Recently Sólstafir released the majestic ’Berdreyminn’ which stands for ‘a dreamer of forthcoming events’. Something like Helrunar’s German ‘Spokenkieker’? The comparison just crossed my mind when listening to this amazing, yet logical successor of ’Ottá’. Pretty soon I learned that things have changed in the Sólstafir camp. Of course drummer Gummi was fired – most of the time he answered our questions in the past – and interviews could only be done by Skype. But we preferred to talk with vocalist Addi at Graspop, right after their Belgian festival gig, rather than waiting for an email reply or long distance communication. I followed Addi backstage to their dressing room where we found a quiet environment, having the following spontaneous conversation.
Addi, as most of the bands do these days, Sólstafir tours a lot. Yet we want to focus on one of those short tours you did in Spring 2016, some selected gigs with real strings and piano, playing ‘Ótta’ integrally. That was something extraordinary. How do you look back at this happening?
That was something we always wanted to try. We always hoped for it, doing this somewhere in the future. The idea came up; let’s do this. We had imagined the whole show would be something special. In the studio, our music is regaled with piano and strings, so this would invigorate the live experience with an extra zest and grace. The thing was, we had ten dates and after ten days it was running so smoothly that we thought: we should do this for a month! Unfortunately the planning did not allow that. There’s so much things that have to go well together. It should have been a little bit longer, but we have learned a lot from it and we are surely planning to do something similar again. Not the ‘Ótta’ thing of course, but with maybe most of the new album, mixed with something else. We have not really spoken about it, but it is an idea to do it again. The first rehearsal – we did one rehearsal in London before the first gig – was some sort of a new thing for all of us. Having contact with classical musicians, Martin on keys and people for live strings… working together on our songs. That was weird: a bunch of heavy metal kids with professional musicians around us (laughs). But it felt really great and we learned a lot and we will do it again soon.
How did you come in contact with Martin Powell, around the turn of the century he was known from My Dying Bride, Anathema and Cradle Of Filth, playing violin and keyboards…
We had been doing a short UK run and he came to one of our shows. I think it was in Nottingham Rock City. Aaron, our manager had invited him, so we met him there and started to get along very well. We had in mind if he would do this, he’d be the right guy. He was available and what a tremendous talent he is. He is top notch class and a great human being.
Let us focus on the new album ‘Berdreyminn’ now, which stands for ‘a dreamer of forthcoming events’. Is there a general concept running through the lyrics, like with ‘Ótta’ or not?
Well, in a way. There’s a lot of songs that relate to darkness and to each other on this album. Mostly it is about darkness that can form in one’s head and how it affects people around you, the ones we love as well. No matter if it leads to depression, addiction, troubles, basically just your insanity. Darkness in domestic violence, narcistic behaviour… Some people lose their minds, all those excesses… Darkness is confronting and leans itself to tell stories about.
We certainly cannot see this apart from the place you live, Island… and its rude weather and nature…
Yes indeed, nine months a year there is darkness.
How do you survive that?
It is weird. It did not really affect me as a kid. As if I did not noticed it as a child.
Because you did not know anything else probably…
Exactly, but when you grow up and start touring and going abroad we just realized how weird it is having nine months a year of darkness and I even grew up in a place up north which has even more darkness than in Reykjavik. Of course there is a lack of light and it brings you down, but as a teenager you have other things to worry about. You keep growing up and think that is the reality everywhere It is what it is.
Then came touring and travelling. What did you experience then?
It happened in such a long time. It is not like it happens in one day. The first gig abroad was in Copenhagen, then go to Finland. We played some festivals. We did not just jump into an airplane and go to Europe. Of course I have been as a kid to Germany. I have been used to that.
Never thought about moving?
I have moved. I moved to Norway. I have lived in Norway once. I lived in Scotland. I have lived in London as well…
Wow such a busy metropolis!
I love London as a visitor. It is a great place to visit, but living in it… I don’t think I can do that again. It is almost like – we have a saying – you grew up in paradise and you moved to Mordor. The contrast is huge. Like I said, I love England, but I don’t think I can live there again. Now I live in Reykjavik.
But Island is a huge country, I found out it is half of Spain actually…
It is a pretty big island and there is only 350,000 people. When I grew up there was only 250,000, even less. The country itself is quite big, it is bigger than England. Most of the places are just wastelands and highlands. You cannot live there. It is expensive now, but you won’t be disappointed. You have to go there, rent a car, and follow Highway I. It goes around the country and you see most of the highlights.
Well, now something we cannot ignore. In the meantime there has been a lot of press about the departure of drummer Gummi, but today I’d like to hear your view on it anyways if you don’t mind…
He did not leave the band, we had to fire him. It did not happen overnight. It is not like things were good and all of a sudden we said ‘we are going to fire him’. This went over a long time, for years. He was starting laughing at me and everything has a breaking point. When you are in a band, you let a lot of things slide, because you are a gang, a family, a bond… but the last eighteen months there were so much personal things going on… it was personal… the band members were quitting. I was trying to talk to the band members not to quit the band…the management was leaving… the crew was leaving… there were vodka bottles flying around… So there was… we could not go on anymore… it is like in a doomed marriage. You try and try, for the kids or whatever, but it did not work. The band was dying. It was starting to rot. Well, three in the band did not have this conflict. We wanted to write music together, but there was one person that did not get along with us three. So we did what we did. It was a tough decision and tough decisions always come with a backlash. When you make tough decisions, not everybody on the table is going to be happy about it. It was hard, but it had to be done to save the band. We did what we did. He got hurt and angry. I understand that. But of course he has been writing his own versions, a distortion of the truth, fiction, washing his own hands in innocence… If you would say that everything was great and all of a sudden someone got fired, you don’t know the band. You don’t divorce anyone after twenty years because you had a bad weekend. This has been going on for years.
