I invite you for an interview with organizer of Iceland To Poland, Wiktoria Joanna Ginter.
Marcin: Welcome. Please, tell us something about yourself. Who are you, what do you do, how long have you been in Iceland, how did you get there?
Wiktoria: In the first place I am a mother of the greatest child in the world, long time nothing after that, and then comes all the rest. I´m a musician, a singer, Music passionate, promotor and a manager of bands and artists and also a broadly defined art events curator. Such… Nutcase! (laughs)
Marcin: You have been organizing all sorts of events – exhibitions, concerts, shows etc. Where the idea to live like that came from?
Wiktoria: It´s actually pure coincidence (laughs). There has always been a lot of energy in me and I preferred to spend it on creative things, and things that change and shape the society rather than gossips about other people or spending time doing nothing. Music has always interested me, art in general. In my family there are 80% musicians, 20% artists and poets and 100% crazy people (laughs). I´ve always looked at the world differently. When I was 6 years old, my auntie and my older cousin played Tata Kazika (Polish cult punk band) and asked wheather I like it. When I said: yes – they´ve asked me: why? And from that very moment an irreversible thinking process started in me. From that very moment “why?” is my favorite question. And in art and music it is the leading question. What draws me to it? The fact, that idea of one man can change the course of the world´s history. That anyone can contribute to a change for the better, if they would only move their brains. And put a lot of work into it, especially on oneself.
Marcin: Which of your events so far got stuck in your memory the most?
Wiktoria: I think it was the interactive exhibition with photographs of Janette Beckman combined with Cey Adam´s graffiti. It was a two weeks long event in one of the best art galleries in Reykjavik. I organized this with Smutty Smiff, who is also a legend and Janette and Cey are his friends. We invited Janette with her exhibition, which took place earlier that year in New York and London and ended up with spectacular success in both places. The exhibition was called Hip Hop Mash Up and it was based on Cey´s graffiti interpretation of Janette´s most famous photos of legendary hip-hop artists. Our exhibition, however, was different than the others,because in one room in the gallery we´ve set up a real-live punk squat in the style of squats in 1970´s in UK. The squat was a tribute to Janette´s early punk photographs of Sex Pistols, The clash and other punk rock legends. On top of that, first two days we had 10 live bands playing in the gallery (punk and hip-hop). And like it wasn´t enough, I connected this event with Iceland Airwaves off venue schedule and we had 20 bands playing there in only two days. Pure madness! We ended up with this not only in all media in Iceland with this, but also in the main news broadcast in the national TV of Lithuania. Incredible!
Marcin: Is there an artists who´s event you would like to organize the most?
Wiktoria: I don´t know. I don´t think there is one. I am grateful for everything fate brings me and I´m doing my best for every event I get involved with to be different and special. It gives me cool kick of creativity.
Marcin: Do you remember how the concept of ITP came to be?
Wiktoria: I was sitting with my befriended band members of very known Icelandic groups in a coffee house in Neskaupsstaður, on the second day of a metal festival over there and we spoke about everything and nothing. And at some point I came with an idea to bring them over for a concert in Poland. They said: of course, Wiktoria, if you´ll organize it, we will go! And I have such a “feature”, that when I say that I will do something – I will. So I started to work on that after some time and here´s the result (laughs)
Marcin: What differentiates this event from other musical undertakings?
Wiktoria: Except for the fact, that it´s a total madness? I think everything. It´s a festival, which travels. Which is not bound to only one place. Festival, which formula is not crystalized yet and which can always change, depending on what will pop in to my weird head. And first and foremost: how many madmen will it draw to itself. I am very open for the idea to bring more creative people into the project, who could bring something into the project and make something better of it. Something limitless. And the main goal of the festival is human interaction between people so far apart and yet so similar to each other.
Marcin: I have an impression that Icelandic music is getting more and more popular, not only in our country but also in the world. Do you have similar thoughts?
