ROK had the opportunity to interview Elvar Geir Sævarsson, the man behind GlerAkur.
Besides your membership of DYS and Hellvar, and your work at the National Theatre of Iceland, you recorded bits of music the last couple of years. Can we consider GlerAkur as a ‘hobby project’, a ‘side project’, or not at all?
I have never been able to think in terms of ‘side project’ vs.’main projects’. It’s just a project like all other projects. Obviously GlerAkur could have beed defined as a side project in the sense that I worked on that music as experiments for Hellvar and DYS. GlerAkur had no deadlines and no compromise was needed to finish ideas. This project even dates back to when we where doing “Heiða & Heiðingjarnir” (the prequel of Hellvar) in 2001 and should rather be regarded as a sketchbook rather than an actual project. Things are more serious now and I have committed myself to Prophecy Productions and to the live-band I’ve put together.
Hellvar, and GlerAkur both have my full attention and I will work on both fronts with 100% focus and commitment. The live version of GlerAkur has almost all members of Hellvar onboard and each time we work together that strengthens our musical relationship which benefits both projects.
It started when you wrote the soundtrack to the 1911 play “Bjærg-Eyvind og hans Hustru” (“Eyvindur Of The Mountains”) by dramatist Jóhann Sigurjónsson, right?
Yes. In a meeting with Stefan Metz the director of the play I suggested that I might try some of my own music in the soundscape. He liked the idea and I started with trying some existing music I had lying on my hard-drive. I finished a mix of one track and that found it’s way on Langspil (the radio show on Rás 2). It was just my luck that an artist “scout” from Prophecy was streaming the show from Germany. The next day I received an e-mail from a label guy and we started negotiating. Pretty surreal.
What’s the deeper meaning of the name “GlerAkur”, a field of Glass? It is perhaps a reference to Philip Glass? Or do you want to keep the name mysterious?
I wrote and recorded a piece of music in 2009 and gave it to my family and friends for Christmas. It was a 12 minute track where I followed the compositions of Philip Glass and Mike Oldfield. My girlfriend called the song “Gler-Akur”, cause it sounded like a mashup of music from those composers. When I was first approached by Prophecy I didn’t have a name for the project, but when they asked for more music I sent them this track and for some reason iTunes labeled the track as: ‘track name GlerAkur by the artist GlerAkur’. So I had no choice but to go with that. And I guess it is not a mystery any more :-).
The music of GlerAkur can be considered as a unique melting pot of postrock, drone, ambient and ‘some metals’. Where do you find inspiration for these soundscapes?
The inspiration basically comes from the music I listen to. I just follow my instinct and seek out weird and exiting music. I guess it’s like adapting to spicy food. The next dose can always be a little stronger. I listen to music passionately and most of the time I spend a month only listening to one specific album. That way all of the essence of the music gets absorbed into my mind and finds it’s way in to my internal melting pot of creativity. Lately, while creating soundscapes for theatre, I have realised that music is not necessarily a linear form. It can be created and perceived through everything we hear because it all comes down to tempo and context. The traditional musical keys are sometimes too limited in a way that certain nuances are lost when they are constricted to the smallest jump of a single half note. I have found that I can create an ambiance of sadness or joy from two distinctive sounds of perhaps a howling wind and a pitched-down crying-cat. By working on the time register together they can give an impression of a desired feeling in a scene of a play, even without the audience ever being conscious of that kind of manipulation. With GlerAkur I try and use those tools to sneak in a kind of eerie feeling and drama to the music.
During the live shows GlerAkur will create a wall of sound by means of 5 guitarists, 1 bass player and 2 drummers. The first gig was at Eistnaflug festival in the East of Iceland. For the ‘Prophecy Fest’, GlerAkur created a multimedia live experience. Can you reveal something about the 2 gigs?
Well we encountered some technical difficulties when preparing for the Prophecy Fest performance and we were forced to skip the visuals. I don´t want to give anything away cause I know we will get another opportunity to deliver our visual art. But as the settings of the cave was so grand and the light-designer from the festival really responded with our music. The visual experience of our gig was quite intense, and it’s possible that by adding the visuals to the work done by the light designer the show could have been too much to for the audience to digest. It could have ended with a total sensory overload. That´s something for us to ponder before our next show.
How exciting it was to get a deal with the German label ‘Prophecy Productions’? And to play in Germany, where you once lived?
Yes. I must say I’m honoured to be invited to be a part of the Prophecy family. I’ve followed many Prophecy bands for the last few years and I must say that they are responsible for my return to the atmospheric side of life. A friend of mine introduced me to “Alcest” and “Les Discrettes” in 2012 and I was blown away. Those guys just combined all of my favourite genres and that inspired me to really break down the barriers used to describe and define music. I guess this has always been an interest of mine cause Hellvar has never settled to one genre. For a long time many people mistakenly regarded that to be our weakness but in our minds that has always been our strength. When I heard those Prophecy bands I was so relieved to hear from kindred spirits, not afraid to go with their musical instincts instead of playing along with the mindless music-industry, and the definitions imposed by the media and the labels – looking for ways to simplify art as something to consume. Prophecy is not that kind of label.
What can we expect in the (near) future from GlerAkur? A full album on Prophecy?
I’m almost done with mixing a full album scheduled to be released later this year. I won’t be surprised if the release date will be pouched until the beginning of next year though. The album will be the music from ”Eyvindur of the Mountains”. I’m currently blending the over all soundscape of the play with the music I wrote for it. It’s quite atmospheric and blends together dark ambient music with post rock/metal, shoe gaze and experimental drones. As for live performances we will play one gig on the 1st of september in Húrra in Reykjavik and I’m pretty sure we will play Iceland Airwaves festival. Those will probably be our only gigs to look forward to this year.
“Can‘t You Wait“ is GlerAkur’s first release on Prophecy Productions label.
You can buy the CD or Vinyl EP here:
Danke Schön – Thanks for this interview, Elvar!
We can’t wait for the full album…
- Wim Van Hooste
Colour photo by Halldóra Óla
B & W Photo by Rakel Erna Skarphéðinsdóttir