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12th November 2014
METAL DISCOVERY: Have you found that writing all lyrics in your native language restricts the accessibility of your music in any way at live shows outside of Iceland? It must be hard for people to sing along to your music in Icelandic…
BALDUR: Yeah, but people do! They try and that’s perfect. People just sing along… it’s not about getting it perfect, it’s just about screaming along.
(Baldur Ragnarsson on Skálmöld bassist Snæbjörn Ragnarsson's written work)
"He has an unbelievable amount of weird and beautiful and very, very inappropriate material!"
Baldur Ragnarsson and Björgvin Sigurðsson in Sound Control, Manchester, UK, 12th November 2014
Photograph copyright © 2014 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
Official Skálmöld Facebook:
Baldur (2010)
Official Skálmöld Twitter:
Börn Loka (2012)
Thanks to Andy Turner for arranging the interview.
Skálmöld og Sinfóniuhljómsveit Íslands (2013)
Með Vættum (2014)
Official Skálmöld Website:
BJÖRGVIN: I think we will never sing in any other language than Icelandic.
BALDUR: When we started the band, we never talked about should we do it in English because we have had many bands throughout the years, back home, and they’ve always been singing in Icelandic. It would’ve just been weird not to do that.
BJÖRGVIN: We are much more comfortable writing and singing in Icelandic. I’ve sung a few songs in English with a previous band but I am not comfortable doing that.
MD: Do you think that’s contributed in a big way to your success back home?
BJÖRGVIN: Yeah, but one of the biggest factors in that are the lyrics because they’re exceptionally good. I can say that because I don’t write them myself!
MD: I gather Snæbjörn performed his lyrics at a poetry event in April this year…
MD: So is it rewarding to get that kind of serious recognition for your written work away from the metal scene?
BJÖRGVIN: No, that was just an event that was organised by a young Icelandic poet who is a writing star. He organised this event where he gathered poets around him and they performed their own work; read out their own work.
BALDUR: But still, the Icelandic Music Awards are starting to pay attention to metal, and Sólstafir has had some recognition, and us as well, so that’s really nice. It’s getting bigger and bigger.
MD: Did you attend the poetry event?
BALDUR: Yeah, I went, yeah.
BJÖRGVIN: I didn’t.
MD: Were you tempted to sing along to the lyrics as he was reading them out?!
BALDUR: I think he only did one lyric from Skálmöld. He has an unbelievable amount of weird and beautiful and very, very inappropriate material! He did some of that and that was really funny!
MD: This time last year, as you already mentioned, you played a few shows with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra in Harpa, Iceland’s biggest concert hall, so was that a dream come true to be able to perform your music within that context?
BJÖRGVIN: Yeah, in a way.
BALDUR: It was just weird! Well, we talked about it some years back that it would be fun to do that, and then we got a phone call from them, just asking do we want to do this. And we said, “of course”. And it was just an unbelievable experience. We’ve been playing music for so many years with so many different bands, all over the place, and this was something completely new.
BJÖRGVIN: And on a bigger scale than we’ve ever experienced.
BALDUR: And it’s just weird as well, having a symphony orchestra and three choirs behind you, performing a song you’ve made in your bedroom six years ago just because you like to play metal!
MD: I remember Kerry King said about three years ago that metal bands who play with orchestras are just masturbating themselves. I said this to Andreas Kisser about a week after Sepultura performed with an orchestra in Brazil and Andreas’ answer to that was, “yeah, but masturbation is good!”
MD: So that was a great come back to Kerry King’s remark! I can’t imagine Slayer with an orchestra anyway…
BALDUR: No, I’m not sure about that.
MD: He’s probably just jealous.
BJÖRGVIN: I think the arms of the people playing the violins would fall off!
MD: Earlier this year, I gather you encountered some animosity from some small minded people when showing your support for a Gay Pride Weekend. I’ve always presumed that the metal scene is constituted by people who are more liberal, open-minded individuals, so did that kind of reaction shock and surprise you?
BJÖRGVIN: Yeah, in a way.
BALDUR: Yeah, we didn’t really think about this; this comes so natural to us. And this wasn’t really a statement, this was just showing support. And, yeah, it came as a surprise. But then, of course, it was a very small amount of people and, in the big context, it was hardly at all. But it’s always sad to see that people actually think like that.
MD: Even just one person is shocking.
BALDUR: Yeah. And they are so loud, these people, as well. It came as a shock but I think it’s just a small part.
MD: It shows up their own insecurities I think, really.
BJÖRGVIN: Yeah, yeah, in a way. It’s just a matter of basic human rights.
MD: And you had some people unlike your Facebook page as well...
BJÖRGVIN: Yeah, a couple of hundred. But then we gained one thousand supporters.
BALDUR: It’s just weird not to support the obvious right things. We’re definitely always gonna do that.
BJÖRGVIN: Unfortunately, gays and lesbians and transsexuals and bisexuals are discriminated still. In the twenty first century, that’s just not right.
MD: Absolutely.
BJÖRGVIN: Sexuality and gender shouldn’t matter.
MD: Exactly, good words. There’s too much prejudice in the world.
BJÖRGVIN: Treat people with respect. Don’t be an asshole.
MD: Absolutely. My final question - seeing as your band name is old Icelandic for “Age of Swords”, what phrase would you use to currently define the modern world? What “age” do you see us in, or yourselves in, at the moment?
BALDUR: Age of total war. The word was used back in the days when all the big families in Iceland were fighting each other so the whole country was at war. So it also has the meaning of “total war”…
BJÖRGVIN: And “civil war”. In the news, when a news reporter is describing a situation in Iraq or… the word “skálmöld” is used to describe it.
BALDUR: Yeah, like there is skálmöld in Syria.
MD: So that word’s used on the news in Iceland?
BALDUR: Yeah, they’ve started using it again now.
BJÖRGVIN: But the old meaning is “Age of Swords” because “skálm” is an old word for a sword and “öld” is an age.
MD: So that’s like free publicity when they say your band name on the news?!
BALDUR: I know!
MD: Okay, thanks so much for your time.
BALDUR and BJÖRGVIN: Thank you.