Tryggvason’s guitar named the Eagle was made by Icelandic builder Gunnar Orn and its body was then finished by a professional wood carver. It has accompanied its owner on at least 500 gigs, including this one at
Iceland’s Eistnaflug metal fest.Photo by Falk-Hagen Bernshausen
And yet, as expansive as the band’s sound is, you, Pjúddi, and Svabbi seem to prefer stripped-down, vintage-style guitar tones.
I think it’s mostly trying to have a timeless sound. I don’t want people to be able to say, “This was definitely done in the era where everybody used the new Mesa/Boogie with a new EMG pickups in a new ESP guitar.” I like having a guitar tone that I can play a Neil Young riff on and I can play a Slayer riff on. I don’t like clean sounds. So I’ll have just enough gain so I can play some chords and I can do a riff. And we really wanted to have a very classic drum sound. Not too much EQ, there’s no editing. It’s just a classic sound.
Do you guys track live in the studio to get that feel?
I should tell you a story like Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction, where they went into the studio and, “one, two, three, four!” and that’s what you hear. But it’s not really like that. We just start with a good drum track and bass. Then we bake the cake on top of that.
Yet you’re able to maintain a very raw and natural sound.
Overproduced is not really our cup of tea.
What guitar amps did you use to track Berdreyminn?
It’s an Orange Thunderverb 200. This is the first album where we used Orange. We tracked almost the entire album with it—I’d say 90 percent. I like the Thunderverb because it has two master-volume channels. I need two channels with volume and gain controls because I use the EBow [Heet Sound’s electronic infinite sustainer]. My clean channel is my EBow channel, and I need to be able to have gain and volume on it.
Your EBow use has become a signature that adds a lot of ambiance to the Sólstafir sound. What inspired that?
I think it was 2004, when I sold my first apartment and came across a little bit of money. I bought most of the pedals that I still use today and an EBow, because some friends of mine had been using it. I first used it on the Masterpiece of Bitterness album, and I’ve gotten pretty confident with it. There’s no gig without the EBow these days.
Do you guys like to experiment with effects live and in the studio?
I’m like a dinosaur—I have a Boss DD-3, I have the Boss reverb, I have a Boss octave, and I have a Boss tuner. All the old stuff. I have a [TC Electronic] Hall of Fame Reverb, as well. So I have two reverbs, but I don’t use the effects loop. I’m pretty simple. I pretty much just use reverb, delay, and the amp drive.
What’s the story behind the carved V-shaped guitar you’re often seen with?
For years I was searching for a guy that would carve into my Gibson V, because I saw Lemmy [Kilmister]’s Rickenbacker—it just looked so amazing! But I never found him. Then this guitar maker in Iceland [Gunnar Orn] wanted to make a V that he gave to me. His friend was a professional wood carver who had exhibitions in Japan and stuff. It was a dream I had for 10 to 15 years. We call it the Eagle. I’ve probably done 500 gigs with that guitar. I can’t afford to bring multiple guitars for a single festival, but when we tour I’ll bring spare guitars. But most of the songs I’m only playing the one guitar.
Do you record with that guitar exclusively?
On this album, I used only the Eagle guitar. I’ve always used different guitars for different parts, but this time I just said, “Fuck it.”
With you shifting musical styles, has your fan base changed over the years?
It has changed significantly. We can be playing a brutal metal festival in the Czech Republic, then we go to the Netherlands to play a family-oriented festival. It’s completely different audiences. Our songs work for both. Before it was mostly German male black-metal fans in their early 20s. Now it’s from 60-year-old Deep Purple fans down to 18-year-old girls.
Why do you think a band as unique-sounding as yours and that sings in a language not many people understand has been able to garner the success and longevity you guys have?
When we started the band, we thought we probably wouldn’t get signed and were never going to play live, because nobody would show up. We never got to be the flavor of the week, month, year, or decade. But we’ve never declined—we’ve always been on a very slow and steady rise. But we have had our obstacles. We could write a book about that. But we’ve survived it. Maybe it’s just because we like making music together, and that’s the only reason we’re still here.
Sólstafir’s willingness to experiment with instruments and techniques, such as banjo and EBow, are on full display in this in-studio performance of the title track off their 2014 album, Ótta.