One of the best Icelandic songs I’ve heard in 2018 is “Crowds”, a fantastic song by Sigurður Angantýsson a.k.a. Siggi Hnífur. He’s a 33-year old manboy, who makes music and art and stuff. Dr ROK took his scalpel, Siggi his knife…
I used to be in a traveling circus back in the day and was known in the Icelandic East Fjords for my amazing knife juggling skills. I considered pursuing a full-time career and moving to the States but… there was this accident. Don’t want to get into it here. Needless to say, people got hurt, emotionally and physically.
These days you operate under the name ‘Siggi Hnífur’ (Siggi The Knife) as alternative rocking singer-songwriter and you released the fantastic song “Crowds”. Tell us more about this project…
It grew out of a need that I had to just make music completely on my own and just have it be my thing. It’s more experimental in a way, more electronic. I like making music on my computer and have been doing that actually far longer than playing in bands. I’d say starting from age 17 probably. Lots of electronic songs that I sometimes transfer over to guitar and try singing over it. That’s basically this project: lots of unreleased stuff or experiments that didn’t fit with my main bands at the time. “Crowds” is actually from 2015 I think, just some riff that I recorded late at night and then forgot about. The lyrics are also from that time. It was a weird time in my life. I guess I felt more free to experiment and not be burdened by trying to perform it live, and if it works within the context of the band I’m in and the genre that we associate with. Genre limitations man… classic first world problem.
You went to Iceland Art Academy (2009-2012) and operated/operates as a graphic designer (2016-2017). Freelancing now. You make beautiful paintings, but when came the music into your life? Did you went to music school(s)?
I’m gonna have to be real cliched here and say that music has always been there for me. Since I was a kid I’ve always listened to a bunch of music and it kind of got me through a lot of shitty times. Never went to music school, was not really interested in that. Never saw myself as a musician really until fairly late in my life, like around 23-24 maybe.
Which instrument(s) do you play? When did you learn how to play them? At older age guitar, am I right?
Right you are. Are you stalking me? I started learning the piano around 19 or 20, which is very late to start learning something like that, as it takes a LOT of practice and I didn’t really have the patience for it. I never got particularly good at it either. I tried the guitar instead and found that I could do more with that without spending all my time on trying to learn it. Did not really “learn” the guitar properly until I was in my mid-twenties, so yes that is right. I can also play a mean bass. And I really like drum machines.
You were one of the band members of the fantastic band ‘Knife Fights’? What did you do before this band? Other bands?
The founding member! But before Knife Fights I wasn’t really doing much. Just practicing and trying to work up the courage to perform live. But alongside Knife Fights I was also in a band called Antimony for a while. I produced and made all the songs for that one on my computer mostly. That was fun while it lasted. Saw myself as a Dr. Dre figure, just behind the boards, all up in the video. Producing the shit out of it. I also have an experimental black metal band called Kaleikur (Chalice) going on from time to time. It’s just me and Hjalti from Godchilla. There’ll be more stuff from us coming soon I hope. And I’m also producing electronic drone music under the name Inland Shrines which has been brewing quietly for some years now. Played a couple of gigs and I’m really enjoying that one.
I notice, again some knifes!? With ‘Murderer’ Helgi Pétur on drums (of Mordingjarnir fame)! Tell us about this band and albums you’ve made…
Yeah well, it’s really just me and Helgi Pétur the drummer and anyone else who wants to be in it. I’d say we are an indie rock band even if the term “indie” doesn’t really have any meaning anymore. Can’t just say “rock band” anymore, that sounds really boring. But I write the songs and then the others help me make sense of them. Right now it’s me, Helgi Pétur and Skúli Jónsson from Argument and Porquesi fame. I really like the idea of a three-piece rock and roll band. We were once a five-piece and that was just a hassle really. So far we’ve churned out an EP called ´OK´ back in 2013 followed by a full length album called ´I need you to go to hell´, and then another mini-album called ´I am neither a whole nor a half man´. I’ve been producing them myself and making artwork and all that jazz. Really DIY and I aim to keep it that way.
Do you recall your best and worst live gig? Great stories from being on the road you want to share with us?
One of my favorite gigs was something called ´Bummer festival 2013´which was just one night in a now defunct student gallery called Kaffi-something. I did forget. We organized it and got some cool bands to play with us, and had art and videos and stuff going on. There really needs to be more artist-run venues in town for goofy gigs like that to take place in. It’s pretty bad right now I think. Just hotels and puffin stores. Can’t play a gig in those! Or maybe you can but I don’t think it would work out. Worst gig of my live was probably an Inland Shrines show I did in Kaffistofan last winter. It was sort of improvised and most of the people were not really aware that there was a concert going on nor did they want one to be. They just wanted me to shut up basically. It was during the afternoon, around 18:00 and there was a storm outside… Some old dude even yelled at me to “please lower the volume!” which I did not do. It was kind of funny, pissing off some tourists at a coffee house. I think I liked that gig actually. One of my finest moments.
Which are your sources of inspiration? Daily life, nature, poems, book, movies, …
Daily life is obviously the biggest inspiration. Just everything in between the eventful stuff. Boredom, anxiety etc. Nature is always good. I make a habit of going to the countryside as much as I can because it always seems to charge me up creatively. I hate poetry. Books are wonderful. Movies are a huge hobby of mine so they sometimes inspire also. Kubrick and Lynch, Schwarzenegger and Cruise.
Can you name some of your influences?
I would say that R.E.M are my biggest inspiration since I’ve been listening to them pretty much all my life. Since I was 8 at least. Pavement and Built to Spill also, early Modest Mouse and stuff like that. The Smiths, The Cure etc. Parquet Courts are a current favourite. Then there is stuff like Brian Eno, Autechre, Popol Vuh, Sunn O))) etc… More experimental music that is always very relevant for me. Mount Eerie!
Name your favourite Icelandic song(s), band(s), album(s), video(s)…
That’s a tough one because I have so many friends in the music biz that are among Iceland’s finest in my opinion. If I had to pick one I would say Þórir Georg. He’s always changing things up and trying new things while being very sincere. Amazing songwriter basically. His album ´I will die and you will die and it will be alright´ is my favorite I think. I really enjoyed Markús and the Diversion sessions´ last album´The truth, the love, the life´… just really good, really basic indie rock ´n roll.
But there is so much good music in Reykjavík, can’t go over it all.
Some classic albums I guess would include Purrkur Pillnikk’s ´Ekki Enn´, ´Easy Music for Difficult People´ by kimono and maybe, I don’t know… some Björk stuff.
Helgi Pétur my good friend, makes the best music videos in town. He makes all our videos and you should watch them immediately. Start with Þórir Georg´s ´Rautt´.
What can we expect the upcoming months from you musically? Solo work, Knife Fights stuff?
I´m finishing a bunch of songs that I plan on performing live this year. There is an electro song called ´Ekki minn tebolli´(Not my cup of tea) that might be the best or the worst thing I’ve ever done. We’ll see.
Thanks for taking an interest in my work! Stay tuned for more Siggi Hnífur: coming to you liiiiive!
Check out the fantastic song “Crowds” here :
And the fantastic band Knife Fights here:
Dr ROK Wim Van Hooste