"Muted", born in Egilsstaðir, a small town in the East of Iceland, is the alter ego of electronic musician Bjarni Rafn Kjartansson. With no formal musical education, he started out in january of 2009 assembling cold and atmospheric drum’n’bass tracks, making his first release in may 2009, . Two months later he got his first experience using live recorded sounds during a multi-national music workshop in Seyðisfjörður.
Later that year Muted moved to Reykjavík and started rooming with Ewok of Breakbeat.is, subsequently doing a lot of DJing, radio and live gigs, including his first Iceland Airwaves set.
In 2010 he started experimenting on lower tempo’s, making mostly dubstep. At the time he'd moved to the small town of Akureyri and living there had a big impact on shaping his style.
Early 2011 Muted bought a Zoom H4N field recorder and began work on his debut album. Being unemployed at the time he made a habit of taking a walk at least twice a day for a recording session in the nearby forest. Producing huge banks of recorded material that is prominently featured on his debut album, “Muted World”. Nine months in the making, consisting of 12 tracks in various styles with tempo ranging from 90-130 bpm the album also features the soothing vocals of Jófríður Ákadóttir (Samaris/Pascal Pinon).
Later in 2011 Muted started collaborating with Samaris, initially making the popular “Hljóma Þú” remix and later collaborations on more songs.
In 2012, work on a concept album called “Planets” began. The album was mostly recorded on various synthesizers and contains 8 original works that highlight each planet of our solar system. The album is still to this date unreleased but will be coming out sooner than later on limited edition vinyl.
Late 2012, through the Stones Throw messageboard, Muted, Subminimal & Marious Voods decided to do the weekly hip hop battle challenge which ultimately resulted in Muted's first self-released & distributed album, "Lizard on Ice". Released in late 2013, the album was limited to 100 copies white labeled, stamped vinyls which sold out in matter of days.
The summer of 2013, Muted worked with a theatre group consisting of a director/actor, designer and a choreographer, where he created the soundtrack and played the theremin in a piece called “Næturlíf” (Nightlife) which was premiered on july 5th and received nationwide attention. The project was funded by the European Union and was very well received.
In 2014, Muted self-released his debut album, "Muted World" on a beautiful white vinyl and then later that year the album got picked up and re-released in early 2015 by Iceland's finest electronic music output, Raftónar.
Most of 2015 was spent on working with a hip hop artist named Ari Ma. Together, Ari & Muted created the album "Hugarfar".
In 2016, Muted worked on various projects, including an original soundtrack for a tutorial video, the sequel to "Muted World", a new album titled "Empire", as well as making the sequel to "Lizard on Ice", a fresh 20 track tape named "Wizard is Nice".
2017 was mostly spent working on "Empire" music-wise. He also took time off to focus on his professional career.
Early 2018 Muted put his finishing touches on his second studio album, "Empire". It is the most ambitious work to date, including four top vocalists from Iceland as well as a painted cover from one of Iceland's most exciting artists, dj. flugvél & geimskip. The album was released on "glowing-lava"-colored vinyls in August of 2018.
Fathered by a music nerd nutter, Muted has inherited both large amounts of old niche and mainstream music and a constant curiosity about every kind of music there is.
In this section you will find projects that I have worked on over the years and content related to them. These projects aren't the complete list of things I've done as Muted, but more like the projects that have stood out. It has a diary feel and I'm hoping this will document my endeavours throughout the years, for me to revisit later on in life.
In early 2018, I was coming back after my longest break from music since starting out back in 2009. I decided I wanted to finish and release my most ambitious work to date, my second "real" album to follow up "Muted World" (2014). This was my album "Empire" which I had been working on on and off for over 2 years.
The album includes 10 tracks and features four top vocalists from Iceland: dj. flugvél & geimskip, FEY, Ásdís María and Jófríður whom I had worked with previously on the "Muted World" album, as well as collaborations with Samaris.
"Empire" is an ode to my home, nature and my ancestors in Iceland as well as being an ode to one of my other passions, technology.
It starts off with the dreamy instrumental synthesizer title track "Empire" and evolves into the Yamaha DX7 ode of "Peaceful Sleep" which Jófríður sings. From there it goes over to the dark and cold sounding "Vogue" which then pulls you into the ecstasy of Fanney Ósk's/FEY's voice in "Núna". Sporting Icelandic lyrics that are very positive and motivating. The translation of "Núna" is "Now" and Fanney sings about being in the now and live for the moment, as well as going for yor your goals.
