Interview with Örvar Smárason of múm

In 1999 múm’s debut album ‘Yesterday Was Dramatic – Today Is OK’ dropped onto planet Earth and became one of the most influential building blocks of what back then was called electronica and today is considered an art form playing a crucial and important role in shaping and defining the rich electronic music culture. Múm’s Örvar Smárason gives us his 11+3 answers.


1: Throughout the 4.6 billion years of history the Earth has been around, there have been five known major mass extinctions that wiped out an overwhelming majority of all species living at that time.

2: All my best emails where written between the years of 2003 and 2006. It was a sweet spot.

3: For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: “It might have been.” (- John Greenleaf Whittier)


1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
Spontaneous feelings that are both unrecognisable and weirdly familiar at the same time. Music is often the best way to express these. I know there is a lot of thought process behind music, your head needs to be switched on for 90% of the time, but it’s the 10% where you can switch it off and go on some sort of auto-pilot where everything becomes a blend of chance, chaos and channeling.

2. How and when did you get into making music?
My parents bought a home computer when I was about 12. I was saving up for a guitar, but I first got into making really simple music on the computer while trying to program my own game. There weren’t many games around. A bit later I got a guitar, it was a Washburn with kind of a white lightning pattern on it – very hair metal.

3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?
For a thought exercise (which I’m not sure what the point of is), I will only list albums from the 90s:

Stereolab – Emperor Tomato Ketchup
Aphex Twin – Richard D. James album
Sonic Youth – Washing Maschine
Autechre – Tri Repetae
Bag of Joys – Eins og ég var motta

I realise this is not necessarily a list of the best albums of the 90s but these were definitely all hugely influential when making ‘Yesterday Was Dramatic, Today is OK’.

4. What do you associate with Berlin?
I lived in Berlin on and off for five years, from 2000-05 so I mostly associate it with a strange and wonderful time in my life. I am still fascinated by the city and I spend time there every year, since Gunni is still based there and our label Morr Music. So berlin is still central to múm as it has always been. I am also fascinated by Weimar-era Berlin and wrote my BA thesis on cinema from that time.

5. What’s your favourite place in your town?
I spend a lot of time at the university library. The temperature and humidity there is perfect.

6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
I would write, that’s what I like doing anyway. I find it just as engaging as making music and in many ways a lot simpler to do.

7. What was the last record/music you bought?
I haven’t bought anything physical for a while. I used to be a record collector, a hoarder even. On our tours I used to carry with me a flight case for vinyl and I would fill it up while we were on tour, going to record shops in different cities and bring it full home. Now most of my records are in storage. I just checked my iTunes and it seems the last song I bought was ‘Fruscio di foglie verdi’ by Ennio Morricone to insert into a DJ set. It’s a song from the film ‘Teorema’ by Pier Paolo Pasolini. Seriously good song and I recommend looking it up.

8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
Someone who makes horror films. Or someone who writes sci-fi books. Or someone who sings weird love songs.

9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
We had an outdoor show in a beautiful square in Ferrara, Italy canceled because of rain. The audience didn’t want to go home, so we played a show for them under a small roof. The other band on the bill, The Dirty Three, did the same. It was one of the most otherworldly shows we have done and it’s kind of taken on a mythical silhouette in our minds.

10. How important is technology to your creative process?
Sometimes, I feel it is way too much. I really don’t like how intertwined they can be, but often it just takes a new synthesiser or drum machine to kick off a whole new thing. I think I like the periods where I can just be creative on something simple like an acoustic guitar. That’s why I like writing. But I have been very blessed to have technological wizards to work with during the years, like Gunni my partner in múm. He has a much deeper connection with machines than I. For me the approach is more like a dog sniffing, playing the piano.

11. Do you have siblings and how do they feel about your career/art?
I have two younger sisters, the youngest one is 21 years younger than me. They are probably think what I do is moderately cool, at least they are really good at coming to shows.

múm perform at RADIALSYSTEM V on Thursday 26th & Friday 27th September!

Photo © múm