Icelandic music and Icelandic musicians have made quite an impression in the rest of the world over the past few years, Björk, or “our Björk” is a star, and bands like Sigurrós have done some interesting things, getting good reviews and selling quite a few records, and both are filling concert halls across Europe and America. Not bad for a small country they say! Still, Iceland’s government has shown no interest at all in supporting musicians whatsoever and spend most of their art related budged on building more museums, witch few attend anyway. Weird policy there, while the really interesting artists at least to the rest of the world, the musicians, are literally left out in the cold, and do not even have a place to rehearse, moving between garages and sometimes barns, loosing their expensive equipment to enemies like damp, and I am sorry to say, burglaries.
This is a sad picture I’m drawing here, but it’s how the situation has actually been for the past years according to many musicians, including Daniel Pollock, a 45 year old American, who has been involved with Iceland’s music business for over 20 years. Danny is, along with his older brother Mike, responsible for bringing punk rock to Iceland in the late 70’s. “I came here with my brother in 78 from Chicago to work, and to form a band, I especially had become influenced by punk, and at the time punk hardly existed in Iceland” The brothers formed a band with three other Icelanders and took stands as lead and rhythm guitar players. This new band, Utangardsmenn (the Outsiders) became the most popular band in Iceland in the early eighties. Their debut LP became the record of the year in Iceland in 1980. Although a popular band, they had the same common problem as everyone else, a place to rehearse.
“In those days we had a lot of trouble finding ourselves a place to rehearse, and most the time we had no place at all”. All the time Utangardsmenn existed as a band, even in the end, they had this problem.
The Pollock brothers along with the rest of the band were responsible for bringing the Icelandic punk wave out of the garage and into the public. This effort of theirs brought as among others, Björk. ”We’d play in one of the big hotels in Reykjavík, every Tuesday, bringing sometimes up to 4 other bands to play with us.” “At that time, bands went through hell to be able to play together, and hardly had a chance to play life in front of an audience ever.” Danny says.
Danny Pollock left Iceland for the States in the mid eighties, and attended his own music career there. He returned in 98, “When I came back there had been no progress, things were the same for musicians as they were when I left.” “Personally, I needed a place of my own to rehearse, and I didn’t want it to be a filthy garage, but like I said, finding a place wasn’t easy, it was closer to being impossible”.
But Danny did end up finding a place, an abandoned fish factory by Reykjavik’s harbor. “Finding a big place, way too big for just me, gave me an idea. In the states, there are so called music centers, big buildings, with one purpose, to house bands. Bands share rooms for rehearsal, often equipment too, and the music center offers the bands some free studio time also, not to mention safety for their amps, instruments and stuff. What these music centers are also known for is very cheap rent and a lot of time to practice. No angry neighbors and you’re not going to get kicked out for playing it too loud”.
This is new in Iceland, it’s a big project and no one has had the balls to try anything at this caliber before, and not to anyone’s surprise, the government doesn’t want anything to do with it, being to narrow minded as usually. “Music centers, like the one I’m opening, should be supported by the government like any other form of leisure or sports, I hope they open their eyes soon enough too that”, says Danny.
The Center has already opened, but some parts of it are not ready, e.g. a second studio and a concert hall. It will room 30 bands, witch is quite a lot, but not nearly enough, since the demand is great, and already there are over 100 bands waiting to get in. Concerts will be held and bands that have never before gotten a chance to play in public will now be able, by the numbers. Danny hopes the Music center will be a boost for music in Iceland. “Once again I am bringing the very creative Icelandic bands out of their garages and shit holes and into public”.
Jón Trausti Sigurðarson
An old fish factory in Reykjavík gets a second chance as a music developing center.