Peter Males is an Icelandophile with a passion for photography, music and without any doubt Icelandic music. Now and then he takes pictures for ROK.
My name is Peter Males – age 60 – a Computer Systems & Data Analyst – originally from Wimbledon in South London, currently living in Watford, Hertfordshire.
Peter, when did you visit Iceland for the first time?
My first visit to Iceland in June 1999 was for a vacation, I wanted to do something different as it was my first trip abroad for several years. I booked a ‘Grand Circle Tour’, this was a 2 week trip, which basically followed ‘Route One’ all the way round Iceland, with side trips to see the different places of interest. We took 11 days for the tour, and I had made sure to have free days before, and after to explore on my own.
Why are you so attracted to Iceland and its music?
From the time I arrived I loved the country, spectacular scenery and friendly people. I was, of course, familiar with some Icelandic music, The Sugarcubes & Björk had both received extensive radio play in the UK.
While I was on the first trip the coach played some Icelandic music, mainly Folk, but some other styles too. When I was in Reykjavik I heard Icelandic music on the radio and in the shops. The next time I visited, in 2008, was for my first Airwaves Festival. I was lucky enough to meet Hellvar and Mammút on the first couple of days, and chatted to them after their performances, I’m pleased to say that they are still friends of mine today. I was very impressed by both the performances, and the down-to-earth attitudes and approachability of all the performers I met, not just these 2 bands.
What makes Icelandic music so special?
I think the biggest factors are the inventiveness and originality, I don’t think any Icelandic musician has been told that some things are not possible. For example Hjaltalín used to have a bassoon player, Bárujárn, a surf music band, include a Theremin, Samaris feature a clarinet, and Vök a saxophone.
Over the years I have been to Airwaves, 2008-2015 (and booked for 2016) and all 3 Secret Solstice Festivals (2014-2016) I have had many opportunities to meet the bands and talk to them, They are all very supportive of each other, and I frequently see musicians at other peoples’ concerts, whatever the style.
What was your first contact with Icelandic music?
My first contact with Icelandic music was The Sugarcubes, who were frequently played on the John Peel show on BBC Radio 1. Naturally Björk was played as a solo artist later and I was lucky enough to see her at a live show in London, ollowing the ‘Debut’ release. During my first trip to Iceland in 1999 I saw some Icelandic performers, but don’t remember the details. There were some Folk music singers at The Icelandic Horse Farm, and I saw a Blues/Rock band in a bar in Reykjavik, they were mainly performing covers in English. My first real exposure was at my first Airwaves in 2008.
Tell us about your projects concerning Icelandic music?
I will be attending Airwaves again this year, and will be taking pictures and meeting up with old friends, from around the world as well as Icelanders, who love the music.
I will also continue attending lots of, usually, unsigned artists shows in England. Dream Wife, an Anglo-Icelandic band fronted by Rakel Mjöll (with Alice Go on guitar & Isabella Podpadec on Bass), are receiving quite a bit of attention in England, and have just signed a record deal there. I always keep an eye out for Icelandic bands/artists playing near me, and attend where possible. I don’t have a blog, and generally post my pictures on Facebook, and tag them to the Artists. I am currently looking at posting some pictures on a separate Website, but do not do so at the moment. Many of the artists I have photographed, whether Icelandic or not, have used my pictures as their Facebook profile or cover photos.
Can you make a list of the best live gig(s) you’ve seen by an Icelandic musician/band? That has got to be the most difficult question, Several spring to mind, I would have to say Björk’s ‘Biophilia’ show in Harpa (just after) Airwaves 2011.
Other shows would include Mammút at Reykjavik Art Museum Airwaves 2014, and Apparat Organ Quartet in Reykjavik Art Museum Airwaves 2013.
Name some of your favourite bands, albums, songs?
Mammút – Karkari & Komdu Til Min Svarta Systir
Rökkurró – Það kólnar í kvöld
Hellvar – Stop that Noise
Björk – Biophilia, Debut & Homogenic
Boogie Trouble – Í bænum
Sykur – Mesopotamia
Hafdis Huld – Synchronised Swimmers
Lara – Suprise
Lay Low – Flatey (Live) & Live at Home
Do you have a favourite video?
That is another hard one, but here are a few:
Todmobile – Awaken (with Jon Anderson)
Sykur – Curling
Hafdis Huld – Tomoko & Kongulo
DJ Flugvél og Geimskip – HELLIRINN BÍÐUR
AmabAdamA – Hossa Hossa
Do you have a favourite hang-out spots in Reykjavik?
There are a great many, depending on what you want to do. I like to go to different places. There are lots of pubs, clubs, cafes and restaurants for drinks, coffee and food. I also like to walk by the sea, or climb up to Perlan. I also usually spend an hour or so every day in the library editing pictures ! I also like to walk around the lake Tjörnin, and always make a point to stop by the Hiroshima Stone.
And some spots outside Reykjavik?
I like to go to Geysir and Gullfoss (The Golden Falls), and I also like Akureyri, in the North, and Jökulsárlón in the South.
What do you like to eat and drink of Icelandic origin?
The Icelandic meat soup is a very good choice, several places serve it in a hollow bread loaf, so you can eat that too. The hot dogs are a tradition when you visit, I usually meet someone I know if I go to buy one. The Icelandic fish and chips, served with Skyr dips are great. Icelandic beers are quite nice, The Christmas Beer especially so, and I like Brennivín;
I am really happy that I discovered Iceland, for its scenery, people and music. I try to go there twice a year and have always had a great time. I only got back on Tuesday, and am already looking forward to the next visit.
Takk fyrir Peter!
– Wim Van Hooste