we are still a lot better than Innvortis. But we are not unhappy with the comparison.
Atli: A lot of times when we are working on songs, they have working titles from the bands that we think is sounds like. The Pixies Song, The Slayer Song and so on. Maybe we are not the best people to judge this.

How did this band come about?
Atli: After Dáðadrengir folded, which is the band we were all in before Morðingjarnir, we were just hanging around, the three of us in our practice space and we wanted to make some music.
Haukur: And Dáðadrengir sure as hell were not going to be making music.
Atli: No, and Haukur is not a very good guitar player, and I am not a very good bass player, but Helgi is an OK drummer, so it made most sense to make some punk. If we had decided to make progmetal, it would probably have been a complete failure. Or anything else for that matter. Punk was just a starting point for us, at some time, we even considered doing something else, but..
Haukur: We didn’t really form this band because we think punk is the greatest musical genre in the world. It is just one of many types of music that we like. We are more accidental punkers. But we have discussed our ideas for making a ska-record and an industrial record, and so on. But we just don’t feel like it.
Atli: Now, obviously, we have become an established punk band.
Haukur: We have made two punk albums already. Our next album is probably going to sound a lot better but be a little less interesting musically. That is the usual arch of a punk band. More of the same, only worse.

I wanted to ask you about a song you wrote especially for the Iceland Airwaves festival and Morgunblaðið (Iceland’s biggest daily newspaper) called it the worst song ever written, or something similar.
Atli: Ah, yes. We found that to be a very remarkable comment.

It was particularly remarkable because it was written anonymously and did not appear in relation to any review. It just appeared in the middle of the page, totally out of nowhere. It would have made more sense if this was written as a review by someone.
Haukur: I still wouldn’t have understood it, because I think it is the best song ever written in Iceland.
Atli: Still, we were kind of happy with the comment. I think it is a very perky song, perky to the point where it becomes intolerable. Very in-yourface. I could understand if people found it intolerable, and to get such a harsh comment on it, that’s a lot more fun than if someone had said it was mediocre. Being mediocre sucks.
Haukur: The question is if we have created a tradition. Whether we will make a new Airwaves song for the next festival or if the radio stations will just keep playing this one.

Many reviewers have noted the lyrics on the album especially, which are great. How do you go about writing the lyrics?
Haukur: I write the lyrics, mostly. The music is more of a collaborative project, but I have taken responsibility for the lyrics, at least for this record. I was either just inspired by something that I wanted to write about, but a lot of times I just grabbed the rhyme dictionary and worked from there. Some of the lyrics are a very sharp criticism of our society; they are not all as perky as the Airwaves song.
Haukur: No, that’s true.

Is that just a part of being in a punk band? Writing critical lyrics.
Haukur: No, although we are in a punk band, I don’t think we are your typical punks per se. We both went to the Commercial College of Iceland.
Atli: I bought this sweater in Jack & Jones. Haukur: The lyrics as such are not intended to fill out the punk stereotype. I am just this clever, you see.
Atli: Every time Haukur comes in with a new songs, he has a little story constructed around it. ‘You guys know this type, right? The drug addict, he is this old, has a girlfriend that’s a lot younger and they both wear jogging pants and hang out at the bar Monaco and shoot up in the toilet.’ He always has this little scene constructed around each song.
Haukur: I think the best lyrics are the oldest ones, and the ones I wrote a quarter to midnight the day before we went into the studio. A lot of lyrics ended up in the trash. I don’t think I am a very good poet. Or, I think I am a great poet, I am a very good poet, but I have excellent quality control.

It is a little tempting to relate your lyrics to the fact that you have been going to film school and you are becoming a film maker. Are your lyrics another manifestation of your desire to tell stories?
Haukur: I really like telling stories, that’s true. But I have never related the two, but you are right, there is probably a relation. But the main thing is that I hate to punch a clock in the morning, so I just want to make punk or movies, and hopefully one of the other will work out and then I won’t have to work in a mayonnaise factory.
Atli: I want to add that I have known Hakur for more than ten years, and he is still telling me new stories. I think there is a lot to the hypothesis that this is nature as storyteller breaking out. He really is a great storyteller.
Haukur: That’s probably true. I really enjoy meeting new people for example, because that means I can start at the beginning and retell all the stories I know.

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