After the climax of "Núna", the album cools down a bit with the sleepy sounds of "Snooze". For the vinyl version, track number 6, "Fjallkona", kicks things off again with a detailed beat with warm synthesizers on top resulting in a dreamy melody. Fjallkona translates to "Lady of the Mountain", which is "the female incarnation of Iceland", read more about it by clicking on the English translation.
Track number 7 is called "Waiting For You" and features the raw housey vocals of Ásdís María. It is also the only real 4x4 track of the album, and one of few I've made during my career.
The eigth track "Undraveröld" (translates to "Dream world") is featuring dj. flugvél and geimskip. It features amazing lyrics and takes the listener on a great journey through our musical galaxy. Steinunn, or dj. flugvél and geimskip has been playing all over the globe and has been doing great things with her musical endeavours over the past years, but not everyone knows that she is also an amazing artist.
She painted the amazing album cover and it completely captures the whole aura of the album and myself as well for that matter.
The second to last song of the album is "Phoebe" and is named after a moon of Saturn named Phoebe. The song itself has a very astronomic feel to it and is a logical continuum from the spacey "Undraveröld". My biggest fear in life is that someone will think that this song is named after Phoebe from Friends. Just to clarify, I don't like Friends and this song is named after Phoebe the moon.
To close the album off is a completely mad track. "Society" features myself playing around with my Moog Little Phatty, which ended up being the main lead synthesizer line in this song, and it's complete madness. It ends abruptly, but that's intentional and a great way to close off the album.
As said before, this was absolutely my most ambitious work to date, and for ambitious work, I felt like it needed ambitious handling as well. I therefore decided to do my 3rd self-released vinyl, MUTED003. The album was released in August of 2018 on a very limited "glowing-lava"-colored vinyls with black inner sleeves and Steinunn's amazing cover. To customize every album, I decided to only do white-labels on the vinyls themselves, so I had to draw "A" and "B" on each record and therefore none of the copies are the same. With the help of my girlfriend, we designed a cover inlay out from the cover itself and printed it on fancy photography paper and those inlay-papers will include a special handwritten thank you note, as well as information about the album.
The album was mixed by myself and José Diogo Neves, a professor at the TÜ Viljandi Kultuuriakadeemia university in Estonia. José also mastered the album. Only analog equipment was used during the audio processing and therefore the sound is extra warm and crisp.
Click image for more detail
Wizard is Nice
2017 was the year I worked a lot on hiphop beats. Usually when I don't feel inspired to write music for my main "sound" if that could be said, I usually tend to make a lot of hiphop beats to kill my spare time. This has resulted in an enormous amounts of beats on lager. This is how "Wizard is Nice" came about. I designed the cover myself, for the first and only time.. I will leave it up to the professionals for the future.
Some of the tracks have fun stories about them as well. In the first track "Létt lund leysir alla hnúta", an Icelandic saying that translates to English as: "Light mood solves all knots", I sampled an old casette tape that was meant to be played while driving with the family in the Icelandic country side, which has all these hillarious short-radio-stories that are absolute gold for samples.
Track number 6, "Wrong Train" serves as a memory of my amateurism. It was written after I took the wrong train from Schönefeld airport in Berlin on my way to Hamburg and ended up in Potsdam and had to take an overnight bus to get to Hamburg in time, but it left time to make a beat.
"Genocide", track number 9 is a beat that I made for Vivid Brain of Iceland hiphop fame. Somewhere deep on my hard drive is a half finished album with him with ridiculously good verses on top.
Track number 11, "Masterchef" was written while my friend Bjössi, who works as a chef came over and spent an evening cooking at my place and we recorded every step of the process on my Zoom and this beat came out of that. If any of my songs are vegan, this is the one. Very organic.
The track after, "Tübingen" was written shortly after I moved away from Iceland to Tübingen in Germany and got that name to preserve a memory for me of the time I spent in Germany.
Track number 15, "Theme Kenda" is an ode to one of the greatest homicide detectives in the history of mankind, Lt. Joe Kenda. I once fell into the rabbit hole that was the show about Lt. Joe Kenda, all re-enacted and as real as it gets, haha. I had this beat in a folder from earlier times and felt it was fitting as a detectives theme.
"Notice Me" is possibly my favorite track of the album. It's an old beat I created and used some acapella I found on a Russian acapella website back in 2009 and that, mixed up with a chopped up George Benson beat works like it was made for each other.
"Leaving Iceland" is also very much a favorite for myself. It's the only time I have released a song ever, where the project file was corrupt and I only had the wav file. I still decided to include it as I really much like how the arp plays with the bass and the beat.
