Dr. Gunni's History Of Icelandic Rock - Part 24
The Birthday Party
Our first gig as S. H. Draumur was at the very first night of the battle of the bands-type thing Músiktilraunir, which has continued annually since 1982. We came in third out of four bands, but that did not damage our passionate love for music. Everything centred upon music in those days (as it kind of does, still). Records were expensive, so me and my friends used to lend each other stuff. Records by The Fall, Joy Division, XTC, The Cure, Pere Ubu, The Slits, Suicide, Swell Maps, and Icelandic bands like Purrkur Pillnikk and Þeyr changed hands. One day in early 1983 I bought The Birthday Party's ‘Prayer on Fire’ album in a second hand shop. To put it mildly the record blew my mind. S. H. Draumur had mainly been influenced by The Cure and Joy Division up until then, but now The Birthday Party became our main influence and new songs (in Icelandic, always) with titles like "Come To The Woods!" and "She's A Suicide" started to pop up. Sparse crowds, still loud
We demoed songs on a lousy cassette recorder and put out a cassette album in 1983 called ‘Arts With Worms’ (in Icelandic: ‘Listir með orma’). Gramm records made thirteen copies, and never more! We did not have any fans for the first three years or so. For a while in 1983–1984 Haukur quit and was replaced by a guy called Ágúst, who would later become a film director (‘Popp í Reykjavík’, 1998) and a camera man for Nirvana and Guns ‘n’ Roses. Underground rock was in a slump in Iceland. We played pretty regularly but the crowd rarely consisted of more than fifty people. I started to correspond with foreign fanzines and people abroad just to find some action. The band went on an Interrail trip in the summer of 1985 and met up with one of my penpals, John Robb of The Membranes, in Manchester. He got us a gig in Preston and we were very grateful to play for some people we’d never seen before in our lives. And they even liked what we were doing! We decided to make a real record when we came home. We only had money for twenty hours in the studio, so we made a four song 10" EP. It came out early in 1986 and shortly afterwards Haukur quit for good. Instead we got Birgir Baldursson, a friend from Kópavogur who had helped us demo stuff before and was (and is) a fantastic drummer. We supported Einsturzende Neubauten and Crime and the City Solution in Reykjavík in the summer of 1986. All of a sudden we were playing for larger crowds, and they were pogoing and stuff! I had graduated from college in 1985 and in the fall of 1986 I went to Lyon, France. My idea was to become a writer and I did not even bring an instrument along. Within a week I had bought a guitar. The underground awakens!
I returned in early 1987 and S. H. Draumur started to rehearse again. I had written plenty of new songs in Lyon and Steini, Biggi and I arranged them in the garage and rehearsed them to perfection. We were dead set on making an album. There was much more happening in the Icelandic underground by then, largely thanks to the fact that The Sugarcubes were getting big in England. We gigged with bands like Daisy Hill Puppy Farm (a Jesus and Mary Chain influenced band lead by Jóhann Jóhannsson), Sogblettir (rude teen punks), E-X (an R.E.M.-ish rock band), Mússólíní (a kind of C86-ish teen band), Risaeðlan (Reptile) and Ham. We recorded the Goð LP in about 50 hours in a new studio located in a YMCA community centre. The album was ready in September of 1987, and was released in January of 1988, by my own label, Erðanúmúsik, in association with a small English label called Lakeland Records. I guess everything we had done so far got focused and poured into this thing, Goð. Yes, I think it's good. It might even be my very best record. It ends, it ends
Being in a band as a hobby, not a steady job, takes up most of your energy. Steini had a wife and a son in 1987. He wasn’t all that interested in "rock" music anymore and leaned towards classical guitar music. He wanted to quit, but before he did we convinced him of doing two things: making another record and playing with The Sugarcubes on their first major UK tour. We played only three gigs on the Sugarcubes tour, the biggest one being at the London Astoria for about 2.000 people, which was of course the largest crowd we'd ever played to. This was a nice time for us; we got to eat exotic food, get very drunk and get close to famous people backstage. The record was fittingly called Bless and had four songs. Sigurjón Kjartansson from Ham produced this 12" EP. I rehearsed with Ham for a while in the summer of 1988, but played only one gig with them though. With Steini out of the picture, Biggi and I formed a new band (fittingly called Bless, to promote the recently released EP, ‘S. H. Draumur’) with Ari Eldon of Sogblettir. It’s back, it’s back
In 1993 a CD with all the S. H. Draumur stuff came out. In hindsight it was a failed release. The band came back for one concert. We drew 500 people, which was quite victorious for us, as we were used to a lot less during our real life span. Now in 2010, 23 years after Goð was recorded, we come together once more to promote our ‘Goð+’—a two CD package, just out on Kimi Records. It has the Goð LP in super sound quality, all the other records and a whole lot of demos and live recordings. We’re playing at Airwaves and later on we plan to do two gigs (in Reykjavík and Akureyri) where we perform ‘Goð’ in its entirety. We’ve already rehearsed in Egilsstaðir, where Steini is the headmaster of the local music school, so I know we can still pull it off. I might even go as far as promise it will be our best gigs ever! Photos:
1 Playing in MH college in Feb. 1988
2 S. H. Draumur rehearsing in 2010: Never better!
3 The Goð LP sported Mr. Stefán Grímsson, who was and is S. H. Draumur's main religious symbol.
In 1982 I had been in bands for three years with basically the same guys in Kópavogur. Myself on bass (and sometimes guitar), Steini on guitar and Haukur on drums. The first band was an unfocused early teen band called Dordinglar (“The Spiders”). Then came F/8, which was influenced by The Ramones and the local version of The Ramones, Fræbbblarnir. This sharp and simple music gave way for "deeper" and more "difficult" stuff in 1981. We formed Geðfró (“Mind-relief”, later called “Beri-Beri”) with female singer Sigga Beinteins. Sigga and I weren't on the same wavelength though—and it bothered me how much time she spent on doing her make up before gigs (!)—so I eventually fired her. Sigga would later become a pop star in Iceland. Haukur threatened to quit when I suggested that I should just sing, but maybe because "bad" singers like Mark E Smith and Einar Örn (of Purrkur Pillnikk) were around, he didn't.