Wiktoria: I think that boom for Icelandic music started few years ago and now it´s peeking. It starts now in Poland, because in our country the market is ruled mainly by hip-hop and electronica. So the flag Icelandic bands are popular since a while. And right now, when rock and metal bands are experiencing their renaissance, everyone is looking for inspirations in country filled with this sort of music. Besides that, Iceland is an exotic country for us. Fascinating. Also for me, and I´ve spent here nearly a decade.
Marcin: How do you perceive Icelandic music scene?
Wiktoria: Icelandic music scene is overcoming a transformation. There´s more and more bands. And the level of playing is getting higher. On the other hand there is a lot of commercial bands – directed rather towards success than love and passion for music itself. Icelandic music became a brand after international success of Björk, Sigur Rós and Múm. After that many musicians tried their best to follow their paths and repeat their success. After the success of Of Monsters And Men also started a parade of copy-cats. In general, I think the music scene needs a breakthrough from that “plasticfication”. And the breakthrough never comes from the mainstream.
Marcin: Tell us about your music passions and how they apply to what you are currently doing?
Wiktoria: I´m a musician myself, since childhood. I sing ever since I remember. My first public appearance was in early primary school. In my family there´s a lot of musicians and artists. My mother used to sing. Music is with me since childhood, it´s within me like blood – I can´t exist without her. I always try to make something for her: from writing songs, singing through organization of events and radio-hosting to managing other musicians. It´s close to me and necessary for me. I can not live in a different way. I´m sure there are more stable professions, but there´s not much life in them for me, from my point of view.
Marcin: You live in Iceland. Local music scene is probably very familiar to you. Tell me, which artists/bands you appreciate the most?
Wiktoria: Of course, I really appreciate Björk, for what she´s doing for the music, art and Icelandic culture. Nobody can compare themselves to her in that field. In music I look for truth and honesty, so I really respect artists such as Hlynur A. Vilmarsson from a band called Strígaskór 42, who is a genius in contemporary music composing. I love everything that does Bjarni M Sigurðarson from Mínus, who always engages himself in projects, which are not, so to say, expected to come from him and which surprise his surrounding. Besides that he´s broadly gifted musician and he doesn´t flatten himself to only one genre and everything he does is very natural and effortless. I really appreciate Ottoman band for the drive, stubbornness and hell-lot of work towards their vision. I admire Sólstafir for the courage in changes. I love Kontinuum, for thinking outside the box. I always try to find people, who are trying to make new paths, rather than run through the ones already made by others. Bravery, courage impresses me. It´s a very noble characteristic in a human being.
Marcin: Which Icelandic albums are your private top 5 favorites?
Wiktoria: Ok, in accidental order: Kontinuum – Kyrr, Náttfari – Töf, The Third Sound – The Third Sound, Sólstafir – Ótta, Kuml – Recorded live in 1995 in Studio Stöðinn, Þeyr – Mjötviður Mær. So we have six (laughs)
Marcin: Let´s go back to ITP. How long time does it take to create this type of party and how many people should be engaged?
Wiktoria: To organize this type of thing minimum 6-8 months is required. The more people works on it the better. I work on Iceland To Poland all on my own.
Marcin: So how do you manage?
Wiktoria: I don´t know (laughs) Smutty Smiff says sometimes that I´m not a human (laughs)
Marcin: Tell us, is working with artists an easy task or are there difficult compromises?
Wiktoria: It´s a very tough job. Especially for someone, who is also a passionate musician. It´s not a regular job. You work with all sorts of different people, in different time frames with flexible and unpredicted schedules, different times of day and night. Sometimes you feel like their mother, sometimes like a jail guard, sometimes like the biggest fan and sometimes like the worst critic. It´s a very challenging job, not for everyone for sure.
Marcin: Was it difficult to convince Icelanders to play a tour in Poland?
Wiktoria: Icelanders play in Poland for couple of years now: Björk, Sigur Rós, Sólstafir, GusGus, Low Roar and many others and they love Polish audience and atmosphere on concerts. It wasn´t difficult all that much. I would like everyone to be able to experience what it´s like. I want to show them, how Polish people can appreciate live music.
