Petur Pólson: «Fyodor Dostoyevsky is my favourite author in the universe»

It’s practically impossible to imagine the music of the Faroe islands without Petur Pólson. Over a period of 20 years, this Faroese poet and musician contributed greatly to its development. The most interesting is that Petur is always different: with the band Clickhaze he could have become a pop star, but his solo albums are plaintive and depressive, like the books of his favourite author. However, his new projects (AVE and Tuxedo Rebels) seem to be very dissimilar from him – not so gloomy. Where the Clickhaze has gone and whether he likes Faroese musicians singing English songs, — Petur Pólson shared with your humble narrator.

— As this interview is for Russia, where interest to the Faroese music has just started to grow, could you tell us about how you started your music career? What is your performer’s resume like?
— I started playing in 1992 in a band called Visible Fish. We played progressive rock, influenced by grunge music and bands like U2, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, King’s X and R.E.M. We released and album in 1998 called “Doing Lounge Jesus”.

I joined Clickhaze in 1998 and we won the Faroese Prix Føroyar competition in 2001. Released an EP in 2002. Clickhaze dissolved in 2003.

Since 2005 I have released three solo albums: “Koma” (2005),” Tokyó” (2009) and “Transit” (2011). In 2013 I started working on two different projects, with two of my best friends and long time collaborators. Tuxedo Rebels, with Knút H. Eysturstein, released its debut album “Sometimes The World Is Dark” in June 2014. With Benjamin Petersen, I made the album “AVE” which was released in August 2014. I have also published 6 poetry collections. The latest is “Opus 6” which was published in November 2014.

 — Do you naturally come from the Faroe Islands? Did all your ancestors live there?
— Yes, I am Faroese naturally. All my ancestors are Faroese and I was born and raised here. My family (father, mother and sisters) moved to Denmark in 1992, but I never did.

— All people interested in the music of the Faroe Islands sooner or later start to understand, that you have shaped its modern image to some extent. You have taken part in many projects. You have acted as author or as a musician in them. Do you feel that you have so many ideas that you need to share them with others?
— Yes. I like to play different parts in different projects, whether it is acting as a lyrical consultant or being a lead singer. I like to write different types of texts, with various themes and being a part of different projects allows me to do this.

— Take, for example, the band Clickhaze, which was a start of musical career for Eivør. Such songs appeared, that with the help of advertising campaign could help you to become the European stars. Why did you close this project?
— Clickhaze was put together of 7 very strong individual personalities that all at some time wanted to go in different directions. This made it difficult for the band to sustain one solid identity. This was supported by the fact that there were almost two different age groups. Jón Tyril, Bogi á Lakjuni and myself are born in 1972 and 73 which means that we were almost ten years older than the rest, and this probably affected the different stages of development and commitment from the various band members. Sometimes we have said, that maybe the real reason was that Clickhaze had nothing left to say at the time.

— Well, about Eivør. Anyhow, your name still appears among the participants (you translate texts into English or do something else) in the new albums of Eivør. How do you build your creative cooperation?
— I have known Eivør since she was born and have been a friend of her brothers and family all my life, so our connection is completely natural and has always existed, so even if we are not working together physically or geographically, we are always connected by love and blood. We are in constant, almost daily, communication, so working together comes easily and naturally. I have normal and natural love and friendship and communication with every single member of Clickhaze and have worked with them all in some capacity.

 - This year two license plates have been already released, and you are directly related to them. This is the album of Tuxedo Rebels and AVE with Benjamin Petersen. At the same time, no new solo albums have been released since a long time. When should we wait for this?
— The projects with Knút and Benjamin have been a very good opportunity for us to say some things and make some music that we probably wouldn’t have made as solo artists. We have toured the Faroe Islands with both projects throughout 2014, and this has been an amazing experience. We are talking about making follow up albums for both projects, but no time has been put on it. As for my solo career, I am always writing songs and lyrics, and as we speak, there are ideas for almost a whole album. It has yet some writing to be done, but it is starting to look like something. It is too early to tell, if anything will be heard in the near future. I have a lot of potential projects, that I will look at come 2015.

 — Please, tell us more about your latest projects.
— Tuxedo Rebels was originally and idea for me and Knút to just have fun with playing cover songs by our favourite artists, like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash and others, as we were playing in popular bands at the time (Clickhaze and Gestir). We played a couple of bars and at some shows, just for fun, from 2002 – 2005. But we always talked about making our own material, but it never seemed to happen, but in 2012 we wrote a new song and it felt natural and right and we decided to go for it. We wrote the songs over Skype, as I was living on the Faroes and Knút was living in Denmark. We recorded the album at my house and Knút had his debut as a producer on this one. It it also the first time I have written and sung English lyrics since the Clickhaze days. This was a conscious decision as the music of Tuxedo Rebels has a more international feel.

