The Gamut

Magazine

The Gamut

By: Páll Stefánsson
Ólafur Arnalds

Meet the first Icelandic musician to win a BAFTA: Ólafur Arnalds.

Published in the 2014 June-July issue of Iceland Review – IR 03.14. Words and Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

The 27-year-old former punk rock drummer, Ólafur Arnalds, has not only made three studio albums, eight EPs and seven soundtracks for films and television series, including The Hunger Games and Broadchurch, he is also a newly crowned BAFTA winner for the score of the latter. When you first meet him, you think you have met a handsome athlete, a long distance runner, a marathon winner. And maybe that’s where his success lies: the attitude. Day in and day out he sits in his studio, creating sound for the millions. Success is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. Here he talks to Iceland Review about his sound and his silence.

Páll Stefánsson: Watching movies, do you sometimes miss the images and lose track of the plot because the soundtrack takes you over?

Ólafur Arnalds: Yes definitely. It happens all the time, and it annoys me a lot, I miss an important part of the story, most often at the end of the movie, when the music reaches its culmination.

PS: What instrument has the most beautiful tone?

ÓA: The piano is my favorite.

PS: On your latest record, For Now I Am Winter, for the first time—your previous albums have all been instrumental—and out of the blue, we hear a gentle voice belonging to heavy metal rocker Arnór Dan Arnarsson. What happened there?

ÓA: Arnór and I have been friends for a while and we wanted to make music together. We simply went to my studio to record, not necessarily intending the music to be on my album. But when I started the album, I wanted to continue working with him.

PS: You just received a BAFTA award, what does that mean for you?

ÓA: It is a great opportunity, besides being the greatest honor. Job offers are piling up.

PS: What’s your favorite place in Iceland—a place that inspires you?

ÓA: My family owns a summerhouse by Lake Álftavatn [Swan Lake], South Iceland. The quietness there helps me when I have writers’ block. I enjoy being there, listening  to nature, emptying the mind—it’s the complete opposite of being in fast-paced Reykjavík.

You can read the remainder of this article in the June-July issue of Iceland Review – IR 03.14. Five times a year the print edition of Iceland Review & Atlantica brings you a wealth of articles on all aspects of life in Iceland including Páll Stefánsson’s latest images of the country’s majestic landscape. Click here to subscribe.