Interview: SkálmöldWritten by Kenny Leys
During one of Germany’s many festivals, we at RMP had the honour to have a chat with Icelandic folk heroes Skálmöld. They even challenged us to do something extraordinary! Want to know what? You can find out in the interview! So get your mead, put on your kilt and enjoy our chat about lullabies for fire giants, their collaboration with Alestorm, foreign candy and much more!
B: Björgvin Sigurðsson – vocals, guitars
T: Þráinn (Thrain) Árni Baldvinsson – guitars
J: Jón Geir Jóhannsson – drums
Hi, we saw your show today and we thought it was awesome! It was your first time here at Summer Breeze. How has it been?
• J: It was amazing! A lot of fun. The crowd was absolutely beautiful, they were really into it and had great energy.
• B: For me, it was one of the best festival gigs ever.
• T: Yes, it was really a show to remember.
The festival is almost done but are there any bands you want to see that are also playing here?
• T: I would have loved to see Testament! But today I’d like to see My Dying Bride but I think we’re doing a signing session at the same time so I will listen to them from afar [laughs].
• B: Primordial would nice. T: And Napalm Death! I really like them a lot.
In 2014 you released “Með vættum”, your third studio album. The album is a concept album around the character of Þórunn. Can you tell our readers in short what the story is about?
• J: It was kind of an idea of Snæbjörn, our bass player, who writes all the lyrics; he started out writing something in that area before we released “Börn Loka”, our second album. We kind of put those lyrics aside because it was a different theme then the theme of the children of Loki. But now we wanted to kind of change things and have a female main protagonist and base it on the four mythical guardians of Iceland that appear in the epos. There’s not much written about them unfortunately but they’re just really cool creatures so they were kind of the main focus and the story of Þórunn was used to link them together. I like the story!
• T: Yeah, on our first two albums we had a story from start to finish in ten songs but this was more like a non-linear story.
• J: We follow her from birth ‘till death so we had a bigger timeline we had to tell but yeah, it really was a lot of fun.
Did you like making such an album or was it more difficult to cover her whole life from birth ‘till death?
• J: We usually write the music first and then we all talk about what the story should be about and then our bass player writes the lyrics around the music.
• B: Usually we have kind of like a skeleton of what the story is about, without any details. For example, when we were writing ‘Baldur’, our first album, we basically had the story and the names of the songs and then we had to fill in the music for the song titles and then Snæbjörn writes the lyrics to that music. First the atmosphere is taken from what’s going on in the story, and when he writes the lyrics, they kind of take the atmosphere from the songs.
• J: I think it’s easier like that than write something randomly…
You sing in your mother tongue, which is Icelandic. Was this a conscience choice when writing songs and starting the band?
• B: Yeah, we decided to write songs in Icelandic and sing them in Icelandic. We never even thought of releasing them outside of Iceland… We’ve actually never talked about writing in English and I think we will never do that.
• J: We follow the rules of the Icelandic poetry – the old strict rules and they just work and make things very rhythmical and interesting. I don’t think we can do that in English. Like on the new album we have this bonus cd with cover songs and there are two songs that Björgvin actually sings in English and he sometimes just sounds like an idiot. It just does not work! [Laughing] It’s really silly! So we’re not going to do that anymore.
• T: Yeah, you know, because we get the inspiration from the Norse mythology and sagas and because they’re all in Icelandic and we follow those old traditional rules of Icelandic poetry… To write the lyrics in English would be weird and would not justify the real meaning and content of the Icelandic poetry.
In September you’ll release your fourth album “Vögguvísur Yggdrasils” (“Lullabies of Yggdrasil”). Why did you choose to make an album around those heathen lullabies?
• B: Because it’s cool!
