Borko, also known as Björn Kristjánsson, is one of the enigmatic performers on the Iceland music scene. Whether as his bearded, solo and gentler incarnation (fresh back from a tour around Europe) or as the bongo-playing, half-naked lunatic with FM Belfast. Either way, his star is rising, and I took the chance to ask him a few questions before his feet leave the floor completely.
How would you describe you music to those that haven’t heard of you before?
It’s powerful, melodic and dynamic yet subtle and monotonous. It’s not, he’s joking on the latter.
You seem to be in every Icelandic band going. Can you clarify exactly which bands you are with?
Recently I’ve been playing with Borko, FM Belfast, Prins Póló and Benni Hemm Hemm.
Is it as much fun playing with FM Belfast as it looks? What are the highlights?
Absolutely. It’s always fun to get sweaty on stage and play drums in your underwear. We’ve had a lot of highlights in the past few years. The first thing that comes to mind are the three trips that we’ve taken to Istanbul, which is truly an amazing place as well as a lot of great summer festival shows throughout Europe. But I think the biggest highlights are always weird private jokes on the tour bus and gastronomical experiences in exotic places.
Do you enjoy doing the solo stuff then?
Of course. It’s both easier and more difficult to work on music on your own. In the solo stuff I have the power to make all the decisions but I also bear all the responsibility. When you are playing in other people’s projects or as a member of a band you can always have someone to share your doubts with, rely on other people’s judgment when you need it and even just float along if you feel like it, which can also be really nice every once in a while.
Where does the name ‘Borko’ come from?
In 1999 I was moving to Finland with a friend of mine. We decided to start a multi-art duo when we came there but to make the multi-art duo ‘trúverðugt’ we needed to have names that sounded Finnish. I picked Borko and my friend picked Hondo and together we were the multi-art duo Hondo ja Borko. The only thing we ever did as Hondo ja Borko was a fire/tennis performance we did in a metro station in Helsinki. There is also a song on my first album that is an ode to this time and my dear friend Hondo.
His last album Born to be Free was released last year to critical acclaim in Iceland and further afield.
Born to be Free has been very well received. Were you pleased with its success and acclaim?
Indeed. I put a lot of blood, sweat and tears in to the album and I am extremely happy with it. I think it’s complicated in a way but yet very accessible and that seems to have got through to people which makes me happy.
What’s the secret to a good night out in Iceland?
The hot tubs in Drangsnes during wintertime is probably the best night out in Iceland.
I’m surprised by this answer. I thought Borko woud have alluded to wild, all night parties in Reykjavík. Not hot tubs in the West Fjords. I must have got him wrong. I’ll just ask him one more question, about his trademark beard.
Will there ever be a Borko without a beard?
Will there ever be a beard without a Borko?
Ah, there we go. That’s the Borko we know and love.
Original article published online with Iceland Review.