It is not often that we find truly diverse artists fall within the musical scope, where a talented artistic mind can find other mediums to support itself that are not as strenuous or judgemental as music can be. Having put out his fourth album under the Bang Gang name last week, Iceland's Barði Jóhannsson fits the mold of an adventurous artist, continuing to find ways to grow his sound through each release.
Through the years, Barði has remained extremely active in being apart of two groups other than Bang Gang, scoring movies and producing/directing short films among other things. Having evolved Bang Gang into a pure solo project for his newest release, there is never any telling what Barði has in store next as he is a very determined and independent artist.
Having stepped in a darker, more cinematic direction for The Wolves Are Whispering (his newest album) Barði does so while breaking a seven year absence in releasing material under the Bang Gang name.
In order to truly understand Barði and his future intentions as an artist, it is best if he is able to speak on behalf of himself. And, it just so happens that we were able to catch up with him just before the release of The Wolves Are Whispering.
EARMILK: The Wolves Are Whispering is your first album in over 7 years, why has it been so long since Ghosts from the Past?
Bang Gang: I always got stuck in some other exciting projects. Made a few film scores, formed the band Starwalker with JB Dunkel (AIR, Tomorrow's World) we have an album coming out in a few months, co-produced and recorded the solo album of Helen Marnie (Ladytron), wrote a Lady & Bird Opera with Keren Ann, released a Lady & Bird album with Keren Ann and the symphony orchestra of Iceland (EMI) and was in a few committees working for the City Reykjavik during the Jon Gnarr's Mayer period.
EM: How have you grown as an artist in that time?
BG: I have improved my mixing skills and production a lot. There is always something you learn from working with other people. On this album I mixed everything myself and I am very happy with the results, [where it] sounds dynamic and fat. There has never been any problem with inspiration, I have so many things unexpressed so I guess I am set for life on that. The songwriting is a progress that you go back and forth in, and now I feel like I am forth.
EM: Having recently released new music with Starwalker, do you think Starwalker's sound has carried over into The Wolves Are Whispering?
BG: Not at all. We finished the coming Starwalker LP before I worked on finalizing The Wolves Are Whispering. I don't think there is much sound similarity within the two projects. I met some new equipment through Starwalker, but that project is a complete mix of both of us, Bang Gang is only me and the guest co-writers on the album. Bang Gang is a bit more dark then Starwalker. I love the two albums though they are a bit different. It's going to be an amazing year!
EM: With so many other things going on in your life, such as hosting a TV show, designing clothes and acting as a film director, how do you also find time to be involved in 3 different music projects?
BG: I just don't do anything else. People still ask me here in Iceland : "Did you move back to Iceland?", but I never moved out of Iceland, I am just not around. Also daylight is very harmful for vampires.
EM: How did you approach the recording process of The Wolves Are Whispering?
BG: The songs were written over the period of 7 years. The final production took place in the last months. I made more songs that ended up on the album and then selected the ones I wanted to finalize. Then I took the demos and re-recorded most of the things. Sometimes I need to have the tempo more floating and sometimes I wanted to record things better. Most of the time I had up to 200 tracks of overdubs and then I removed everything that didn't work. There are some tracks on the album that I was experimenting a lot with guitar, synths, pedals and amps.
EM: The Wolves Are Whispering carries a cinematic feel throughout, was that intentional, or a product of working on soundtracks to short films and commercials in your past?
BG: There was no intention during the process except making music that I would like to listen to. My influences would be a disaster DJ set. Death, Sonic Youth, Carpenters, Ennio Morricone, Stranglers, Gorgoroth, Michael Jackson, Destinies Child, Eric Satie, Stravinsky, The Doors, Alice in Chains, Stereolab, Deftones, Marc Bolan/T-Rex, Suicide, N.W.A. and so on. I think the cinematic side of me is the Icelandic side, the space, but maybe a bit the winter of Iceland. Then my sound is warm and comes from all the time I have spent in France.
EM: Were there any specific artists or styles of music that had a strong influence on the sound of your new album?
BG: On the new album there are no specific influences. I would say that it is free and maybe influenced by a mix of all I have listened to all my life, with a Bardi twist. I don't listen so much to lyrics of music so all my lyrics come straight from me. Most of the time I visualize the song as a short film and write the lyrics around that or I have a feeling I need to express or get rid of, and put it in the song. Sometimes lyrics can be a mix of a few situations with similarities.
EM: What do you want listeners to take away from The Wolves Are Whispering?
BG: What I think the listener can experience with this album is a warm and unique sound when listening to the album in proper speaker on a CD, vinyl or good digital equipment. I am sure some people can relate to the lyrics and the ambience/mood of the tracks and be inspirational. It is a full circle of emotion, sometimes direct, sometimes built on my experience, sometimes my friends, sometimes under the rose. The compliments I care the most about is when people write me or tell me that a song or and album has helped them through difficulties in their lives. That is my ultimate reward.
The Wolves Are Whispering
- Pledge Music