The latest release from Bjarki Runar’s bbbbbb label sees Bjarki delving back into his vast
archives and shines a light on a bizarre detour during the early days of the label that involved
a peculiar commission from the Icelandic state.
Bjarki introduces the story;
“It was back in 2015 and we were only just putting together the original plans towards
making bbbbbb a label. While this was happening, I got a call from a friend who was
working for a local tech start-up and marketing company. They’d been contacted by the
Icelandic Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture who came to them with a weird proposition.
They were looking at the idea of marketing Icelandic lamb as this user-exclusive commodity
for high end restaurants, the same way they do with Kobe beef in Japan. His marketing
company was going all in with this idea of creating an elite herd of sheep that would get the
5-star treatment – fresh food and beer, shampoo and geothermal baths for their fleece, and
entertainment such as TV and music for when they were in the hills. That’s where I came in”.
The initial meeting between Bjarki and the marketeers however didn’t go as smoothly as they
hoped; “When I met my friend and his team, they were going to have music pumped through
a series of remote speakers across the hillside” Bjarki explains. “But when they showed me
what they were going to play to them, I almost fell of my chair laughing! It was all this
cheesy, easy listening, orchestral Icelandic bullshit. I said to them ‘This is nonsense! Why are
you bringing me into this project if that’s all you’re going to be playing?’ In the end, I told
them I would completely redo all the sounds and music they were going to be using. I was
going to drag the Icelandic sheep into the 21st Century”.
Bjarki was as good as his word. Over the summer of 2015, he spent several weeks at farm
locations near Kirkjubæjarklaustur and Reykholtsdalur, walking the hills and playing a
variety of sounds and beats to various flocks of sheep to see what the best approach was. It
was tough going at first; “At the beginning, I was working totally blind”, Bjarki explains. “I
mean how can you possibly know what sort of modern music and sounds Icelandic sheep
would go for?” But Bjarki persevered and he found certain sounds and tones made the sheep
more active and engaged.
From this point, he began to make tracks that would encapsulate what the lambs were drawn
to the most. “A track like Soda “Sugarlicious” for example, came about when I started
playing Candy Crush on the hillside. As I kept playing, the sheep began to gather around me
showing interest in the bright chintzy sounds coming from my laptop and that deep voice that
would keep speaking to you. I simply put together a track that was all shiny colours and
heavy on the chimes. The sheep fucking loved it!” A track like “Drab” meanwhile was suited
for less sunny moments. “I got caught in a nasty rainstorm, so I started playing these synth
lines I had made, along with an improvised kick drum. The mix of the softness of the tones
along with the hit of the bass cased the sheep to follow me all the way back to the farm I was
staying at. The farmer wasn’t too impressed with that, but the flock was completely
In the end Bjarki, amassed several tracks ranging from soft ambient to gnarly hardcore
bangers to present to the Ministry. But in the end, they decided not to go with the whole
proposal. “These people were fools”, Bjarki says. “They just couldn’t get their heads around
doing something completely different, that was a bit of fun yes, but was completely done in a
serious manner. We all spent weeks doing this stuff so yeah, it was a bit gutting”.
In the end though, there is a silver lining to this story as these efforts were not wasted for we
can now hear the best of Bjarki’s efforts from this admittedly weird project on a limited 12”
release that marks a storming 2017 for the bbbbbb label.
Published: 7th November 2017