The album was released on Möller Records (Helga056) digitally only and is available here.
It was also featured in the printed edition of the oldest newspaper in Iceland on the 19th of April 2017. Which was really cool. If you understand Icelandic you can read it by clicking the image on the right.
RAPA Tutorial Video
In October 2015, I started working as a contractor for the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology. My objective was to set up a massive cluster of almost 2000 Raspberry Pi computers, equipped with a camera, to be used for phenotyping purposes. Needless to say, I had no idea what the Max Planck Institute was when I moved to Germany and it was pure fate that I ended up working on the most fun project I have worked on so far in my adulthood. Max Planck Institute is known for it's success in the fields of sciences and has over 33 Nobel Prize Winners, there amongst Frau Nüsslein-Volhard, working on the other side of the hallway from me. This served as a wet table cloth in my face and made me realize what kind of a place I was in. The experience working on this project, around individuals on such a high level within their fields, has completely changed my mindset and inspired me to do so many cool things already, since starting on the project. Here below you can find a tutorial video I created for my department to show all the steps the light fixtures they use in their growing rooms go through to have the RAPA system installed. I did everything from shooting with the camera to editing to stop-motion to original soundtrack you can get for free here, or by clicking the photo below.
"Hugarfar" / Icelandic hiphop album
I'm usually not a fan of travel-blogs, because often they're nothing insightful, only a count of achievements and some sort of a show off. But 3 years ago that changed when I was internet-introduced to an Icelandic rapper by the name Ari Másson, by his cousin. I only saw a video to a song called "Landnámsmaðurinn" which is a beautifully written rap song about the vikings who were coming to Iceland in the beginning..
His nephew told me that Ari was travelling through South-America for 9 months and I could follow him on his blog which I checked out and I was already fascinated how he managed to get words into vivid images in your head, so I decided to contact him and send him some music.
When he came home from South-America in may 2014 he went straight to the national park in "Ásbyrgi" which is about 2 and a half hours away from my hometown of Egilsstaðir, to work as a park ranger for the summer. We intended to meet that summer to do some music together but it didn't work out that summer so Ari went onto other adventures after the summer. He moved to Amsterdam where he lived for the next months writing and we kept in contact meanwhile.
It wasn't until the summer of 2015, when Ari was again working as a park ranger at the same place, when I decided to drive and visit him. At the time he was working in Hljóðaklettar, which is nearby Ásbyrgi and hands down the most amazing place I have ever seen with my eyes. Me and my girlfriend Eva spent 4 hours hiking there by ourselves with the stunning artworks of nature.
Later that day after Ari had finished work, we met at the ranger's cabin and started recording our first demo. Because I forgot to take the sticks that hold down the tent, me and Eva couldn't stay in the tent like we intended, so Ari graciously invited us to stay in the cabin for the night.
Ari came and visited me with his friend and fellow park ranger, Sylvía to Egilsstaðir two weeks later and we recorded half of the album at my place. We went and had a guided tour in the aluminium factory in Reyðarfjörður to gather information for our song, "Ál", which the great author Andri Snær Magnason featured on with us. We also went to Seyðisfjörður and recorded inside "Tvísöngur", a beautiful tatooine-like sculpture located up in the steep hills of Seyðisfjörður. And went and hid in bushes and watched reindeer eat grass amongst other great things.
In late august 2015, me and Eva went again to Ásbyrgi, and brought all the studio equipment with me and we recorded the rest of the album in the rangers-residence in Ásbyrgi, called "Ás".
This project was really special for me. As a hiphop enthusiast, I've always wanted to do a hiphop album with an Icelandic poet. But I didn't realize beforehand that I would make a friendship for life and visit some of the most stunning places I have ever seen in my life. I will forever remember this project as one of the most fun I've had and look back at it really proud.
Visit HERE to get yourself a free copy of the album and check some of the videos from the playlist below.
"Special Place" Videoshoot
One friday in September 2014, four men went on a trip to Víðihóll, Hólsfjöll. The crew featuring Sindri, a talented filmmaker and snowboarder from Akureyri, Auðun, my brother and the only actor in the video and our good friend Kexi.
I'm usually not a paranoid person, but earlier that friday my dad called me and told me about a pollution cloud heading our way from the then recently started Holuhraun volcano. I was a bit shaken, so I decided to bring my old gasmask from the time when I worked in the aluminium factory in Reyðarfjörður. For this trip, I also borrowed my fathers quad-bike and my precious '97 Toyota Carina E did an amazing job carrying us, a trailer with a quad-bike, and one and a half carloads worth of camera equipment all the way to Iceland's highlands.
