We have already introduced our review of the album
“Sem Skuggin” by Dynfari on the website.
Are you curious about what Jóhann Örn of Dynfari had to say about the album’s recording, the music and lyrics from the album and many other issues, as well as the band’s plans for the near future?
A transcription of our conversation can be found below.
Marcin: Let’s start out with a little history for our readers who haven’t heard Dynfari before. When did you get together and what have you done so far?
Jóhann: This whole thing started in late autumn 2010, spawning as some jam while we were still playing in our heavily old school influenced death metal band. That jam later evolved into our first full-length album, „Dynfari”, which was released just before the Icelandic Eistnaflug festival in 2011. Some of the earliest material extended its grasp into „Sem Skugginn”, our second full-length album released last year by Code666 Records / Aural Music. We are now recording our third album, as well as laying the foundation for European tour next July.
Marcin: It’s been almost exactly two years since your debut „Dynfari” was released. what does this album mean to you, in retrospect?
Jóhann: We like it. However, we do not like it as much as we could. You could say we like it like you like a pet… if that makes any sense at all. „Dynfari“ is an album that has a very nice feel to it and we care about it a great deal. But we were just 19-year-old when we recorded it and, although the production and sound is phenomenal, we just weren’t very professional with the recording process. We settled for some less than good takes, and sometimes playing things out of our reach as instrumentalists at the time. Jón Emil had just practiced playing drums for 9 or 10 months when the album was recorded. Now, almost three years have passed and we have made a lot of progress, both as instrumentalists and songwriters.
Despite its flaws it still remains an interesting listen. Debut albums often tend to be a bit weird which, in turn, is what makes them interesting. People are taking their first steps in something new and kind of don’t know what they’re doing. Therefore, some really interesting ideas may come to light, which is definitely what happens a lot on „Dynfari”.
In short, we love it, but if we were to record it today, it would be a whole lot different.
Marcin: I’d like to hear about the writing process of your last album “Sem skugginn”. Tell me about how did that come about?
Jóhann: A lot of the songs were written beforehand. The main song structure was decided before rehearsing, where some good ideas came about with more detailed things like knitting the songs together and bridging parts within them. For the first time we used acoustic instruments – both an acoustic guitar and a flute. The latter was played by a session member, Holly.
Marcin: How does it differ from your debut album?
Jóhann: Drums are tighter, sound and production is different, and generally just has a different vibe to it. The music itself is not so different though, as most of it was written in the same time period.
Marcin: What is in your opinion the most important in music?
Jóhann: Its influence on body and soul, both soothing and mind expanding, and the spectacular setting it gives to otherwise dull social situations. The feeling that makes the hair stand up on the back of our neck and you can’t help but lose yourself in the moment. When you feel like you relate somehow, be it calm and mellow or harsh and aggressive.
Marcin: While you create your music, what are you inspired by?
Jóhann: Various music I am listening to at the time as well as some classic artists that have influenced me through the years. Living on an isolated island in the middle of the ocean with nature in all its glory and catastrophy. Our reality, the human condition, and the winter blues.
Marcin: What are the bands that previously inspired you and inspire you now?
Jóhann: That’s a long list. Some of the ones that happen to be on the top of my mind right now is post-rock acts such as This Will Destroy You, Mogwai, along with Germ and more. Some all-time favourites include Austere, Woods of Desolation, Nyktalgia, Burzum, Gallowbraid, Alcest, Sólstafir, Drudkh, etc.
Marcin: What does it mean to you to sing in your native tongue?
Jóhann: It simply feels more natural for our lyrical themes. Also, if you think years from now, it will probably be more valuable to have a piece of art preserving many dying linguistic traditions in our constantly evolving Icelandic language rather than something in an international language like English. I really like that Icelandic bands seem to finally be realizing this, with more and more bands performing in Icelandic. However, the Icelandic market is so small, that more commercial bands are very tempted to write in English to have an easier time targeting foreign markets. We like to focus our energy more on the best way for us to express ourselves, and it should first and foremost be through the music. If people would like to read the philosophy behind the lyrics and what it all means, they will have to do some research. I still always try to sing clearly so those who understand Icelandic can understand what I am saying.
Marcin: What happens lyrically on “Sem skugginn?”
Jóhann: It’s an ode to humanity’s decline and the general unawareness of our profoundly miniscule status in the grand cosmos. Humanity lives „As the Shadow“ („Sem Skugginn“) of what it once was or could be. Maybe one day the lyrics will be translated, but until then, those who don’t understand Icelandic can make their own interpretations through what we are trying to convey.
Marcin: Who made the artworks for your albums and does it connect with the music somehow?
Jóhann: The artwork for both „Dynfari” and „Sem Skugginn” was handled by Andrea Aðalsteins. She deserves great praise for her work especially for the „Sem Skugginn“ artwork. The cover photograph used on the limited CD release of „Dynfari“ is by Gummi „Heldriver” from Sólstafir. That picture fitted perfectly to the concept of that album, which followed a mourner getting lost in a snowstorm. Andrea’s art also rhymed pretty well to Sem Skugginn’s concept, with its rather grand artistical themes and landscapes to the album‘s soundscapes.
Marcin: What music do you listen to and could recommend?
Jóhann: I’m very much into the new-ish Enslaved album these days, along with Mogwai. Also listening to the new Gorguts record, being a long-time listener of old school death metal. There is so much interesting music being released, I try very hard to keep up and check out a lot of new music. One or two albums a week is an absolute minimum.
Marcin: If you could do a cover of any song of any band, which one would it be and why?
Jóhann: That’s an easy one, as we are at this moment doing a cover for a reissue of „Sem Skugginn”. The song is „Just For a Moment” by Australian black metal band Austere, so I guess that would have to be the answer to this question. It’s a song from an album which changed the way how we viewed music and has had a tremendous influence on our songwriting. Fantastic musicians there on the other side of this sphere.
Marcin: Do you believe in music as a full-time job or is it more like a hobby to spend you freetime?
Jóhann: There is no way you can make music a full-time job in Iceland, as with most places for this kind of music. The stuff countries like Canada are doing right now is really not helping, so this will definitely remain a very passionate hobby.
Marcin: What are you doing now? What are your musical plans for the future?
Jóhann: We will finish recording the Austere cover for the „Sem Skugginn” reissue soon enough, along with what is left for the third album. Next year we plan to tour Europe to promote the new album and have a really great time doing it. What comes after that is still uncertain, but Dynfari will remain a long-term project. We have a lot in store.
Marcin: How would you describe the musical sound of the new album and how does it differ from the previous recording?
Jóhann: I don’t want to describe the sound in too much detail, both because it has not yet been mixed and also because I don’t want to have it hyped too much. People should, like with most other things, take it with an open mind. I can promise though that we do our very best to deliver exceptional work and this will be an album very much worth checking out.
Marcin: What can we expect sonically from your next album?
Jóhann: There will be a healthy dose of acoustic instruments on the third album. The writing process for it is similar to „Sem Skugginn” but we believe the songwriting and song structure in particular is more polished, with better instrumentation and general musicianship. You can expect the same dynamic mixture of the quiet to a wall of sound. Remember: open mind. No expectations.
Marcin: Do you know something about Polish metal scene? Do you know any Polish band?
Jóhann: Not much, but we know some larger acts like Decapitated, Behemoth and Vader. I haven’t delved deep into the underground scene there, but would love to one day.