Interview mit Þráinn Árni Baldvinsson (SKÁLMÖLD)
Interview mit Þráinn Árni Baldvinsson zu seinem Soloalbum
(das Interview wurde auf englisch geführt)
Þráinn Árni Baldvinsson ist bestimmt vielen von euch als Gitarrist der isländischen Metal Band SKÁLMÖLD bekannt.
SKÁLMÖLD wurden 2009 gegründet. In ihren bisher sechs Studioalben geht es ihnen darum, das kulturelle Erbe Islands und der Wikingerzeit zu würdigen. Die Lyrics sind daher nicht nur auf Isländisch sondern dazu in einer traditionellen Form verfasst.
Im heutigen Interview geht es aber nicht um SKÁLMÖLD, sondern um das Solo-Album, dass Þráinn demnächst veröffentlichen wird. Bisher gibt es mit „Stringendo“ einen ersten Vorgeschmack.
Wir haben uns über das kommende Album, Instrumentalmusik, die Bands, in denen Þráinn spielt (SKÁLMÖLD, BASTARÐUR), die Freude an der Arbeit als Lehrer und darüber, welche Rolle Mythologie und Geschichte in seinem Leben spielen, unterhalten.
About the interview
Þráinn Árni Baldvinsson is probably known to many of you as the guitarist of the Icelandic metal band SKÁLMÖLD.
SKÁLMÖLD was founded in 2009. In their six studio albums so far, they are concerned with paying tribute to the cultural heritage of Iceland and the Viking Age. The lyrics are therefore not only written in Icelandic but also in a traditional form. Today’s interview is not about SKÁLMÖLD, but about the upcoming solo album that Þráinn will release.
So far there is a first foretaste with „Stringendo“.
We talked about the upcoming album, instrumental music, the bands Þráinn plays in (SKÁLMÖLD, BASTARÐUR), the joy of working as a teacher and the role mythology and history play in his life.
Differences are refreshing; music, horses and fly-fishing
Þráinn, what should our readers know about you or what do you want to tell about yourself?
I grew up in the north of Iceland on a small farm. Music was always most interesting to me and my parents were both very much into music and my father still is. My mother passed away many years ago but she was always encouraging me to follow my dream to become a musician. Enjoy life and help others as well.
I´m married, I have two daughters. I love to help out at my father’s horse farm.
I own a music school where I teach and ensure everything works correctly for the students and the other teachers. When I´m not touring or teaching guitar I love to go fly-fishing and enjoy nature.
You play in SKÁLMÖLD and BASTARÐUR – bands that make different music. What do you see as the differences between these bands? Is it the difference that appeals to you or what is the significance of the bands for you?
I love playing in Bastarður and yes, because of the difference between the two bands it´s refreshing. The songs are totally different from the Skálmöld songs but just as fun to play. It´s easier to play the Bastarður songs but challenging at the same time.
Soli on a crust punk album and Þráinn‘s life as the main theme
What are your tasks in BASTARÐUR? [BASTARÐUR is the band by Aðalbjörn Tryggvason (SÓLSTAFIR) and Birgir Jónsson (DIMMA)]
I was asked to play on the album [„Satan‘s Loss Of Sons”] so I just went to the studio and recorded solos and stuff. Then Addi asked me to play in a video shoot and then a few shows. I may have a riff or two for the next album. You never know but Addi is the main songwriter and wrote all of that first album. At least 99% of it.
And now a solo album – was that always your wish to release such an album?
Yes. I wanted to do this for many years now and when Skálmöld decided to take a break in 2019 I started actively working on my solo project.
Is there a common thread like a theme running through the album? Or are the pieces the realisation of different musical ideas that you have tried out and developed over the past years?