Víðihóll is on a private land my family owns, it's very remote and the nearest notable town is Grímsstaðir. It's located almost exactly halfway between Akureyri and Egilsstaðir and with no electricity it's the perfect place to go to for relaxation and mind-easing. I used all the good memories I have from this place as inspiration as I wrote the lyrics of the track, so it was really fitting to shoot the video at this location.
The landscapes are beautiful and everything looks so untouched. You can find moon-like areas, green areas and a whole bunch of plants that survive under extreme condidtions in the winter. My favourite part about Víðihóll is the stunning view of my favourite mountain, Herðubreið. From Víðihóll the top of the mountain is perfectly aligned so it looks like a beautiful crown.
The weekend we spent shooting the video in Víðihóll and it's surroundings. Myself and Sindri took the quad-bike and drove with the slider and all the equipment up on top of a mountain and drove the ridge of the mountain to get an even more promising shot of Herðubreið with the volcano in the frame as well.
After a good weekend we drove Sindri to Akureyri and headed back home to Egilsstaðir.
Sindri works for a local television station in Akureyri called N4 and through his job as a camera man there he had the opportunity, only a day after our weekend, to go to visit the Holuhraun volcano face to face to record some material for the television. N4 graciously allowed us to use the content for the video and for that I will be forever thankful.
To give even a more shout out to N4, they also premiered the video on they're TV station shortly after release, being the only TV station in Iceland ever airing this video.
"Special Place" is the first official Muted music video.
"Hérsögn" / Mythology Project
Hérsögn is the name of a special newspaper brochure my friend Hjálmar made in the summer of 2014. He approached me and asked me to do a soundtrack to the stories in the brochure. The project seemed really interesting and I saw a great opportunity for myself to take time and read some myths and stories from my nearest neighbourhood.
I travelled a lot working on this project, went on midnight hikes and generally had a lot of fun working on this project. If you click the photo on the right you will be directed straight to the paper and down below you can find the soundtrack I did, but first you can read Hjálmar's words on the project:
"So what does Hérsögn mean? The word Hérsögn is a title trying to be clever. For a while I debated naming it Heresay (rather than Hearsay) because that would almost be a literal translation of Hérsögn but in the end I decided to keep it in Icelandic. Despite the shaky origins of the title it captures pretty well what this paper is trying to do. That is to say, tell stories from a specific location (Fljótsdalshérað, east Iceland) and hopefully enrich the experience of those who go through there. I've only picked a handful of stories from the area and shamelessly a couple from a neighbouring municipality (Seyðisfjörður). Needless to say there is a large collection of myth and folklore to dip into and my attempt to use them to create an additional landscape has almost limitless potential.
Some of the places mentioned in the stories are easily accessible but others less so and some even on private land. So if you’re curious I encourage you to look it up or ask a local before you go myth hunting. I explored the area as much as I could, documented the environment and conducted interviews. Before long I put myself in the stories to share my experience of growing up there.
In grade school we sometimes went for long walks into the surrounding cliffs of Fellabær to draw mythical creatures in the environment. Giant faces appeared in boulders and cliffs as evidence of unlucky trolls minding their own business and then suddenly being turned to stone by the sun. No one came back empty handed of course. We were thrilled to have experienced the hidden world in our immediate environment, thrilled that a rock wasn't just a rock and thrilled that we actually didn't find any real life trolls. The majority of them are total bastards."
As you can see the "Muted World" story spans 3 years. When I was living in Akureyri in 2011 I couldn't get any job, I applied for tens of positions but couldn't get in anywhere. That meant that I had a lot of spare time on my hands so I decided in January of 2011 to buy myself a Zoom H4N field recorder which has since then became one of my most trusted companions. I also knew I would be spending a lot of time inside the house I was living in and therefore I set a rule that I would have to go out to record sounds at least once a day. I made a decision to make an album and started experimenting with recorded elements from the recorder with my otherwise completely sample-based music.
I lived in Akureyri most part of the year but came home to Egilsstaðir for a summer job and spent all my spare time in the Slaughter House working on the album.
