Interview Mugison by Jordi Pujolà, Spanish writer in Iceland. With the support of Icelandic Mountain Guides. 15% discount on the excursions code ESCRITOR2019
The famous musician Mugison put Isafjörður in the map when he (with the collaboration of the whole city) started up the concerts Aldrei for ég Suður
Having the concerts in one of the most inhospitable area of Iceland was a crazy schizophrenic idea, but it worked out. It´s like writing a book that no one wants to read and ends up being a best seller
Pictures by Björgvin Hilmarsson
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La Contra Islandia is the section of interviews that try to connect the Spanish and Icelandic cultures of the blog escritorislandia
Read the full article in Spanish
On Sunday, April 26, 2019, the streets of Isafjorður were deserted. The last concert of the Aldrei for ég Suður festival finished late and those who had not gone back to Reykjavik were resting
It was my first time in the capital of the West Fjords, I was very excited for the trip and the concerts as well, but I wanted to take the time and interview the talented Mugison, the musician who lives here and was the founder of this festival in 2004
The concerts are free and either the artists or the organizers don´t charge anything for the work. He still runs the festival among other people
It took us for a while to meet him because he said only Topdollar in the e-mail. We asked the few people we met for the place and nobody had heard of it. Eventually it turned out that Topdollar was just an expression that he uses as: Rock & Roll. Mugison thought he had given us the address before, but it was a miscalculation
Mugison invited us to have coffee in his camper
We met him in one of the few bars that were open; specifically, a Thai restaurant. Then he offer us to have coffee in his camper, the one he uses when he goes on tour. By the way, it’s a nice Mercedes Sprinter that has a table, kitchen, bed… inside
A nice detail is he made the coffee in the traditional way, with the strainer, hot water and paper filter
Biography of Mugison
Mugison was born in Reykjavik, but his father, who was a sailor, took him to the Western Fjords and then to Cabo Verde when he was one year old. As a result, he didn´t go to school until he was 9 years old. Though he started late, he graduated in Sound Engineering BA in London
However, when he finished, he was broke and his father offered him gently accommodation and a plane ticket to Ísafjörður. Here he met Runa, his current wife, who also participated in the interview, had two children and no longer moved from the area
A traditional Icelander man
Mugison, with his beard, hat, wool sweater (lopapeysa), cheked shirt … is the prototype of the typical Icelander who has always stayed in the countryside and never wanted to live in Reykjavik. The translation of the name of the music festival is an eloquent: I never went to Reykjavik (South)
By the way, Mugison is an unclassifiable artist, both because of his chameleon-like appearance and the different styles of music he makes (it goes from ballads to pop and electronic) that he defines himself as schizophrenic
«In these 17 years, I have always liked to experiment , innovate, mix … There are people who do not like my slow songs, Julio Iglesias type (laughs), but they like my rock and roll, and vice versa »
Interview Mugison: I make music for myself
«I must admit that I am lucky enough to make a living playing and composing the music that I like. I do it for myself, to satisfy my appetite, my curiosity, entertaining … if at the same time people like it, well, even better, I am grateful, but it is not the first aim »
Árnor Dan (Agent Fresco) said the same on his interview
Mugison interview. Are you a wolf?
One of his most successful songs is I am a wolf
Are you a wolf?
«Of course, I’m a wolf,» he says without hesitating. «This song refers to a wounded beast, completely exhausted, a little irritated and scared, looking for a way to recovering his energy and move on»
How did you get the idea of starting a music festival up in Ísafjörður?
«In 2004 I played at the prestigious ICA in London. There were huge differences between the treatment famous bands received and the rest. I remember that my father came to see me from Iceland. After my show, we were drinking our beer and bitching with self pity about the festival. We felt sorry for not having a back stage, support or even beer. It was so unfair! Consequently, we wrote down a manifesto, half as a joke half seriously, of what the perfect music festival should be: equal rights for all, same amount of beer, same support, space on the poster, etc. »
«When we returned to Iceland, we stopped over in Reykjavik. We met Ragnar Kjartasson in a bar (of the Trabant band), he is the greatest contemporary artist in Iceland. There were also many well-known musicians there (Gus Gus, Johan Johansson, etc.). We told Ragnar what happened in London and he read carefully the memorandum. He immediately loved the idea and said: Let´s do it in the most horrible place! In some place no one wants really to go»
«Then Ragnar turned around and asked the guys of Sigur Rós, who were at the next table, if they wanted to play in the Western Fjords. I´ ve never seen anybody saying no to Ragnar. So they accepted and played a country version of their music in country outfits»
And indeed, Ísafjörður can be the most horrible place in the world. Bad weather, snow, cancelled flights, closed roads … However, it was very funny. Unlike other festivals, we were not looking for money or attendance of public
Interview to Mugison, expert in free concerts
Mugison gave also a free concert in Reykjavik. The auditorium of Harpa was full of families who enjoyed his music and never forgot it
What kind of music does the Festival in Isafjörður host?
«To summarise: Schizophrenic like mine (laughs). We always invite different style bands: rock, pop, electronic, acoustic, rap, heavy metal… all in the same evening, so the audience who comes to see a certain group is exposed to another type of music that they thought they didn´t like, but when they discover it, they start liking it a bit
Mugison Interview. How was the result of the first concert?
«In conclusion, it was a wonderful day. We had such a good time that we wanted to repeat it and we have had 16 editions since then. The poster was a hodgepodge of celebrities and local artists (troubadours, accordionists, wonderful anonymous people …). And the whole city got unexpectedly involved in the organization: housing the musicians, cooking, driving … My father got the keys of the warehouse of a company that had gone bankrupted, someone brought a sound equipment from Suðureiri…
Which bands have played on the festival?
«Apart from the international ones, almost all the Icelandic bands. The musicians in Iceland are a great family
Sigur Rós, FM Belfast, MUM, Emiliana Torrini, Agent Fresco, HAM, Kaleo, Bubbi Morthens, Hatari, Vök, Emmsé Gauti, Megas…»
Where does the name come from?
«Oh, it comes from afar, from the Halldór Laxness´times (Literature Nobel Prize), when the proper Icelandic men only lived in the countryside, taking care of their farms, chickens, sheep … However, there is a song by Bubbi Morthens (the Jesus Christ Superstar of the Icelandic music) that is titled Adrei for ég Súður
It is about the negative consequences of the fishing quotas that were sold from the villages to the rich people in Reykjavik. As a result there was nothing to do at the fishing villages and people had to emigrate to the capital. So the song is a tribute to the few who resisted tenaciously, working against the elements, such as Bjartur Summerhouses (Laxnes´main character in Independent People). The result is a romantic and moving song. Here in Iceland it’s almost a hymn »
Are job opportunities at the West fiords?
«The situation has improved again. Yes, to find work in services or the fish industry is easy. Look, here are people from 14 different nationalities and we all work and we get along great »
Do you have tourists?
«There is little tourism here, we are far away from the Ring Road, but it is not what we are looking for either. Our bay is not for sale»
Advantages of living in the countryside
«If you do any kind of creative work, this is the perfect place to find the inspiration
Currently, with the Internet, you can work from anywhere. And if you want to improve your quality of life, be less slave to money and to find simpler life, coming to the countryside is definitely the best option. I do not understand why more people do not come here (he says with some sadness)»
What do you know of Spain?
«I have been to Sonar Barcelona (incredible), in San Sebastian (I loved the food and the sea breeze) and in Madrid. In this last city they told me to go see the only place in the world dedicated to the devil, but I was a little disappointed because the statue was very small»
Interview Mugison by Jordi Pujolá, Spanish writer in Iceland