The theme is basically Þráinn´s life. I´m not doing this for anybody else, It´s a very selfish thing. I am doing this for me and me alone. The idea of this first solo album is to get out songs that are a work in progress or have been ready for some time. It is because I need to clean out the hard drive in my head to make space for more music. Every time I finish a song for Skálmöld or anybody: really, it makes me write more, the ideas never run out. If you keep at it you never run out of ideas. You live in music and musical ideas are everywhere. If you experience a shortage of ideas you just need to take a step back from what you are doing, try a different kind of music, then get back at what you want to do and … bam! Ideas come at you. I promise.
Heavy metal with surprises
Have you decided on a style? It is said that it will be a heavy metal album – is that true? Or will there be completely different songs?
There will be songs that will surprise some people but the major element is heavy metal. I will at some point make an album with only acoustic guitars but not until I´ve finished this one. I need this to be a basically heavy metal guitar album.
In the first song you released, there are also ‚quotes‘ from classical music. What is the idea behind this connection?
It just happened. I grew up listening to Accept and bands that incorporated classical music into their metal music. Ritchie Blackmore is my guitar god among others and as you know, he uses a lot of classical melodies in his songs and solos. But this just … happened. And by releasing this as the first single, people will not just hear new music made by me but also something they have (hopefully) heard before in Rondo alla Turca by Mozart.
Do you have a classical education on the guitar or just a lot of fun with classical music?
Both. I started learning the electric guitar but I was lucky, both with my guitar teacher and my music teacher in elementary school. They showed me cool stuff to listen to all the time and I wanted to be able to play classical guitar as well. Maybe we should let young students play what they want to play and not tell them what to play? Just show them cool stuff and then they will be interested in learning classical music? All music is good, some of it is better, but you know what I mean. Let´s enjoy music whatever you want to call the music. Classical, metal, Viking metal, pop … shit or gold. Music is just music. Right?
Music is just music
Yes, any kind of music can be shit or gold, as you said. Above all, it should be for the musician first and not for the others. On your album, you play instrumental music. I’ve been talking recently with other guitarists who have released instrumental albums about whether or not the guitar ‚replaces‘ the vocals. How is that with you?
I never write melodies for my guitar with singing in mind. I have been listening to a lot of Marty Friedman and I think he sometimes writes melodies that we can imagine being vocal melodies, sung by a human being. I might try that. But I have never thought of writing melodies on the guitar in that way. But I do write some vocal melodies for Skálmöld.
The question is often asked about musical influences. Which guitarist has influenced you? Did you ‚copy‘ something from other guitarists when you started to develop your style?
I think Ritchie Blackmore is my first guitar hero. I still listen to his music and I tried to BE Mr Blackmore. Bruce Kulick and Ace Frehley, Dave Murray and Adrian Smith are also major influences on me. Kirk Hammett is someone I loved and still do and then Yngwie J. Malmsteen. I practised a lot when learning his solos as well as Jason Becker´s and Marty Friedman´s. I´m inspired by everything that moves me but these players are probably my main influences and the guys I would copy all the time, trying to learn their solos and listening to them nonstop means that their music is always in my head and heart.
Kids are honest and awesome
Now you are also something of a ‚role model‘ for others in various roles. Or don’t you see yourself that way?
I don’t think about it but I know other guitar players look to me for advice and lessons. It is important to have someone you can look to and say; “hey, I want to do what he is doing”. But it´s only music you should focus on. Lifestyle and people´s view on life Is another matter. If I can help you on your musical journey, I´m here for you. You have to be able to mirror yourself in others and if you never see anyone whom you look up to you´re missing out on something magical. That´s why we, the people on this earth, need role models that are different and can offer different things. Everybody needs role models and we have to make sure kids can find their role models in every aspect of life.
You are a guitar teacher, you give tips on guitar playing on your social media channels, and you make music with children of kindergarten age. How did that come about? What experience do you have there: which songs, which style of music goes down best with the children? I have noticed that the children also like to listen to the music of SKÁLMÖLD.