After 9 months in the making, in September, the album was finally ready. Since I literally spent equally much time as it takes for a baby to develop, I really wanted to make sure the album would get the right treatment. In my eyes I wouldn't settle for anything less than a CD release. I spent the next couple of months sending out demo's to a handfull of carefully picked out labels and people. In December, after a couple of meetings and some e-mail exchanges I had 6 offers I was looking at, most of whom unfortunetaly were asking for a digital release. There was one label that showed such interest in a release that I was willing to check they're offer. That label was Nu Directions, a label from the United Kingdom run by a guy named Andy. I liked his ideas and I also looked strongly at the fact that his label was distributed by ST Holdings, the leading distribution company in bass music. From a marketing point of view this weighed in heavily. But this decision would turn out to be time costly.
In the end of december 2011 I signed the contract and sent it out to the UK for Andy to sign. Having released a handfull of tunes before this, I knew that releases can take forever and labels often plan months and even years ahead. Months pass and I'm every now and then contacting Andy, seeing if anything is happening because I had been promising people this album for all this time and I was excited to get it released. Finally in august Andy sends me the artwork for the album and I think it's finally about to happen. Weeks pass and nothing happens so in November of 2012 I'm getting really frustrated and I contact Andy and demand to know what's going on. Andy gets back to me and tells me that ST Holdings have problems with the release, basically, I was told that they didn't believe this album was profitable enough for them so they wouldn't distribute it. A clear example where money is higher rated than music, earning them the nickname "Scumbag Holdings". What was more shocking was that they threatened the label that they would terminate the contract if they would release my album (and other releases he had planned).
Yet another, quite big bump in the road.
Ofcourse Andy didn't feel good about this, he still supported the album and wanted to release it. He gave me two options, a) do a 500 copy CD release with a 12" single/remix and release it on some other brand he would start up or b) terminate the contract and I would start the whole process from beginning. I was still quite pissed off about the whole thing after all this time-wasting but in the end I decided it wouldn't hurt me much more to give this a couple of more months. Andy seemed genuinly sorry about this and seemed as keen to get this album out as I was.
What annoyed me the most about this was that when people would ask me when my album would be coming out I was always answering them with information Andy was giving me and that never came true. Made me look like a mug.
At this time I was losing my faith, I was starting to think that this album was cursed. To distract myself I started another project, a hip-hop album called "Lizard on Ice", you can read more about that project below.
The year is 2013 and two years have passed since I started the album. I gave Andy a couple of months but really had no hopes. I contacted him early 2013 and he said he was gonna get married but asked me for more time and he would release the album right when that was done. For me it was either that or start from scratch so I put one last leap of faith in him. Months pass and in the summer I contact him and tell him I'm gonna take the album back, he agrees to that and terminates the contract and since then we haven't spoken and his label has become inactive.
Now I'm convinced this album is cursed so I decide to put it on ice for now at least. I finish the process of releasing "Lizard on Ice" and seeing both how much fun and much more personal it was to basically handmake a vinyl record and distribute it yourself, even in small quantities I made a decision in early january of 2014 to release "Muted World" on vinyl myself.
Having worked with R.A.N.D Muzik on my first release I sent them an e-mail and after some planning I made an order. The first release took some months in manufacturing so I expected the same for this. I contact them again in march to check the status of my order but receive the replies that I don't have any order in the system, so because of some miscommunication my order never reached production. This was yet another time-wasting bump in this long road I had been cruising. I immedietaly sent them an e-mail and told them to start the production right away.
The design of the album was in the hands of three people, myself, my friend Siggi, and his girlfriend Maríanna. I decided I wanted to have the vinyl white, the labels black, the sleeve black and the cover black with some cool white artwork. I had planned a release party for the album in july and planned my summer vacation around that timing so everything seemed to be going in the right direction, finally.
In May Siggi sent me the artwork, he did the drawings and Maríanna did the graphical work, she also gets all the kudos for the neat turquoise coloring. Following the finished artwork I sent R.A.N.D. an e-mail and tell them that I have the artwork ready for printing. I receive a mail back saying there is a problem. Just when I thought nothing more could go wrong I'm being told that there aren't any white vinyls left. I again, have two options, a) pick any other color or b) wait for a month for white vinyls. The first option was something I really couldn't think about because all the concept was made around the vinyl itself being white, or at least the design part. I reach back to them and tell them that I'll wait for the white vinyls but I let them know about it's urgency to be out by July.
A couple of weeks pass and I get an e-mail from R.A.N.D's graphic designer and she tells me that the files I sent them won't work for printing the covers. The bleedmarks needed to be fixed so the printer would recognize where to print and everything would be aligned correctly. Now it's June and I'm leaving for Amsterdam in 3 days at this point. None of us three who designed the cover have studied graphic design so I basically needed to learn how to become a graphic designer in the span of 2 days. I somehow managed to put some crap together and send her, but when I was in Amsterdam I received an e-mail from her saying it still wasn't good enough, but the beautiful human being she is, she fixed this for me and I didn't have to worry about that part anymore.
