Iceland’s alternative scene grew out of a tiny nucleus of alternative musicians including Björk, whose influence now extends to the Broadchurch soundtrack. How did they do it?
KUKL recorded for Crass Records and scored several British indie hits, before Björk, Örn, Baldursson and PP’s Bragi Olafsen regrouped as the core of the Sugarcubes. According to Baldursson, they formed a “pop group for a joke, to raise funds for an artist collective”. Once they signed to fledgling One Little Indian label (founded by Derek Birkett of the Crass-affiliated Flux of Pink Indians), the Sugarcubes became international stars.
And if you really want proof of the indelible mark left by extreme music in Iceland, just pay a visit to Reykjavik’s city hall on the northern shore of Lake Tjörnin. Ask to the see the mayor, Jón Gnarr, and maybe you’ll get the chance to see what he did to celebrate his election in 2010: he had the Crass logo tattooed on his arm. Like the glaciers, punk’s progress in Iceland may have been gradual, but it was inexorable.
Dave Simpson. 2015. ‘Björk, KUKL and Purrkur Pillnikk – the anarcho-punk roots of Iceland’s music scene’, The Guardian, 8 January.