Teitur Magnússon, you are so great!
Although the presence (and wobbly bass) of local reggae darlings Ojba Rasta is strongly felt at Airwaves this year, the only appearance by frontman Teitur Magnússon’s solo project is an off venue performance at the no-more-than-50 capacity bar Bravó. This is despite Teitur currently holding one of the best loved tracks in Icelandic radio these days. The track, ‘Nenni’, a wonderful slice of ‘60s psychedelia (complete with sitar and flute) bread with tropicalia is a serious contender for single of the year in this humble writer’s opinion. The title is an Icelandic verb often cited as ‘untranslatable’ (into English at least) but the meaning is pretty close to ‘being bothered to’, i.e. needing or even wanting to do something but simply not mustering the energy or willpower to do it. The refrain goes:
Ég nenni ekki alltaf að lesa I can’t always be bothered to read
ég nenni ekki alltaf að skrifa I can’t always be bothered to write
ég nenni ekki alltaf að mála I can’t always be bothered to paint
hverju nenni ég þá? so what can I be bothered to do?
Ég nenni alltaf að elska I can always be bothered to love
Ég nenni alltaf að drekka I can always be bothered to drink
Ég nenni alltaf að dreyma I can always be bothered to dream
einhverju nenni ég þá so I can be bothered to do something
Simple. Profound. Powerful. Memorable. I really like this track!
I joined Teitur at his house after the performance and asked him a few questions.
GV: Is there a reason you didn’t want to play the festival with a full blown band and all that?
Hey! It’s Teitur Magnússon! Teitur, you are so great!
TM: Nah. I was making the record throughout the summer and now I have to develop the band in a live setting. Maggi [Magnús Trygvason Eliassen] and Silla [Sigurlaug Gísladóttir] are both all over the record and they’re playing all over Airwaves [both were featured in our last issue as ‘Airwaves’ Most Wanted,’ i.e. playing the most shows; both are playing eleven shows!]. But on December 10th,
I’ll play the stuff live with the people who made the recording with me.
GV: How do you like Airwaves?
TM: I’ve learned how to deal with Airwaves. Just do what you feel like and have fun. Don’t play too much and spread your gigs wide. I’ve been going since 2005 or 2006 and I think the festival changed a bit when Nasa closed down and Faktorý closed down and they introduced Harpa. The festival grew in size but also became more ‘posh’ somehow.
GV: How does it feel to break free from Ojba Rasta and do your own stuff?
TM: I disagree with the question. There is a lot of freedom for exploration within Ojba Rasta and being part of the band gave me the freedom to do what I’m doing right now. It gave me ideas, it gave me confidence and general knowledge of the modus operandi of music. And it’s not only me; Arnljótur [Sigurðsson, the other frontman of Ojba Rasta] is actually the secret spice on the record. This project is just another branch on the same tree.
GV: But you’ve definitely parted with the Caribbean rhythms of Ojba Rasta on the record, though.
TM: Yes. My producer Mike [Lindsay, formerly of Tunng, now of Cheek Mountain Thief] was a huge influence in that sense. He has a lot of interesting stuff like sitar and some Japanese instruments and a good knowledge of world music.
GV: It’s hard not to think about the psychedelic sixties when one hears these tracks. Is that what you were going for?
TM: I guess it’s an homage. This is ‘60s legend Björgvin Gíslason on the sitar [Teitur’s single ‘Nenni’ is playing in the background]. I just found him in the phone book and called him up and asked if he wanted to play and he said ‘yeah’. I just made these songs and hadn’t really decided what the album was supposed to sound like. This is just what happened. It wasn’t supposed sound like a specific decade or anything.
GV: The album title is Tuttugu og sjö [Twenty seven], which references another +60s rock myth, The 27 Club.
TM: Well – it’s my age. I wrote all of these songs over the past year. It’s a strong number with significance for a lot of people. Three in the power of three etc. I had wanted to make a solo album for a long time but it never happened. And when I didn’t try, it happened. So it made sense to associate it with the era that birthed it.
GV: The whole recording is in Icelandic and a few of the lyrics are pulled from 19th century poetry, right?
TM: There’s a line out of Shakespeare, and one from Benedikt Gröndal. It was a line that my friend Skarpi found in one of Benedikt’s lesser known works. It’s about how you can’t always be bothered to do what you’re supposed to be doing, or should do. Reading, writing, painting. But there’s always time for dreaming, drinking and loving.
Skarpi, aka Skarphéðinn Bergþóruson, is actually present in the room [most of his comments have been removed at his own request and Teitur’s] so I turn to him.
GV: What was your role in the making of the record?
SÞ: I just came here [to Teitur’s house] and had about twelve beers and had a few words kicking around in my head, a phrase or a joke or something. Meanwhile Teitur was playing around with the guitar. I’d sort of give a ‘go’ or ‘no go’ to his ideas. We did this weekly or so for a bit. But the end result has nothing to do with what I heard during those nights. Mike and Arnljótur and Silla and Teitur and Maggi created something completely different and much better. But I wrote some of the lyrics, I guess. Like, I happened to be reading a book that mentioned camel-yellow coats. I thought that was a great description of a colour: camel-yellow. So I looked at my camel-yellow fingers. Camel-yellow. Funny, right?
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