The Family Tree

After I finished Vespertine, I felt as if I had completed something. I felt I almost caught up with myself and had got something off my chest I really wanted to do since I was a child and now I feel like I have got a clean slate - a new beginning to start all over again. I sort of feel like I am at a crossroads, so it felt like the right time to put out a selection or more of a retrospect of the story so far. I was ready to put out a collection of the singles, but I also wanted to put out a story of how I got there, and not a bunch of words that have been documented so much already in tons of interviews. More important was the emotional and worldly things, in a musical way – in my musical words and to say in this way how I have developed as a musician.

I am cut into four branches. What’s closest to me, are my harmonies, which is probably the part of me that is the most ancient and patriotic, where I am probably the most conservative. To show that I am releasing what we are nick-naming now, ’The Family Tree’, which might get another name later. So, one of the branches are the harmonies, on which I will have a song that I wrote when I was fifteen and is played only on the flute. Other songs are being picked up, some of which have been released and some have not, but these are all showing where I thought I took the biggest leaps as a songwriter and this takes us all the way to the "Greatest Hits" album.

Another branch is the lyrics. When I felt I did the first lyrics that I thought was maybe more my world, and again where I think I took the biggest leaps in writing the lyrics, they are going to end up on the "Greatest Hits".

Another branch is probably an Icelandic phenomenon. Because we were a colony for 600 years, and very stubbornly kept our identity and language, without getting eaten up by foreign influences, anything modern and foreign was evil. So me in 1990, when I wanted to spread my wings and work not only with foreigners but also to do what was considered very modern at the time. Electronic music, for me it was so different, it was like sleeping with an alien - you couldn’t get into more scary or taboo territory. So that for me was a big part of my work. I am very, very Icelandic, but I am breaking a certain Icelandic taboo, which helped us survive for 600 years but now it is time to communicate with foreigners. You can show that you can be international and Icelandic. You don’t have to sell your soul, even though you are communicating in English.

This branch, the third branch is the first demos I did with Mark Bell and Graham Massey, and is me experimenting, not only putting together these two very different elements together but also for that time (even though I say so myself) to put melodies together with that that kind of music in 1990 hadn’t really been done that much. So it was really like the first baby steps in that direction, that later became a big part of my work.

The fourth branch is like the academic side of me, which is the side I confronted the latest because I got sent to classical music school in Iceland for ten years. I learnt a lot about Bach and Beethoven and all that, and nothing about Icelandic music, so as a result I felt quite rebellious and I rebelled against it in a big way. So it wasn’t until I turned thirty or something that I felt here is something that has truly influenced my life and I had better confront it, accept it and take my own look at it. So the fourth branch of the tree will include the songs that I did with the Brodsky quartet, which probably a good example of good academic roots, but that is not to be taken too literally. As obviously, they are my songs.

David Toop Interview, 2002