From Radio Bongo to Radio Gaga

ROK had a chat with a lovely couple: the Polish lady Aleksandra Trojnar & the Photographing Dutchman Martijn Veenman.

Who are you?

Alexandra 1

Well, the female part of us is Aleksandra. I’m from Poland and I am the publisher of the Polish music magazine entitled ‘Laif’ ( I love everything that is connected with Iceland, so you can call me addicted to Iceland in general. 
The bearded part of us is Martijn.

Martijn 2

I’m from The Netherlands and although officially a medical doctor, I also tend to get carried away in taking pictures and writing for a blog now and then. Been loving music since ‘Radio Gaga’ from Queen was aired, I felt in love with Scandinavia and its music around 2008. I never lost that loving feeling.

When did you visit Iceland for the first time?

Aleksandra: It was 2 years ago (so fresh and young but very strong love from the first sight – just like with Martijn :-) ). I decided to go to the Iceland Airwaves Festival to meet my Icelandic friends I made in Poland before.

Martijn: In the spring of 2010 Iceland sort of ‘erupted’ in my face. Or actually the footage was. Some photographer had made a timelapse movie with music of Jónsi as the soundtrack.

I wanted to go right away, but as many know: no flights. So I had to postpone and went for the first time in the summer for a trip around the country by bus. Accidentally I came across a Reykjavik Grapevine magazine and discovered Iceland Airwaves. Coming home, I almost instantly bought my plane-ticket back to go for Airwaves as I really, really, REALLY wanted to see Apparat Organ Quartet playing live!

Why are you so attracted to Iceland and its music?

A: Iceland is the most beautiful place I have ever visited (I was in many places before, as I have a traveller’s soul like almost every Sagittarius). Amazing colours, changing almost in every corner, wild nature with the Aurora in the sky, with sometimes difficult weather, unbelievable beauty!!! This energy of Iceland made me feels like at home!!!. Every time I’m back I feel like it is my real home. Iceland music is the same: fresh, wild, so different from what all music markets present.

M: Hmmm, difficult to answer as it might bring people on ideas to go there as well and spoil the peace and quiet ;-) . Recently Aleksandra and me went back for her first and my second trip around the island. Although we couldn’t see everything we wanted due to snow and closed roads, the scenery kept on surprising us. Same with the music. And music really makes the experience even better. Some bands like Sigur Rós can bring Iceland to life, just by playing their music. Elfish, yet raw at times.

What was your first contact with Icelandic music?

A: My Icelandic love started with GusGus. My friends and me discovered GusGus many years ago, 1997, by listening to their “Polydistortion” album.

Every time we met or had a party, GusGus was partying with us. The first time we saw them live was a long time ago. We went with a big group (16 people) to Berlin. It was just a small gig but I will remember it forever. We drove for over 11 hours in cars, as we didn’t have fast roads yet in Poland- but it was really worth it :-) . My love for GusGus is still very strong. I am very addicted to them and their music. I saw them playing live 11 times during the last 2 years. It wouldn’t surprise me they think that I’m crazy when they see me on almost every gig… hey hey.

M: Probably seeing The Sugarcubes on MTV. I remember I saw the video for “Regina” and bought the record when I found it year later or so.

Didn’t play it that often though… as the music was not entirely my taste. More vividly I remember watching the movie “Vanilla Sky” with Tom Cruise standing on top of a building ready to jump and some atmospheric music was played. At first I thought it was music by Radiohead but it turned out to be one of the untitled songs by Sigur Rós. I’ve been fascinated by their music ever since.

What are your projects concerning Icelandic music?

A: I have many projects in my mind concerning Iceland music/musicians and Laif magazine… but can’t talk about it now but I hope everyone will see the results soon :-) So stay tuned to We still will be talking about GusGus, that’s for sure ;-).

M: For as far as you can start living on Iceland call ‘a project’, we’ll be around listening to the music, take pictures and spread the love for Icelandic music in words and pix. ( and

What was the best live-gig by an Icelandic artist?

M: According to what Aleksandra tells me the gig by GusGus in Sopot (Poland) last year on the beach was one of the best she ever attended. For me personally it was seeing Apparat Organ Quartet playing live for the first time during Iceland Airwaves 2010 in NASA. The energy, the interaction with the audience, the music: goosebumps!

What are your favourite Icelandic bands, albums, songs?

A: I am also in love in Bloodgroup, Vök, Berndsen, Byrta and Axel Flóvent – and many more- but only thanks to Martijn as he showed me his music and I followed him with love <3.

M: I can only agree on Aleksandra’s suggestions although I naturally have to apologize for Aleksandra mentioning Byrta … But hey! It is confusing with Janus playing in so many Icelandic bands like Bloodgroup, Fura and Kiasmos. Kiasmos is also one of our favourites.

And of course Apparat Organ Quartet, Sigur Rós … And from the youngster department: East of my Youth! Best albums? “Polyfonia” by Apparat Organ Quartet. Especially “1,2,3, Forever” and “Pentatronik”. Opposite energy on 1 album but so cool to dance to … and sing along ;-).

Do you have a favourite hang-out/spot in Reykjavik?

A:  My favourite place to spend time in Reykjavik is bar/club/venue Kaffibarinn. Especially during weekends, you can meet your favourite artists, musicians, like Bongo or Hogni :-) We had a great fun there last time, during daytime and the evening as well.

SolfarM: I like it everywhere with Aleksandra in RVK. Jumping around the Sólfar at the coastline, watching the lonely, single snake in the zoo, freezing our butts off at the harbour looking for northern lights over the city. And the forest near Perlan, a great place to run around.

Having favourite spots outside Reykjavik by the way?

Oh my!! A good question… We have been almost everywhere and I think every place there is our favourite spot!!! Mountains, empty roads, East, West, beautiful West Fjords. Everything is perfect. I don’t know what is in Iceland … but she attracts me like a magnet!! Her energy, amazing beauty makes me a different person. I’m not interested anymore in living the fast life, money, ignorant people around me. I like to be with people who really feel, love, and who are happy with small things. Just going into the nature, taking pictures, listening & discovering great Icelandic music, and being in love like a teenager…:-)

Any favorite food or drinks?

M: When I first visited Iceland I ate cold whale meat and shark. Well, even the Brennivín couldn’t wash away the awkward taste. Later I tried warm whale steak and puffin, both a lot tastier. But considering the whole discussion about killing whales and a girlfriend being in love with puffins as well, a once in a lifetime experience. We both do like the lamb meat soup btw. And the amount of different Icelandic beers is also amazing. Our current favourite is definitely ‘Einstock Icelandic White Ale’!

I-don-t-need-Therapy,-I-just-need-to-go-to-Iceland-T-ShirtsA: My favourite sentence is: ‘You don’t need therapy, you just need to go to Iceland’. So lets go my Martijn!

To Iceland, forever :-)

Aleksandra Martijn Photo 2

Good luck with your solo and mutual projects and thanks a lot for your honest answers Aleksandra and Martijn.

- Wim Van Hooste

I don’t need therapy, I just need to go to Iceland