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Ólafur Arnalds: Icelandic Noise

Quickly rising on the international music scene, Icelandic composer Ólfur Arnalds' work has been snapped up by Hollywood studios, providing the perfect scores. We talk to the neo-Classical musician about his sound, style and pre-performance twerking.

Ólfur Arnalds needs no introduction, or at least he shouldn't need an introduction. The Icelandic composer has had is music snapped up to score the likes of Hollywood blockbusters The Hunger Games and Another Happy Day. The 25-year-old, who started off as a drummer of a Hardcore Metal band called Fighting Shit, has cemented himself as a modern day Classical/Indie composer (if that’s a thing), following the release of a string of highly acclaimed ethereal albums. He creates huge cinematic soundscapes, where subtle synths and beautifully faint drum patterns often bleed through emotive piano bars and strings. His music has a transcendent quality that's hard to not get entirely swept up by, so we left the world for a little bit, stuck on a pair of headphones on and listened to his latest record, For Now I Am Winter, getting lost in the spaces as the process became more meditative than anything else. When we popped back into reality, we had a chat with him about sex, twerking and the multi-verse…

Firstly, could you describe your rise to prominence for us... using a Haiku…


That's not a Haiku. So, you're a multi-instrumental artist, would you also say you're a multi-dimensional artist?

I am a big nerd and was just reading David Deutch’s theory of the multiverse and am completely sold. So I have to say that I am. Even if it means that in one dimension I’m making emotive neo-Classical music playing the bagpipes. Fuck... 

Is there a common cognitive theme that you find threading through your music making process?

Cognitive instincts play a huge part in all creativity. A part of writing music is just muscle memory. My hands somehow know what note to play after the last one. This changes and builds on your experiences however, so it’s hard to say that there is one theme throughout all of it. 

With the music coming out of Iceland these days, it seems like there must be something in the water. How do you feel growing up in the country has affected your musical stylings?

I think wherever you come from makes you who you are. Iceland is no different in that way. Although, while the cliché says it must have to do with the nature or whatever, I'm more inclined to say that our culture allows for much freedom and experimenting. 

What kind of music do you listen to yourself when you're not making music?

Anything really. I often try to get away from the Classical stuff as that is my job, so when I need a break, I listen to something completely different. Cyril Hahn and Disclosure are my jams these days. 

Did you have any New Year's Eve resolutions?

Not really. Except start trying to reply to emails in a timely fashion again. Postponing them and procrastinating does nothing good. 

Yes, thanks for the quick reply. What was your first sexual experience?

“You are really sweet but I can’t feel anything."

Do you have any special rituals or superstitions before you play a concert?

We twerk. I’m not kidding. Sometimes we do a twerk train. And for big shows we do upside down twerking. 

What movie or show are you most proud of your music featuring in?

I’m always happy to be featured in So You Think You Can Dance because, for a show with five million viewers, they really treat art with respect there. 

It seems like a lot of talented classically trained musicians are delving into the world of Electronic music as well, is it because of the unlimited diversity of soundscapes one could create or is it because of the bitches?

I think it’s the other way around. Electronic musicians are delving into Classical music. For that very reason. But don’t call women bitches. That’s really not cool. 

Sorry. What would be your dream gig?

I already played my dream gig. Like 10 times. My dream gig at this moment is not to play a gig, but to spend time alone creating something new. 

What would be your advice for young producers starting out?

Take how hard you think you need to work in order to become good. Multiply that by 10. And then do that. 

Keep up to date with all things Ólafur Arnalds on his fanpage here.

For Now I Am Winter is available to purchase on iTunes.