Last updated on February 22nd, 2016 at 09:53 pmReading time: 17 minutes
feeder insider w/ GusGus
Combining the buzzing energy and hypnotic beats of club culture with powerful and sophisticated songwriting, the Icelandic group GusGus succeeded in creating a signature style of funky bass, sleek synths and the imaginative use of technology and art. Now that they’ve hit the 20-year milestone as a music collective, GusGus joined us in a discussion about the early days and their meandering journey to the present moment, their approach to music-making and the link between art and nature.
keywords: change, multidisciplinary, emotion, magic
[please, fill in the blanks]
When I’m in the studio…I´m creative.
The tour that gave me the best memories…was the “Schnitzel On The Highway Tour”.
First impressions…give a roughly accurate impression.
I find it relaxing to…meditate.
My favourite ice cream flavour…is chocolate.
I’d really like to try…paragliding.
I love the sound of…breath.
Before I go to bed…I brush my teeth.
Being in a band is…marriage.
3 songs that inspire me…Moving On Up (Primal Scream), Enjoy The Silence (Depeche Mode) and Söknuður (Vilhjálmur Vilhjámsson).
Violeta Năzare: Hello,GusGus! We’re really excited to have you back in Romania after your spellbinding performance in December at the Cyclic party. What did you think of your Bucharest experience and what are your thoughts and expectations in anticipation of your next visit, at Airfield Festival in Sibiu?
GusGus: We are thrilled to be back. We had a great time before and we expect nothing less this time around.
V.N.: Your live acts are out of this world, undoubtedly a welcome by-product of your roots as a film and acting collective. How did you shift towards music? Do you still engage in film and multimedia projects and if so, how do you choose which ones to get involved in?
GusGus: There has always been musicmaking within the group as the directors of the film project that initiated the whole journey recruited actors who had musical backgrounds. We had to postpone the film for a few months in the beginning and that´s when we started making the music to the film which then became our first album. The only film and multimedia things we are involved with now are our music videos.
V.N.: Your composition changed many times along the years. Which type of assembly do you prefer? What are the pros and cons of big ensembles versus smaller bands?
GusGus: It was very exciting to be in a 9 piece band in the beginning but then it got politically heavy as the decision making process was very slow. I prefer smaller units to work in.
V.N.: What also fluctuated in time was your sound, ranging from trip hop to house to techno. What prompted these transitions? How did you manage to stay all on the same page and create a coherent sound for each stage?
GusGus: It started as an experiment and out of sheer enthusiasm to make something different and great. I guess we still have the same ambition.
With each change in the team, with people coming and going, the music and its texture takes a different turn, where the group finds a way for each individual to shine and bring their qualities to the table.
V.N.: GusGus is also about highly refined and moving songwriting. Where do you find inspiration and how do you select the themes? Does the music influence the lyrics or is it the other way around?
GusGus: We find inspiration in my immediate surroundings and the themes usually have something to do with emotions. Most of the lyrics and music are made separately and the melodies are adjusted to the musical accompaniment but it has also happened magically together.
V.N.: What do you usually start with when working on a new piece and what gear do you most rely on? Can you describe your creative process?
Personally when I write something to bring into the work process I start with coming up with a phrase or a word I want to sing and then I look for the feel and the tempo and then the bassdrum starts which is followed by chord combinations, the rest is arrangement work and collaboration.
V.N.: Reykjavik is widely considered a melting pot of culture and creativity. Would you say it set you on course for the life you are leading today? What are your views on the Icelandic music scene?
GusGus: The environment we live in obviously affects our course in life. Living in an island like Iceland affects the inhabitants greatly with its extreme weather conditions and the huge swings in daylight, from the 24 hour of darkness in the winter to the summertime when the sun doesn’t go down. In the long winters everything is rather introvert and that is the best time to write and create music.
The Icelandic music scene is reflecting these conditions very strongly as people have to stay indoors for great amounts of time in the winter and so they increase the opportunity to make and create, and become unusually productive, which is actually necessary to survive and has a remedial effect on the people´s mental sanity.
V.N.: It’s been 6 years since you’ve become part of the Kompakt family, a label we’ve been following closely and several of whose members we’ve been fortunate enough to feature in our insider series. How did your affiliation to Kompakt come to happen and how would you say this influenced your evolution?
GusGus: Six years ago we were looking for a home where we could feel safe and we coincidentally found it in Kompakt, which has enabled us to concentrate on making music 🙂
V.N.: Latvia, Russia, Poland, Turkey, you’re booked solid all summer and well into autumn too. With all the touring you have lined up, do you plan on releasing a new album anytime soon?
GusGus: We have started the work. When it comes out I don´t know.
V.N.: For 11 years, Feeder.ro has been hard at work developing an alternative musical culture and discovering new talent. What is your view on the Internet’s part in the music industry?
The internet plays a huge part in bringing the music to the people. I have mixed feelings about it because the sound quality is often very poor which diminishes the impact of the music and people´s enjoyment. Maybe this is why live concerts are getting more and more popular? People want to enjoy their experiences.
V.N.: Thank you for this conversation, it’s been a pleasure!
Feeder Insider explores the universe surrounding music and visual arts through open conversations with local and international artists. Join us here on our weekly crossing of the border between human and technological. An editorial project co-financed by the Administration of the National Cultural Fund (AFCN).