Ruxpin is Jonas Thor Gudmundsson an Icelandic musician currently based in Tallinn, Estonia. He has been producing music since the age of 14 and has recently released his eighth album – ‘We Become Ravens‘. We caught up with Jonas to talk music, production and musical history.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s the story behind Ruxpin – the musician – and how would you describe your sound?
I started messing around with electronic music around 1995, when I was 14 years old. When I was studying piano at the time there was a course in the music school about midi. I enrolled and was there supervised by two electronic legends in Iceland. In that course I made a techno track with another course mate – and that track was released on a compilation back in 1996. That was my first ever release. Through that I got in touch with other musicians – such as Thor, Biogen and more. Of course, I was also heavily influenced by my two older brothers who were messing about with electronic music. One of them is still active and releases under the artist names Murya & Buspin Jieber.
The Ruxpin project was born around 1998 – shortly before the release of a 12” entitled “Mission” on Uni:Form Recordings, which was a sublabel of Thule Records in Iceland. My debut album was released on that label shortly after and it caught the attention of the Elektrolux in Germany.
I, however, am a history-educated football fanatic and music lover. I’m a fan of chocolate and good books.
I don’t really know how to describe it. That’s normally job for some editors of music magazines. I’ve heard it could be melancholic IDM – or a electronic music for people in love (I like that one!)
What motivates you to create music and inspires it, your aesthetic and vibe?
Music production is a therapy in a way. It’s just a form of expression. Everything motivates me to create music – even washing the dishes or doing the laundry. There is music in everything and everywhere. Sometimes a long walk can inspire a song or even a dream. While I’m writing this it is snowing for the first time and I’m inspired to work on a track that I have ready in my head now. Maybe it was the snow that inspired it or something else – I don’t really know. I just know it’s there and it needs to come out at some point.
We hear a lot in the press about how Iceland is a special place for music and musicians. What is your opinion on this? Do you find your home country affects your output in any way?
I don’t know. Maybe the home country affects me subconsciously. It’s not like I’m sleeping outside on a moss in the fjords, being whispered a melody into my ear by an elf while the northern lights give that same melody a visual background. When I was living in Iceland, my studio there had no windows. When I was working on music I would turn off all lights and work in complete darkness. I guess I’d look inward toward inspiration than outward. I think Iceland is a special place for musicians in a way that everybody is making music – even your plumber or local bartender. Reason for that is probably that during winter times there is not much else to do. I also think accessible music teaching plays a pivotal part in that, which brings us back to music being a form of therapy – a way to deal with dark winters.
I’m currently living in Estonia – but the same applies. We have long & dark winters, which motivates you to do something in order to make things more bearable. The main difference I feel though between those two countries is that in Iceland everybody wants to share their demos and everybody has ambitions to tour all around the world. In Estonia the artists are
more reserved and want to conquer the market at home before heading out into the big world. I feel that Estonian musicians are, however, in many ways even more nature oriented as musicians than Icelanders.
‘We Become Ravens’ is your eighth album – where does it sits musically within your work and music? Is it a departure in style from previous releases or more of an evolution?
It’s probably heavier than my previous works. I don’t subconsciously try to follow my own style, but I guess it sort of happens by accident. There are certain work procedures, favorite sounds and style of drums – and that somehow becomes a style. I don’t want to say this cliché that this album is an evolution from my previous work – as everything we do is due to us evolving. I wouldn’t be doing this album if I wouldn’t feel that I’m growing somehow.
Your music is very complex and textured – how do you recreate it in a live setting?
I don’t. I don’t do that at all. During live performances I don’t really try to recreate the tracks from the album. Normally I’d try something different. If people wanted to hear the tracks for the album perfectly reconstructed then they probably should just stay home and just listen to the album. For example, earlier this year I played Sonar festival in Reykjavik and did the first half of my set mixing electronic beats & ambient atmosphere with 90’s hip hop acapellas. I guess in a way I try to adjust my set according to the venue and audience.
Finally, what does the future have in store for Ruxpin – gigs, releases, new ventures?
After each release there comes a little crisis of “what shall I do next?” I haven’t figured it out yet, but I know there will be more Ruxpin releases in the near future. Despite being involved with the electronic music scene for almost 20 years, I still feel that I’m just beginning.
I enjoy making minimal techno music – and do that quite often to take my mind of from Ruxpin tracks that I’m working on. I have couple of techno 12” coming up under another name with my friend Ohm and those will come out on Thule Records and Rawax. I’m very excited for those releases.
I don’t like long touring, so I don’t have any of those coming up – but there will be some occasional gigs early 2017. Currently I’m just trying to focus on my family, work and making more music. Isn’t that what we all want to do?