This is a translation of an article which appeared in the Icelandic newspaper Fréttablaðið on may 31st 2014.
The original article can be viewed here.
Lilja Katrín Gunnarsdóttir writes:
“Quarashi was formed in a shed in the west end of Reykjavík by me, Hössi and Steini. It was a huge change to transition from that to performing infront of thirty to forty thousand people in just a few years. It was a big shock, “says Sölvi Blöndal, member of the band Quarashi.
The band is one of the most popular bands the country has ever produced and its history spans almost two decades. Fréttablaðið took a look back at Quarashi’s career with original members, Sölvi Blöndal, Steinar Fjeldsted and Egill „Tiny“ Thorarensen who joined the band in 2003 when Höskuldur Ólafsson, or Hössi, left.
Chillin with Eminem
The band was formed in 1996 but split in 2005 after five albums and countless tours, mostly through the USA where it enjoyed great success. What was that time like?
Steinar: „We’re talking about nine years where we worked non-stop. We were inside a bubble and when I look back I see that we didn’t really comprehend what was going on. “
Sölvi: „It was normal to us – chillin with Eminem and being friends with Cypress Hill, signing record deals, selling five hundred thousand albums.“
„Are you crazy?“
But why didn’t Quarashi go all the way?
Sölvi: „The group needs to be on the same page when it comes to wanting to this and only this, putting your egos aside and things like that. Very few achieve that. We didn’t have an Excel-plan about going overseas. We were just partying, playing music and being guys. But we sold well from day one and all of our albums went gold. “
Steinar: „We took our first EP to the Icelandic record labels and everyone laughed at us, „You’re going to release Icelandic rap? Are you crazy?“ is what we got to hear. No one was interested in us. “
Threw away the first cheque
In the year 1999 the band released its second album, Xeneizes, and that’s when the wheels started turning. Foreign record labels expressed interest in the band and Steinar, Hössi and Sölvi moved to New York in the year 2000.
Steinar: „We had two apartments on two floors in the East Village and a studio and rehearsal space in New York. Sounds glamorous but there was no glamour. There was a nonstop stream of dudes outside our apartment offering us things. A lot of crack smoking men and women. “
Sölvi: „To shed some light on how seriously we took all this, we received a cheque for forty thousand dollars when we signed a deal with EMI. We didn’t really believe that we were getting this money so we put the cheque on the mantelpiece and it stayed there for about a month. Then Steini was cleaning one day and accidentally threw away the cheque. That was a big hassle. “
Hössi left the band at the beginning of 2003 and Egill joined the band that same fall. Why did Hössi leave?
Sölvi: „Men had become tired and wanted to do other things. This was in many ways a mutual decision and made on generally good terms. “
Egill: „I never got a warm reception from the core fan group. Of course I took that fight on and feel like I came out a winner. My first gig was in Tokyo in front of twenty thousand people. It was my biggest ever gig outside of Skrekkur (talent competition for Icelandic students). Sölvi had been scaring me by saying that if I didn’t do well then we wouldn’t get a deal with Sony. “
Sölvi: „Did I say that? “
Egill: „Yes. I realized what I had gotten myself into. I almost fainted before I stepped on stage and I had to be supported all the way up a ramp that in my memory is a hundred meters long but was probably only about fifteen meters.“
Toured in a wheelchair
This lifestyle often comes with abundant consumption of alcohol and nonstop partying. Did the members of Quarashi experience any of that?
Steinar: „It was all there. We were young kids traveling the world on a huge record deal. Of course we had fun. Often times there was all sorts of nonsense going on, but nothing that crossed the line. “
Sölvi: „A lot of bands get an A-plus grade for taking drugs but never get anywhere with the music. Then there are other bands like Guns N Roses who get an A-plus for taking drugs and also an A-plus for their music. We definitely had a good enough work ethic to not go there. But there were a lot of parties. I remember Steini twisting his leg at one time and I had to take him to the emergency room. He ended up needing a wheelchair and the next day we performed at a huge gig in front of thirty thousand people. He needed to sit in the wheelchair on stage and entertain. “
But did Quarashi members make a lot of money during their career?
Sölvi: „I don’t know. Did you? “
Steinar: „It was a very expensive party. “
Did a song with Prodigy
The band split in 2005 and according to the guys; its time had simply run out. Do they have any regrets?
Sölvi: „There were maybe nine fantastic moments for every one bad one. Anything else would be unnatural. I don’t think back about how I want to be famous and live in a New York penthouse. I think more about the fact that I could have enjoyed what was happening at the time a bit more. “
But what stands out?
Sölvi: „On the one had when we opened for Prodigy. That band was the love of my young life. Liam Howlett, the brains behind the band, approached me backstage and told me that it had been one of the best concerts he’d ever been to. Then Prodigy asked me to remix a song for them, Diesel Power. And on the other had it was the USA release of Jinx in 2002 when we entered the Billboard-chart. “
More music is coming
Quarashi will perform at Þjóðhátíð in Vestmannaeyjar over the Verslunarmannahelgi weekend, Sölvi, Steinar and Egill along with Hössi and Ómari „Swarez“ will all be there. They last performed in 2011 at Besta Útihátíðin and at the time made it known that they would never repeat it. Why are they coming together now?
Egill: „We all became brothers-in-arms at Besta Útihátíðin so it was a very easy decision to make when Þjóðhátíð contacted us. “
Sölvi: „This has of course nothing to do with the fact that it’s the highest paying gig in Icelandic history. “
To mark the occasion, Quarashi has released one new song, Rock On. Hössi and Egill will then appear together on a track which is set for an August release which is a first in the bands history. A three to five song EP is also in the works for later this year.
A new chapter has begun
When the band split its members all went their separate ways.
Sölvi: I work in the financial sector. I did a master’s of economics in Stockholm and am still working on a Phd. “
Steinar: „I know him as two different people. Economics-Sölvi wears suits, talks on the phone a lot and goes to meetings. Then I also know this Sölvi. The one wearing converse and a hoodie. “
Egill: „I have been booking Icelandic bands for the Secret Solstice festival which will take place in Laugardalur this summer. I’ve also been working on music. “
Steinar: „I work as a salesman in a store. I’m also a father. I have two boys and one stepson. My son listens to Quarashi which is very funny. I didn’t expect that when I wrote the lyrics and might have used fewer swearwords if I had. The lifestyle I had at the highpoint of Quarashi is long gone. That chapter is over and a new one has begun. “