Daisy Hill Puppy Farm. Vale Jóhann Jóhannsson

Iceland was a hotbed of both geological disturbance and alternative music in the 1980's. Seeing as I loved both I would pop over to see a bit of volcanic action, get hold of all the latest local releases at the Gramm record shop, and catch a gig at the Hotel Borg in Reykjavik.

There was no other country like it at the time, and to top it off beer was illegal, although strangely a fiery clear local liquor called Brennivin was served, and that gave me some terrible hangovers. It was on one of these visits that I picked up a compilation cassette called Snarl. There were some interesting bands on there, I really enjoyed Gult Að Innan who had some terrific songs including a pro-whaling, anti-Greenpeace number, which was a bit different. 

The band who really blew me away though were Daisy Hill Puppy Farm. Squealing feedback, vocals low in the mix, and three bloody good tunes. I started a long-distance friendship with the lead singer Jóhann Jóhannsson which eventually culminated in me releasing a track of his, River Phoenix, on a compilation EP I helped put out. Financially a disaster but artistically a success. The Daisy Hill Puppy Farm track was majestic and worth every penny.

I never released any more records, but Jóhann went onto much bigger and greater projects, recording some amazing ambient music (check out the atmospheric Englabörn) as well as scoring many films. This resulted in him winning a Golden Globe award and also being nominated for an Oscar. 

Sadly, he died way too young in Berlin in February 2018.  This is the bands first interview, while they were still at school, unpublished previously, from late 1987.

BTA: Tell me about Daisy Hill Puppy Farm, and how you got together.

Jóhann: "Well, the name is a little bit of a joke, taken from the  Snoopy cartoon, but we like it!

We live in Seltjarnarnes, which likes to think it's not part of Reykjavik but of course, it is. We formed two years ago, me on guitar and singing, Stebbi on bass and Oli on drums, but we spent a year just sorting things out, learning to play a bit, and trying various singers out before we decided to stick with my vocals, which are getting better!

The three of us have been friends for yonks, and the idea of forming a band came basically from boredom, repressed exhibitionism, and a fanatical interest in music. This is the first band for all of us, not counting marching bands."

BTA: Do you get most of your local influences from local Icelandic bands?

Jóhann: "Well, we do love our local music. There have been some great bands like Þeyr, Kukl, and Purrkur Pillnikk, as well as the current bands like The Sugarcubes and Oxamia, check them out they are so good, as well as S/H Draumur who are definitely one to watch.

We have not really been influenced that much by them, as our real loves are groups like The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Buzzcocks and Ramones.  Although we see ourselves more as a mixture of Blondie and the Beastie Boys.

All of us are different in the band and we admire stuff like The Primitives, The Young Gods, Big Black, Husker Du, Marc Almond, Hanoi Rocks, Love and Nick Drake among many others. We have no limit on what we can or cannot like."

BTA: How hard is it to be in a band in Iceland?

Jóhann: "Things are not easy for alternative/non-commercial bands in Iceland. There are only three or four suitable venues in Reykjavik and the market for our type of music is so small, you can only hold so many concerts a year.

We are going to play in Akureyri and hopefully a couple of other big towns in the north of the country but that is it. To play in London or the US will be a dream, or anywhere outside of Iceland for that matter.

As you know, Iceland is really expensive. Record prices are high and studio time is not that affordable for small bands. It is almost certain commercial suicide for a low-profile band to release an album.

The result is a lot of promising bands fold after releasing only one or two platters."

BTA: But you have played quite a few local gigs?

Jóhann: "We have now played live eight times and usually take any gigs we are offered. We have not actually been paid to play a gig yet, although our first gigs were marred by the fact that we could not play at all.

But now things have changed a lot, we have learnt to play a bit and our appearances are going down well."

BTA: You sing in English, unlike a lot of other Icelandic bands. Is that a conscious decision?

Jóhann: "We do see the band as a long-term project and though we are all still at school we are totally dedicated to the group. But we sing in English so that we will be able to reach large audiences in the future.

Also because we think English suits our music and our style better than Icelandic."

BTA: Have you got any more releases planned soon?

Jóhann: "We borrowed a four-track a few weeks ago and recorded a load of new tracks. '17', 'Hopey', 'Ghettoblaster' and 'Gimme Head till I'm dead'. Actually, the first two are the only real songs here.

Ghettoblaster is really just a Stupids/hardcore parody we did for a laugh. But we only had the 4-track for the weekend and Erdanmusik (an Icelandic label) are asking for a number of songs to release on their next Snarl compilation so we had to include it to make up the numbers.

The charmingly titled 'Gimme Head' is a real oldie, one of our very first songs. This recording of it will probably go down in history as one of the worst ever made...

We've got tons of other songs we would like to record and we will probably get into some cheapo studios around christmas time for that purpose. We are planning to release a split single with us and Sogblettir occupying one side each. And then who knows?"

Vale Jóhann Jóhannsson.

Live Band Photo by Bjorg Sveinsdottir 

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