Icelandic black metal might seem like a metalheads wet dream. It doesn’t get much more “true” than this. DYNFARI impressed me so much that I had to interview them. Jóhann Örn answered. Anders Ekdahl ©2012
I gotta say that I’m impressed by the number of bands that do come from Iceland, a country with the population of the Swedish city Malmö. How do you survive as a band on Iceland when people seem to leave to find work somewhere else?
-We’re both fortunate enough to have jobs, although we are both students at the moment.
We bought most of our gear before everything went to shit, save perhaps for our recording gear. It is true that a lot of Icelanders have left to find jobs and a life somewhere else, but we are part of those who remain to keep things going here on Thule.
What is it about black metal that sees all these one man or two man bands? Why don’t we see more of these sorts of constellations in other forms of metal?
-I can’t come up with a definite answer to this question, but I believe it has to do with how the bands work as well as what kind of music they are making. Many are familiar with the cliché of the one-man DSBM band. If you wonder why they are predominantly solo-projects, well, why would people depressed enough to make this sort of music want to work with others creating something so emotional, so personal? You would need to have someone with you that shares your vision, really gets what you are doing and perhaps, even better, is doing something similar himself. And that’s kind of the point, other forms of metal such as death metal or thrash metal usually don’t deal with such personal and emotional topics. It’s just not a part of the style. The music and the whole culture surrounding those subgenres calls for more group work than black metal. It seems more about drinking beer and having fun while making music in the meantime (although I do not want to generalize here). And I don’t mean that as a bad thing, we have both played in a death metal band (called Sacrilege) and it was great fun. But when we started Dynfari and wanted to focus on that project, we saw that it would just work much better if we worked together just the two of us. Still, we do have a full line-up for playing concerts and gigs, but all song writing goes down as a duo.
You are on to your 2nd CD now yet this is the first time I’ve heard of you. What has happened this time around to make your public presence bigger this time around?
-For “Sem Skugginn”, we signed a record deal with Aural Music’s sublabel Code666 Records. Their promotion has increased our fan base significantly and we are very happy with their PR. They’ve already gotten us places we would never have imagined to appear in. Of course, they have contacts and distribution that we could only dream of having by ourselves, as can be seen when comparing the amount produced of each CD. Our self-released debut, “Dynfari”, came out in 50 hand numbered copies while “Sem Skugginn”’s original pressing contains 1000 copies. That’s a 2000% increase, so no wonder many people are hearing about us for the first time these days.
How much inspiration do you get from the cold harsh volcanic landscape of Iceland?
-Nature will always be an inspiration, not just for us but for everyone. Some people just don’t have nature but instead have skyscrapers and McDonalds. Your environment will always influence you in one way or another and, in a way, define your character. People never forget where they are from. But what’s important is that people won’t forget where they are originally from, and that’s not skyscrapers and McDonalds.
Icelandic is as true Nordic as you get. It is spoken by so few yet have so great a tie to the whole of Scandinavia. What does it mean to you to sing in your native tongue? How does it feel to be a part of something so ancient that it is almost forgotten?
-Way too few Icelandic bands sing in Icelandic. I think forming my thoughts as lyrics in my native tongue is not only easier for this style of music but also more fitting. As for being part of something so ancient, it’s not exactly something you think about every day. But it certainly is a strange thought: that your native language you share with only roughly 300,000 people compared to how vastly different it is for most other people.
Whenever I see the description “post” I get strange vibes of some smart PR-trickery. What does the post part mean in the post-black metal that the label describes you as?
-It’s merely a label that got stuck for some reason. I think the idea behind it is that bands that can be labelled as post-black metal are bands that don’t care much for the typical cookie-cutter “corpsepaint & satan” concept within black metal – have progressed “past” it, hence “post”. In fact I don’t think post-black metal is a very good label as it can be used to describe very different styles within black metal.
The cover almost looks like some photo from the late 1800s. How easy was it to find the right art work for the cover?
-Andrea Aðalsteins took care of the artwork for us as with the first album. The difference now is that we used a part of her work called the “Snowblind series” and all the artwork in the booklet is from that photo album. We immediately liked her idea to use those photos. The cover photograph on our debut is a photograph by Guðmundur Óli Pálmason, the drummer of Sólstafir, which we got permission to use.
When you are only two how important is playing live? What could you bring to music in a live setting that you can’t get in the studio?
-Live music is always a different experience than in studio, and then I mean both enjoying and performing. Everything is more “in the moment” so to speak, and it is easier to get lost in the atmosphere, as if hypnotized or in a trance-like state. We always do our best to create the right setting and atmosphere when playing live. As most of our songs aren’t exactly very headbang-friendly and for the fact that we do not use corpsepaint, we use other ways to set the right mood – lighting both candles and incense and using fog machines when possible. Despite all that, we see ourselves mainly as a “studio band” as that is what lives on long after we’re gone. Nevertheless, playing live can be a very rewarding experience.
Is it possible to find the right sort of people to work with on Iceland? Can you just set up studio time whenever you feel like it or do you have to plan ahead?
-We have been very fortunate finding people to work with. We have been working with Árni Bergur Zoega, who did a fantastic job with the sound on Dynfari and also did very well mastering Sem Skugginn. Hjálmar Gylfason, who is also our live bassist (and happens to be my third cousin, small country huh?), helped us a lot recording and mixing Sem Skugginn and deserves many thanks for that. Our other live guest musician these days is Jón Þór Sigurleifsson who is an exceptionally skilled guitarist who has his own progressive metal band called Daedra. We have our own low-budget recording gear that we used to record “Sem Skugginn” so we can really record whenever we want. However, we like to plan ahead and do things properly as good as we can – improving each time.
What future plans are there?
-After the release concert of “Sem Skugginn” we will start recording the third album which has already been written. We hope to release it sometime next year. The future after that is uncertain. If we get the right offer we might try to go abroad to share our music live with other audiences. Otherwise, we already have some ideas for a fourth album. You have only just seen the beginning of Dynfari.