Gunnar Larus Hjalmarsson isn’t a household name in the United States but he is in his native Iceland, both by his given name and his nom de guerre Dr. Gunni. To say Dr. Gunni has written the book on Icelandic music would not only be a true statement, but a literal one as well – his hardcover history of Icelandic music, Stuð vors lands, was released during Airwaves last year at a great event that featured a veritable who’s who of Icelandic punk and new wave musicians. Unfortunately for me, the book is in Icelandic… though the photos are fantastic. So when I heard a few days ago that he was working on a shorter, English language version of this tome, I reached out to him and offered to help in any way possible. He got back to me right away, and while he didn’t need help with the book, he did ask if I was interested in buying some records (this is the part where Holly rolls her eyes as if to say, “is this actually happening on our vacation?” Yes, yes it is.).
The next day Gunni picked me up at a local coffee shop and took me over to his place to see what he had available. We chatted about music in general, the obsessive nature of collecting, and some projects he’s working on, while I flipped through a few stacks of vinyl. It turns out the good doctor and I had both just finished reading Retromania by Simon Reynolds, and as a result he was looking to pare down his record collection… which is ironic since I’m adding to mine. But lucky for me, I got a sneak preview!
The first thing to catch my eye the second I walked in the room was HAM’s debut album Hold. I put that one aside immediately and selected a few others I’d been considering over the last year or two but hadn’t yet managed to pull the trigger on, and he gave me a few of the CDs that include his music to wrap up the deal. I didn’t pick up a lot in the way of volume, which is a good thing – my record bag is bursting at the seams, and I just didn’t have room for much more. But I did get some cool stuff that will certainly be featured on the blog at some point in the future. He also gave me some cool old stickers to promo his former band S.H. Draumur’s album Goð.
One of the truly great things about the Icelandic music scene is its accessibility. Over the years we’ve been fortunate enough to meet a lot of great people here – the bands want to communicate with their fans, and all you have to do is reach out. I had a fun time hangin’ with Dr. Gunni today and can’t wait to see his English language book when it comes out – and I’ll be sure to give you the full review here as soon as I get it.