Music should be available to everyone, anytime, everywhere. No matter age or status in society. I was asked to play in a kindergarten millions of years ago and I still do it because it´s fun and the kids are honest and awesome. I play whatever songs I want to play and all the songs they ask me to play. I often get asked to play AC/DC and Rammstein songs. I do as they command.
Help and guide – interest and passion should be the driving force
What do young people who learn guitar from you want to know about music, the music business and about you?
Every student is different from the next. I try to help them in the best possible way. But it´s very different from student to student. Every year a 6-year-old walks in and only wants to learn “Back In Black” and every year someone wants to learn the “Hotel California” – solo. Someone wants to learn all the Billie Eilish songs etc etc.
A lot of students want to learn Skálmöld songs and everyone should have an idea of what they want to play. Their interest in music should be the main driving force in their way to success playing the guitar. Through their interest and passion, I show them the best way to become the best they can be. A good teacher should show the way, guide, and help, but keep out of the students’ way because every student needs to find his own way and work hard because the teacher can’t put in the hard work for them. Just help and guide.
And what do you want them to take away with them?
Happiness and the feeling that they control their own destiny. If my student can look back at the time he was my student and say that he is happy and feels he has improved, then all is good.
To share your happiness …
„Be here, now, and make sure you make the world a better place by being humble, grateful and kind.“Þráinn in „The Valknut“
„Be here, now, and make sure you make the world a better place by being humble, grateful and kind.“ This quote comes from a recent interview you gave at “The Valknut”. You told us that you have been active in Ásatruárfélagið since 2011. That your interest in the stories led you there. And also that respect for others and respect for history is important to you. Also to learn from it. What influence do these have on your everyday life?
I go to work every day with a smile on my face and It´s not forced, I am genuinely happy starting each day doing the thing I love which is being in music. Playing an instrument and being there for others that want to experience the same thing. I have my radio shows on the national radio talking about guitars and guitar music and I play in bands with my friends. What could be better? Helping others is the noblest thing that you can do and I try to help as many as I can at the same time I do what I know is the best thing for me and my family. If you are happy in life you should share that happiness.
Regarding history, only people who know history can avoid the same old mistakes and people who know nothing of history make the mistakes again and again. To be fully aware and responsible you have to know about the past.
… and the magic of mythology
You also talked about the magic that comes from mythology and that you like the atmosphere that comes with it. Can you explain that a little bit?
Every story is a bit of magic. When your grandparents tell you a story, true or a myth, you get lost in the storytelling. Why do most people get a nice relaxing feeling sitting close to a campfire or a fireplace? Because that is what kept the human race alive and sitting next to the fire people sang and told stories. Magic. That atmosphere is still here for everyone to enjoy. Sometimes you just have to stop and stay in the moment. Enjoy the silence … just be.
Do these basic ideas or the basic feeling also play a role in your album?
Yes because this is who I am. I am comfortable and happy in life so yes; it is in everything I do.
Finally, a question about SKÁLMÖLD: You are going on tour with FINNTROLL in autumn. Will there also be a new album?
Yes, finally a tour and next year a new album. We are writing, sharing ideas, and throwing riffs at each other. We are all very excited about touring again and writing for a new album. Re-energized and happy. Life in the Skálmöld camp is good.
The first single from your upcoming album is called „Stringendo“ and was released on 17.6.2022. The album is scheduled for release in early 2023. Can you already reveal what the album will be called?
All I can say is that “Stringendo” is a good example of how the album will be. Full of energy, positive vibes and guitar shredding. All is good.
Thank you, very much and good luck, with all your plans and things!
And now: listen to „Stringendo“
- Þráinn 4: Þráinn Baldvinsson pic by Dariusz Ptaszynskj
- Þráinn 3: Þráinn Árni Baldvinsson
- Þráinn 2: Þráinn Baldvinsson pic by Mummi Lú
- Þráinn interview bb: Þráinn Baldvinsson pic by Mummi Lú