Interview:
Daniel Agust

Star Shaped


Daniel Agust has had something of an illustrious career without ever threatening to become a household name here in the UK. Way back in the eighties he had a not particularly successful stab at the Eurovision Song Contest, had a brief flirtation with the big screen, had a very successful rock career in his native Iceland and achieved three number one singles there – as well as nationwide acclaim – with the off the wall dance ensemble Gusgus. Now he’s released a fine debut solo album, so we’ve collared the guy for you and asked him to talk you through his career…

Making the Album

It was a lot different to making the GusGus stuff because I was working on my own and the songs were a lot more personal. It was also a really refreshing change for me to arrange the songs for classical instruments. I’d never done that before and it was a real challenge.

The Album’s Content

It’s a concept album really, in which I set out to fathom my own existence. I was trying to describe how I see things and express my own feelings. It’s autobiographical in as far as you CAN be in just over thirty five minutes! I’d say it POSSIBLY covers all my story but it DEFINITELY covers big chunks of me anyway!

Inspirations

Nick Drake was a big inspiration, especially one particular song – “Way To Blue” – and I tried to get that kind of intimacy across in my own music. I wouldn’t say I set out to make ten replicas of that track necessarily, but it was definitely my biggest inspiration.

The Film Career

I didn’t find it very exciting or rewarding, to be honest. It was fun to see myself on a huge silver screen in that film (NB - English title “As in Heaven”), but I didn’t take much pleasure out of it. It’s hard to stay in character when you’re not in a leading role and there was a hell of a lot of waiting around involved. That’s why I prefer making music – I can always keep myself busy even when there’s nothing to do.

The Eurovision Entry

That was back in 1989 and it was all just fun to me. I was just laughing the whole time. I don’t regret it and I enjoyed it a lot – except that I didn’t actually want to win the pre-contest to find a Song For Iceland! I only went in for that because I wanted to work with a guy who I respected very much. I’d say Eurovision was an education really, but it’s just a silly competition and it was fun to do.

Staying Original

GusGus have been going for about ten years now, and I think we manage to stay fresh because we’re all in it for the excitement and are willing to experiment. There are always things I haven’t explored yet and I’m always curious and open to new ways of writing or recording. I see making music as an excursion and there’s a lot of sightseeing to do.

Career Highlights

It’s impossible to pick just one. There have been so many, but I think probably finally having my new solo album out is the highlight for me because it’s so personal. Of course, with GusGus we sold a lot of records, we toured the US and Europe, had number one hits back home…and even Nydonsk (the rock group) was amazing. Still, I think I’ll go with my new album as my career highlight.

Future Hopes

I’d like people to still be listening to my music when I’m seventy. Not just the stuff I’m putting out now but the music I’ll be making THEN as well! And I guess, ultimately…to die in peace…

Collaborating

Bix is a huge inspiration to me. He’s the soundscape man and he comes up with all these filtered noises and basically he’s just sprinkled the magic all over my album.

The Songwriting Process

I have many different methods. Sometimes I can just pick up an acoustic guitar and try to sing a melody over the top, or maybe I’ll go straight to the computer and start building beats. I normally do the lyrics a bit later and that can be inspired by hearing someone say a phrase or even just a single word sometimes. It generally flows as long as I have some kind of basic idea what I’m going to do.

What’s Next?

I just want to go out and play as many pieces as I can, and I’m already looking forward to recording my NEW album. After all, this one’s been five years in the making and one tends to write more than just ten songs in that time!


“Swallowed a Star” is out now, so hurry along, because there’ll be another Daniel Agust album out by…ooh…2011?

Interview: Tone E

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