This time we head out to the west-est part of Reykjavík for our interview. There we meet Árni Grétar or Futuregrapher as he is better known, a high profile electronic musician. High profile by Icelandic standards anyway. If you are at all into the electronic music scene here in Iceland chances are that you have come across this guy at one point or another. He is not only a frequent act at various concerts but also co-founder of the newly founded and highly noticeable label Möller records and organizer of the Braindance consert series. Since Árni is himself between apartments at the moment we meet up with him at his girlfriend’s place. Her name is Þóranna and again if you are into the electronic music scene in Iceland, you might have heard of her as well under her alias Trouble. One of the first things I notice when we enter her living room is the beautiful ocean view. This came as a bit of a surprise as this is a basement apartment. Living on the coastline clearly has its benefits or in this case, having a girlfriend that does. Well enough dribble from me. Let the interview begin!
Why did you decide on the name Futuregrapher?
I remember it clearly. It was during the Gay-pride weekend in 2007. I was sitting on a bed, belonging to my, at the time, parents-in-law trying to think of a name to put on a new MySpace profile for the music I was making on my own, that is outside my band. And it just kind of came to me, Futuregrapher. It just sounded right, maybe because I was taking a lot of photographs at the time. You know: Photographer, Futuregrapher. Then I “googled” it and nothing came up, so that was that.
When is it that you start making electronic music?
I have been making electronic music since I was about thirteen years old. My father, who was very musically oriented, played guitar and was always playing some music at our house. Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Genesis and stuff like that. He one day brought home a keyboard when I was about thirteen. At the time I was listening to Chemical Brothers, Underworld and Prodigy and had noticed some keyboards in their videos. So as soon as I saw this huge keyboard I thought to myself “this must be something good“. Before that I had been practicing playing guitar and saxophone. I started to fool around with the keyboard, started to make some beats and I haven´t been able to stop.
“dancing is my favorite thing to do”
You dance a lot on the stage while playing concerts. How did that come about?
Well that´s a story. When I first got the opportunity to play live I wasn´t sure how to do it, that is what equipment to bring. I called the event organizer, Bjössi Biogen, and asked him what I should bring to the concert. „What are you using“? He replied. When I told him that I used a bunch of equipment he said it was up to me. So, not knowing how to play live I brought almost all my gear, the whole studio. When the concert finally started I realized that there was no way for me to control all this equipment on stage. Maybe some people are able to control that many devices on their own, I can think of Fu Kaisha in that respect, but not me. So after that I decided that the best thing was to limit what was actually being played live on stage. So now I make a background for my tracks and then I use Ableton Live to play short loops I have prepared at home live on stage. This opened up the possibility for me to dance on stage. Which is good since dancing is my favorite thing to do. Dancing on stage short of became my hallmark.
I heard you grew up in a small town. Where was that and how was the music scene there?
I grew up in Tálknafjörður, a small town in the west part of Iceland. There wasn´t a record store in Tálknafjörður so all the music I was listening to I had to order by post from Þruman, a legendary record store that used to be in Reykjavík. I called them a lot to buy records through the mail and when I finally met the guys running Þruman they asked me if I would like to start a small branch extension of the store in Tálknafjörður. Since my family was already running the video store in our Tálknafjörður I said sure. This was in the summer of ´97 and I was fourteen. But for the most part the people of Tálknafjörður where listening to Icelandic “sveitaballa” music (it is basically Icelandic country/dance music). The few listening to alternative music were me and my friends.
Your record store didn´t ignite an electronic “explosion” in Tálknafjörður?
No, but later my friends, Haukur and Jónas, and I started an electronic band called Equal which took part in Músík Tilraunir (a music competition for young musicians) and we made it to the finals. When we returned home there were a few new local electro bands.
Equal was active for some years. We played some gigs here in Reykjavík and released an album, which is currently unavailable, but I have been thinking of maybe uploading the album to the Internet sometime soon.
Can you tell us about how you make your music?
Sure. First it has to be said that I listen to a lot of music, of every kind. This is what inspires me and this inspiration fills me with a pleasant feeling that makes me take a seat in front of my computer to make music. Usually I start with finding a nice pad-sound, or maybe a melody played on a midi-input device or the computer keyboard through Ableton Live or Reason. Then come drums and bass.
“inspiration is crucial”
I have also made music while feeling bad and that always ends up in the songs being very dark. But making music comes pretty naturally for me. When I start I usually have an idea in my head of how I want the song to be and usually the end result is pretty close to what I imagined. Although, it has to be said, that I wished that I was better at mixing songs.
