Interview with Henrik Björnsson of Singapore Sling

For the past ten years, Icelandic group Singapore Sling have been making waves with their special brand of psychotic psychedelia. With their latest album, ‘Never Forever,’ the band have turned down a little bit, replacing noisy guitars and feedback with drum machines and fuzzed-out drones. Don’t think that means they’re going soft, however. Sinister vocals woven through claustrophobic chord progressions take listeners on a dark journey not for the faint of heart.

Frontman Henrik Björnsson took the time to tell Rock Edition a little bit about the new record as well as his other projects. Read on to see what he had to say.

How did Singapore Sling get started?

I had been recording songs for some years on a 4-track. I decided to form a band so those songs could be played live. I felt the need to expose my music, and I felt there was a need for rock ‘n’ roll.

Who are the current members and how has the lineup changed over the years?

In the beginning, a six-piece live band was needed to play the songs right. My friend Einar [Kristjánsson, guitarist] was the first person I approached, and he is the only one that has been there from the beginning. The lineup [for] the first show was different from the lineup on the first two records. Before the third record, the lineup changed again; that’s the current lineup. However, I like to make the records mostly by myself.

The current members are Ester Bíbí Ásgeirsdóttir on bass, Björn Viktorsson on drums, and Einar Kristjánsson, Hákon Aðalsteinsson and Hallberg Hallbergsson on guitar.

So on ‘Never Forever,’ you are playing most or all of the instruments?

Yes, but I’m playing like a machine. First of all, there’s more synth basses and bass arpeggiators on this record than [on] the others, so there’s less bass guitar; when there is [bass guitar], it’s as simple as can be. I just wanted this record to sound like a machine. The guitars have made more noise on the other ones, but I mostly wanted the noise to come from other sources this time, like on the Go-Go Darkness record.

I do notice some of the songs on the new record clearly have drum machines. When you perform them live, is Björn playing everything, or is it a mix of live and programmed drums?

We haven’t played these songs live. But when we have played live before, Björn has played everything, like a machine. He is an excellent drummer. I’m not sure yet how this one will be performed live, but we will definitely be using machines.

Do you ever have special guests appear on your records?

I have had my sister Anna (who now is in Two Step Horror) and my friend Elsa María (who is with me in The Go-Go Darkness) to sing on most of them. I also got Jóhann Jóhannsson, who is a friend, to play on three songs on ‘Life Is Killing My Rock ‘n’ Roll.’

How did you get hooked up with Outlier Records?

Mark (of Outlier Records) initially made contact with The Go-Go Darkness. Since we had a mutual friend, and since we were both in London at the same time last summer, we decided to meet up. We talked and saw that a collaboration between Outlier and Vebeth would be perfect.

For those who don’t know about Vebeth, can you tell us what it is all about?

About two years ago, me and my artist and musician friends decided we needed a name and a logo to unite all the projects we were involved in, since we all shared similar aesthetics and were already collaborating on various things. Putting the Vebeth logo on our releases was a way to connect them, like a record label would, but without the record label. We make our music and art from beginning to end without any interference from anyone. We just do whatever we want to do, whenever we want. Outlier understands and supports that.

I saw you play a couple of years ago in New York with Brian Jonestown Massacre. Will Singapore Sling be returning to the States any time soon?

I like to go to the States as often as I can, and hopefully next time it will be to play shows. It obviously is time for some shows in the States. Nothing planned yet, though.

Where is your favorite place to play live?

I am especially fond of Los Angeles and New York, but I can’t really name one favorite place. I enjoy playing to our group of fans in Reykjavík, but I also like to play in different places for different people — wherever that may be.

Do you also play in Dead Skeletons? How did that band come about?

My friend Nonni asked me if I would do a song with him for an art exhibition he was doing. I went to his studio one day and we recorded “Dead Mantra.” That’s how it started. Then we did more songs together, then Nonni also did songs with Ryan [van Kriedt] of Sunsplit, who also did stuff on “Dead Mantra.” So it isn’t really a band, but a music project that is a part of Nonni’s “Dead” concept.

Does Anton Newcombe play in Dead Skeletons?

No. Dead Skeletons is me or Ryan working with Nonni. However, Anton is working with Nonni on various other things.

Seems like between Singapore Sling, The Go-Go Darkness and Dead Skeletons, you must be really busy. How do you have time for that many bands?

Well, these bands don’t really play much live or tour, so there’s plenty of time to write and record music.

What’s next for you? What project or projects are you currently working on, or what’s coming up that you are excited about?

Singapore Sling and The Go-Go Darkness will both be playing shows in Paris in October along with a few other Vebeth bands. I am very excited about that. Paris is a wonderful city and it seems that there are plenty of people there who understand rock ‘n’ roll. Before we go there, we hope to have the next Go-Go Darkness record recorded, and maybe a Singapore Sling record. Who knows? Right at the moment, I’m not recording music. I like to take breaks from it for a while, and when I am about to explode I start recording. I write songs whenever I feel like it of course, but I prefer a recording process that is constant, where I can just completely block out the outside world [while] I am recording. It’s important to deactivate yourself fom the normal world when you want to create another. I’m also thinking of different ways to record the next albums. So at the moment I’m plotting and planning, writing songs and rehearsing with a couple of bands once in a while.

Pick up Singapore Sling’s new album, Never Forever.