Hafdis Huld takes time out to chat to Moon & Back Music about Iceland’s music scene, her up-coming-album, collaborating with Tricky and Grandpa Harald’s car aka the tour bus.
To say we were slightly nervous to be interviewing somebody described by Phil Jupitus as ‘my craziest guest ever‘ would be an understatement; displaying an innocence as sweet as her records and a heartwarming sincerity for everything, we thought we fared quite well…
M&BM: Forgive my pronunciation, Könguló is your new single and is about French climber Alain Robert, aka the human spider. What on earth made you write a song about him?
HH: Because, i was um, chilling at home, with a cup of tea…*banter over Iceland not doing good cups of tea!*….and i was watching TV, and i saw a documentary about Alain Robert and he looks bonkers, [chuckles] takes one to know one! I thought this man is brilliant he deserves a song you know? he was climbing buildings, in his trainers and he’s afraid of heights and he’s on like the 86th floor and he knocks on this guy’s window and says “can i borrow your coffee i’m really cold?” I just thought this man is a legend. …. It was just brilliant and when it all came about for him he got some kind of deal to talk about hair products on chat shows!
Its just like when things are so wonderfully random you cannot make them up, it was beautiful so i wrote him a song and i sent him the song and i said “My name is Hafdis, I am from Iceland i wrote a song about you”. And I got a reply from him and he’d signed it with ‘Spidey’ so it was actually from himself. So I was already having fantasies about my next gig in Paris with Mr Spidey on a little rope above going “la la la la laaaa” and it would be hot!
But, just before we filmed the video Spidey got arrested in Australia….He can’t not like it i’m writing about him being the hero you know and i wrote it in that old fashioned kind of like Spiderman, Superman TV shows it’s written in that style so you know, i’m writing him as the hero here!
Have you seen the video!?
*pulls out iPhone to show video*
Have you seen the Tomoko video?
M&BM: yeah of course!
HH: My friend Alfie [the blonde one in the video] has had actual marriage proposals from men in Sweden, in Germany, in England come through to the management office saying “I want to marry that girl”. And somebody said they want to marry her, take her to Ikea and have 2.4 kids with her…that was somebody in Sweden.
M&BM: The album was recorded in Yorkshire, why there?!
HH: Because I wanted to do it in a really old water tank in Iceland but it was too expensive to get all the strange instruments I wanted to take with me and all the legendary people i wanted to work with to come all the way to Iceland so we went to Yorkshire for a week January it was freezing and i took my Dad with me to cook us fish and potatoes to give it an Icelandic feel you know?
M&BM: No sheep’s head?
HH: No i don’t like it; it stares up at you…
M&BM: Considering the size of Iceland, why is there just such a good music scene at the moment?
HH: I don’t know….4 hours of daylight in the winter, nothing better to do springs to mind? Loads of darkness, Icelanders drink alot of hot chocolate you know by candlelight. Make out and make music. And with 20 hours of darkness you can have time to do all three, believe me.
M&BM: It’s a remote country, do you try and reflect this in your music?
HH: yes, yes i think so. With Dirty Paper Cup (2006) I very much went for less is more. I’d been in dance bands which was just all “weeeee!” and I wanted to, tell my stories in peace on my first album. And now i’ve livened up a little bit on the second album.
M&BM: So you’ve got some weird and wonderful instruments coming up on it?
HH: Yeeeeeah some little noise makers making their way back. As you said Kongulo is much fuller than Dirty Paper Cup.
M&BM: You’ve been in the industry since you were 15, what sort of changes have you seen?
HH: Um, there were much bigger labels, and much more money. Whereas now, it’s much more do it yourself atmosphere now. Back then you’d never have talked to your fans yourself through like myspace and facebook and twitter and it’s become a bit more personal because you’re doing it yourself they can find out what you had for breakfast this morning if they’re really interested.
M&BM: What did you have for breakfast this morning then, I didn’t have time to check your Twitter!
HH: [sheepish] um, chocolate biscuits….
M&BM: Your fellow GusGus member Emiliana Torrini is playing here next month, do you keep in contact with her?
HH: No no we don’t. Obviously I follow her music still now, but she moved abroad here full time unfortunately.
M&BM: Would you consider doing anything with her in the future?
HH: Of course I’d consider it. You know I’d consider working with any good musician.
M&BM: You worked with Tricky not long ago, how was that?
HH: He wanted to find…somebody who sounded like Jesus. That’s what he said to me. He said this song was about Jesus and he wanted to find somebody who sounded as innocent as Jesus and he was watching TV and Tomoko came on and he said “that one sounds as innocent as Jesus” so he called me and i met him he tried on my pink mittens we sand the song and I left.
M&BM: What’s your favourite venue to play, you’re obviously a very personal person so do you prefer smaller, intimate venues or larger, more theatrical ones?
HH: In Iceland we play these little like opera houses, and I like that because it seems to suit what we do. So that means the people are comfortable to sit down and listen to the music and stories so that’s nice. But, it does mean it depends on purely on the audience, just how reactive and the atmosphere that they give them. Usually it’s like the medium-sized ones which are the ones that have a bit of magic about them so they seem to suit us most.
M&BM: You’re obviously a very good story-teller, where does that aspect of your music come from?
HH: Um, I suppose listening to alot Icelandic folk music. And it sounds like an Icelandic cliche but that is what people do you know read and tell stories and listen to each other so of course that’s going to influence you whether you like it or not. I always found it quite magical and even though i’m not writing “I’m a little Elf with a Viking helmet” I think that’s just the whole story telling and allowing yourself to have that bit of imagination.
M&BM: I imagine you’ve got a big sexy tour bus?
HH: …no. When we’re driving between gigs we’re in Grandpa Harald’s car…It’s black and it fits us all in. It’s blinging. My brother gave me like a naked woman to put on the front of it, but Grandpa Harald would not like that; you cannot mess with things like that it’s Grandpa Harald’s car aka the tour bus.
M&BM: With GusGus, it was very electro dancy type stuff, was it a conscious effort to move away from that or did it just happen?
HH: Um, I took a break, i did some acting and I decided to go and study music so that I would start with a clean slate and decided not to do something that every body expected me to do because that wouldn’t make me happy so i took the time out and I made the music that I wanted to make.
M&BM: So finally, what kind of bands are you listening to at the moment?
HH: Um I’ve just got the new Sia album, aaaaand, um, Kings of Leon at the moment and just some good old ones.
M&BM: And anything you’d like to say to anybody who hears this?
HH: …..Have a nice day!