When I got home from Amsterdam I waited and waited and expected the records to be here any minute. I didn't need to do as much work to these records as I needed with my first vinyl release but still needed to mark each record with A and B side so I wanted to have the records in my hands before I would leave for Reykjavík. The day arrives when I'm travelling to Reykjavík and the records still aren't here. I have contacted R.A.N.D. numerous times at this point and they've told me that the records have been shipped. I drive to Reykjavík without the records and finally they show up a day before the release and I was able to prepare everything at last minute.
Making and releasing this album was one of the most frustrating yet satisfying thing I have ever done, nobody is to blame for what happened but it can be said that in a way this album was cursed.
Since I started this music adventure it has always been one of my goals to go abroad to play for other audiences. In 2013 I received an e-mail from Skopje, Macedonia. The mail was sent by a fellow drum'n'bass enthusiast named Alex.
I have often been contacted by promoters around the world but since it's usually people who have very much passion and heart for the music rather than big companies the discussion usually stops when you start checking how much flights from Iceland cost.
I have a small connection to Skopje as a classmate of mine in elementary school was born in that city. I could remember at birthday parties as a kid, going to his house to eat some delicious Balkan treats. Because of this connection, and the fact that I would probably never visit this place, I was super keen on trying to make this work.
After countless e-mails and with help from some good people we were able to make this trip happen so after months of planning, me and my friend Agzilla embarked on a journey to take over the capital of Macedonia.
We arrived at "Alexander The Great" airport on friday the 31st. When we got to our apartment, I slept for most of the friday, while Aggi did some interviews. The rest of the day was spent checking out the locals. It was really nice to have a personal guide with us there and the locals, although being really poor, are really welcoming, helping and genuinly nice people. The friday night, we went to see some DJ that Alex knew and he was playing this mixture of hiphop, drum'n'bass and other electronic music all mixed together, and he was actually ridiculously good at it, switching between tempo's left and right. At this club I noticed how different our cultures really are, here in Iceland, people only act on what they think other people would think is cool, rather than act on pure feelings. In this club I watched two 50 year old girlfriends dancing their ass off to drum'n'bass music.
We started the day of the gig really fresh. We went to the bakery and I bought a burek which my old classmate, Marko, had recommended for the trip, Balkan food is amazing.
The rest of the day we mostly spent at our apartment preparing for the gig. The venue was a 500 year old marketplace building named Kapan An in the middle of the old town of Skopje. At midnight we went to the venue with all of our luggage as well, as our return flight to London was at 6AM. The venue was by far the coolest I have ever played. Joining us on stage were local artists, Anomalia Nativa and Nultabyte, and to make it even more cool, there was a thin screen covering the stage and a good man by the name Muter controlling 3D visuals through that screen.
I went on stage at 2AM and played my set to one of the best crowds I have ever played for. Aggi took the stage at 3AM and blew the roof off the building and all in all it was a very successfull takeover.
After the gig we were taken by Alex and his friend to the airport where we were stopped at the entrance by a woman who didn't know what Iceland was and after showing her all the documents I had on me to make her believe Iceland would exist she finally let us go and we almost missed our flight to London.
All in all the takeover went great, everyone had a really good time and I made lots of friends and will remember this night for the rest of my life. It was really nice to experience this, connecting these two very different worlds for a night of pure love for drum'n'bass.
Sig Vicious is one of
Iceland's most talented
graphic designers, he designed
the Muted logo you can see
in the header of the page.
"Lizard on Ice"
In september 2012 I was taking a break from the Muted World project. I needed something else and being a huge fan of the record label Stones Throw I used to check their messageboard a lot. There they have an interesting section simply called "Beat battles". The winner of the previous week makes rules for the next weeks contest, also providing the users with a song to be used for that particular week. Since I was a kid I've always been faschinated with hiphop, especially the beats and rhythms. I talked to two Icelandic producers, Subminimal and Marious Voods, and we decided to do a little contest between ourselves and see who could flip the sample in the coolest way. Out of that challenge came the first track for the Lizard album, "Muted Lady". I participated in the battles for the next couple of weeks but then I felt like I needed to make more and more hiphop so I decided to start my own project, making a hiphop beat tape.
