Going Dutch: ‘HaBre’, a Duet with a heart & soul for Iceland

ROK presents Hans & Brenda van Wijk, an Icelandic music loving couple from The Netherlands. Well known for running around with a bag full of cameras to document Icelandic musicians and Northern Lights downtown 101.

Here we go again in our seria ‘I love Icelandic music because…’

Foto voor Wim_3-17Hello there! My name is Brenda, born in 1973 and a huge fan of all different kind of music. Old stuff, modern, heavy (not too heavy!!) and neo classical, there’s no limit! For example: Dead Can Dance, Björk (of course), Underworld but also Madonna (her songs from the 80s and 90s). Just like Hans I am working at a bank (human resources) for more than a decade. Besides Iceland, I like to be in Great Britain very much and it feels like Scotland is my ‘second home’ since my youth.11742841_10205902427513066_2903003366022854136_n-22Well, I am Hans, born in ’68 and worked almost all my life at a Dutch commercial bank as controller, auditor and manager. Since April this year, I became a “free man” and run my own ‘company’ to make a living. Maybe it will be as a photographer because it’s fun to make pictures from artists and bands, for example.

I grew up with the synth-music like Tubeway Army, OMD, Jean-Michel Jarre, Kraftwerk, etc. But the first single that I bought, was KISS with ‘I Was Made For Loving You’ and my first album that I bought was Meatloaf (Bat Out Of Hell, still a terrific album!). My love for music has nothing to do with the sixties or the seventies… On High School I discovered hardrock and metal (Iron Maiden, Slayer, Venom, Metallica and Motörhead). Nowadays I’m a big fan of Sigur Rós, Coil, Current 93, Nils Frahm, Joy Division, Anna von Hausswolff and the Dutch guys from ‘zZz’.

Our first visit to Iceland was in the summer of 2009. We both had the country on our wishlist and after seeing the ‘Heima’ movie by Sigur Rós, we decided to book a trip. And, yes, it went bananas afterwards… We’ve been in Iceland almost twenty times now and we are just back from a trip to the northeast part of the country (Langanes, the Eastfjords).

Why do you think Icelandic music is so special, Brenda?

Because of its purity; people from Iceland make music straight from the heart and in combination with the scenery it becomes very special.

And what do you think, Hans?

As the title already discloses, the sound of the Icelandic music comes very close to the heart. I don’t know why, but it is. Really… Maybe it is a good subject to discover for ROK next Airwaves or in 2017? After all those years I’ve met so many people that might give some answers…

My first ‘touchdown’ on Keflavík Airport in May 2009 was a very emotional moment, a moment of coming home. Strange. And it never went away.

Brenda’s first contact with Icelandic music was Björk.

Björk somewhere in the early 90s. Oh no, wait: The Sugarcubes of course!! … I’ve got all the albums on cd.

And for you Hans?

I’ve learned a short time ago that Mezzoforte is Icelandic, but that doesn’t count for me. Also Björk is well known of course. But the first really Icelandic sound I had in my ears was Sigur Rós. In a Dutch magazine their name was mentioned by DJ Armin van Buuren and it made me very curious. So I bought the album “( )”. The rest is history.

Airwaves 2015 foto habre Hans Brenda van Wijk

Brenda has no special projects in mind concerning Icelandic music. Next Airwaves they’ll visit Iceland again and hope to see and hear new music and artists. ROK hopes Brenda will get her Press Pass to report for us.

Brenda: We are following the music scene very closely and the first thing we do after our arrival in 101 is visiting the infamous 12Tónar shop. Most of the times the owners Lárus or Jóhannes put some new stuff in our hands to listen to. And yes: they both know how to sell stuff ;-)

The last couple of years Hans made some pictures for the Dutch Magazine “Nordic” (Dutch) during Iceland Airwaves and this year for Askja Reizen, a Dutch travel agent. Pictures from their latest trip in Iceland (28. May – 9. June 2016) are available at Hans’ website www.habrefoto.nl.

You can find Hans van Wijk on Facebook with more pictures of Iceland, music and artists. Check it out !

What was the best live act that they experienced in Iceland so far?
For Brenda
during Airwaves 2015: Skúli Sverisson at Mengí. But she was also very impressed by the band Sometime at Harpa’s Kaldalon during Sónar 2014, a disturbing movie followed by electronical dance music.

For Hans it was Sigur Rós closing the Airwaves 2012 at Laugardalshöll without any doubt. But he has visited so many different (big and small) and intense concerts since 2009…. <sights>

I’ll never forget – for example – the gig by Svavar Knútur at the ION Hotel, an off-off-venue in the middle of nowhere nearby Þingvellir. Or our “own” Dutch guys ‘De Staat’ in Bar 11 (Airwaves 2011) and the ‘Erased Tapes Night’ at Iðnó (Airwaves ’10) with Moddi, Ólafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm, etc.

What are your favourite Icelandic bands, albums, songs, videos?

For Brenda it is the song ‘Dominique’ by GusGus.

Other favourites of her include Skurken, Sykur, Hjaltalín, Ólöf Arnalds, Ólafur Arnalds and so on and on and on ….

‘Heima’ and ‘Backyard’ are Brenda’s favourite movies. They show the unique combination of the country, the people and the music. It’s pure and with many respect for each other.

Hans: I’ve mentioning them before :-) I think the best album is ‘Ágætis Byrjun. but the best song, and that’s a though choice, my friend… it’s… ehm…. the first track on “( )” by Sigur Rós (or called “Vaka” ). Do you know the movie After The Wedding? NO??!! >>> http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0457655/

But I like the sound of Sólstafir too (especially Goddess Of The Ages, live played), just as Ólafur Arnalds, Hjaltalín and some of GusGus. Hard to choose, because it’s easy to forget the work of Jóhann Jóhannsson, also with Apparat Organ Quartet.

Do you have a favourite hang-out place or spot in and outside the capital area?

Brenda: The old harbour and 12Tónar. Outside RVK it is Jökulsárlón: sitting relaxed in the sun, no tourists ;-) (if ‘available’) with a pancake and a cup of hot chocolate or coffee. And I must mention the little town of Stykkishólmur: the portal to the Westfjords and a lovely place to walk around and feel the beauty of the environment.

Hans: There are so many favourite places downtown. It’s always ‘easy’ to have a beer at Café Paris or Café Rosenberg, Stófan and – of course – 12Tónar. The most special view is by far Mt. Esja and the Hallgrímskirkja. It depends on the weather or the mood.

Outside RVK it’s definitely Jökulsárlón. I can sit there for hours just watching the birds, the ice, the glaciers… In 2010 we travelled around in the Westfords: you can put me there, too; I’m fine with that!

Any favourite food or drinks perhaps to go with the view?

Brenda goes for the pancakes, slightly sweetened: the cheap ones at Bónus. Lovely! And the skyr!

Hans: Bleh… Just give me a beer (‘Einstök White Ale’ or a regular ‘Gúll’). Svavar learned me last month a new one: ‘Úlfrún’ (on draft of course) and it was very tasty too. But I still like a glass of the good old ‘Black Death’: yes, in Iceland you have to drink Brennivín now and then!

Skál! Thanks a lot, and to say it in the words of Sigur Rós: Takk…

- Wim Van Hooste