But anyway, inspiration is crucial. Without it, or without the help of the muse as I sometimes say, I can´t finish a song. For me making music is a spiritual process. I think music making is a spiritual craft, not a physical one.
Have you ever had a draught period, spiritually speaking?
No. I think I have been making music constantly since 1996. I´ve made a whole lot of tracks no one has ever heard, with the exception of a few friends maybe.
Can you tell us about Möller records? How did that come about?
Me and Jóhann Ómarsson (a.k.a Skurken) started Möller records. Jóhann asked me come over to his place to eat some bacon flavored snacks. He likes to have people over and also likes his bacon snacks. It sounds like a bad date and in retrospect I guess it was. Anyway he was playing some tracks of his new album, which then had yet to be released. I had been releasing some EP’s of my own and was interested in relishing some more music so we just decided to start a record company. Originally we named it Tom Tom records.
It just so happened that at the time Jóhann’s friend Þorsteinn (a.k.a. Prince Valium) had been planing to release his own album, an album that Jóhann had a hand in mastering, so there straight away we had three artist on the label. Soon after I heard from Tonik and Steve Sampling who also were interested in releasing their albums so in the first month (we started it in January) it became quite big.
After that we started to make our own CDs and we opened a website, which has been very popular since the opening day. There you can stream all our albums order them, or buy MP3s´. To my amazement people are still buying the old albums, which came out in February and April.
Later I decided to start a concert series under the label called Braindance (or Heiladans in Icelandic). I kind of did it out of necessity since the Weirdcore events had been cancelled. Were various artist are playing, not only the ones that are signed on our label. It is a short of an assembly, once a month. It´s held at Hemmi & Valdi, on the third Thursday every month.
Worm Is Green remix – “Around The Fire (Futuregrapher 43 Mix)”
What´s in the future for Möller records?
Muria just released his six track mini LP. I am personally very excited about that. He isn´t well known in Iceland but people should recognize his little brother Jónas (a.k.a. Ruxpin). And we also just released a new compilation album, which we hope to make into a regular thing. The idea is that young or new electronic musicians can send us their tracks and if we like them they would be featured on the next Möller compilation disk. We plan to make two, maybe three of these a year. Later we plan on releasing the first official PLX (Marlon & Tania) EP album, currently a work in progress.
“Möller, it doesn´t get more Icelandic than that”
You said that the label was originally named Tom Tom. Now it is called Möller. What´s the story behind that?
It´s a funny story actually. Tom Tom is a well know international name for a type of drum or drum sound. So during our bacon snack meeting we came up with the Tom Tom name and both liked it. We decided to check out it´s availability, so we “googled” it and descovered a lot of companies using the name Tom Tom. There is a Tom Tom Club, Tom Tom jewelry shop, Tom Tom Children Hospital and etc. We thought that one more couldn´t do any harm. But then there´s the huge Tom Tom GPS company in Holland and they have an Icelandic branch and some lawyers working for them over here. So when we started the company and got some media coverage they were quick to spot us.
We got a letter from them threatening to sue if we didn´t change the name. The lawyers even had some suggestion for a new name of our company, all pretty absurd, suggestion like Bang Bang records or something of that kind. But we had to change the name. And we decided on Möller records because we love Helga Möller (the Icelandic singer), especially during her period in the band Þú og ég. Möller, it doesn´t get more Icelandic than that. It even has the Icelandic letter Ö. Since then I´ve met Helga and she is thrilled with the name.
So what is next for Futuregrapher?
Continue working for Möller and organizing the Braindance concerts. I am also working on my first LP, called Hrafnagil. Originally it was supposed to come out this year (2011) but I decided to re-record it using new studio techniques I´ve been working on. So I guess I´ll release it next year. Plus I´ll try to continue playing concerts that hopefully is giving me the right idea of how my music is perceived and what people like. People actually seem to enjoy the music I do that has a faster beat more than the more relaxed stuff. And they still seem to enjoy watching me dance.
We say goodbye to Futuregrapher in Trouble’s basement apartment and head home with a smile on our faces. We drank coffee there. Coffee is good.
Note, since the interview took place Möller records have also released a new album by Intro Beats. Check out Intro Beats and all the other Möller artists at www.mollerrecords.com
Interview/editing: Hallur Örn Árnason
Camera: Björgvin Sigurðsson
Photographs: Nanna Dís