Artwork & photography by Sig Vicious
Artwork & photography by Sig Vicious
Icelandic record label boss and electronic whizzKid, Árni Grétar, a.k.a. Futuregrapher, has just released a new album with piano boffin, Jón Ólafsson, of Icelandic musical group, Nýdönsk. Entitled ‘EITT’, meaning ‘One’, it is eight tracks of electro-classical-avant-garde sounds – ambient music filled with humanity, nature, life, and love.
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Before they hit rehearsals for the Iceland Airwaves Festival, Futuregrapher took time out to answer some questions about working with Jón, and the inspiration for, and background to, this electro-classical fusion.
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How did you and Jón come to collaborate?  
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We actually started talking to each other through Facebook messenger and eventually got around to talking about making music together. We have a huge respect for each others work and I could see right away that we could create good ambient avant-garde music together.
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Olaffsun and Future
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Who had the initial idea to make contact?
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A mutual friend had the idea actually. It was just a joke in the beginning, especially since we come from such very different backgrounds. But the more we chatted about it, the better it sounded, until we thought “well, why not?”
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Tell me about the recording process?
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We did one track at a time. Jón recorded the piano in his studio and sent it to me via email. I listened to it, and went into my studio and created my world around his piano sequences. So initially we worked separately but we came together near the end to listen to the whole album and mix it together.
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What do the song titles mean and why did you choose them?  What relevance do they have to the tracks in terms of theme and sound?
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1. Myndir = Pictures              5. Nærvera = The Presence
2. Gluggi = Window               6. Hringur = Ring
3. Börn = Children                  7. Brot = Violation
4. Sálmur = Psalm                   8. Vestur = West
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The song titles were chosen by Jón and myself after we had decided on the album cover, which is very minimal. Firstly, I came up with sentences that could work.  Then I worked with ideas and images that came into my head whilst listening to our songs. In the end Jón shortened them into one-word names. I thought they were brilliant.
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The album seems to have been inspired somewhat by nature and humanity?  How did the initial idea come to you and how did you guys decide to develop it?
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I would say the album takes a lot of its inspiration from nature and natural sounds.  I work a lot with field recordings using my Zoom H6 recorder and many of the found sounds that I recorded over 2014 and early 2015 are on the album.
The humanity comes from Jón, I would say. His feelings and his passion from the piano playing are so moving.
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There are a lot of background noises within the work.  Are they deliberately made sounds to fit the pieces, or, are they sounds of movement (previously used by the likes of Arnalds and Hollis in their work) that are in the recording because of your proximity to the mics, or indeed a combination of both?  What was the reasoning behind the sounds?
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I couldn’t say the sounds were deliberately made to fit the album, no. They’re more like recordings that I had already made that were a perfect fit for the album. Why I chose these background sounds and not some others, well that was all dependent on the mood I was in when I listened to Jóns piano playing.
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What synths did you use??
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I used Roland D-550, Roland JP-8080 and mainly a Yamaha DX7. The DX7 is my favourite synth.
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‘Börn’ is a particularly lovely track fusing the sounds of children laughing and playing in the background.
How does the music relate to the children?
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Both Jón and I are fathers so our music is definitely related to our own children.  Plus, I have two “jobs”: being a musician and working at a pre-school in Reykjavík.
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The overall sound is one that is very minimalist.  Were you never tempted to go large on the synth sound and embellish it with more of an electronic feel?  Did you find that you had to hold yourself back and let the piano almost take the lead as it were?
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 I would say I wanted it to be this minimalistic. Jón was the one who had to hold back! Haha. He is such a great pianist, he can do everything. Plus, I had just come back to recording after my last album called Skynvera – which was very chaotic. So I wanted to make a minimalistic album, and Jón wanted that too. It all worked out.
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Arni and Jon

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You’ve worked with Samaris – who are brilliant – and whose sound is described as trip hop.  Yet in many ways, the music they create is in its own way, just as pared back as the music on your current album.  Is this an approach that you favour – a muted, restrained, less is more approach?
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I know Samaris and their music very well. I wouldn’t describe our music as being  similar but I understand what you mean. Maybe it’s because on our album Eitt, the music gets to breathe. Kinda like Samaris’ music.

I see Jon previously collaborated with John Grant, who has accredited Iceland with saving his life.  Do you think the Nordic countries and Iceland in particular, are especially inspirational for artists and musicians and why?

Yeah, I can understand why John said that since I know parts of his story. Yes, I think that maybe Iceland has some kind of healing power. Not only from the nature, but also in the people. Some people in Iceland are very spiritual and open minded. And it’s such a tiny island, very far away from almost everything. The other Nordic countries also have some healing powers. Maybe not Denmark though (joke).

Iceland is fast becoming a hub for electro-classical work?  Why is it ,do you think, that Icelandic musicians, moreso than those from any other country, have a deep love and special talent for creating this type of music??
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I just think Iceland has a lot of talent in music and the arts for that matter.  It’s not just focussed in one genre. Electronic-classical works are being written here, for sure – but every genre for that matter. Almost. The creativity here is just good. The energy is high.
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Launch Night
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How do you propose to perform these tracks live? Will you keep it to a simple set up of piano, synth with the addition of a tape for the sounds?  Or would you consider taking the sounds to another level for live performances and adding say, strings?  Also what type of venue would you see as appropriate for your performances??
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We just had our record release show at the end of October and our set up is pretty basic; Jón is playing the grand piano and I have one synth, delay pedals, reverbs, monotron delay and computer running Live to play with my samples. Our launch show was at this wonderful museum – which acoustically and audience-wise worked very well.
We have also played at the Harpa Reykjavik concert hall, which also worked well for us. We will be playing Iceland Airwaves this coming week and then, after that, we will play a concert in a church. That should be very interesting. I think it will be great actually.  And no, sorry, we won’t be adding strings. Hmm. Maybe later. 🙂
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Jón Ólafsson & Futuregrapher play Iceland Airwaves this Saturday 7th November, details here.
Their album, ‘Eitt’ is available now via Moller Records, and Bandcamp.
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You can follow Futuregrapher on Facebook – here.
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All blogs posted to this site containing SoundCloud links are now automatically “transmitted by MOD-RUN technology and a carrier pigeon”, to  HYPE M  🙂
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