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Hello Dísa Hreiðarsdóttir!

Please introduce yourself to our ROK reader. And please tell us what’s up this month?

My name is Dísa and I am an Icelandic composer and musician. I have been involved in the Icelandic music scene for years, playing with various bands and artists, making music for theater and dance, and teaching music. My current projects are Bláskjár, which is my alter ego and solo project, and playing drums and singing with the band, Grúska Babúska. I will be releasing my first EP entitled “As I pondered these things” in April and I am very excited about that!

You play different instruments (drums, piano, …). How did it come so far?

I started playing the piano when I was 8 years old and totally fell in love with music! I added the flute when I was 13 and when I was 20 years old I decided that I wanted to be a rockstar and borrowed a drum kit from a friend and started practising. Music is such a big part of my life and I have always loved collecting instruments and learning how to play them. I also think it works well together to play both drums and the piano, my main instruments.

You graduated from the Iceland Academy of the Arts in 2011 where you studied composition, focusing on music for theater. You have written music for radio drama, dance and plays.

I have always loved the theater, it’s so magical and I also love dance as an art form. I have done some music for dance, radio drama and smaller theater pieces and I loved that! My dream is to get to make music for bigger theater pieces and that’s on my to do list in the near future. I would also love to do music for movies one day… so musical wise I have a lot of things that I am aiming on doing.

Let’s talk about your musical history:

You were a member of all girls bands like Rokkslæðan (Female Rock) and Brúðarbandið (The band of the brides). Can you tell us some stories about this bands, the Spice Girls an the Charlies avant la lettre… Why performing as brides f.ex.? Just a gimmick or deeper meaning perhaps? Are their other collaborations your are proud of…

It’s a bit funny to say that all the bands I have played in are mostly made of women. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or not…Rokkslæðan was originally just formed for one gig, but somehow people liked what we were doing, so we had to keep on going. Maybe it was because we had a lively stage performance and included the audience in what we were doing, people always like that. When it comes to The Band of Brides, I just got a phonecall from them shortly before their USA tour and was asked to fill in for their drummer. I said yes right away but then thought…wow!! I need to learn all their songs in a short time and play punk music on the drums for the first time, and buy a wedding dress ;-) It all went well and I think I will never forget our tour, it was crazy and amazing! I think the reason behind the wedding dresses was to create a concept, a visual effect and it worked really well! I have had many other collaborations through the years and there is one that I’m very fond of, and that was working with Elíza Newman on her solo project.

My favourite track by the band of the brides is “Sid”: Sid Vicious, so delicious…

Currently you are the drummer in the 4-piece band Grúska Babúska. How was your recent tour with this quartet? Future plans

Actually we are 6 in the band right now and I feel like the luckiest woman on earth getting a chance working with these talented musicians. The tour was totally amazing in all aspects! We got the chance to play these cool venues, meet musicians and other brilliant people and make contacts for future plans. Actually we are planning to go back in september. We got an offer to stay in Glastonbury for a week and make some new music and play concerts. We all kind of fell in love with Glastonbury, so we cant wait to get back. After our week of residency we will do another mini tour around the Bristol area!

Here’s my favourite Grúska Babúska video “Slagarinn”, made by Kristín Jóna (http://www.bongo.is)

But now it is time to talk abour your recent solo work:

My favourite track of 2015 was your song “Silkirein” , a song based on a poem by Stefán Ólafsson (1619-1688). Why did you use his particular poem?

Well, one of my main interest, a part from music, is reading Icelandic poetry both for fun and inspiration. I collect books of poems especially poems written by women born around 1900. I remember when I read the poem for Silkirein, something just happened and I sat down, started playing the piano and the song just came to me. This is the only poem by Stefán Ólafsson that I’m using…for now at least! The poem is about the love that never happened and uses many beautiful old icelandic words and I just fell in love with it. I really do love the Icelandic language and that’s why all the songs on the EP are in Icelandic.

Why releasing a solo album after all this years in bands?

Through the years I have always been a part of a band or supporting other artists and I felt quite good being on the side or in the back… didn’t want too much attention, being a rather shy person in general. I had been writing a lot of songs and letting other people sing them, because I didn’t like my voice, I thought it was ugly and that it shouldn’t be heard. But something happened to me in 2012. I had been going through some changes in my life and for the first time I felt that I needed to step up, find my voice and sing my songs. I was lucky to be accepted to a Music Masters program at the Academy of Arts in Iceland and spent the next two years in the search of my voice. The journey was challenging, hard and fun at the same time, but I got a lot of good help from my mentors and teachers. I always think very fondly of my voice teacher, Björk Jónsdóttir, she is one of the best teachers that I have ever had. I graduated in the spring of 2014 and premiered Bláskjár, by giving a concert in Fríkirkjan in Reykjavík. It is amazing to look back now and see how far I have come. Once I couldn’t even listen to my voice on recording but now I am really fond of my voice and looking forward to singing more! Everything is possible if you want it and ready to work hard to get to your goals!

What can we expect from your first EP entitled “As I pondered these things”, due to be released very soon? In the line of “Silkirein”, more poems, … ? Who’s involved in the making of?

When I started the Bláskjár project in 2012 the music was more folky and acoustic and my first single, “Ég vildi að ég væri,” shows that well.

When I wrote and released “Silkirein”, I added the electronica and soundscapes, something I really wanted to do for a long time. So you can say that the EP is some kind of mixture of acoustic/electronic folk music with a twist. It’s like I’m taking everything I know and putting it into use. For example, the classical piano playing, making electronic beats and soundscapes and working with my favorite new instrument … my voice. The songs are all written by me and so are half of the lyrics. The other half of the lyrics are poems by 3 icelandic poets that are very dear to me, Stefán Ólafsson, Davíð Stefánsson from Fagriskógur and Guðrún Árnadóttir from Oddstaðir.

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A while ago I played a concert at Húrra (a venue in Reykjavík) and met this amazing sound engineer. Though he didn’t know my music he somehow managed to make it sound so well at the concert. I built up the courage few days later and sent him a message, asking if he would like to work with me, and he was up for that. So the genius recording my EP is Einar Stefánsson (drummer for Vök and more). He is brilliant and it has been so great working with him. I had been working on my songs for a while but I can say that Einar took them to the next level, making brilliant arranging suggestions and creating a beautiful sound for my album. The two of us have been working close together, creating arrangements, playing instruments and doing our best to make this album sound the best we can. I also had my violinist Halldóra Ársælsdóttir come in for some sessions and she made a great mark on the album as well!

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What are your future plans?

My plan now is to release my EP and play as much as I can. I made a plan last New years eve to play at least one concert every month and that has gone well, so far. I also really want to go abroad and play my music and somehow Germany and Belgium always come first to my mind. At the moment I am the musician and the manager and that can sometimes be a little overwhelming…doing everything on your own, and things can also go a little bit slower than I actually want. But I have a plan and I will follow it through. The plan is to let my music be heard, not only here in Iceland, but everywhere it wants to go. It has helped me a lot that “Silkirein” has got such a great attention and I have to say thank you to ROK, for supporting me so much!

I have started writing some more music and I will keep on doing that and hopefully I will make another album when the time is right, but at the moment my focus is on my upcoming EP “As I pondered these things,” and I can´t wait to get it out there!

Thank you Dísa & all the best with your EP!

More information about Bláskjár can be found here:

https://www.facebook.com/blaskjarmusic

https://soundcloud.com/blaskjar

http://blaskjar.bandcamp.com/

– Wim Van Hooste