When I was about halfway done with the album I received an e-mail from a Icelandic music fund encouraging me to apply for a funding for some project. I felt it would be fitting since I was already working on this beat tape, to apply for a funding for a vinyl release. By doing this application I would have to make a financial plan and all that sorts of stuff, so I eventually had to check how much vinyl production would cost. Axel Weber is a German friend of mine, he runs one of the coolest independent labels out there called Alphacut. He also works at R.A.N.D. Muzik so information about this kind of production was very accessible for me. After talking with Axel and getting all the info I needed I made my application and sent it. Months before answer from the music fund was due I had already decided to release this album by myself in case I would get a no.
The day arrives when I get my answer and it is a big fat "NO". For me, by that time, it didn't matter as in my head this album was already released. That same day I sent an e-mail to R.A.N.D. and ordered 100 copies of white label black vinyls with white covers.
The name "Lizard on Ice" is very random, there is no real thought to it really. I'm a big fan of the Showtime series "Dexter" and in some episode Sgt. Doakes says something in this way "..he was like a lizard on ice", and there I had my name for the album. Just something random, that doesn't make much sense, but still sounds cool as a name for a hiphop album. When I picked the name I also thought about the connection between the name and the cover and knowing my friend's Siggi's drawing style I knew he would make something cool with a lizard.
The day came when the albums arrived and when I opened the boxes I noticed that the covers weren't what I had in mind when I made my order. This was at a stage when everything was ready, Siggi had made the beautiful artwork, vinyls had been made and this had been sent all the way to Iceland.
This meant that me and Siggi needed to rethink the whole cover idea and I decided to use the white label on the vinyl itself as an extension to fill up the gap in the cover, so it would look as it was a pure white background. I went in every printing related company in my area and nobody could print on the covers so I had to find another solution. I called some people and my uncle Helgi told me he had a big plastic sticker roll that he couldn't use. He also has a big printer that we could put the roll into and print the covers that way. I thought this was a great idea and drove to Eskifjörður to work on the covers. When we were about to start to print the covers we noticed the roll was a little bit too big for the printer so I needed to make the roll shorter. The only useable tool my uncle had was an old sawblade. I spent the next hour sawing off the end of roll and when I was done it looked as if a bomb went off right next to it. It was really close, but we were able to print the full size covers on the sticker roll, but only 40 of them. I took the printed stickers and drove back to Egilsstaðir. My mom helped me to put the stickers onto the covers and my dad who works at the hospital hooked me up with a surgeon knife, that I used to cut out for all the edges on each copy. I later went and bought more sticker paper, a slightly different kind, so technically there are two versions of this album out there, but I used these stickers to finish the remaining 60 copies. After they were all done I hand stamped each copy from 001-100, and went on a road trip to Reykjavík where I personally delivered most of them to the buyers. That was a really fun experience, and it's cool to meet the people who want to listen to your music.
As it was released in very small quantity the album sold out in less than 2 weeks and the project, for me, was a great big success that paved the way for my future releases.
"Næturlíf" / Theatrical
Three months in the summer of 2013 I spent working on a theatrical project that was the brainchild of actor/director Pétur Ármannsson, his fiancé, Brogan Davison, a choreographer from Brighton, UK and Hjálmar Baldursson, a designer who I also worked with on the "Hérsögn" project. I oversaw the audio part of the show, both doing original soundtracks for scenes, playing the theremin live, doing a radio show for a camping scene as well as DJing at a massive rave.
The show was completely made up from scratch by us, the group, which would later be named "Tilraunaleikhús Austurlands", "Experimental theatre of East Iceland". After a couple of weeks of brainstorming, we decided to base our show on the best memories and feelings we have experienced while partying. As it was sort of unusual theatre, we used this idea as the main theme for our show and around that Pétur walked the audience around the room, which we had divided into lots of smaller rooms and told a story on the way. Like I mentioned above we also had a camping scene where people would sit down and have a coffe and we would sit on fake grass floor in tent chairs drinking coffee and Brogan would tell stories from her earlier days going out camping with friends.
The show was supported by the European Union, the Cultural council of East Iceland, Landsbankinn and many more and with that support we managed to put on hell of a show.
When we were working on this show, I was also working full-time at my day job, so I didn't have much time to cook or think about health. Coming from Egilsstaðir, Subway is the only fast-food restaurant available so I ate my favourite, chicken sandwich, every day while we were working on this project. That would turn out to be the worst decision of that summer. I got salmonella from the chicken at Subway, and had it for the last week of the show, I can confirm that doing a theatrical show whilst having salmonella is not fun.
