Iceland has produced its fair share of interesting music artists. On one hand you have Björk, the eclectic singer-songwriter who wows the world with her mix of electronic ambient rock. Then there’s Sigur Rós, the quartet that produce minimal, classical and melodic sounds. Those accompanied by singer Jónsi’s falsetto delivery creates a heavy dose of dream pop that’s been around for over a decade.
Now, there’s more noise coming out of Iceland in the form of singer-songwriter Mugison. Usually going solo on stage with nothing but a computer and a guitar, this one-time fisherman decided to go to London to study record producing. After this, four records followed, each having their own unique sound, this primarily the effect of Mugison’s wide range of influences, as well as his short attention span that tends to float around instead of sticking to one distinct sound.
Clubplanet caught up with Mugison while he was in New York opening up for Queens of the Stone Age to chat about his love affair with the headliners, the influences of machinery sound and "New York cocaine music."
Clubplanet: So how are things going for you on tour so far? I hear you’re opening up for Queens of the Stone Age.
Mugison: Yea we’ve been touring Canada with Queens of the Stone Age for nearly three weeks now. It’s like a dream; they’re the coolest cats in town everywhere you go. (laughs) It’s a real privilege because there’s no volume limits at the show and there are no hassles. It’s just cool all the way. I’ve just had so much with them, I wish I could just marry them and have their kids. (laughs)
CP: It seems like your music draws heavily from American blues. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Mugison: This album is quite different from my others. When I started working on this one I was heavily into the Memphis blues and rock and roll. Some of these old records are so intense that their music actually becomes facts of life. I was very into the music and the way that they played their instruments that it made me want to make an album like that.
CP: Is there a great deal of bluesy music in Iceland at all?
Mugison: No no, we’re in the middle of the ocean between America and Europe, so we have this fucked up mixture of the two worlds. Everything gets passed through there. It’s almost like a fucked up restaurant. (laughs)
CP: When did you pick up the guitar?
Mugison: When I was 14 I got a guitar as a Christmas present. I was heavily into sports at the time, but the guitar seemed alright. The guitar led me to drink and smoke and look at women. (laughs)
CP: It seems like a lot of Icelandic music has a noise element to it, where the sound really feels fully saturated. Do you think this is a consistent element in your homeland?
Mugison: Yea I think we like extremes you know, and we like for things to stand out. Being loud is one way to do that. There are many extremes in Iceland, like the weather and the darkness. In the summer we have 24 hours of daylight, and in the winter we have 24 hours of darkness. As well as the fishermen there, they are very extreme with their storytelling.
CP: You were actually a fisherman yourself?
Mugison: Yes I was.
CP: Has being a fisherman in Iceland played a role in the raw sound of your music?
Mugison: Yes, especially when I was working in the factories. I was really turned on by the machinery noise. I was really inspired by the heavy and loud noises of those machines. I’d listen to that for about 16 hours a day.
CP: What music have you been listening to lately?
Mugison: A lot of different stuff. I try to listen to as much music as I can. I’ve been listening to some Portishead and Black Keys. I like the change of listening to Portishead especially with their last album. Just when people thought they couldn’t get anymore melancholic. (laughs)
CP: What would you say are some of your major influences?
Mugison: I’d say Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, Björk, Aphex Twin, Tom Waits, Elvis Presley.
CP: That’s quite the range of music there.
Mugison: Yea. You know, I have a really short attention span and I have to constantly be surprised. I think that the biggest problem with modern stuff is that it’s so much alike. People always have the necessity of staying in a certain genre, which I think is so stupid. It narrows down the things that you’re capable of doing. It’s like driving the same car all your life. Or never changing underpants. (laughs) I have to be surprised all the time, so if I’m hearing the same song over and over again I feel very irritated.
CP: Do you try and create your music based on a certain vision, or do you just let things go as they will?
Mugison: I try to let it work itself out. I might go to a gig and check out some band and get really inspired and go home and do a cheap version from whatever they were doing. But then mix it with something else a couple of weeks later.
CP: What are some of the cities that you’re playing in the U.S. right now?
Mugison: Well we’re only doing New York City for the moment. Then we’re off to Europe to play 35 gigs or so. Then we have to have a break in August because two of the band members have to have babies. Then we start again in late September.
CP: What are some cities that you hope to play in the U.S.?
Mugison: I would love to drive across the whole country. Do a massive tour where I could stop in LA, San Francisco, Austin, Chicago… just do the whole route and end up in New York. I’d like to do like 40 gigs in a row.
CP: What are some of your other plans for the remainder of the year?
Mugison: Yea apart from the break we have to take, we’ll just keep touring and do some recording sessions planned. I’m also working on a side project and I’ll use some of the time we have off to work on it. It’s music for café’s and commercials. You know, New York cocaine music. (laughs)
Click here to hear more from Mugison.