Icelandic electronic pioneers GusGus whose name is taken from the 1974 German film Ali: Fear Eats the Soul by Rainer Werner Fassbinder - were formed in 1995, during a break in the making of the shortcut "Pleasure". Initially they were a multimedia collective that combined sexually -charged dance music with visual arts and short films made by the group's members.
After a self-released debut album the band were eventually signed to 4AD in the UK, who released their second album, "Polydistortion" and 1999’s "This Is Normal". After remixing the likes of Björk, Sigur Rós, Depeche Mode, Pizzicato 5 and Moloko. GusGus put out their fourth and fifth studio efforts respectively: 2005's "Attention", and their 2007's "Forever".
Several lineup changes have occurred over the years. The filmmaking arm split off to form the production company Celebrator, while some former members such as Hafdís Huld, Emilíana Torrini, Blake, and Daníel Ágúst have gone solo. Their current incarnation consists of three members: President Bongo, Biggi Veira and the aforementioned Daníel Ágúst.
Their latest album is "24/7", which will be released through seminal German techno label Kompakt. Making use of a specially-built analogue module system called Doepfer A-100, the album is a deep, penetrative electronic experience with just five (lengthy) tracks and guest appearances from Jimi Tenor and Aaron Carl.
IMX talk to Biggi Veira, a.k.a. Veiran.
What have y’all been doing since...since, well, Forever?
Basically touring, seeding children, other projects and letting the next album come to us. It always takes time to distance oneself from the process of creating each album. After the making of an album, time is needed to distance oneself from it so that new ideas can emerge independent of the ideas that based the foundation for the last. As with this album the last two were closely connected with an identity that is now part of the past. So a new identity with a sound concept was needed for this album. Both of these emerged from the live set and resulted in the approach that was taken when finishing the album. That is, to record it live, to capture the energy and sparks that live performance triggers instead of traditional method of mouse-movement and staring at a computer monitor.
Who was involved in the making of the record, aside from you core trio?
Veiran: No-one basically. Apart from Jimi Tenor's vocals on "Take me Baby" and Aaron Carl's writing of "Hateful".
The record sounds pretty damn electronic, even more than usual; are there any/many instruments going on in there?
All our albums have been pretty damn electronic, but this one might be the most "naked" one. To some it might be "dark" but to others "deep". But it is true that on this album the Doepfer is let loose to the full.
This Doepfer A-100 –the beast responsible for generating all those giant synths and basslines - did you really get it made especially?
The Doepfer is basically a good sounding modular synth collection that I have come to love. When I was assembling the Doepfer that’s part of the live set, one simple module was needed that was then not apart of the Doepfer family. I met with the Doepfer gang in Munchen Germany and explained the design for this module to Dieter Döpfer himself and from that discussion they designed the A-134-2 and sent me the prototype.
There are only five tracks but they’re pretty long – what are the reasons for this approach?
These tracks have a feel that cannot be transmitted within a tight time limit. These tracks, like the concept behind them, need a lot of breathing space. The message is also simple so not many tracks were needed to transcribe it.
The lengthy tracks, the synth-heavy sounds and deep, electronica - it all sounds like a throwback to Giorgio Moroder…
To me the influence is from reggae dub and minimal techno. As always gay disco and industrial influences are blended in. The reason for this approach is from the live set. We had all the tracks within the live set before we had a clue of how they should be arranged and mixed. And on the first gig with the new tracks the path came basically to us as given. The more minimally and dubby we approached the arrangement the more the tracks worked both for us and the audience. Lot of improvisation in sound sculpturing and scaletransferring was also a big part of the tracks.
And how about that title, "24/7"?
It is referring to the underlying concepts and enlightens the question: if life is just an obligation or a job, then for whom?
OK! Where does the track ‘Hateful’ fit into that concept?
Hate mostly arises from lack of self-fulfilment. Each has their own demons and self-enslavement to misunderstood virtues. These result in torn individuals that hate each other’s freedom as they have none.
So "On The Job" is not a sex anthem then…
No it’s a paean to the working man. You have a job and then you die.
How do you think 24/7 compares to previous albums, esp Forever?
Comparing it with the old albums results in the verdict that this album is different. The music production of Gusgus is not to fulfil some external demand but solely to fulfill an internal demand. The internal demand is to explore and make each piece distinct.
You’ll release the record on Kompakt – a wonderful label and very fitting home for this project - how did that happen?
We wished it to happen and it did.
Any touring/live show plans for 2009?
Just a few gigs this summer and a European tour in the fall. There has been talk of US one as well. We'll just have to see.
Iceland Music Export (IMX)
"Moss" Live @ Icelandic Music Awards 2009