Was an Independent, Do It Yourself Blog dedicated to Icelandic music by music slut Wim Van Hooste

Was an Independent, Do It Yourself Blog dedicated to Icelandic music by music slut Wim Van Hooste
Moved back to I love Icelandic music & started new blog Icelandic Music Mob
The Enfant Terrible of the Icelandic Music Scene - Crapule de Luxe Islandaise
The Mob
and I love Icelandic music

September 7, 2011

HAM in the Spotlight @ IMX

Photo: Gunnar Svanberg Skúlason
HAM: Betrayal, Tragedy & Death - and Rock and Roll
Claimed by Björk at one time as being her "favourite band", HAM were predominantly active between 1988 to 1994. Their first album, Hold, was a controversial record which received no radio airtime, but the band's attempt to get into the big league began when they warmed up for The Sugarcubes (five concerts) in 1988. The band recorded several albums and issued a few live recordings - and also participated in the making of the film Sódóma Reykjavík - before breaking up in 1994 with a farewell concert in the now defunct Tunglið in downtown Reykjavík (the live concert recording was subsequently released as the album Lengi lifi). Despite being officially retired HAM have regrouped for several one off shows over the last decade, most recently agreeing to play the closing set for the "Eistnaflug" 2011 festival. Now they appear to be back properly with a brand new album called "Svik, harmur og dauði", which explores typically light-hearted themes such as betrayal, tragedy and death. Icelandmusic.is find out more...

According to popular information resource Wikipedia, "HAM is an Icelandic rock band which was active in the years 1988 to 1994. They are often listed as a Heavy Metal band but have never categorized themselves as such." Would you agree with this?
We would agree that we were active during those years. We may have been too active back then, since it took a decade or more to get over those years and start feeding the HAM monster once again. As much as we like some heavy metal ourselves, the conspicuous absence of leather-pants and guitar solos tells a different story. We have never defined HAM as heavy metal. Our influences were mostly pop; Abba, Nancy & Lee, The Carpenters, and punk; Crass, Suicide, The Stooges, with strong nods to The Swans, Ennio Morricone and early church music. Heavy Metal fans seem to like HAM, maybe because of the loud guitars. That's fine with us since Heavy Metal fans tend to be nice people, and passionate. HAM is all about the passion.
What about the bit where it says "they did not attain significant popularity while active, but have gradually come to be acknowledged as an important part of Icelandic rock history. Today they command a cult following among many Icelandic rock enthusiasts."
We have never been interested in popularity or the lack of it. Some of our best concerts have been to an audience of one or two people or less. HAM is a monster that feeds only on the music of HAM. 
You warmed up for the Sugarcubes and Björk famously become your biggest fan? Did you/she ever consider a collaboration with SC or Bjork? Are there any hidden tapes?
The Sugarcubes were our friends so we shared bills and they invited us on tour because we were a funny distraction for them. Both Björk and Þór collaborated on occasion in the early nineties and sometimes played instruments we couldn't play, for instance on the Sódóma Reykajvík sessions. Also The Sugarcubes own Smekkleysa, our record company, so we have never dared to say no to them. If anything is hidden, it’s for a good reason. We have little or no recollection of any of this.
How was the musical climate in Iceland at this time, compared to now?
There used to be 10 bands in Reykjavik and 2 venues. Now there are 10,000 of each. Indie music used to be very underground but now it is mainstream. HAM used to be considered dangerous but people seem to be more used to us now.
Did you really host your comeback in 2001 because of Rammstein?
We did it because we thought Rammstein’s early stuff was groundbreaking and we had made a hasty promise to somebody without realizing that Rammstein actually would ever consider playing Iceland. HAM has always had an obligation to live up to its promises. Obligations are a serious matter to HAM.
Didn't you break up like a couple of days later again?
We didn´t actually reform for Rammstein. We only did a few gigs and a live album. This however gave us the idea to start playing gigs and writing new material a few years later. The Rammstein gig helped the monster claim us back.
Has anyone from the band ever killed someone else from the band, either intentionally or accidentally with a musical instrument?
Since breaking up for the second time you've played a few one off gigs together - obviously you cannot keep your hands off each other. Discuss.
HAM is a monster that feeds on itself. We are mere instruments that HAM uses to get its message across. We don’t plan or discuss what we are doing. We just do what needs to be done.
You have also all been active in other projects, is that right? Can you give some details of what other things you've been involved in?
Through the years we have all been involved in various projects in music, film, TV and other media. We don’t have a list of other projects but now that the Internet has been invented such a list could probably be compiled reasonably easily if anyone were to find the need.
Was a new recording always on the cards then, or is that a recent decision?
We realized we needed to record a new album as new songs kept appearing. The songs on 'Svik, harmur og dauði' have been coming along in the last 5 years or so. We meant to record earlier but we were always to busy until now.
What does Svik, harmur og dauði mean to those of us to whom the Icelandic language is an eternal mystery? More importantly, is it rude?
Betrayal, Tragedy & Death. It is a fair description of the subject matter of the new album.  The album is very true to the essence of HAM. We feel it is a direct follow-up to our first album (Hold 1988), more so than most of our other recordings. We don't find this rude but some people might.
Speaking of names - where did HAM come from? I'm guessing you're not vegans, but...
HAM only knows...In Icelandic ´hamur´ denotes the outer layer or skin of creatures, particularly birds. There is an expression of being 'í ham' or 'wearing someone else’s skin' in a shamanistic manner. This can be a useful tool for sorcerers and spirits. Whether this has anything to do with the band we cannot (or will not) say.
What can you tell us about the new album? Where and when and why was it recorded?
The album ‘Svik, harmur og dauði’ is an album of 10 songs which all touch on the subjects of betrayal, tragedy & death. It is very true to the HAM philosophy. It is dramatic and loud like it should be and does not shirk the relentless passion. We recorded live in the ‘Syrland Vatnagarðar’ studio, which is a huge former TV studio. This made it easier to catch the larger ambience that our music needs. We were fortunate to work with producer Aron Arnarson who shared our understanding of the workings of the HAM monster. We did not need words to communicate with Aron. Grunts and growls were enough, which saved a lot of time. The album was recorded in April and we have taken a long time to finalize mixes. The album was recorded because the songs needed to be recorded and released.
Are the original HAM members in it?
The line-up of HAM is the same as it was in the “golden years”. Arnar Geir, our drummer is perpetually new. He was too young to be involved in 1987-88 so he only came onboard in 1990.
You developed a reputation for falling off stages blind drunk and urinating in sinks. Is this still part of the band's modus operandi?
In the early days we were young and stupid. This prevented us to properly serve HAM, which is why we broke up in 1994; the monster needed more from us. Now we are older and much more mature. Now we are much better equipped to serve the music. HAM is not a place for fun or shenanigans. HAM is more than just a band with members. We are not members so much as workers. Our only m.o. these days is to serve the essence of HAM.
What touring or show plans do you have, if any?
We have committed to playing Iceland Airwaves in October. Nothing else is planned as far as we have been told.
Who are the best bands in Iceland right now?
Is Lazyblood a band or only a duet?
Iceland Music Export (IMX)

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