Marcin: On the stage of Iceland To Poland will be 4 Icelandic bands and one American singer-songwriter. Why this set-up? What were your directions in choice?
Wiktoria: The choice of bands on Icelandic side was completely accidental, because everything went not exactly the way I planned. At the end I´m really happy with this turnout. I think, that everything that happens in my life is always a bridge to something better. Organizing of this tour verified many things and people in my life: it showed me who is a real artist and who is a spoiled kid or a dude with pressure for money. It verified also many of my “friends”, to whom I magically stopped existing once I started the project. I´m not sad about it. I never had a need to surround myself with envious people and this project beautifully highlighted the ones in masks. And so to say: series of drama verified the squad of this year´s representation of Iceland To Poland. When it comes to Ledfoot: I´m his manager. And I wanted him to be a headliner for two reasons: because we´ve met in Iceland and that is an unbelievable story for me (from a bartender to a manager of world´s class artist) and mainly because it´s the best live act you can ever see. Period.
Marcin: Are you not afraid that this type of music won´t “adapt” in our country?
Wiktoria: I don´t have this type of worries. I think, that if music is good, no matter from which genre it is, it will adapt. It´s either you feel it or not. I think that most people can recognize weather the music comes from the heart or from the wallet. If you´re looking for this type of music, this year´s ITP will be a feast for you. That´s why I highly recommend to check out our concerts.
Marcin: Besides bands from Iceland there will be representation of Polish music scene?
Wiktoria: Yes, the plan is to invite one Polish band in each city to join the bill. At the end of the year we will bring those bands to Iceland. This way connections between our countries will tighten up. This year we have The Frosts, Merkabah, Sounds Like The End Of The World and People Of The Haze. Mixed genres. I think this crew will do great in Iceland.
Marcin: What kind of reception did you get in Poland for this project?
Wiktoria: Until this very day I´ve received a lot of emails with gratulations on the idea, including representatives of diplomacy. I am proud of this project. And I think that this tremendous, beyond-human effort is for something. I believe that this project will change something in people. I don´t know, what will be the consequence of it all, but I believe, that I´m doing good things.
Marcin: What type of problems have you been facing during organization of the tour? What will be the most difficult part in retrospective?
Wiktoria: You know what, the most difficult for me was (and still is) fight with myself. I always have three demons in my head. Usually they are my pets, but when it comes to great challenges, they can bite. And the whole point is to net let yourself be eaten. It´s exhausting. To the limits. Only distance and help of my closest people made me not to give up. And I´m thankful for that.
Marcin: How will the event of Iceland To Poland look like?
Wiktoria: All bands have around 30-40 minutes on stage. It´s long enough to show what you´ve got (laugh). And it´s a perfect time for waiting for another act. The concerts will be highly dynamic. Boredom will not be an option.
Marcin: What type of attractions will wait for us on concerts? Will you be able to purchase some memoirs?
Wiktoria: There will be a merch stand in each club, so go crazy!
Marcin: How can you buy tickets for Iceland To Poland?
Wiktoria: Tickets are available online and I recommend visiting biletomat.pl
Marcin: What would you like to tell people, who still hasn´t decide to come to the gigs?
Wiktoria: As I mentioned this before: concerts will be of “flesh and bone”, very dynamic, amazing Icelandic and Polish artists and phenomenal headliner from States, who´s concerts are unforgettable. If you want to be shot through – come and see us!
Marcin: And what is your biggest dream in context of ITP?
Wiktoria: I wish it would be a festival, which will be a seed in growing stronger Icelandic and Polish cultural relation and also an inspiration for people, who have something to bring into the world, but lack the courage to make a first step. I wish this festival would give a chance to people for their personal development, and I´m not talking only about artists, but also about the audience.
Marcin: Maybe this question is a bit early… but are you planning consecutive editions of Iceland To Poland?
Wiktoria: That´s the plan. But for sure after the first one I will need solid vacation without thinking about work (laughs)
Marcin: Thank you for the conversation. I cross fingers for Iceland To Poland. It looks very interesting. I hope we will have more events like this one.