The lovely Stína Satanía brings the career of the band Mínus in the picture. No more, no less, here’s Mínus!
It has been 18 years since the five-piece called Mínus was formed in Reykjavík in 1998. At that time people couldn’t really believe that it is possible to play and perform with such a power so Mínus turned quickly into the giant and progenitor of Icelandic hardcore music scene and became a separate chapter in the history of Icelandic rock music.
So how did it happen? Two separated music projects joined their forces in fall 1998 – Spitsign with Þorgeir Björn Stefánsson (called just Bjössi) and Bjarni Sigurðarson – and – Gundog that changed later its name to Ungló and FISK with Oddur Hrafn Björgvinsson (a.k.a. Krummi) on drums and Ívar Snorrason on bass. Not all of the boys (still teenagers) were then allowed to drink in bars so they were spending a lot of time in the shared rehearsal room of those both bands with intention to make disgusting music.
How disgusting you can hear here:
Mínus comparised of the charismatic vocalist Krummi, drummer Bjössi, bassist Ívar and two guitarists Bjarni and Frosti Logason (he also played piano). The band got quickly popular among young generation. Having such charismatic frontman as Krummi that was hailed as the best singer of Músiktilraunir 1999 (a.k.a. Battle of Bands), an annual competition for young Icelandic talents, Mínus presented themselves in such a savagely blissful way that they won the title of the best band of the competition. Mínus’ Bjössi turned out to be the best drummer of the event. As a result, the guys reached the most valuable prize – supporting American post hardcore group Fugazi and recording in October a debut album entitled Hey Johnny!
The band was sonically open rather to everything although at that time they were influenced more by older Icelandic bands like Purrkur Pillnikk or Ham. Mínus offered Icelandic lyrics and a brutal sound that is rather conventionally hardcore though Mínus didn’t fit to hardcore’s strict rules.
Exactly one year after preparing the debut album, those young wolves came back to recording studio in October 2000 and got a helpful noisy hand of an artist, musician and producer Curver that took care of the second album of Mínus. The collaboration was hearable in the change of direction on Jesus Christ Bobby.
Luckily, Jesus Christ Bobby was released internationally by the US hardcore label Victory Records in summer 2001. So that’s how Mínus made the international breakthrough.
Easy to guess that the main lyricist of the band, Krummi, started at that point writing and performing in English and the situation of the band abroad looked even more promising. A lot of new gates were open for Mínus. As a consequence the guys got a possibility to play for a diversified audience during their first UK tour in January 2002 with a new bassist/a good friend Þröstur Jónsson (a.k.a. Johnny). Ívar that was in the band from the beginning decided to study at the university. The tour started rolling very fast in the first half of 2002. Also at that time vigorous stars from Mínus played their first US tour – 38 shows in 40 days, though! The band was introduced to the huge music world, performed on many stages abroad, gained currency and plenty of positive reviews from NME, Metal Hammer, Terrorizer, Kerrang! and others. Mínus definitely left the meaningful stamp both abroad and at home while being more or less always on the road for a few next years.
Mínus spent February and March 2003 on recording and mixing a new material in Icelandic Studio Sýrland. It was a seminal collaboration with Ken Thomas (Sugarcubes, Sigur Rós) and Curver that were the old good team that worked with the band on the previous release. The album entitled Halldór Laxness was out on the Icelandic independence day, June 17th, and turned out to be another step in direction that the band took while exploring sonic landscapes with the producers.
From hardcore, experimental noise to hard rock – you can find the skilful mix on this album that was actually titled in tribute to Icelandic Nobel Prize-winning author that lived and created in the 20th century. Krummi does also clean vocals on the album though he was one of the best screamers of his generation so with less screaming and more melodic way Mínus has become definitely nicer and more accessible to ears of an average listener so it happened that the guys were nominated to Icelandic Music Awards for year 2003 in categories: the best album, the best song – The Long Face, the best newcomer, the best singer (Krummi competed here with his father Björgvin Halldórson), the best video – Flophouse Nightmares directed by Börkur SigÞórsson and eventually scooped up the title of the year’s best Icelandic album for Halldór Laxness. Hailed as the saviours of metal, the band spent most of 2003 and 2004 on promoting the new great album while sharing stage with such giants as Queens Of The Stone Age, Muse or Biffy Clyro but it happened that Mínus had to come back earlier home from their US tour due to the broken arm of the bass player. One of the highlights in Europe was playing on the Main Stage at Leeds Festival in the UK. Well, supporting Metallica in Reykjavik in July 2004 for the sold out show in front of 18 thousand people (the biggest show that was held in Iceland by that time) is also a huge thing.
Do you realize the seriousness of this moment?
Mínus had to finally take a breath and slow down a bit. Band members put some energy into other side projects and focused more on their families (since Bjarni and Bjössi became fathers). The inner power of the band was about to expire so 2005 was kind of the year of recuperation and inactivity.
For over 20 days Mínus had been recording their 4th more experimental rock album entitled The Great Northern Whalekill during their stay in sunny LA in December 2006. They decided to try something new and this time they gave themselves a chance with a producer Joe Baressi (known of work with QOTSA or The Melvins) and Husky Höskulds (Fantomas, Peeping Tom). They had the opportunity and recorded everything with the use of an analogue technology. The material shows a new musical direction for the band.
The album was released internationally on May 23rd 2007 thanks to the One Little Indian record label. Shortly after, extremely tired after being on intensive tours and losing the inner energy within the band, Frosti the original guitarist and Johnny the bassist quit Mínus to try something else in their lives than working as professional musicians – like studying political science, being the radio personality or being on the sea. It was quite painful process for the band and left a huge wound. Though, remaining members of Mínus decided to carry on so they drafted a new bassist Sigurður Oddson in. Among others he was the singer in Future Future and the bass player in Astara but first of all he has been a long time friend and the fan of the band. The new team started thinking right away about a fresh material that was promised to be conceptual and very progressive rock and was actually presented at the Iceland Airwaves Festival that year.
In 2008 the rock ‘n’ roll guys of Mínus brushed off dust from hard cases for their instruments and got back on tour. After 4 years they visited the UK again in March to not only promote the material from the last album, but also they have pledged to play songs from their whole career. May and June belonged to Europe and in the summer the band was invited to festivals.
Though Mínus announced in 2010 that soon will come the end of putting final touches with the new bassist on recording that got a title KOL, apparently karma hasn’t allowed the album to be released yet. The date of the release has been postponed again and again… In the meantime the band performed in front of Russian audience and indicated an indefinite hiatus.
Now, when Mínus is officially an adult creature gathering experience of 18 years I´m still waiting for their next album. Maybe it´s hopeless since we have 2016 but I still believe that one day I will see them live for the first and most likely the last time in my life. Just let me feel this explosive energy for a second, please.
- Stína Satanía
Photograph by Snorri
More in the virtual Icelandic Music Museum here: