We interviewed Magnús Trygvason Elíassen ahead of Amiina’s performance of the score to Fantômas that took place on Saturday 17th November 2018 at the ACCA. We spoke about musical experiments, travel and a strange collection of teacups.
Magnús Trygvason Elíassen is a musician, composer and member of Amiina, the Icelandic experimental band, originally founded as a string quartet. Last night, Amiina played the score to Fantômas, a 1913 French silent film directed by Jean Feuillade, at an atmospheric evening at the ACCA. Our conversation took place last week over the phone. We spoke about all things Amiina and Fantômas, travel and even a ‘strange’ collection of teacups.
You are currently in Paris?
Yes. We did a performance last night.
How did that go?
Very well. We were kind of in an incredible mansion. Perfect setting for the ambiance of this movie.
Of course, what attracted you to write the score for Fantômasin the first place?
Actually, we got commissioned to do it by French film composer and musician Yann Tierson. Probably most famous for doing music for Amélie.
What has the process been creating the score for this silent film?
We originally did this score originally in 2013 in Châtelet theatre in Paris. That was a marathon evening on Halloween night. Because theseFantômasmovies are split into five, there were five different bands that scored each one. They (the films) are independent; they are not like sequels. We chose film number two. It was a magical night here in Paris. We decided to keep it alive beyond that evening and we play it on special occasions.
It sounds magical. When you perform alongside a film, how is that a different experience to performing your own music? Do you feel the atmosphere change?
Yeah. I mean you have this fixed links of musical numbers and you have to follow the build-up of each scene, with what expressions you are making and playing. It’s definitely different but equally nice.
What has your most recent experiment or new thing you are trying out at the moment musically?
We are expanding our instrumentation. Buying new instruments and trying them out, seeing how they fit in and blending them together. That is the experimentation we are doing now. Kind of layering sounds and seeing what comes out.
What is the near future plan for Amiina, aside from performing Fantômas?
Our future plan is releasing a new album and creating new music.
That’s exciting, I look forward to hearing new music from you. Having worked with scores for films, do you think you would ever like to direct your own film and if you did what kind of film would it be?
Yeah, I see. Well, we are musicians; I don’t know if we would be up for the part of directors. Probably we would like to score another movie, silent or spoken. It is a very interesting medium to play with.
Have you ever received any funny or strange gifts or have any funny encounters to share from your experiences on tour?
Yeah, actually we have. This one situation I remember it, in Italy, we got a full set of teacups and plates and spoons, all very brightly coloured and each one labeled with each of our names and a video that features this tableware. It was kind of strange!
Do you still have the set?
We have bits and pieces. It was too big of a set to travel home with and take back to Iceland.
Have you used it for music yet?
No, we haven’t unfortunately, just tea and coffees.
Where has been your favourite country to visit throughout your tours?
Our music has given us this opportunity to travel. It is fantastic. I love it. I mean each country and culture have their own interests and interests us in its own way. It’s always lovely. We love Italy because of the food – that’s one strong point that cannot be taken away from it.
Have you visited Brighton before?
We have actually, a few years back, 2011 or 12, I don’t exactly remember. We played a show there when we were touring. We were in a house and we bought all of our families with us and stayed together and had this big family vacation. It’s a great vacation spot.
Can you tell me about your experience of Icelandic Airways, the festival of your home country?
We have played the festival countless times in different ways. My first festival was in 2004. Since then I have played every other year, if not every year. If we do some new music, we will definitely be there next year.
You have been working together for a long time, you must have built a very strong relationship over that time, does that change how you make music together?
Yeah, we have become very well acquainted to each other. It makes it easier to kind of see if your own ideas can pass judgments and you’re not shy of sharing.
Finally, any advice for aspiring musicians?
Don’t exclude anything. Take it all in. All kinds of music and experiences.
Thank you to Magnús for his time taken for this interview. Find Amiina at http://www.amiina.com. A review of their performance of Fantômas was printed in The Badge Paper on campus last term.