Interview HAM Iceland

Interview HAM Iceland

In collaboration with Secret Solstice, the interview was made after the sound check at the venue, with the support of Icelandic Mountain Guides and Iceland Rovers

Pictures by Leana Clothier

Interview HAM Iceland band in Secret Solstice with writer Jordi Pujola
Interview HAM Iceland band in SecretSolstice Jordi Pujola by Leana Clothier

link complete interview HAM Spanish

La Contra Islandia is a project of www.escritorislandia.com by the Spanish writer Jordi Pujolà to put in contact Icelandic and Spanish cultures

HAM Icelandic Band: It looks like they have come out from a Western movie (beards, long hair, black clothes, hats…) and for sure they are the bad guys. I admit I was a bit intimidated before starting the interview (they are very famous and like black humour and irony), but we connected very well and laughed a lot, they are friendly and cool fellows

And the music is just great, especially outdoors, think of Rammstein but in Icelandic

Don´t miss:

HAM is a legendary Icelandic rock band formed in 1988, they sing in Icelandic and their songs are mostly about betrayal, grief and death, and friendship, love and hate

HAM Icelandic band started warming up the Sugarcubes´concerts and now it´s a cult band

The band participated in the making of the cult Icelandic classic film Sódóma Reykjavík and Sigurjón Kjartansson wrote most of the soundtrack

Interview HAM Iceland Ottar Proppé Secret Solstice 18
Interview HAM Iceland in Secret Solstice 18

«…the Icelandic musicians look down on the Eurovision contest…»

They stopped in 1994, and HAM did not perform again until 2001, it was a sort of bet Sigurjón made with the guys: if Rammstein visit Iceland, HAM reunite

What is the most striking of the band for me is the contrast (Iceland is full of contrasts) of the two singers: Sigurjón (glacier) is big, wears on black and has a deep voice; on the other hand,  Óttar (volcano) is light, wears 80´s flashy clothes and has an acute voice

«…I don’t think the average Iceland does have a very good taste of music…»

First thing I did when meeting them was to give them original Spanish ham I brought from Spain and told them it´s much better than Parma ham (and also advised them to drink Cava instead of Prosecco)

Meaning of HAM in Old Norse

However, Flosi Þorgeirsson told me the name of the band refers to he word “hamur”. Basically, it means “skin” but the way we use it, it’s related to an expression that has shamanic references to wearing the skin of an animal, typically wolf or bear, and gaining the strength of that beast. Vera í ham

Members Icelandic band HAM

  • Sigurjón Kjartansson (guitar, vocals)
  • Óttarr Proppé (vocals)
  • Arnar Geir Ómarsson (drummer)
  • S. Björn Blöndal (bass)
  • Flosi Þorgeirsson (guitar)

The famous composer Jóhann Gunnar Jóhannsson (1969-2018) used to perform with them

«Davíð Oddsson  was actually a decent writer, he was a comedian as well, pretty decent comedian (laughs)»

Sigurjón Kjartansson

He is an Icelandic musician, writer and producer; show-runner of the famous TV serial Trapped (waiting for second session) (born 1968). This guy is known for his role in the radio duo Tvíhöfði with Jón Gnarr (former major of Reykjavik) and for his part in the popular Icelandic television sketch comedy Fóstbræður

Interview Ham Iceland Sijurjón Kjartasson and Proppé
Interview Ham Iceland two different singers

«…mostly who write Eurovision´s songs are more people like doctors, dentists… they are good, very talented people, but they need this extra thing…»

S. Björn Blöndal

He is an Icelandic musician and politician, he is the current Chairman of the Chief Executive Board of Reykjavik City Council (born 1969)

Interview HAM Iceland Björn Blöndal SecretSolstice bass
Interview HAM Iceland S. Björn Blöndal elegant playing bass

« …if you choose a certain path, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to stay in it for the whole life, you can change directions or take detours…»

Óttarr Olaf Proppé

He  is an Icelandic musician, actor and politician (former Health Minister, Bright Future 2013-2017) (born 1968). He also was the lead singer of the rock-cabaret band Dr. Spock

Arnar Geir Ómarsson

He is an Icelandic musician and photographer (born 1971). He also play drums with Apparat Organ quartet

Interview Ham Iceland Arnar Geir Ómarsson drums
Interview Ham Iceland drums Arnar Geir Ómarsson

Flosi Þorgeirsson

He is an Icelandic musician, historian and guide (born 1968)

Interview Ham Iceland Flosi Þorgeirsson in Secret Solstice 18guitar
Interview Ham Iceland Flosi Þorgeirsson guitar

Interview HAM

Here a few questions to Sigurjón (S) and Björn (B), Arnar was sat with us on the same table and Flosi was around

Interview HAM Iceland Secret Solstice backstage by Leana Clothier
Interview HAM Iceland in SecretSolstice 2018 by Jordi Pujolá

Iceland in Eurovision

Icelanders are very competitive and get good results on international competitions, one example is the National Football team. However, despite their high expectations and interest in Eurovision contest (when the show starts, even the local competition, you see deserted streets in Reykjavik and not for volcanoes or earthquakes), the results always bring a lot of frustration and disappointment. Why a country of so fine musicians always fails on it?

