A cool interview with Jón Geir Jóhannson, drummer of the Icelandic band Skálmöld, about various topics.
Hi guys, welcome on Folk-metal.nl. Can you introduce yourselves to the readers? How do you describe your music to the people who don’t know you?
“I’m Jón Geir Jóhannson and I play the drums in the Icelandic heavy metal band Skálmöld. Some people want to pigeonhole us as viking metal but I don’t really know what that means. I would say that we just play heavy metal with rather classic metal influences but with a lyrical theme based on north mythology and Icelandic folklore.”
You’re back after five years with your new album “Ýdalir”. What can you say about it?
“We are very proud of this album. In 2019 we found that after ten years we were getting a bit tired and not having as much fun being a band as we used to, so we decided to close this chapter with a concert in the end of December 2019 and put the band on ice for an indefinite time. After a couple of years, we found that we were ready and hungry for a new start. I think you can feel and hear it on this album that we had a lot of fun writing a recording it and there is some energy about it that I like.”
I’ve listened to the album for the review. I’ve appreciated a lot the instrumental part, even if I was not prepared to “Ýdalir” after the acoustic opener “Ýr”. Speaking of the lyrics, what are they about?
““Ýr” was actually written as an intro to “Ýdalir” but we decided to put it as an intro track on its own so if long intros are not to your likings, you just skip it. Like all of our albums this is a concept piece that tells a story. In this one we have a story of Ullur. Ullur was the step-son of Thor and was the god of skying, archery and bow-making and he lived at Ýdalir. The great serpent Níðhöggur who lives among the roots of Yggdrasill, the tree of life in Norse mythology, attacks his homestead and drives him and his people away but with the help of the Eagle at the top of the tree and they fight the beast and win. And there is a song about a squirrel.”
Is there a particular Icelandic saga that you choose as an inspiration for the lyrics on “Ýdalir”?
“Not really, no. Although we use the themes and characters from the mythology and folk-tales “Snæbjörn” only uses them as a building block for a new fantasy. It is a fairly standard fantasy trope but one that is quite fun to write music too.”
I also loved the cover art of this new album. Who designed the cover? What does it represent? what was your initial idea for it?
“Ásgeir Jón Ásgeirsson did the artwork for this album. He has already done album covers for us before with “Börn Loka” and “Með Vættum” and we are huge fans of his work and really wanted to work with him again. He got the framework of the story but got a pretty clean slate to work with. On the cover you see Ullur standing with his home in flames behind him. It could be the cover of any classical fantasy novel and I love it.”
treat each other with respect, don’t be assholes and we will see you down the road
How do you describe your creative process? What do you write first: the instrumental parts or the lyrics?
“At first Snæbjörn comes with the framework of the story. Then we write the music into that frame- here we need danger, here is something dramatic etc. When the music is ready Snæbjörn writes the lyrics on top of that. That is usually the last part of the process so when we enter the studio, we still don’t know how the final result will be, where there will be vocals and who will sing is usually worked out in the studio.“
Just play drums…
In October you will leave with the European tour, there will be other dates in the future?
“There are already plans on tour in the spring and some festivals but I really just play drums and have no clue about the details :-)”
The “10 Years Anniversary: Live in Reykjavik” was published three years ago. How does it feel to have reached (and passed) the 10 years of activity of the band?
“It was incredible. When we started this, we never meant for it to reach this level. It was only supposed to be a bunch of guys meeting once a week to make music and maybe release this one album that probably no one would buy. To be here thirteen years later with a new album, the sixth studio album and still feeling full of energy is amazing.”
What’s in the future of the band?
“Now we will follow this album and enjoy playing these new songs for people. I really don’t think that there will be five years to wait for the next one though.”
Many Europeans when they hear about Icelandic music think of Bjork or even Sigur Ros. How would you instead describe the metal scene in Iceland? Do you have bands to suggest?
“There are a lot of great bands in Iceland both metal and non-metal. It is quite remarkable how active the music scene in Iceland is when you take into account that the whole population of the country is about the same as the inhabitants of Utrecht. I would check out bands like Auðn, and Múr just to name a few of the top of my head. I really like Kælan Mikla as well.”
Speaking of suggestions: what saga, even the ones that aren’t Icelandic, do you suggest to the people who wants to read them?
“I would suggest Egilssaga. It is an incredibly brutal and fun.”
This is the end of the interview. You can say whatever you want to or readers. Thank you, guys.
“I want to thank all of you who take their time to check out our music and/or our gigs. Remember to treat each other with respect, don’t be assholes and we will see you down the road.”