Most of our local readers will have known 34-year-old Ársæll Þór Ingvason—AKA intr0beatz—since way back in the day, first as a DJ/producer for seminal Icelandic hip-hop act Forgotten Lores, and in later years as a resident DJ at establishments like Prikið and Kaffibarinn. A stalwart proponent of hip-hop-as-lifestyle since his early teens, it came as a surprise to many when intr0beatz launched into a second, altogether different phase of his musical career at Sónar Reykjavík 2014, where he débuted a set of original house music. Now, two years later and with a slew of well-received releases to his name, intr0beatz is excited to take the Sónar stage again and enjoy the privilege of watching people dance and celebrate life to the sound of his compositions.
Breaking into the House (Scene)
For the sake of our friends from abroad, who might be less familiar with your oeuvre, could you briefly tell us about how you got into making music, and how your career has evolved through the years?
As a kid, I was exposed to some wonderful people and music through skateboarding [an avid skater, intr0beatz even made a series documenting Iceland’s skating scene a few years back, ‘First Try Fail Mondays’, which you may view here]. I soon found that I really wanted to belong to that world. At the time, techno, house, drum ‘n’ bass, trip hop and hip-hop were all in the same category as far as I was concerned: underground music.
I was buying techno and drum ‘n’ bass records long before I got into hip-hop. Scratching was always my thing, though, and that eventually led me to focus exclusively on hip-hop. All I wanted back then was to be a turntablist and compete in DJ battles—so that’s what I did.
It’s funny, I’ve never really considered music as a career of mine, mainly because I’ve been doing it for the better part of my life. Performing, DJing, making beats… It’s simply a part of who I am. And every aspect of life has to evolve at some point, so breaking into the house scene was a pretty natural progression for me. Anyway, all these different styles stem from the same background, breaks, and that’s what I’ve been messing with my whole life.
You’ve been branching out of late, releasing some fine house music as intr0beatz, a moniker you also go by when DJing and producing hip-hop. Did you ever consider adopting a different artist name for your foray into a new genre?
No. I use intr0beatz for all of my creative output, whether I’m making skateboarding videos, hip-hop beats or, most recently, house music. To me, intr0beatz isn’t any one thing. It represents all the elements that got me into what I do and made me what I am. I figure that when people see the name, they’ll know it might be something interesting.
How many house records have you released so far? Where can we hear them? And can we expect more?
In that genre, I’ve thus far released three EPs and a few singles and remixes on various labels. All of it came out in 2015, and it’s all available on Beatport, Traxsource and Juno Download, and some are also on iTunes. If you want to check ‘em out, just remember to search for intr0beatz, not Introbeats.
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There’s definitely plenty more the way. This month, I have an EP coming out on a label called Disco Kicks with my good UK homie Kit Leonard, AKA Twin//Peaks. We met a year ago, when he was here with City Fly Records’ Jonna & James for a show at Dolly (RIP). Kit and I are also both signed to another label, Closer To Truth, and we’re featured on a compilation that’s also out this month. I have lots of other projects coming out in the near future that I can’t speak of at the moment, but stay tuned.
THE OL’ BOX OF FLOPPIES
You’ve said that house music appeals to you in the same way that the jazz and soul vibes that have always informed your work in hip-hop do. Can you pinpoint this appeal any further? What is it about house that so entrances you?
Right before I devoted myself to house full force, the music I was making was all over the place. I was clearly looking for something new. I guess I started drifting towards house around the time mainstream hip-hop shifted to incorporate pop sensibilities that interest me less. The hip-hop I’ve always loved, the golden age stuff [late 80s to early 90s], is based on the jazz, funk and soul that preceded it—and those sounds have also very audibly informed house music since its inception.
And, like I noted earlier, both genres are break-based in nature. So I kinda knew just from the sound of it that I wouldn’t have a problem making house music, ‘cause all I ever do is dig for breaks, samples and sounds to use for my own tunes. I’ve since learned that the production methods I developed making hip-hop work just as well for house. I’ll often go back to my old box of floppies and dig out some of my ancient hip-hop beats, to mine sounds I sampled more than decade ago for a fresh new house tune.
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I guess what I’m trying to say is: I still bump my head the same way to house as hip-hop. It’s the same love. The house stuff is just more uptempo, which is refreshing. Seeing people actually dance to my music, instead of just standing around and nodding their heads, is such a rewarding feeling. Don’t get it twisted though: I was raised by hip-hop, and will always try to contribute to the scene. At the moment, I’m just busy with something else.
THE ICELANDIC HOUSE INSTITUTE
How do you view Reykjavík club culture? How does it compare to other cities you’re familiar with? Do you feel there is a lack of proper “clubs,” like many local DJs claim, and too big an emphasis on “bars you can dance at”—or is that maybe a special type of atmosphere that forms?
First of all, there’s only one proper club in Reykjavík: Paloma, which has two floors and a really nice sound system. On the other end of the spectrum, Kaffibarinn maybe isn’t the typical club you’ll know from other cities, mostly because it’s tiny. Despite this, it has very much earned its reputation as The Icelandic House Institute, as I like to call it. They were the first to set a real standard in the Icelandic club scene, and they remain he only establishment that is dedicated to evolving and adopting the latest technologies, providing their DJs with everything they need; turntables, a mixer and CDJs.
Everything else is just bars with good music.
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NO DABBLERS, NO DILLETANTES
What about all the local DJs? There seem to be so many skilled ones around these days—do you think the people of Reykjavík are perhaps spoiled for choice, or are we lacking in some respects?
Icelanders are definitely super spoiled from having so many active quality DJs around. Some are more prominent than others, but most have something special to offer. I think this abundance of talent might stem from how us local DJs take pride in knowing good music, old and new. The scene is full of dedicated music lovers, as opposed to dabblers and dilettantes, which makes a real difference. All we need now is better clubs!
Who are the top DJs in the game at the moment? Who should our readers seek out and see during Sónar weekend?
I did my first show as a house musician at Sónar two years ago, so I’m really stoked about returning this year. And I’m not exaggerating when I say every DJ on the bill is top quality, well worth seeing, so it should be a great weekend if you’re looking to dance.
To name names, there’s for instance DJ Kári—AKA Formaðurinn—who’s been the busiest DJ in the game for the last twenty years, and has mastered all kinds of styles, incorporating everything from old Icelandic tunes to techno bangers. Then there’s DJ Frímann, who has been my absolute favourite since I was a thirteen-year-old. I’ve recently enjoyed the opportunity to do sets with him, an idol of over twenty years. What a humbling experience. No one is as mean on the mixer as DJ Frímann!
I also can’t forget my BLOKK brothers, Lagaffe Tales, BORG and Simon FKHNDSM. And of course… YAMAHO! (hollatcha boi).
What are your top picks for Sónar Reykjavík 2016, international and local?
Floating Points is the number one act I plan to witness. I’ve been following that dude for a long time now. I think he’s performing with a live band at Sónar, so that’s going to be interesting.
And Kiasmos, for sure, ‘cuz they’re so fucking good. And Lone!
Lastly, Forgotten Lores came together a couple of months ago to play a gig that drove RVK hip-hop heads up the wall, and is still being talked about in almost hushed tones. Are there any plans for further activity in that camp?
We actually have show at Stúdentakjallarinn on February 13, again along with our good friend Kött Grá Pje. As for future plans, I really can’t say at this point. Who knows…
Intr0beatz performs tonight at SonarPub, 23:00-00:00.
Posted February 18, 2016