IMX puts Grímur Atlason in the Spotlight. Grímur was bass player in the bands Rosebud, Drep (the band of HAM guitarist Flosi Þorgeirsson), Dr. Gunni & Grjóthrun í Hólshreppi.
“Belong” Live on Icelandic TV
Managing the Airwaves
Grímur Atlason is the new manager of the Iceland Airwaves music festival. Not only has he been working as a promoter in Iceland, but also managed several bands over the years. Artists he has worked with include Marc Almond, Happy Mondays, Emiliana Torrini, FM Belfast, Antony and The Johnsons, Blonde Redhead, Lisa Ekdahl, Kim Larsen, Retro Stefson, Sufjan Stevens, Joanna Newsom, Television, The Fall, Morrissey and many more. He is also the former mayor of the towns Dalabyggð and Bolungarvík.
As the festival enters its 11th edition between the 13th and 17th October, we thought we’d introduce you to the new boss by asking him about experiences and aspirations for the event…
Iceland Music Export (IMX) had an interview with the manager.
When did you become the manager of Airwaves, and what led you to the position?
I became the manager of the festival in April 2010. I was just finishing my job as a mayor in Dalabyggð – before that I was the mayor in Bolungarvik – and Iceland Airwaves needed a manager so I applied for the job. I have promoted shows since high school and I never stopped really, even while being a mayor. But I didn’t want to prolong my political career too much so here I am.
Had you had any involvement with the festival previously?
I have actually played the festival once! With Dr. Gunni around 7 years ago. I have of course been a guest on many occasions – my favourite show must be the Flaming Lips in 2001, but I also liked The Go Team in 2006 and Reykjavik!, FM Belfast, Mugison and so many others that have done so many thrilling shows over the years.
What made you want to take on the role and in what ways do you aim to improve the event?
The festival has such huge potential and has done so much for the scene in Iceland over the years – I just couldn’t resist! It’s important to not revolutionize things the first year. Obviously there are changes with new people but we try to hold on to the good vibes and stuff that’s been built up via the terrific programming over the past 11 years. We have been working a lot on relationships and networking with other festivals and professionals abroad. This is to make the event more attractive for Icelandic bands but also for the foreign ones. To have strong partnerships with the media is a key factor to build up a strong brand. We are working actively on that.
What do you think are the festival’s key strengths?
The location and good programming is the core. Iceland is a perfect place for an event like this. Nature, people, a long tradition in producing good music and the great mixture of music.
Was there a period following the crash when everyone thought Airwaves might be over?
It was difficult – and we didn’t even know if the country was completely done in October 2008 so of course we thought it might be over. But the brand is really strong and we are good at what we are doing so why stop? Just because some idiots couldn’t run their shops on Oxford Street or their bank in Oslo? Iceland Airwaves won’t be stopping until the music stops!
This year you have more bands than ever before – how has the planning and organising been for it?
It’s been tough but fun. Great bands applied for the festival, lots of whom we couldn’t book at this years edition – but those are ‘luxurious’ problems to have. All in all I think this year’s program is terrific!
Who are the main headlining international acts – and how do you go about choosing them?
Robyn, Moderat, Hurts, Everything Everything, Bombay Bicycle Club, Hercules and Love Affair, The Antlers – to name a few. Fresh, crispy and hot – that’s what we like about the bands we choose for the festival. It’s a mixture of something new with an edge to it and a dash of coolness. We go and see them and picture them in the program as a whole.
The wealth of local bands, old and new, suggests that Icelandic music scene is in very good shape, post-crash. Is that your experience?
In a way the crash helped. We were all getting rather careless and some even belived we were god’s chosen children when it came to banking etc. But the scene as such has always been best when money wasn’t floating around – that’s the environment Kukl, Purrkur Pilnikk and Sugarcubes came from. So now I’m sure we are once again going to see some great Icelandic acts emerge from the grassroots…
What are the 5 things we shouldn’t miss at this year’s Airwaves?
Well that’s kind of difficult to say – and unfair for the 252 acts around! Top 50 would be easier. But I’m going to see S.H. Draumur – one of Iceland’s most influential bands in the late 80s and it doesn’t spoil it that on that same night you have Ham and Ensími. Nolo is a band I would go for. I’d like to see the new stuff from Agent Fresco, Snorri Helgason is a great singer/songwriter and Hjálmar will get me in the mood. For the international acts I’m aiming for Hundreds, Junip, Rolo Tomassi, Dan Deacon and Moderat. But I love Robyn, Hercules, Hurts and the whole bunch of them!