S: I think the Eurovision people have fallen intro a trap. The people who go to the songs and to the competition are little close to club, because the other people, the musicians, they look down on the Eurovision contest

Interview Ham Iceland performing stage Secret Solstice
Interview Ham Iceland outstanding live outdoors

B: It´s also the boring. We vote for the same paths, usually the second place is more interesting than the first one…

S: And then we come into the common kind of taste of the nation. I don’t think the average Iceland does have a very good taste on music (laughs)

B: It could be because it´s a compromise… the compromises are not the best way to choose a song

S: We have a strong niche scene (Sigur Rós…), but that is really not something people in Gardabær (posh neighbourhood in Reykjavik) are listening to, you know. But the people in Gardabær is the people who vote for the best song in Eurovision, that´s the middle of the road music (MOR)

Interview HAM, comparison with Rob Ford

B: It´s a bit like Rob Ford, former major of Toronto, not a very likeable person, nobody in Toronto voted for him, but all the suburbs around voted for him, he was supposed to be the one representing Toronto but he was not their spirit basically

S: But in some other countries, like Sweden, I would say may be the niche is stronger, and there is more respect for the good musicians, you know. Here is not respect among the musicians that they take themselves seriously, so they don’t want to be part of Eurovision; mostly who write Eurovision´s songs are more people like doctors, dentists… they are good, very talented people, but they need this extra thing…DSC01970

Traditions: Þetta reddast

HAM is a very traditional Icelandic band. What do you think of the saying Þetta reddast (don´t worry too much, every thing we´ll be all right). The foreigners living in Iceland criticise Icelanders for avoiding problems just saying  Þetta réttast

S: Well, It´s a very good philosophy

B: Worrying about something never fixes the problem

Favourite places in Iceland

S: I am very much in favour of the West Fiords, I raised in Isafjorður so I go there frequently

B: I like the remote places in the East Iceland, for example Melrakkaslétta

Is this not the place were polar bears arrive from Greenland? (my eyes widened)

B: Well, it´s the land of the blue fox. There is no one there… (laughs)

Humour and irony

The components of the band are showmen, actors, politicians… How humour places into the band?

S: There is a lot of irony among us, the guys, because we know each other from so long ago; so we can say everything and those guys might understand me better than other people I met later on my life and irony and black humour place into it

Interview HAM Iceland: Inspiration

A lot of politicians in Iceland are artists as well (writers, actors, painters…). Why?

S: I don´t think so —Sigurjón frowns for the first time—, just very few politicians, just Björn Óttar, our friend, the writer Jón Gnarr (former Major of Reykjavik), Einar from the Sugar Cubes, he was in the City Committee…

B: It used to be in Iceland that everyone wanted to be a writer, a lot of people actually tried, most of them were quite bad, but some succeeded…

Interview HAM, Davíð Oddsson

And Davíð Oddsson (controversial former First Minister, mayor and director of the Bank of Iceland during the recession in Iceland)?

B: Davíð Oddsson  was actually a decent writer, he was a comedian as well, pretty decent comedian (laughs); but in general, not a lot of artists basically are going into politics, may be  increasing in the later

Katrín Jakobsdóttir should write crime novels

S: We also have to taking into account we are only 340.000 people, not many us of us, so may we have many purposes. I know, for instance, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, our First Minister, she is very interested in crime novels, it´s not a ridiculous idea, she might, in the future, take a little different turn and write crime novels

HAM interview by Jordi Pujola at Secret Solstice 18
HAM interview before concert Secret Solstice 18

B: If you choose a certain path, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to stay in it for the whole life, you can change directions or take detours, actually you should because we need a lot of people, we should have like 5 jobs. We have the freedom of changing opinions because how few we are

I agree, for example in Spain, we are much more conservative

Boredom or fun in the 80´s Reykjavik?

Hallgrímur Helgasson describes tedium in 101 Reykjavik novel but Sjón had a lot of fun. What about you?

B: It was quite different then, but it was a period where a lot of things were coming in, we were seeing more cultures of another nations, people were going abroad more, so the world became bigger, so I would say that the period was a melting pot, not only for the artists,  we kind of believed that everything is possible

What do you know about Spain?

S: I´ve been in Barcelona, by far my favourite place, in Almeria and the typical summer vacation spots

B: I´ve been in Catalonia, Barcelona, Camprodon… great beaches

The most Icelanders love Spanish food

S: Food in Barcelona is great, but somewhere else, in the tourists spots, it sucks. You don’t care about the tourists (laughs)

I guess it happens in all the countries

S: Not in Italy, pizza and pasta are good even in the tourist spots

Yes, I agreeDSC01958

Albums HAM

  • 1988: Hold
  • 1989: Buffalo Virgin
  • 1993: Saga rokksins 1988 – 1993
  • 1994: Lengi lifi
  • 1995: Dauður hestur
  • 2001: CBGB‘s 7. ágúst 1993
  • 2001: Skert flog
  • 2011: Svik, harmur og dauði
  • 2017: Söngvar um Helvíti Mannanna

Novels Jordi Pujolá link

Interview Ham by Jordi Pujolá and www.escritorislandia.com