Muted is an alias of Bjarni Rafn Kjartansson. He first came to my notice via a collaboration with Samaris and has recently released a limited edition vinyl called Lizard On Ice. He ended up cutting out the label for each record sleeve himself, something that is indicative of the Icelandic music scene. He spends time watching stars and waiting for the northern lights to show up and yet he seems to be the maestro of the East Fjords. I wanted to know more. What on earth is an Icelander doing producing music as diverse as this from the edge of nowhere?
How would you describe your music?
I make all kinds of stuff, I started out doing drum’n’bass, then I went to dubstep, I’ve also done trip-hop, hip-hop, jazz, theatrical work and a lot of other different stuff. The thing that I keep in almost all of my works, my “signature” thing, are the recorded sounds I’ve recorded in various places in Iceland with my Zoom H4N recording device. I usually have some odd sounds for snares or percussion and use some cool ambience recordings for effects in the background.
I also love using samples, recycling old records, sample movies, TV, cassettes or just whatever really, and last but not least, I’m heavily into analog synthesizers. I’ve never studied any instrument so I’m basically just experimenting with sounds.
Why are you called ‘muted’?
I think it took me like 10 minutes to pick that name, no real thought to it really, just really fitting for me. I started out making this deep, kind of minimal drum’n’bass which suits the name “Muted” quite well, it also fits my character pretty well as I’m in general a really shy person, I was also the only one in my hometown who even knew what drum’n’bass was at the time so I was kind ‘the odd one out’ so the name was quite easy.
Where in Iceland are you from? Where do you live at the moment?
I’m from Egilsstaðir, in the east part of Iceland. I’m currently living there but I lived in Reykjavík for a year and Akureyri for a year in 2011 where I made my debut album (which is still to be released!).
What’s it like there?
Over the summer it’s wicked, everyone is home for their summer job and the town is blooming. In late August and until Christmas it’s pretty hard, everyone leaves for university and at the moment I am the last man standing.
But music-wise it’s wicked all year around. I live in Fellabær which is a 300 people town 2 km outside of Egilsstaðir (on the banks of the famous Lagarfljót). I’m lucky enough to be renting an apartment in an industrial area so I’m the only inhabitant on my street so I can make music anytime I want without disturbing anyone.
There is also a small forest in 3 minute walking distance from my apartment and there I spend a lot of time watching stars, northern lights, recording sounds, thinking or just chilling.
Isn’t it really hard producing music from such a remote part of the country?
It’s actually a lot easier for me than when I was living in Reykjavík. I think that what matters most for me is how close I am to the nature in Egilsstaðir. Everywhere I go there are forests, rivers, huge rocks, mountains, just everything a nature lover wants. The thing I disliked the most about living in Reykjavík was that everything was so hectic over there, traffic, people in a hurry, just uncomfortable. I mean compared to big cities like New York and London I can understand that Reykjavík is just a chilled tiny city for most tourists but for someone who's used to living in a town of 2,500 people it's a pretty different story.
Since I’m all alone over the winter months I use almost all of my spare time for music, either working on new tunes, playing my synths, sampling or recording sounds.
What’s next for Muted?
I spent three months this summer working with a small theatre group in my hometown, putting up a show called ‘Næturlíf’ (Nightlife) which received nationwide attention and since then I finished a concept album I started last winter called Planets, a track for every planet.
Now I’m working on a jazz album with my friend playing the drums, doing another vinyl release scheduled for early 2014, a hip-hop album with Icelandic rappers I want to work with.
But other than that I'm just doing the usual, working on more music, looking for gigs abroad, trying to find a decent label to release my stuff and just trying to enjoy life.
Edward Hancox – email@example.com