I can't think of any more appropriate first interview of this year's Airwaves barrage than that omni-present Belgian, Wim van Hooste. Wim runs the I Love Icelandic Music website and seems to be at the front of every gig each year at Iceland Airwaves with a press pass and a camera strap around his neck. I started the interview in the only way possible,
So, Wim, you're not Icelandic but you're clearly in love with Icelandic music - that's a bit strange isn't it? ;-)
In 1987 I was infected by the Icelandic music virus spread by the Sugarcubes’ single “Birthday”. Since then I’m interested in everything Icelandic, especially the music. I started to collect books about Iceland, read a monthly newspaper in English entitled News from Iceland (published by Iceland Review), and ordered regularly Icelandic music through the Bad Taste mail order service run by Dr. Gunni. I visited Iceland a few times in the 90’s. I was exchange student at the University Hospital in the summer of 1996. In 1998 I found a job as assistant medical doctor in Akureyri. A month after I left the country in 1999, after working a year in the north, the first edition of Airwaves was organized. For many years I came to Iceland around my birthday in May.
How many Iceland Airwaves have you been to now?
I’m attending the festival for the sixth time in a row. Like the 5 previous times, I will be focusing on the Icelandic artists. I was always able to attend about 10 gigs a day, off-venue and at Airwaves venues. I think I saw only 15 foreign bands the last 5 editions.
Can you share 2 or 3 of your absolute favourite Iceland Airwaves memories?
The first time I came to Reykjavik for Airwaves, in 2005, the big names were playing at the Reykjavik Art Museum on Saturday evening. Only a very small crowd was listening to the Icelandic bands at the small Grand Rokk venue. But I definitely wanted to see the new band Hellvar. The band of Unun singer Heiða; Unun is one of my all time favourite Icelandic bands. After the concert I was able to talk to Heiða, who gave me a demo. That is what I like about Airwaves, it’s quite easy to have a chat with artists before or afterwards. Most Icelandic artists are down to earth.
In 2007 I had for the first time a press pass, because I’ve started my blog about Icelandic music at the end of October 2006. With my pass I was able to enter the Icelandair opening party at the Jóhannes Kjarval Museum. I witnessed Örvar and the 2 Árni’s putting on their bow-ties (pictured, right). It was the first time I heard FM Belfast, and I loved it.
I remember the day Ghostigital blew up the PA at the Gaukurinn venue.
What are you particularly looking forward to this year? What bands should be on everybody's must-see list?
Don’t miss Bang Gang, Ghostigital, HAM and S.H. Draumur, especially if you want to see how Best Party politicians (Barði Jóhannsson, Einar Örn Benediktsson, Óttarr Proppé, Sigurjón Kjartansson and Dr. Gunni) rock in Reykjavík. The trio S.H. Draumur didn’t perform for 17 years!
I'm also looking forward to hearing and seeing Apparat Organ Quartet (they don’t play that often!), Bárujárn, Ensimi, FM Belfast, Hellvar, Jan Mayen, Kimono, Reptilicus, Stereo Hypnosis, Sudden Weather Change, Vicky and Worm is Green.
Don’t miss the bands of youngsters like Captain Fufanu, Ljósvaki, Pascal Pinon, Ultra Mega Technobandið Stefán (UMTBS), Útidúr and Retro Stefson.
But of course there is a lot of other good music.
And finally, can you give some hints and tips for visitors to Airwaves? How to make the most of the festival?
If you like to wake up early (or just stay awake) you can enjoy a breakfast at Prikið bar: “Rock & Bacon” for early birds.
After lunch you can go to the Nordic House for acoustic airwaves concerts. The live performances are followed by a short interview session with the artists.
This year there are a lot of screenings of classic and brand new documentaries about the Icelandic music scene around town in cinemas but also in some smaller shops. Screaming Masterpiece, Rokk í Reykjavík, Where’s the snow?!, Backyard, Beyond the sea, Who is Barði?, Electronica Reykjavík, and even more.
Also don’t forget your stomach. There’s more than ear candy. I recommend a visit to the flea market Kolaportið, to buy some candy or a tasty ice cream, or a sheep’s head if you want something traditional. Go taste the lobster soup at the Sea Baron restaurant of a retired fisherman (and for those who really don’t like lobster “Moby Dick on a Stick”).
Good and cheap festival food: grab a hot-dog “with everything” at Bæjarins Bestu (the best in town) before or in between gigs.
If you have enough Viking beer in your veins, try the Icelandic Fanta Egils Appelsín or Egils Malt Extrakt.