The show received lots of praise and was featured on the 7 o'clock news on the national television. At the time, because of little sleep and much stress, I wanted nothing more than to get it over with. It wasn't until a few months later when I realized how giving and fun it really was.
In 2013 I had my first original work featured in a full blown Icelandic feature movie. The movie, called "XL", was released on the 18th of January 2013 and was directed by Marteinn Thorsson and starred María Birta and Ólafur Darri.
My remix of the Samaris track "Hljóma Þú" was the song used for the movie.
I got Martein's blessing for putting this video up.
When you live in Egilsstaðir, you can easily get bored. To fight this problem I tend to make projects everytime I need to do something, which ultimately results in tons of projects and way too much to finish. "Planets" was one of these projects. It was in late September 2012, and I was babysitting my friend's Arnar's synthesizer. It was a Novation Supernova II and I really wanted to put it to use. It sounds a little cheesy but you can get really cool and spacey sounds out of it.
In 5 minute walking distance from my apartment, a.k.a. "Muted HQ", in an industrial area in Fellabær, there is a small forest with a bench and a beautiful view of the lake "Lagarfljót" and Egilsstaðir as well. I really enjoy going there after a long day at work to chill and get in some relaxation before I start working on music or other things. I was laying on the bench in the forest, watching the completely cloud-free sky and thinking about the stars when I made the decision that it might be fun to do a "Planets" album, i.e. I can obviously not do a song for every planet in the universe but in our solar system we have our 8 main planets and when I got home I started researching the planets and also what makes each planet unique.
I decided to stick with a certain sound-theme, using some recorded sounds from my Zoom recorder and most synth lines and melodies I would play on the Supernova synthesizer.
The album hasn't been released still but some of the songs have already been popular amongst DJs I know around the world. I plan on releasing this album sooner than later on limited edition colored vinyl.
First time I got to know the guys from Breakbeat.is was all the way back in 2006 when Gunni/Ewok, Kalli, Arnór and Karina spent some days in a cabin just outside Egilsstaðir. I knew this one girl who was in my high school and I had seen on her MySpace that he she liked drum'n'bass music. I contacted her and this was around similar time that the guys were here and she invited me with her to a party in the cabin. This night was basically my first contact with actual DJ equipment, CDJ's, SL's and loads of records. I heard so much music that night I had never heard before and I can remember hearing "Bury The Bwoy" by Mala, that Kalli played for the first time that night.
After this, I kept in contact with Gunni and Kalli and started experimenting with DJing myself, eventually buying my first CDJ's in 2008.
When I moved to Reykjavík in 2009 I started rooming with Gunni and Arnór. We would have thousands of records, many turntables and CDJ's as well, this was the perfect place to grow as a DJ/producer. I remember taking two Villalobos records and practice beatmixing the whole night.
As well as hosting the longest living club nights in Iceland, Breakbeat.is also hosted a radio show every wednesday at Radio X 977. There I got my first experience in the radio and that was a very giving experience. The club night they had every first thursday of each month, were legendary. Sometimes they would have over big names from the worldwide scene and through that I got to know some very talented producers. They also made a fun thing regarding their posters and flyers. They challenged a specific graphic designer to do one months poster for the club night, then after he had finished he challenged another graphic designer, and from there it went on and on and resulted in a beautiful book released by Breakbeat.is called "Taktabrot".
Breakbeat.is gave me something no one else in Iceland could, a place where I could free my taste in music without any boundaries. They were like a big family of like minded people and I couldn't be more thankful for what they gave me. I made friends I will have for all my life through Breakbeat.is.
"Hljóðbáturinn" / LungA
One week in July 2009, me and my brother decided to go and take part in the LungA workshops in Seyðisfjörður. They have all these workshops to choose from and usually someone known within that genre to tutor at the workshop. We chose a workshop called "Hljóðbáturinn" or the "sound-boat", tutored by two great masters, Mugison and Davíð Þór Jónsson.
We spent the week sleeping on mattresses inside the elementary school in Seyðisfjörður. The only thing I can take from that stay, in the school, was that some genius person put their phone charger, pins up, under my mattress, you can imagine the rest.
The workshop aimed at using recorded sounds from anywhere, recorded on phones or just whatever people could use to record sounds, to make a track or some creation. Myself, my brother and a guy named Andri worked together on this project, recording sounds on my old Sony Ericsson phone and then we used the sounds and created this song you can listen to here.
The week ended with a celebration where everyone would showcase what they did over the week. That was a really cool experience, being part of this big show. When our song was about halfway through, the "stomp" workshop took over, starting in the same rhythm as our song, continuing the show.