You might have noticed the continuously strong Scandinavian representation at Iceland Airwaves through the years. And the 2012 edition is no exception, as you’ll find perusing the programme (we’ve already given you the low-down on Denmark and Finland, click through to learn more…).
One artist you really should be taking particular notice of right now is Norway’s Hanne Kolstø. Over the last few years she’s been creating a stir in Norway with numerous projects such as Love:Fi, Post and Thelma & Clyde. But it’s as a solo artist that she’s really making waves. Her 2011 debut album ‘Riot Break,’ received near unanimous praise from the Norwegian press for the quality of the songwriting, its mix of cold synths and warm melodies, and the beguiling strength of Hanne’s vocals. Her second album, ‘Flashback,’ was released last month in Norway, and should be one record on your musical radar over the coming months.
We got in touch with Hanne to talk about her music, clichés in song-writing, and how she’s such a great tourist.
Hello there Hanne! Where are you right now and what’s the nearest thing to you that you can use as a weapon should a zombie attack you?
An orange. I’m in my kitchen in Kristiansand.
Can you tell us a bit about how you first got into music in general? What would you say was your first big break in Norway?
I’m afraid I have to give you the “boring” answer here: I’ve always been into music, I sang before I talked etc. I don’t know a life without music.
I guess my first break was when I released “Riot Break,” my first solo album. It got tons of great reviews in Norway. It was crazy actually, but that was actually my 4th record overall as a lead vocalist/guitarist/songwriter. I had three bands earlier – Love:Fi, Post, and Thelma & Clyde.
We’re listening right now to first solo album, ‘Riot Break,’ and it contains a beguiling mix of sounds and styles. Can you tell us how the album came about? Why did you decide to go it alone with this one instead of your other projects?
I wasn’t really planned to be my solo project at all, I had some “leftover songs” from my other projects, the kind of songs that didn’t fit into any of them. And me and my good friend/musician/producer Øyvind Røsrud Gundersen decided to test them out in the studio, just for fun, recording and playing everything ourselves, analogue. We had never worked together before, and we hit it off straight away. I found something important when I started to work with Øyvind. We’ve got the same taste, want the same thing, but are very different persons, you can say that we complement each other perfectly. A very good feeling!
While we may be guessing, your music and aesthetic seems to thrive on intense situations and feelings. For example your latest album, ‘Flashback,’ features a woman sawing her arm off on the cover. Can you tell us what is it that inspires you to create such images within your music?
The cover pictures on both ‘Riot Break’ and ‘Flash Black’ are painted by the Norwegian artist Erik Pirolt. His world complements my music, and he also pushes me a bit deeper. That’s why I like to work with him. He’s more extreme than me, and that’s very inspiring.
We’re very intrigued with the first single from ‘Flashback’, “La-la-la-la Lovesong.” The lyrics seem to be putting a deep skewer into the cheap sentiment of the standard love ballad. Do you think that pure unabashed love can still exist in a pop song these days? Or have we merely become too jaded and weary with it all?
The lyrics to “La-la-la-la Lovesong” started almost as a joke, or more like “sick-and-tired-of-all-clichés-that-people-allow-themselves-to-put-into-their-lyrics-and-get-away-with.” I also wanted to “get away” with writing clichés. This was my attempt.
Well it was a damn fine attempt indeed. So you are playing at Iceland Airwaves this year. Is this your first time to Iceland? If so, what’s the extent of your knowledge of the place? Can you tell us any interesting facts at all?
It’s my first time! I hope it’s as dark and cold as in Norway at this time – I love that. Maybe it’s even darker?! Hope so! I’m gonna google Iceland right now. Find out everything.
While you’re here, is there anything in particular you’re looking forward to, whether it’s a particular band playing at the festival, or anything Icelandic in particular?
I’m just looking forward to being there, I’m not much of a tourist-like person. I like to be by myself, and enjoy silence (sometimes too much), so that´s always a challenge being at a festival, Ha ha! BUT, I’m still looking forward to meeting new people. I hope I get to do that in between everything that’s going to happen. I’ve got four shows in three days!
Oof! Tell us something about Norway and your home-town that will truly amaze us? We do already know about Black Metal, and that the booze is highly expensive.
I guess the high mountains and the fjords would open your eyes? But otherwise it’s not that different from Iceland I guess.
Lot’s of sheep and coffee then. What’s in your pockets right now?
What’s the final word on Hanne Kolstø?
There are no final words.
Hanne Kolstø will be performing on Thursday 1st, November, 22:30, at Harpa Kaldalón.