Interviste | Pubblicato il 19 ottobre 2014
[Interviste]: Una chiacchierata con Óbó
A cura di: Nicola Orlandino
Abbiamo il piacere di presentarvi Óbó, il progetto solista dell’artista islandese Ólafur Björn Ólafsson. E’ noto soprattutto per essere membro dei Storsveit Nix Noltes e collaboratore per i tour di Sigur Ros e Jonsi (come tastierista e percussionista). Con questa nuova avventura mette in evidenza le sue doti di multi-strumentista e cantautorali. Innhverfi è l’album di debutto che uscirà il 14 Novembre per Morr Music. Vi presentiamo il primo singolo estratto ”Rett Eda Rangt?” e subito dopo un’intervista (in inglese, non tradotta) con cui approfondiamo alcuni aspetti della sua musica.
Let’s start with “Innhverfi”, your first solo album. How is born the idea of the album and what is the concept that there is behind it?
I started recording Innhvefi about eight years ago and it soon became the focus point of my creative output. Although I was involved with many other projects and collaborations during the period, this soon became more personal for me. I was traveling a lot during the time and I also lived abroad for a while. In the back of my mind I always liked the idea of going back to the house were I grew up to record an album. It was the place where I still kept a lot of instruments and I was curious to record in all the different rooms where I had spent so much time practising and experimenting. I wanted to capture some of that and try out the different accoustics and sounds the house had to offer. So i started recording there, in the basement of my parents place, in between tours and whenever I had time between other projects. One summer while they were away on holiday I took over the whole house, brought in a vibraphone and some more instruments and thats when most of the album was recorded. I became inspired by the place, it is in the suburbs of Reykjavik and I think that is evident in the lyrics as well. At the same time, I found it really tragic to end up back in my parents place, it seemed as if nothing had changed there all the time I had been away. At the time I desperately didn’t want to live there but ironically it was the only place I had to do the recordings and maybe that was a blessing in disguise.
Your attitude seems to be exploring various styles, a kind of music that is genre-free. Is this correct?
Yes but although I try to stay away from any one specific genre, I think the music on Innhverfi is still within the singer-songwriter genre. I wanted to mix together different styles but without it sounding too technical or learned. I wanted to make an album where I mixed what I had learned since I left the house together with the music that I had loved when I was growing up. I tried to make the songs simple with broad lines that one could hum along with. But then the arrangements grew into different directions during the recording period. Some of the arrangements were inspired directly by projects that I was working on with other people at the time. For example, the flutes and woodwinds in “Gjallarhornin” were inspired by Nico Muhly’s arrangements for Jonsi’s solo album. I was also very fortunate to be able to bring in friends who are the most amazing players. That often created something very special and unforeseen, like Borgar Magnason’s double bass intro for “Úthverfi” and Róbert Reynisson’s guitar parts. Alex Somers, who mixed the album, really contributed to the album as well.
Soundscaping is an important part of your work. What about the connection between this aspect, the artwork, your native land and your music?
I was interested in bringing together different types of recordings and to make a collage of sounds. Since I recorded everything myself, I was also indulging in trying to capture sounds that were extramusical. For example to see what happened when I blended field recordings with more straightforward studio recordings . Or have the microphone out in the garden while playing the instruments inside the house. This creates a sense of voeyurism for the listener, like he is hearing the music from outside of a window outside the house where the music is coming from, like a Peeping Tom. (Maybe a bit like Alfred Hitchcock’s obsession with voyerism in the film The Rear Window…) To me, soundscaping has much to do with trying to change the way the music is presented in order to shift the listeners perception from how he is used to hearing things.
Of course I am far from being the first one to try this. I was very lucky to have Inga Birgisdóttir do the artwork for the album and she came up with this amazing picture of a tree or a bush that was inverted and somehow had turned into itself, like a blackhole. So very epic.
But as much as I would like to be able to say that this album was inspired especially by Icelandic nature, I just don’t think it would be fair. Of course, just being in Iceland, you are exposed to the nature all of the time. I guess it just sinks in to the music without you noticing it.
You have collaborated with Sigur Ros, Jonsi and other important artists.What is the weight of these experiences on your solo work?
I think I was very inspired to try out certain things in my music after having played with these people. I wrote the oldest song on the album many years ago when I was on tour performing with Emiliana Torrini. I picked up a lot from her, she is an amazing vocalist and songwriter. So is Jonsi as well of course and Sigur Ros have made some incredible music that I was very fortunate to perform with them on their last tour. I am constantly picking up things from the people i work with and trying out in my music, sometimes it´s obvious and sometimes it´s more hidden.
You will be at Iceland Airwaves. Have you already in your mind how to propose your music in live version? There will be a visual part?
I have put together a band for the Icealand Airwaves show, which will take place in a church in downtown Reykjavik, a very nice venue that I hope will suit my music. Most of the players in the band are on the album so I look forward to the show with them. The backdrop will therefore be a huge painting of Jesus Christ the Saviour, although I hope people will not read to much into it.
Are You Planning a tour? In case, can you give us some details about it?
I have no plans for a tour yet although the idea has been brought up. If the shows in Icealand Airwaves go well I hope to do more in the future.
Last Question. What about Storsveit Nix Noltes project?
Yes, very good question! I miss those guys, hope to catch up with them soon.