GusGus was initially formed in 1995 as a film/music collective. This spawned a short film and a critically acclaimed best selling album in Iceland. After striking a deal with 4AD in 1996 they became one of the most sought after electronic music acts out of Iceland. No need to explain, we guess, what happened after that.
After 25 years of music, memories and unforgettable live performances, GusGus unfold into a new era with the announcement of their upcoming 2021 album, “Mobile Home”.
Rejuvenated and replete with creative aspiration, the collective welcome Vök’s Margrét Rán as the newest member of the circus, calling upon her illustrious dream-pop vocals to launch a new chapter in the GusGus saga. Offering an immersive montage of short stories that will serve as their most ambitious and forward-thinking LP to date, “Mobile Home” echoes the world’s forgotten purpose, lost between screens of distraction and material consciousness. This conceptual manifesto is the embodiment of GusGus and their world; a virtuous blend of masterful compositions and profound ideologies.
Before diving into the new release, we went down memory lane with Daníel Ágúst & Biggi Veira, talking about … well, a lot. It’s a great journey you ought to read, about their childhood, influences, changes within the band and much much more.
Grab a drink, put on some of their music and enjoy this great read.
Connect with GusGus on Spotify | Soundcloud | Facebook | Instagram | Website
Nice to have you over here at Tanzgemeinschaft. Let’s dive in and travel back in time. What’s your oldest memory of a musical toy?
Daníel Ágúst: My oldest music toy memory is when my sister and I gathered all of my grandparent’s pots and pans and threw a concert for the sheep and horses in the field surrounding their house. We called ourselves Screaming Monkeys!
Biggi Veira: I don’t really have many memories from my early childhood but as my family did not have any interest in music, I doubt that I had any musical toys.
Do you remember songs your parents, probably more your mothers, used to sing throughout your toddler years?
Daníel Ágúst: My mother and grandmother sang lullabies which I remember very well and am constantly singing to my children
Biggi Veira: I know my mother loves the lullaby,
“Vertu nú yfir og allt um kring
með eilífri blessun þinni.
Sitji Guðs englar saman í hring
Sænginni yfir minni.”,
that is one of the nice ones. But there is another popular Icelandic Lullaby that ends with the mother throwing the baby into a waterfall and another one as well that ends with a spooky face looking inside the window. Perhaps those triggered my suppressed memories from those years.
What type of music did you enjoy in your younger days? When compared to now, has your taste in music changed?
Daníel Ágúst: People tend to stick to the music they listened to when they were teenagers. I guess that a lot of my taste was shaped during those tender years, but I have allowed myself to evolve as well.
Biggi Veira: When became aware of music at the age of 15, I first fell in love with Hi-NRG and Italo Disco through Lime, Fancy, Patric Cowlay and Bobby Orlando. Then the New_wave and New Romantic crept in, especially in the form of bands like Soft Cell and Depeche Mode. I still love that music but do not listen to it much though. I had my second revelation towards music in 1993 and the third in 2005 so have different layers of favourite music linked with time. But towards music I am a bit like an addict, regularly I get “FRÁHVARFSEINKENNI” if I don’t get new music to digest and swim in.
What kind of music did your parents like?
Daníel Ágúst: My dad has a huge vinyl record collection so his music appetite is quite big. They both listened to classical music and some jazz, as well as bands like the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and Nina Simone. Of Icelandic music they liked Spilverk þjóðanna (folk rock), Þursaflokkurinn (folk prog rock), Stuðmenn, Hljómar and Mannakorn (pop). I was very fortunate to have access to a great variety of music in my upbringing
Biggi Veira: My parents did not really listen to music. My stepfather had two cassettes. One with “Best of Bowie” and another “Best of Queen”. I did not connect to Bowie at that time, but I liked “Flash” with “Queen”. I guess I like stuff if it has decent amount of high notes.
How have your parents influenced your taste? Maybe add some tracks you still like your parents loved and had that great influence on you.
Daníel Ágúst: Both my parents listened to music a lot so that influenced me greatly. I collected picture cards of Elvis Presley when I was 6 and my sister was into ABBA and we listened to their music. The Stranglers visited Iceland in 1978 and I got to listen to them at my uncle’s house. I loved “Nice ’n’ Sleazy Does It” and “No More Heroes” and I still do.
Biggi Veira: There was not much to be influenced by.
Tell us about a special moment during your childhood (toddler – teenager period) that gave you a wow moment. Which track(s) was/were playing?
Daníel Ágúst: I was around 6 when my mother was playing Bach’s “Air on G” and I remember my eyes watering up and being overwhelmed by the beauty of the music.
Biggi Veira: At 14 I stepped into a club for the first time. It was a youth club though but with a DJ, dancefloor and strobe lights. The track that was on was “Do you wanna funk” with Sylvester and Patrick Cowley. My arousal on this was similar to severe brain damage. I have never recovered from this incident.
What type of entertainment did you enjoy when you were growing up?
Daníel Ágúst: I enjoyed going to the cinema and listening to certain programmes on the radio and watching “Latest Technology and Science” on TV.
I also acquired a serious sound system and a turntable when I was 13 and listened very loudly to my favourite songs in my teenage bedroom. I remember “Blue Monday” by New Order being one of them
Biggi Veira: Lego.
