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I had to go through a few logistical issues, but I managed to have a quick talk with Guðmundur first and Aðalbjörn then, just after their gig in Milan, between one sip of red wine and another in their tourbus. It's been quick, it was half past midnight of a monday night, the band was getting relaxed after the (too short) show, but I had the chance to annoy the two icelandic cowboys with a couple of questions. Here is the result.
So, what is your first impression of the night?
Guðmundur: Oh, it was very nice, people were very much into it, although the club wasn't full, that doesn't matter.
Also because it's monday night.
Guðmundur: Exactly. There was a great reaction, that's the important thing; people were singing during the songs and so on…
Yeah, after "Fjara" people went on singing, that was quite a chorus.
Guðmundur: That was great. [sniggering]
Is this your first time in Italy? As far as I can remember you haven't been around for a while.
Guðmundur: No, actually it's not the first time, but it's just the second one. The first was back in 2010.
I see. This personally was my third Sólstafir show, but the other two were at big summer festivals: what are the differences between these two kind of exhibitions? Huge crowds, big stages, and small places and numbers like this one.
Guðmundur: Probably the main difference is that being in small places is way more energetic, you know, you can see the people in the front row, only a few meters away from you.
Which of the two do you think is the most suitable for your music, for your way of feeling it?
Guðmundur: I don't know, I like them both. I like playing at big festivals, but I also like to play in small clubs, we always like to play.
And you'll be on tour for a while now, but what then? It's been a while since "Svartir Sandar" has come out…
Guðmundur: Our plan is to play at some summer festivals, then, in september, hopefully a headliner tour, but I'm just saying this, there's nothing confirmed yet. Then, writing some new stuff, when we're home. We're going to have a new album out hopefully very early in 2014.
Are you already writing something during the tour? Are you the kind of band that writes music on the tourbus?
Guðmundur: No, no, we need to enter our rehearsal room for five, six, eight ours a day and see what comes out. That's the way we write.
And what would you say are your main influences? Since your debut "Í Blóði Og Anda" your music changed quite a bit, what changed in your mind, in your life, to bring you at this point?
Guðmundur: You know, we were sixteen when we started the band, we're in our thirties now. Everything changed in our life. We've never seen it as a "big step", it's always been a very natural process… [thinks about it a bit] Yeah, I don't know. We've always played only what we wanted to play.
So it's just been coming out from the rehearsal room.
Guðmundur: That's it. I can't really think of something in particular, no when, where or why. It's just a natural procession.
Well, you are quite a particular band, your music is very personal, I remember that last summer at Brutal Assault you introduced yourselves as the slowest and the softest band of the whole lineup, how do you feel when you play in a festival where you have Immortal, At The Gates and then Sólstafir, with their "different" music?
Guðmundur: It's cool. You know, especially at festivals, you might be listening to death metal bands for a whole day straight, and then we come on. People usually like that, they get a little break from the brutal stuff. So eventually, even if we do not really fit in, we kind of fit in.
[Suddenly a tipsy Aðalbjörn enters the tourbus, takes a seat in front of us and joins the convesation.]
Aðalbjörn: I saw this guy crying and I asked him: "what the fuck are you doing man?". And he was crying listening to some lyrics, love lyrics. A grown man, crying next to you, because of girl problems. What the fucking… I hugged the guy, fuck man. You're not gonna leave the poor bastard alone, are you? And then he came back to me, the same guy, you know, heart broken… [mumbles something I cannot understand]
Well I can understand the poor guy. I mean, I myself was here with my girlfriend, I think Sólstafir is suitable music to be listened to with your girlfriend. I'm sorry for him.
[Aðalbjörn stares at me as if I just said the greatest bullshit of the century, then points at the recorder]
Aðalbjörn: Is this recording?
I hope so, otherwise when I'll be writing the whole thing down I won't remember a thing. Do you have any problems with the recording?
Aðalbjörn: No, no no, absolutely.
[turns towards Sahg members, minding their business a few seats away in the bus]
Aðalbjörn: Guys. Hush.
So, are you enjoying the tour? Is it boring? How is it going?
Guðmundur: We are enjoying it, you know, very good people…
Aðalbjörn: You know, the first soundcheck we performed in this tour, we had a broken a Les Paul. It started really good. But luckily Dave [Jordan, ndr] from Long Distance Calling, he's our guitar-tech, he managed to get us all the equipment and all the guitars.
