Jónsi Interview: Ready to Go at Moogfest
A short interview speaks volumes about the artist’s life and approach to music
Jónsi Birgisson needs no introduction to the fans of the Icelandic band Sigur Rós – he has served as the frontman of the band since 1994. His floating falsetto is simply unmistakable and unique in today’s music scene. On tour with his own songs from his new solo release Go, he fit in a stop at Moogfest in Asheville, North Carolina, over the Halloween weekend. His ipod was playing jazz from Woody Allen movie soundtracks as he stretched out in the dressing room backstage at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. The tour manager then allowed a ten minute sit down with PopMatters before announcing it was time to “unleash the Jónsi".
What do you think of Moogfest and why did you choose to be a part of the festival?
I think it's a really cool festival and I am honored to be a part of it. They called and I was touring anyway so it all worked out. And I'm looking forward to seeing Matmos although I'm playing around the same time so I don't think I will be able to see them.
When did you first discover synthesizers?
It seems like they’ve always been around but, I don't really like synthesizers -- I prefer to use sampling, recording other things -- taking something and playing with it again. We do use some synths for bass lines in Sigur Rós because they sound so big and juicy.
Sigur Rós is four guys writing in a room and Go is your songs that you've said have been filed in your head for over ten years while the band was so busy. How does it feel to have released and to perform them in concert?
It feels really good. It’s been very different but I like it. For this tour I am playing with other people and that is really healthy for me, makes things different.
Do you like traveling or do you miss Iceland?
It's been a fun tour but I do miss my home. I was talking to my parents today and it was great to hear their voices. Reyjkavik is beautiful and Iceland has only 300,000 people and Reykjavik has maybe 200,000 but everything is close together. You really don't need a car to go out and get everything you need. Here things are so spread out, places like L.A. where you need a car to do anything. I also have a new house, so I am looking forward to going back and spending time there. But wherever I am, I am happy to be there.
After this tour while your band members have been busy starting families, it’s back home to work on a new Sigur Rós release planned for next year – what can we expect?
I don’t know! I don’t think about it because Sigur Rós is a band that does not plan anything. We sold our pool and have a new rehearsal space. The band will get together and start on some ideas and just see what happens. We had a couple of chances between breaks on this tour to get together and begin a few songs. Since the others have been on break for a long time they are ready to go.
I have to ask about your choice of music playing here – is this a “stage” or do you listen other new music too?
Well, is it a “stage” if it’s been ten years? This is the only kind of music that I really listen to. I have a very short attention span and this kind of music makes me more comfortable. I don’t listen to any new music – I think it sucks. (He laughs and excuses himself for the choice of words, saying he doesn’t express himself well in English.)
You express yourself very well in English! So for Go you even sang in English, how was that for you and do you think you’ll continue this with Sigur Rós or go back to your made up or native language?
It was a good challenge for me to sing in English because I had never done that before. But I don’t know -- I will have to see what happens. We’ll see.