Recently we have introduced our review of the debut album called „Höfuðsynd” by Atónal Blús .
See what Gestur Guðnason (founder of the band) has to say about the band and their music in our interview below.
Marcin: Hi Gestur, please tell me how you were created the compositions for your debut album.
Gestur Guðnason: Hi, I guess it´s a mixture of a subconscious flow of ideas, or composing solely by playing and listening which is probably the most common approach to writing rock/pop/folk music, versus a more calculated approach like using compositional techniques more often associated with classical music. Sometimes I take an idea that pops up while I´m fiddling around with the guitar and process it with some composition technique and sometimes I start playing „subconsciously” with ideas that came out of calculated methods to make them sound more pleasing.
Marcin: When did you write these songs?
Gestur Guðnason: Some of the songs or parts of them stretch back about 6 years while other songs and ideas are more recent. But most of the material was finalized and finished during the recording and after production process that took place from June 2010 – August 2013.
Marcin: And what is the rhythm which is quite irregular and strange?
Gestur Guðnason: For this album I used quite a lot of odd meter rhythms like 11/8 and 7/8 which are common in traditional Balkan folk music but not often heard otherwise except in modern jazz or classical music. The folk music I seek inspiration from on the other hand has a very strong melodic and rhythmic character that I wanted to preserve. It´s form structures are also very clear. The odd rhythms are usually played very fast in traditional Balkan music but I experiment with slowing them down. When slowed down they´re character changes and they become very „groovy”.
Marcin: Album „Höfuðsynd” has a very interesting sound. How you created this type of sound?
Gestur Guðnason: I took the decision for this record to try to create a soundscape unfamiliar to me and use instruments I haven’t used before like the theremin and harmonica and synth like sounding fuzz pedals for the guitar. By this I´m trying to achieve some kind of a merge of cultural worlds and different periods in time with an ancient sound inspired by folk music, treated with a blend of both subconscious and calculated composition techniques, in a more modern and electrified soundscape.
Marcin: Where was the album recorded and what was the process of recording the album like?
Gestur Guðnason: The album was recorded in several studios in Reykjavik. I wrote out parts for each instrument that then where formed in the rehearsal and recording process by the players. Some parts were also improvised and some nice mistakes where let to float along to. And I did most of the vocals in my garage.
Marcin: What’s the main concept of your album?
Gestur Guðnason: Well it´s not a concept album but creating a merger between rhythms inspired by ancient folk music and putting them in a modern electrified soundscape could be it.
Marcin: What’s happening lyrically on the album?
Gestur Guðnason: It´s mostly free floating ideas and fantasies while some lyrics are based on more personal experiences. I often use contradictions and distortion of the reality to fuel the imagination. One could try to analyze the lyrics in a Freudian kind of way to but the meaning of it all is something I don´t think about in the process of writing. I tend to pile up a lot of words and what´s interesting stays and what´s not gets thrown away. To tie the lyrics together sonically I like to use assonance and alliteration. Then I sometimes decide to use words I babble along when first starting to fiddle around with musical ideas on the guitar like „Sexual slave” and not process the lyric to much at all.
Marcin: You sing in English and Icelandic. It’s a little bit mixed.
Gestur Guðnason: Yes, new thing I´m trying lyrically on this record is mixing languages within a song. The main experiment in that is the song „Apolelegy” that has a lyric originally written in English by Canadian poet Angela Rawlings, then translated to Icelandic by me and then the two languages where merged together. We wanted the merge to be both on a small scale like words within sentences and also a on a larger one like sentences and verses/choruses switching languages.
Marcin: What are the bands to inspire you?
Gestur Guðnason: A lot! The bands I´ve played in have inspired me a lot. Works for classical guitar by composer Leo Brouwer. I played a lot of those during my time studying classical guitar. Nirvana for very clear and thought out song structures. A lot of recent r’n’b music with inventive sounds and arrangements. And also ethnic music and metal.
Marcin: What bands you played in?
Gestur Guðnason: I have played in several bands over a period of time. The ones to mention would be Stórsveit Nix Noltes, Númer Núll, 5ta Herdeildin, Fatherz´n´Sonz, Benni Hemm Hemm and Skátar.
Marcin: And the last question is who made the cover of the album and how it connects with the music or lyrics?
Gestur Guðnason: I had this crazy idea of putting a giant sperm cell on a beach dragging and anchor with its tail and shoot it in Skagafjörður, where I grew up, in northwest Iceland. The idea of the spermatozoid dragging an anchor comes from the first line in the lyric to „Höfuðsynd” the title track of the album. Then in the spur of the moment I decided to walk naked into the sea and that´s what you see on the cover. The islands seen in the distance are called Drangey and Málmey and are Skagafjörðurs main identities. The photo was shoot by Óli Arnar and my friend Jóhannes Atli, sculptor and painter helped out with making things look right. Another friend Ágúst Friðriksson then drew the gigantic spermatozoid onto the photograph.
Marcin: Thank you for the interview and good luck.
Gestur Guðnason: Thank you.