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Drunk Cannibal Sonic Masterminds [2009-12-20]

The three way  collaboration between B.J Nilsen(Benny Jonas Nilsen) & Stilluppsteypa ( Helgi Thorsson, Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson) has created some of the more distinctive, odd and `you don`t quite what expect next` drone & unhinged ambient music in recent years. Since their formation as a creative three pronged force in  2005 they have released a trilogy of drink related albums(Vikinga Brennivin, Drykkjuvisur Ohljodanna & Passing Out) & this year saw them releasing the wonderful Man From Deep River which saw them move away from the drink related theme & concept of the first three albums to create an album that swam new creative waters both sonically & theme wise. Both Benny & Sigtryggur were kind enough to give me email interview.

m[m]When did you all meet & decide to work together?
-(B) I met Stilluppsteypa in 1997 which then were a trio Helgi Thorsson, Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson and Heimir Björgulfsson.
(Heimir later left the band to live in LA to work on his art) They played at the legendary venue Fylkingen in Stockholm, Was an amazing set that later ended up as the "Has or has not happened" cd on MEME (japan)
A few years later I wrote Siggi an email and told him that the time has now come to make some recordings together. This ended up as the Víkinga Brennivín. This year a small piece of it just ended up on the Gaspar Nóe movie "Enter The Void".
-(S) yeah Benny had talked to me about doing some recordings while dead drunk in the studio and I remember this being that silly of an idea that I was more than excited to take part in this.  As a heavy drinker back then it was not so far from what I was already doing anyway so it fitted quite well into my agenda.  We met at fylkingen and it was love at first sight, you know the story, it was one of those moments.  I also went to a, what do you call it in English, fortune teller or like these tarot people telling your future or what ever fuck they do, well this one old lady said that I was going to meet an Swedish artist that I would work with intensely for many years to come and it would be my soul mate, that is Benny Nilsen.  Well must be.  I guess.
m[m]Where did the idea for the trilogy of drink based albums come about? (Vikinga Brennivín ,Drykkjuvisur & Passing Out) & is it in partly a statement against the strict Norwegian drinking laws?
-(B) In our mutual fascination with history through time in beer. We don`t deal with alcohol politics as this is a waste of time and takes the focus away from the drink itself. Alcohol is a powerful thing with many layers of states and individualities.
It`s important to state that we were not glorifying this concept and was rather serious in our research.
Also no one of us are Norwegian but their laws are the same as ours, this links from the days when the whole Scandinavia almost drank themselves to death and they had to control it.
-(S) yeah Brennivin is a brand of alcohol, like kummel spirit, which got sold in Iceland way way back, and people were afraid that everybody would start drinking the thing like crazy and get addicted so they had the label of the bottle in a very negative style, you know what I mean, they tried not to catch your attention but the bottle looked so good with it`s black label that it got immediately popular, also in Iceland beer was not allowed until 1989, which made Icelandic people fanatic about beer, like flying abroad, mostly to Copenhagen to drink beer.  People are crazy about alcohol in Iceland, it`s what brings smiles to people`s faces really; I can imagine it`s because of the cold and the long dark winters.  I mean when I`m in Italy or in the south were the sun always shines the people are more smiling happy and laughing.  hahahhaa.  It`s really weird.  In Iceland one out of four is an alcoholic, or has a problem with alcohol.  It`s very common in Iceland, and going to "therapy" because of alcohol or drug abuse is so common that people talk about it in Iceland like it`s nothing unusual, and nobody is embarrassed about it and accept being an alcoholic.
m[m] How planed out was the `drink trilogy` in the beginning? Did you plan what would happen with-in each album from the outset? And how do you start writing to your long form pieces like these?

-(B) Vikinga Brennvin was made by exchanging material back and forth between Hannover, Iceland and Sweden, the rest of the albums we been working on together in our studios.
This process are much better and you have an direct input control.
-(S) yeah I remember putting together sounds which I had done under the influence of alcohol and send it off to Benny to work on it.  funny thing was that while working on the first one "vikinga brennivin" I kept passing out in the studio, like waking up and tape still running on record and that`s how the long form pieces came about.  eventually we had to call the third CD after those incidents PASSING OUT.

m[m]Any thoughts of releasing the whole three parts as a box set?
-(B) Yes we want to do this, perhaps as an LPZbox.
-(S) in the future (not in the near future though), there will be a 6 LP box set of these with photos etc...  Helen Scarsdale has shown interest in doing this, starting in 2011.
m[m] Your most recent album "Man from Deep River" sees you stepping away from your drink influenced albums to do a seemingly cannibal based form piece- how did this come about? And how much were you influenced by the 70`s cannibal film of the same name where you when composing the album?

-(B) Its dealing with another form of alienation and the brutality of nature.
-(S) yeah I remember hearing about Albert Hoffman passing away, you know the inventor of LSD, and I really wanted to make a tribute record to him and even though it doesn`t say on Man from Deep River release that it`s dedicated to him it still to my mind is.  We wanted of course to try something new, and I feel this one is really different from the alcohol trilogy; it`s a step into a new zone, LSD trilogy perhaps.
I`m still a big fan of old sleaze horror movies and exploitation cinema in general and Man from Deep River is said to be the first cannibal film, we found the title interesting also fitted the music on the release.  It`s also a reminder to people about these movies, as some of them are really absurd, even surreal, and fun to watch, well at least I think so.

m[m]I take it your both have more than as passing interest in horror films & there soundtracks could you list you five favourite films each & why they made such an impression on you?
 -(S) this is REALLY a tricky question, it`s like when I`m sitting in a dinner party with a lot of people I don`t know and people start asking me what I do for a living.  you know that feeling... it`s like "ahh, well you see, hmm, ahh,..." but I`ll try my very best:  Cannibal Holocaust, Hausu, Dog Days, The White Ribbon and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
I`m not sure if those are my favourite of all time, but they are the ones that came to my mind at the moment.  I`m sorry but it is always a difficult question, nearly impossible to answer really.  I teach film at the Icelandic film school and I get this question asked a lot and it`s always a hard task.

m[m] Are there any films you`d like to re-soundtrack? And have either of you every done film work?
-(B) We are planning to do a live score to `Wake in Fright` later this year.
-(S) yeah wake in fright, totally!

m[m]What`s the next project you`ll handle as a trio?
-(S) there is a new release coming out on Mego early next year called SPACE FINALE, it`s gonna be a cassette and 2xlp with cover art by Austrian artist Franz Graf.

Thanks to Benny & Sigtryggur for the interview- all four albums are available on Helen Scarsdale & I highly recommended any of them, but to my mind Man From Deep River really is their crowning glory.

Roger Batty
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