AVE was an idea first and foremost. Before any songs were written, me and Benjamin had the plans for a project of an album with two different sides, on for each of us, but trying to maintain a unified sound. We recorded it live in a basement studio (run by Mikael Blak and Benjamin) within a week. We are very happy with it, and luckily it has been extremely well received on the Faroes and we are looking forward to making more of this.

— Very often you can see one and the same musicians take part in different projects. Is it good, what is your opinion? Still, every musician has his/her own manner of playing and by his/her participation in several projects he/she makes them similar in something.
— I love this. It’s like this very tight community of friends and brothers who come together and the love of music and each other comes first, then the various projects. For example, we toured the Faroes as “Ave Rebels” where we were able to have 5 different artists’ names on the poster: Tuxedo Rebels, Ave, Petur Pólson, Knút and Benjamin. And we kept the same backing band all the way. The fact that the musicians are as flexible as they are gives us the opportunity to vary the sound and genres without having to replace the musicians.

— Have you ever wanted to make a project with musicians from other countries? I am now not talking about Denmark or other Scandinavian countries. I mean something more exotic, like, any Russian band, for example.
— I would love to work with musicians from other countries. I’m especially interested in working with Eastern European musicians, as I am deeply fascinated with your folk music. I also love Klezmer sounds and would like to incorporate it into my music a little more. I also think that the cultural differences can teach us to grow as musicians and artists, and this can only make it all better.

— There's a rich variety of musical genres on the Faroe Islands. You even have rap and punk rock bands. However, from your point of view, what does suit to the Faroese more? 
— I think the Faroese are mostly drawn to simple music. Pop and country and folk music to some degree. But the Faroese language seems to be the common denominator.

-Which music do you personally like most?
— My own personal favourite is alternative music, but over the last couple of years I seem to have taken more and more influence from our hymns and folk ballads into my way of thinking music. This is interesting and I am trying to study this more.

— You have strong “electro scene” (in every its manifestation from pop till gloomy industrial. How did that happen? The nature of the Faroe Islands is more likely to the live sound.
— The love for electro comes from outer influences, I believe. But it is also a natural addition to the natural sounds. The Faroese music has always been very live and based on the sounds of Nature, but at the same time the synthesized sounds of human machines has also made itself evident, almost like industry interferes with nature. We have very talented artists as well, my very good friend, Jens L. Thomsen, has made some very interesting sounds with ORKA, and I think this is a very interesting addition to the Faroese music scene.

— There is a specific feature in the Faroese music which is quite catchy. You do not know where there is a secret there. Maybe, in sincerity?
— Sincerity and simplicity, I believe. If you listen to ancient Faroese rhymes and skjaldurs, there is a very melodic structure to is, which is very catchy and I think that this has somehow survived the ages. In Clickhaze we were very conscious about this, to an extent where it almost became forced, but I feel that this has become more and more natural these last couple of years and I find myself delving into the parts of our ancestry and it has become a part of my music DNA, so to speak.

— What do you do apart from music? Is it not only hobby but work for you? Asfar as I know, you write books too?
— I work as a public school teacher at Skúlin á Giljanes. I teach English in 7 — 10th year students. I also write poetry and published my 6th collection this November.

 - What is your attitude to the fact that some of the Faroese musicians have started to sing or sing in English straightaway? In your opinion, is there a kind of mistake? The Faeroese language is so beautiful, and songs in it sound more sincere.
— I have my opinions on this, but I don’t think it’s my place to tell anyone what they should or should not do. I just think, that it is very hard to be unique in English as a writer, because it’s not our native tongue and you have to be a genious just to make a decent attempt at writing something profound.

— Your music is very promising. For example, Damon Albarn (Blur) has composed operas. Don’t you think about other kinds of music? What about classical one? Maybe you want to compose opera as he did?
— I have never thought about an opera, but I am thinking about making a symphony of poetry and music.

— What do you know about Russia? Maybe, you are familiar with some musicians, etc.?
— I have always been very interested in Russian culture, but I have to admit, that this has been more in literature than music. Fyodor Dostoyevsky is my favourite author in the universe. I discovered him at the tender age of 14 and I have been an avid reader ever since. He has somehow influenced my writing, thinking and my world view.

Interview by Anton Kovalsky.

Translated by Marina Zlatoustova and Irina Boiko.

Russian version interview.