Looking at Wikipedia we see a constant in the band setup between 1995 and today: Daniel & Biggi. Accept for the years 2001-2007. Tell us all about the endeavors of the band formation.
Biggi Veira: The short story is that the band was formed as a loosely organized group of people doing a short film and two of those (Daniel & Siggi) persuaded the others to do music along with it as well. Most of these people were musicians as well so it made sense.
The first album was done in 1995 and after getting attention from 4AD, part of the gang became the band “GusGus” and the album was reworked into the album “Polydistortion”, released in 1997.
Working on album number 2, “This is Normal” with more ambition to the project than the first experiment, it surfaced that this gang had very different ideas on music and how they wanted to evolve as musicians, so the collapse began. Stripped down to just the producers (Biggi Veira, Maggi Lego and President Bongo) they decided to keep the name and recruit a new vocalist for the hive. Basically, this was because we were then touring the instrumental album “GusGus vs T-World” in 2000. It was with such a nice acceptance and love that it just felt like the right thing to do.
Then “Earth” came along and so did the albums “Attention” and “Forever” with that pack of 3 dudes. With love for “Northern Soul” and her smooth disco flavour, the band changed its style from EmoTripHopSomething towards a more early girly house/italodisco punk party. Though Daniel had left the band for his solo urges, he still had one track on each of these albums (“Desire” and “Moss”) and did tour with us in 2007 when we were following on from the album “Forever”.
So, when “Earth” left at the end of that year, we just continued with Daniel attending the band again formally and dived into the techno evolvement, emitting from Germany at the time. With these front line swifts, it was now natural for the band to explore more possibilities, Högni joined the pact on “Arabian Horse” and “Mexico“. And now Margrét Rán from “Vök” has joined us for this “Mobile Home” album period.
So much music you have released already. Years of work. Pick a few tracks that you are the proudest of and tell us why.
Daníel Ágúst: I am very proud of “Believe”, the second single we released in 1997 on 4AD. We did a great video of the song which had really meaningful lyrics on religious and existential matters to the beat of “Jungle Jazz” by Kool And The Gang.
Biggi Veira: It is always the latest tracks that I am most proud of, like now “Higher”, “Stay the Ride”, “Our World” and the other tracks from the new album “Mobile Home”. I can also name the tracks “Degeneration”, “Lust” and “Porn” from the album “Forever” as highlights – my deep love for those is marked by going a bit deeper into my perverse test of music that has always been part of the production since.
What radio programmes do you remember?
Daníel Ágúst: “Óskalög sjúklinga” (English: Patient’s Wish List). The name of the programme is hilarious but the selection of songs was really made by the Hospital patients and their families and friends. The show ran for about 40 years on Radio One in Iceland!
Biggi Veira: “Listapopp”. It was one of the two hours of imported pop music that was played on the Icelandic radio – this show played stuff from the UK top 40. I remember like it happened yesterday when he announced that there was a new track on top but I did not have it yet so could not play it. The track was “Smalltown Boy” with Bronski Beat. One of the top 40 tracks from the 80s.
What was it like to hear your track for the first time on the radio?
Daniel Ágúst: It was the sound of destiny, I knew I was going to be super famous. I’m actually still waiting for the super part…
Biggi Veira: It was the track “Purple” in 1994. Yes, that track was created before GusGus was founded, though it ended on the first GusGus album. I was convinced that I would score at the club “Rosenberg” the next weekend.
Which childhood memories shaped you into the adult you have become?
Daniel Águst: Interacting with my friends in school and family at home shaped me as an individual. All the sports and after school activities played a role too. Working in the summertime on a farm from the age of 9 till 11 and then working in a bicycle shop until the age of 16 and then in a Kindergarten when I was 17 shaped me a lot as well but writing my first song at the age of 18 shaped me definitely into the adult I am.
Biggi Veira: I really don’t have many so I’m not sure if they shaped me. I feel in constant flux. Perhaps I am unshaped still.
Guys, not to forget. You mentioned some tracks earlier. But indeed, you have a new album coming up. Maybe some words about “Mobile Home” as well. Tell us a bit about the inspiration behind it.
Daníel Ágúst: The inspiration behind “Mobile Home” is the world of technology and how virtuality has become reality and how we are becoming slaves to the MACHINE!
Biggi Veira: Well, it is not actually on technology itself, it is though rather on how the modern social system along with nationless corporate power shapes the individuals and encapsulates them from anything that disturbs their fake idea of reality. Modern technology is just a tool to close people’s consciousness. But this is just a partial image of the state of now. There are movements towards something different. Exciting times we have ahead indeed.
How did it all come together? What was that moment when you said, good enough for us?
Daníel Ágúst: I think it was when Biggi said “I’VE HAD ENOUGH OF THIS, THE WORLD IS YOURS TO PLAY!!!”
Biggi Veira: Yes, that was the last lyrics written and I guess we finally felt we had nothing unsolved keeping us from finishing the album.
What can the audience expect? Typical GusGus or are you experimenting with new things?
Daníel Ágúst: Definitely typical GusGus, that’s for sure, as we like to experiment with new things.
Biggi Veira: Yes, GusGus style music exploration into some kind of strange hybrid, containing New Wave, Italo Disco, Country, Indie Rock and IDM.
Thank you so much.
Readers might also want to check out the article on The Reykjavik Grapevine: GusGus, the impossible band – 25 years of intrigue, drama and music.