Interview with Sölvi Blöndal

This interview was made over e-mail with Sölvi Blöndal May 25th 2002. Everything he wrote is here. Some editing is made though.

What do the word "Quarashi" stand for and how did you come up with it?
When me, Steini and Hossi first started recording we thought it would be really awesome to have special names for each person in the band. The way it turned out was that the only one that came up with a decent name was Steini and that was the name Quarashi and since that name was better than our first band name we used Quarashi as our band name. Steini appearantly picked up the name for graffiti purposes and later we found out that Quarashi is also the last name of the prophet muhammed the founder of islam. Strange the way things sometimes turn out to have a meaning after all. It is also rumoured that Quarashi means supernatural.

What are your major influences?
Quarashi´s main influence on the rap side is Public Enemy and on the big beat side it´s Chemical Brothers, Prodigy and the whole ninja tune break beat scene and then on the pop and rock side we share influences from the likes of Led Zeppelin and the ELO, for an example Hossi and I are big Zeppelin fans and that can maybe be heard in Mr. Jinx´s chorus where Hossi´s chorus vocals almost sound like Robert Plant. When I started listening to Public Enemy I was fascinated by the fact that one didn´t need a guitar to write some cool ass rock tracks because all you needed was a sampler, that was what I learned from the Bomb Squad that produced all the best albums PE ever did.

How do you feel about the comparisions with Beastie Boys?
The Beasties are a cool band, the comparison is unfair though. When a band comes out with a first album they are always going to get compared to someone, that happened to Jamiroquai, Radiohead and many others. People have a need to compare and catogorize it makes them feel safe and intelligent. However when people that say that we are exactly like the Beasties they probably have never listened to the Beasties nor us.

Which bands do you musically feel closest to?
Quarashi shares a common ground and philosophy with the Prodigy.

In what genre do you want to place Quarashi?
Punk rap

How are the musicclimate in Iceland?
The music climate in Iceland is unfortunately loosing its innosence towards the big buissnes music industry. One notices it when coming to the real world how aware musicians abroad are of the buissnes. Iceland has always been very pure and untouched by major labels. When we were growing up we use to play in bands because we enjoyed it and it made our lifes worth living. We didn´t do it to get signed or to get money. We did it to play 2 concerts a year in some shitty venues. In Iceland now many bands are getting signed and everybody gets released within a year. We had to work for 8 years before we got signed and even before that I was releasing our records myself. That taught us a lot. Still there are a lot of good bands there though, one just has to look for them in some shitty bars or run down rehearsal spaces.

Are you well respected in Iceland?
We´ve got a good loyal fan base, what more can you ask for.

What are your personal favourite track on the new album, Jinx?
Baseline is probably my favorite, the track really took a long time to finish and fortunately I am happy with the outcome, it would be sad if it was the other way around wouldn´t it.

Who writes the lyrics and when starting on a new song do you start with the music or the lyrics?
I do the instrumental first and then Hossi lays down his vocals. Then usually me and Hossi have a conversation or an argument how to produce the vocals into a song. Then after that Omar or Steini come in with their parts.

What is the most fun, touring or recording new songs?
We definitely have some different opinions about that. What I enjoy the most is making tracks and being in the studio, after all I am a studio person. When you have a musical vision and it comes to life there is nothing more can you ask for. Doing concerts and touring is just a completely different thing, it´s great meeting fans and seeing that you have made so many people happy with your stuff, that´s a lot of fun too.

How did you get a record deal with Columbia?
To cut a long story short, the band was hanging out in New York city in the year 2000 getting loaded and doing some new demos in a crack house studio. We have some close friends there that were helping us out there. All of a sudden some record label people started showing up at our studio talking about signing us. We didn´t really take any of them seriously but the way things turned out was that Timebomb recordings an indy label in L.A. picked us up and signed us and then we left them to work with Columbia. It didn´t hurt that Columbia is our favorite label. Can you imagine being on the same label as Miles Davis and Bob Dylan.

How do you feel you have been received in the US?
Amazing, by now we´ve probably sold around 37000 copies in the USA and we started our tour 3 days ago. We are a relatively unknown act here in the USA but already we have some really cool fans here. What makes them even cooler is the fact that most of the fans we´ve been meeting here understand our music precisely the way we want it to be understood.

What do you think about the music made today? Anything you like?
There is always something that you like, for instance the White Stripes have a cool ass track in the radio a really positive element in todays music, other than that, I dunno I´m kinda fucked up right now, been flying a lot, can´t remember my own name almost.

Now when you start touring over basicly the whole world, which country or place do you look forward to the most?
I like the United states a lot, coming to different parts of the states is almost like coming to a different country every time. I can´t choose a favorite from all the places I am going to visit.

Finally, what are the plans for the future?
Quarashi will probably tour the rest of this year. We are preparing for another video shot for our next single whose idendity still remains a secret. We take one day at a time and so it goes. I am always writing a bunch of new tracks and they will probably live with me on the road and god knows where they will end up.

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