[At this point Guðmundur leaves me with his bandmate and goes back outside, and the conversation continues.] I asked that question because last year, talking to Anders [Nystrom, ndr] from Katatonia, he said that being on tour was very hard because apart from that hour and a half a day you play, the other twentytwo you are still far from home.
Aðalbjörn: I can top that. Today in particular. Today it was forty minutes on the stage and twentythree hours and twenty minutes away from home. I can definitely top that.
["And Sahg can top that too", adds Thomas from Sahg, making everybody laugh]
Aðalbjörn: Anyway, this is totally true but, well, that's the game. So be it.
And you can enjoy it, as well.
Aðalbjörn: Of course! [very enthusiastic] This is what you live for! You play forty minutes or two hours, nothing changes, that's the reason of it all. I remember reading this story from a tour manager for Mötley Crüe, he was really worried about the guys, wondering how the fuck can they go on like that. Work ninety minutes a day, and the other hours they were fucking cockeyed. It's tough, waking up in the morning, get your health back. I'm always worried 'bout my voice, tonight for forty minutes it was fine, ok. But having the performance right is number one. We drink on stage, we do, but we never go on stage drunk. That's like a rule. I wouldn't go on stage drunk. I'm thirtyfive, I wouldn't pay a cent to see wasted guys on stage. It's pathetic. It's funny when you're sixteen, no more. After the gig, I can get hammered, but not before.
That's quite a philosophy, I can remember Nevermore disappointing fans more than once because of their perfomances spoilt by alcohol.
Aðalbjörn: That was stupid. I agree. You know, we do not have many rules in the band. We never play with five-string basses or seven-string guitars, fuck them, and we never go on stage drunk. Last one, we never decide what music we write. Just, we take what is coming ahead.
Yes, Gummy was telling me that the rehearsal room is the place where everything comes out.
Aðalbjörn: Exactly. It's like a fucking radio antenna. Whatever is broadcast, you catch. It's the chemistry of being part of a band. If I was a solo artist, I would be hiring session guys, it wouldn't be Sólstafir. When you are four guys, there must be a magic part. That magic is being the band.
So, Gummy was telling me about your plans, summer shows and so on, and he was kind of suggesting a headliner tour.
Aðalbjörn: Well, we owe it to our fans, we would love to do it, but… [disconsolate look] Let's face it: Italy is not our main goal.
I know. I am sorry to hear that, but I know.
Aðalbjörn: It's a fact. Of course we love coming here and fans are great. But it costs a lot of money to run this thing. So, when we fly to Germany, for example, it's like heaven. Like Mecca.
I know, during summer I always have to go to Germany or central Europe to find a festival. This was my third Sólstafir show, but the first in Italy.
Aðalbjörn: The point is: we are doing two or three tours now, playing forty minutes. We are going to come back and play ninety-minute shows, mostly in Germany, Austria, Switzerland. There's been a lot of pressure from France, because we have a french label. There's been a lot of fucking pressure from Poland. And in Scandinavia, as well. Like I said, it's sad to say, I love coming here, but a small band is not going to have ten gigs in Italy, because it would lose a lot of money. We can't afford it. And you can't expect to have a band right in your town, so, if you're a fan, you have to travel. Kids don't buy albums, they hardly go to shows, and some say "fuck you man, you make enough money already". No. If we don't make any money, we can't do this stuff. You like a band? Support it.
Hey, the webzine I write for is very much against digital delivery and so on, we think that if you like a band, you should give it something. The band gives you the music, but what do you give to the band?
Aðalbjörn: Exactly! Currently, we are living on selling t-shirts. Because you cannot download a t-shirt yet.
["Actually you can download a t-shirt today", Thomas from Sahg states.]
Aðalbjörn: Thomas, shut the fuck up.
The guys then start to joke around about being or not being gay, who is the most good looking guy on the bust and so on. I do not want to spoil such a lovely picture, so I just ask for a signature on my copy of "Masterpiece Of Bitterness", have a short discussion with Aðalbjörn about the etymology of my own name (everybody take a note: Andrea is NOT a girly name), wish them all the best and then I'm out, back in the foggy night of Milan. Aðalbjörn's words about Italy were not very encouraging, but I hope to see them back soon.