Iceland's Stilluppsteypa began its life as a guitar-bass-drum trio. Their earliest long player, 95's "Car Dirty With Jam on a Busy Street" LP on Germany's Very Good Records sees them sounding like a more restrained, garage rock-influenced Boredoms, playing a spastic music full of shrieks, tribal drums, surf guitar riffs, tape collage, and a penchant for the absurd. After a handful of scarce 7" releases, and under the apparent influence of Bruce Gilbert they decided to abandon the guitars completely and head for an amorphous sound zone that bears little resemblance to their previous output. A bit of pulse electronics recalls the most non-techno moments of Pan sonic, and a bit of surreal sound collage brings to mind the post-industrial abstractions of Nurse With Wound or Hafler Trio. But mostly they do whatever they please. Vocal contributions from Melt Banana's Yasuko Onuki and Juntaro Yamamouchi from Gerogigegege, as well as mixes by Andrew McKenzie, Ryoji Ikeda and Matt Wand of Stockhausen & Walkman, plus the fact that they have a CD out on a Mille Plateaux side label provide no precise clues as to what they might sound like. Following this interview with Heimir Bjorgulfsson are a few reviews of recent and old Stilluppsteypa releases.
Sigtryggur B. Sigmarsson
All questions below answered by Heimir between September 1999 and January 2000
1. The last releases I have of yours are "tpith or tpath", the "Mort Aux Vaches" CD and "Reduce by Reducing" - I know you released a live disc on Meme - has anything else come out recently?
We have two new CD's coming out. A new album entitled "interferences are often requested: reverse tendency as parts nearly become nothing" on Ritornell (sidel label of Mille Plateaux) in Germany and an EP entitled "not a laughing matter but rather a matter of laughs" on Item Recordings in Texas. Then we did a collaboration track with Japanese pop singer Hanayo which will be released on Mille Plateaux, and we have done some remixes wich will be released soon for Goem and Trickbeat. Plus we are on the compilation "loud/quiet" on BoxMedia in Chicago.
2. Can you explain why you moved to Holland? Is this a temporary move?
No this is permanent. We are a trio and live two in Amsterdam and one in Hannover, Germany. Iceland is too isolated for the things we are doing, we needed to break out to be able to continue on a real basis with everything. For example live performances become easier, we are situated in the middle of europe now so it is easy to travel around. There is hardly any scene for these things in Iceland, you can't really compare the situation now and when we lived in Iceland it has undergone such changes.
3. Has your move affected your music in anyway?
Yes it changed a lot, we got introduced to more computer works as we moved and studied sonology in Den Haag for a year. It had a huge impact so that now we mostly work with computers only. And as I mentioned above we have been able to perform a lot more since our move. It would be a very difficult to set out tours and live shows from Iceland to Europe or the States; possible but difficult.
4. I know you toured the US recently - how did the tour go? Can you describe your live setup? any visuals?
We have often worked with blue spotlights when we play live - it underlines certain things in the live set. We try to create an audio movie for the ear in a way. The viewer has to listen with his eyes and see with his ears. But on a tour it can be different, you play so many diferent places and venues that you have to consider each place as it is. The tour in the states was short and only on the east coast, but we plan to return to the states soon for a larger tour.
5. Did you use any additional musicians when you toured? Has the lineup changed at all?
No changes, and no additional live performers. It would be a collaboration if someone played with us live.
6. You released a live CD on the Japanese label Meme - have you toured or been to Japan? Is there much interest in your music in Japan that you know of?
We have never been to Japan but would like to go over for some shows and spoke around to check it out. We have some interest in Japan and have worked with some Japanese people like Ryoji Ikeda, Yasuko Onuki
(of Melt-Banana) and the female pop singer Hanayo.
7. Have you done any remixes lately? How do you feel about the idea of "remixes"? Are there any plans for more remixes of your music?
Well remixes can be interesting if they have anything to offer, not just for the remix sake. These days everybody is remixing everybody, it get's to a point when you can't be bothered any more. But when there is a huge difference between the original and the remix it can become a very interesting thing indeed.
8. Do people send you weird recordings or books or letters?
Yes all the time and we love it, please keep on, keep on!
9. Are you "signed" to any record labels right now? Will you be working with Staalplat again?
We signed a one CD deal with Ritornell/Mille Plateaux in Germany. Usually we don't make long term agreements with anybody for more than one release at a time. We might work with Staalplaat again, in which form we are not sure. We do a lot of live things for them and things like that, we have a close connection to them.
10. Do you still have any contact with the Fire, Inc. label? any plans on releasing anything else on that labe?
Well you never know as I personally run the label. So yes you could say we are in good touch still. We will see if we release under FIRE.inc. again, nothing is decided on that.
11. Is the material on the "Car Dirty With Jam on a Busy Street" LP ever going to be reissued? How would you describe the music on it to someone who only know your recent output?
Well I don't think it will be reissued just yet. Maybe in some years (?). But it was when we still used guitars as source material and more usual set of instruments. We still lived in Iceland. Then we decided to take Bruce Gilbert's advice when we met him and drop the guitars.
12. What is the "Meditation on violence" video?
It is a video to one of our tracks. A remix by Matt Wand (of Stock,Hausen & Walkman) that appeared on the "one side mona lisa..." CD. A friend of ours, German filmmaker and artist Oliver Kochta did it for us.
13. In the Bananafish interview you seemed reluctant to talk of the gear you used making your music - would you consider giving me a rough idea of what your current set of musical equipment is like? Any special item you don't get tired of playing?
Macintosh computers, both powerbooks and desktops.
14. Can you tell me a bit more about your year of studies in sonology at Den Haag? What sort of techniques were you exploring?
Basically we got introduced to more electronic working methods than we'd used before, we started researching about sounds in various computer programs and computers and using analog equipment more like connecting oscillators, generators, filters etc. In a way it changed our direction quite a lot.
15. Do you think you'll go back to using guitars in the future?
No way - never again... well, no, we use whatever nowdays as it usually becomes something completely unrecognicable in the end. We just wanted to explore a whole different world than what we'd done before so it was a very logical step in that sense.
16. When did the Fire, Inc. label begin?
We started with putting on a gig with four bands (Stilluppsteypa, Curver, Puff, and Kolrassa Krokridandi) one night in Reykjavik in '92. After that we decided to keep it going and make something out of what we had started, very soon it ended in my hands completely. So then I decided to take it into another direction which I found far more interesting by releasing such things as The Hafler Trio, CM Von Hausswolff, Stock Hausen & Walkman etc...
17. Is there a "sound philosophy" that you adhere to that could be used to tie together some of the artists you have chosen to release on Fire, Inc.?
There is no real frame around my selection of artists to release, it can be whatever...!
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