Grapevine designer and overall impressionable youth Jóhannes Kjartansson recently journeyed to the land of Vice Magazine. He came back grinning but slightly shaken.
We decided to grill him on his journey.
Why did you go to New York City? Don’t you know America is full of fundamentalist Christians and fat people and malls?
Because I’ve always wanted to go and see it for myself. I have a friend working there… Most of the Americans I’ve met aren’t in those categories. I’d also heard that New York is a country within a country it’s not American it’s more a multicultural thing. I’m more excited by New York than maybe Texas.
It can’t be that fun in New York. I mean, everyone in Reykjavík is an artist. Everyone in Reykjavík is a somebody. In New York they’re probably all accountants or pornographers.
Accountants or pornographers? I once met Peter Saville, the designer of the Joy Division and New Order covers. He made a map of the New York grid and described how Manhattan is a creative centre for the world. A place where ideas melt together.
So you rented a car and drove around? Did they have super-jeeps?
No. No. I saw one Hummer. It was yellow, like in the ads.
I love Sex in the City, that’s my favourite show ever. Then Friends. Did you do what those people did? Be rich and say stupid shit?
Yeah, I said a lot of stupid shit, because I was partying every night. I acted rich even though I ain’t rich. I took my credit card along and acted stupid. And that made me rich.
Did you see TRL? (Popular MTV Show filmed in Times Square)
Which is? The guy we were staying with had 1000 television stations. I just thought that was excessive. The most fun I had was watching television ads. All the clichés in the world bonded together in 10 seconds. I was surprised that I was the only person who found them hilarious.
There’s probably a lot of bands who sound just like The Strokes just walking around everywhere playing Strokes songs.
Yeah. I tried to see as many concerts as I could but the high season doesn’t start until June. I saw Fischerspooner and that was the best show I went to. There are certain club nights like Misshapes that have 400 people all looking like the Strokes. But they all go home at 2 or 3 o clock. No stamina. But they start partying early at like 8 pm. That lifestyle might actually be better than staying out until 7 in the morning like we do in Iceland, because that totally ruins the next couple of days.
Did I mention that tattoos are very popular in New York. Multi-colour roses and dragons tattoos on girls’ shoulders and upper arms? And there was a no smoking thing. I liked that. You could go out and not smell like an ash tray when you got home.
I only asked about the Strokes.
Was it lonely in the morning there, when you woke up and all the stores were closed because people were hung over?
I didn’t notice that much. What do you mean, stores were closed are you talking about Iceland? Oh, funny. But I did touristy stuff in the mornings. And was shopping in the afternoon—shops are open a lot longer than in Iceland. But I hate the tips. Tips are absurd. People get insulted if you tip them the wrong way. New York would be better without the tips.
They’re probably three years behind Iceland in fashion in New York. All fashion coming from Reykjavík, Paris and Milan, where there aren’t any fat people or fundamentalist Christians.
Is there any fashion in Iceland?
I’ll ask the questions here. Did you feel embarrassed for the New Yorkers that they don’t speak an ancient language? I mean, it’s so impure.
No. I wouldn’t say so. They all speak English and some Spanish, also; that’s an old language. And they have different ways of speaking English, so many accents. The girls have a very special way of talking.
And did you miss being around the most beautiful women in the world?
Not really. I think they are no less beautiful in New York. I figure they have very good figures in New York.
It’s funny, when I got back to the airport it was very easy to recognize Icelanders. When we went out, me and my friend Siggi, people could tell that we weren’t American, and that was before we started speaking with our weird accent. It’s not that Icelanders are more beautiful, it’s just something different.
Do they listen to a lot of Mugison and Trabant on the radio there?
I didn’t hear them. But mostly I listened to the radio in the taxis. Taxi drivers mainly listened to traffic radio. But I know Trabant had a show a month ago there, I just don’t know if they’ve made it to the radio.
Maybe if they were in a traffic accident?
No, I don’t get it. Traffic accident? Yeah, exactly. Probably that’s a good way to get publicity in New York. Just stop traffic on the way to JFK. Then everyone in the taxis would hear about you on their radios.
THE CHEAPEST WAY TO GET TO NEW YORK:
From Reykjavík to New York, from June 15th to July 15th, booked at least one week in advance:
Iceland Express from Keflavík to London:
9,699 ISK round trip
British Airways from London to New York:
35,210 ISK round trip
Total: 44,909 ISK
No overnight stay required.
Icelandair from Keflavík to New York:
no less than 47,900 round trip.
Prices drop considerably after October 1.