• J: That’s actually another concept that we have been playing around with for several years. First we thought of just doing an EP or something but then we came up with the idea to create lullabies for each of the worlds in the old Norse mythology. That made it really interesting because how does somebody sing to their child in Hell? It’s not really a nice place. Or in Múspell, you know, the fire giants that have a very destructive kind of power. The music are not lullabies at all, I mean it’s just a lyrical concept and it’s kind of interesting to think about such things.
The evening before we left for Summer Breeze, I saw on Facebook that Alestorm is about to cover one of your songs because you’re going to cover Alestorm’s “Drink”. How did this collaboration come by?
• J: We toured with them in 2011 during our very first tour and we are really great friends ever since. And you always have to do some bonus songs for the limited edition and so and we decided to do only covers of songs by bands that we’ve toured with or songs that really means something to us. When they found that out, they were just like “Okay, we’ll just cover one of your songs!” and I think Chris (Bowes, Alestorm) – he won’t sing in Icelandic… Basically he took the lyrics and put them into Google Translate and he’s going to sing the Google Translate English version. We were like “Can we hear the track before releasing?” and they were like “We haven’t heard yours!” so we made a pact that we’re not going to hear each other’s versions until we get the actual vinyl in our hands! So we don’t know anything –
• T: – It’s very exciting! [Laughs]
• You also chose “Nattfödd” from Finntroll to cover. Why did you choose this song?
• T: We’re very good friends with Finntroll too and “Nattfödd” is of course a very good song. We used to sing with them on stage when we were touring together. We would go on stage and sing the choir arrangements for the drop-down part of the song so it was kind of an obvious choice basically to cover that song!
• J: The record company actually had this idea that we would do the covers. Obviously Finntroll… We’ve been touring with them many times.
You are very present on all kinds of social media. Is this a group effort or are there some of you that post more than others?
• B: When you see very boring posts with only facts about something, that’s me! [Laughing] All the fun stuff, that’s the other guys.
• T: That’s not always true, but if it’s facts or practical things, it’s mostly Björgvin’s posts. And we, the rest just… joke around. Like usually when we are on tour we always try to buy some kind of candy and we buy it in bins and cans. So we have a lot of terrible candy! And then we eat it on the tour. I don’t know why we do it but I guess it’s to experience new things.
• J: Or the come into mood of the country we’re in. [Laughs]
At the end of October, you will do a tour with Korpiklaani and after that you’ll start the Finnish Folk Metal Maffia tour with Moonsorrow and again Korpiklaani. Why touring with these two bands?
• J: They just contacted us…
• B: It’s basically booking agents… they do it behind the scenes. And it usually works that way that the ‘bigger’ bands offer a spot to ‘smaller’ bands. Like “Do you want to join us on this, and this and this...”.
• J: Yeah, we already with them and we know a lot of the crew very well from other tours, you know. It’s a very small circle of people that touring circle so you get to know people. We’ve always had this mentality when we’re on tour to really try to be nice and likeable because that kind of always gives you something back. So yeah, we’re really looking forward to the tour!
While on tour, do you guys have some sort of pre-show ritual?
• T: No… basically we try to warm up, I start playing on my guitar… We don’t sacrifice goats or anything. [Laughs]
• J: Yeah, just try to wake up basically and do the best you can every single time.
• T: Just seconds before we go on stage, we gather like in a circle and tell each other not to suck! [Laughs]
• B: Yeah, it’s a lot of manly laughs and hitting each other on the shoulder.
• J: Punching each other on the shoulder to get a good atmosphere…
• T: Yeah, that punch can really mean a lot of things.
• B: It says more than a thousand words.
Thank you very much for the interview. Do you have any last words for our readers?
• T: I challenge all Belgian metal readers to write a metal musical about Tin Tin!
• J: That would be really awesome!
• T: Yeah, I think so! And while you are writing the music, you should listen to Skálmöld! Or on the other hand, don’t do it! We’ll do it!
• J: But it’s their heritage!
• T: Yes, we will steal your heritage!
• B: And I will sing in Flemish!
I’d like to hear that! Once again, thank you very much for the interview!