Perfect Sound Forever


Sugarcubes, with Einar 2nd to left

Einar Orn interview
by Peter Crigler
(February 2022)

One of Iceland's most notable exports, the Sugarcubes were eclectic and different, and that's what helped them succeed. Led by ingenue Bjork and helped out by trumpeter and shouter Einar Orn, the band blazed brightly and quickly but helped pave the way for Bjork's massively successful solo career. For a while, they helped make the alternative airwaves just a bit stranger and weirder, and we thank them for that. Orn was interviewed here about the band's history

PSF: What got you interested in playing music?

Einar Orn: I have no interest, so to speak, in playing music. Back in the day then I was a music listener. Punk opened up my ears and eyes for the magic of music and emotions.

PSF: What was the Icelandic music scene like at the time?

EO: If we are talking about the late '70's, when I was a teenager and a punk, then I paid little attention to the Icelandic music scene. I was into the punk scene and got my education and inspiration from that, not the Icelandic music scene. I used to sit in my mother's Sunbeam car late at night tuning into John Peel on Radio One, as the car had the best reception.

PSF: Tell me a bit about Purrkur Pillnikk.

EO: Purrkur Pillnikk was formed by me, Fridrik Erlingsson, Bragi Olafsson, and Asgeir Ragnar Bragason in March 1981. Me, Fridrik, and Bragi had been friends since we were 12. There was a Musical Evening in our college, and we decided to perform there. The date was 8 March, and the concert was on the 9th of March. We composed 9 songs for that concert. They were short. Shortest 12 seconds long. We were active for 18 months, released 1 10- track 7", 2 LPs, and a single. We toured with the Fall and played approximately 2 gigs a week.

PSF: How did Sugarcubes come together, and how did the sound develop?

EO: In the summer of 1986 we started to drift back to Reykjavik. A group of people who had been active in the Reykjavik scene as painters, poets, and musicians. We decided to form a publishing house called Bad Taste/Smekkleysa. The publishing house or collective realized we needed a pop band. So we formed the Sugarcubes to fulfill that order. The sound did not develop. It was just what we thought pop should sound like.

PSF: What do you feel you brought to the band and to the music?

EO: I don't feel anything. All of us were there for one reason: to play pop and what it should be like.

PSF: How did the band get labels interested?

EO: We did not get labels interested. We called Derek Birkett, who had among others just formed One Little Indian, and told him we had a pop record for him. And that it would be perfect for him.

PSF: What led to One Little Indian and Elektra?

EO: A facsimile machine.

Sugarcubes, with Einar to the right

PSF: What was it like recording Life's Too Good?

EO: Life's Too Good was recorded over a period here in Reykjavik. Then we took it to London to mix at Berry Street. We were just recording and documenting the songs. We were never thinking about production and stuff. In London we hooked up with Derek and Ray Shulman, and for their sake we did it in English so they could understand the songs. That was fun.

PSF: Was it difficult or interesting breaking into the American market?

EO: We never tried to break into any markets. The markets opened up for us. We were at least not aware that we had to break into a market. We just came along and played to those wanting to hear.

PSF: What was the inspiration for "Birthday," "Motorcrash," "Hit," and "Gold"?

EO: The inspiration is in the lyrics. No explanations needed.

PSF: Do you feel the band suffered the sophomore jinx on Today, Tomorrow...?

EO: No, not at all. We did this record while we were touring and in the breaks between touring. It is different in many ways. It is a very interesting record still today. One might think that people expected it to be hit by the sophomore jinx and listened to it as such. But hey, listen again.

PSF: What was the recording for Stick Around like?

EO: Again, it was different as we wanted to try to record in a residential studio and with a producer. It was a bit alien for us, so one might say it was alien. Interesting, though.

PSF: Did Bjork decide to move on, or had the band already decided to breakup?

EO: Never was a decision made to break up. One has to remember that we all had other interests than just being in a band. Be it a poet, writer, or musician. The Sugarcubes was only one venture of exploring creativity.

PSF: What ultimately caused the band's breakup?

EO: I have never thought that we broke up. We ceased working together as a unit. One day we were told that all our money was gone. We had spent it. So for me, if we had to continue, we would be making music for money. Still today we are all friends and have our publishing house, Bad Taste/Smekkleysa, still running, just about.

PSF: What have you been up to?

EO: For the past 17 years I have been doing Ghostigital with Curver Thoroddsen. It's an extreme noise/dub/electronic duo. Also I have been mastering fine art and exhibit my art.

PSF: What is everyone else doing, and are you all still friendly?

EO: Yes, we are all friendly friends, and it would be too long to find out what everybody else is doing.

PSF: What was the 2006 reunion like; would there be plans for any more?

EO: The reunion of 2006 was fantastic as we all found out it was if the gig before had just been the day before. There are no plans for another reunion unless we need to save Bad Taste/Smekkleysa again.

PSF: What was the backstory behind the supposed wedding between you and Bragi?

EO: Back in 1989 Denmark had legalized same-sex marriages. Me and Bragi discovered while having dinner in Copenhagen that we had been friends then for 20 years and never had an argument or fight. Really like the perfect marriage. Hence we could get married in Denmark. That's the story. Our tour manager, Scott Rodger, faxed this out, and the rest is history.

PSF: What do you think of the impact of alternative rock in the late '80s/early '90s?

EO: No idea.

PSF: What do you hope the band's musical legacy will be?

EO: That is not mine to say, but others to tell me.

Also see Peter Crigler's blog

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