Mmm you managed to hide it from the public for a long time…
Being in a band is like a glacier. You only see 10%. Every band that has been around for years and tours, they will tell you this. You don’t see the 90%; All the arguments, the travelling, the discussions, the rehearsals… you don’t see that. You should not see that, because when someone gets hurt and angry, they will come out with their own version. That is my answer to this question.
Anyways, you have managed to create another stunner with ‘Berdreyminn’. How do you see the musical evolution since ‘Ótta’ yourself as creators?
To us, we just wanted to make a new Sólstafir album. There was no plan what we were going to do, When we started we had no idea, just start to write stuff. For this album… It is like we are not in control about what will happen. If someone expected us to write a similar album, then I think you don’t know the history of this band. This band never does the same album. You know that. So when people heard ‘Köld’, they thought it is different than ‘Masterpiece’. When they heard ‘Svartir Sandar’ it was different. It has always been like that. ‘Ótta’ reached more people, so our audience gained, so people thought this is how the band sounds like. But they were wrong.
There is more…
There is more and there will be more. Next album will not be like ‘Berdreyminn’. It will be different. If you want us to make the same album over and over again, you are listening to the wrong band.
Remain true to your ideas about that!
Of course! We cannot do something else. We don’t know how to do it. When we walk into the studio it would be strange to do another album like ‘Ótta’. I cannot imagine. Well, we could try it, but it would be awful!
I think every album is a moment in time and when you look back on it when you are old, you will feel the vibe of that moment…
Exactly. That is precious. It is like a musical diary for me and it will always be.
Another thing which is funny, I read somewhere Icelandic Pink Floyd, but I think mostly Sæþór is into it, isn’t it?
Yes indeed, he listens a lot to Pink Floyd. Also on tour. I listen to it as well, but it is not really ‘my band’. I would listen more to Deep Purple or Neil Young.
What are you going to do after this festival season?
Well, we are doing festivals throughout the Summer until August. After that we are going to Brazil and most of the South American countries. We have never been there before. That is going to be interesting. Then later in the year we will do a bigger tour and then we will play more stuff from the new album. We are doing only two songs from the new album now, but throughout the whole year it will be increased.
I am going to see you at Balver Höhle. At the end of July Prophecy Fest will take place…
Yes Prophecy Fest! That will be a great one, in a cave!
Can you tell something about the artwork?
It is done by Adam Burke. The first time I came across Adam Burke was through a friend of Hexvessel.
They are coming to Prophecy Fest as well!
Are they? Mmm, great. They had this cover several years ago. When I saw it, I thought ‘Oh my God’ – it is one of those things that I thought ‘why don’t we have a cover like this?’ So amazing! I think it was ‘The Death Takes Us All’ or something like that it was called… (‘When We Are Death’ – Vera). So we started brainstorming about the album cover and his name came up. We contacted him. He knew the band. He liked the band and he showed us some work. A lot of great work and we decided on one out of stock and the rest is history.
You always have amazing videos I like to watch over and over again. Are there plans for visual ecstasy this time? (chuckles)
Well, we shot one for ‘Silfur-Refur’ and we have shot one for ‘Hula’ which should be out about a month (this means 16th of July – Vera). We might do a third one as well.
Is it as majestic as the former ones?
Well, it is different. We have other people involved once again though.
I also love ‘Djákninn’
Yes, but that is a fan video, made with views from the movie ‘Valhalla Rising’. But it looks great!
Indeed, even my cat loved to watch it years ago, just laying before the screen and listening. Do you have animals?
I have two cats.
Really? Me too!
What are the names?
Svartjjen and Gizmo
I have Django and Lucifer. They are both male, creators of the night. They are killers. They are bringing a lot of dead birds in the kitchen.
What do you give them to eat?
(laconic) Cat food.
I often give them chicken, real food…
I give them tuna sometimes. It is like heroin to them. They really, really like their tuna.
Yes indeed, my former cat survived on tuna, I know. Well, Addi, I am looking forward to see you at Prophecy Fest and thanks for your time at this Graspop festival! We’ll meet again!
Sure, looking forward to Prophecy Fest and thanks for this chat because I really do not like email interviews (laughs).
And after this lovely conversation, we shook hands and parted ways, with another list of concerts in mind, first of all Prophecy Fest at the cave in Germany where buddies Hexvessel, Arcturus, The Vision Bleak, Sun Of The Sleepless and many more exquisite acts will give act de presence. A chastened Sólstafir has risen from its ashes! The earth is trapped in constant evolution, Sólstafir as well. Life is an ongoing adventure, isn’t it? It should be! In our own bubble of beloved metal & music passion!