ABOUT GUNMAN AND THE HOLY GHOST
On a GUNMAN AND THE HOLY GHOST record you will find exactly what the name promises and suggests: psychedelic desert rock with clear Wild West romanticism and an almost tangible vision of the dying gunslinger. If you love spaghetti westerns and the sound that goes with them, Gunman And The Holy Ghost should be your new musical companion.
Started in 2011 in Berlin, the head of the project –Hákon Aðalsteinsson– has already released three albums, three EPs and one single under this name. The recently released third album THE DEATH OF GUNMAN AND THE HOLY GHOST he recorded solo during the pandemic. In addition to the digital release, the album has also been released on vinyl on the American label LITTLE CLOUD RECORDS.
Hákon Aðalsteinsson is an Icelandic-born musician who made his way to Berlin after a residence in Italy. Here he not only started the Gunman project but also found steady bandmates for his other, more psychedelic project THE THIRD SOUND. In Iceland he played in the band Singapore Sling. Brian Jonestown Massacre is another project in which Hákon is involved.
In addition to the tracks FOREVER and MEANS TO AN END from Gunman And The Holy Ghost, the current 10th episode of UNEARTHED also features the tracks SISTER and FOR A WHILE from Hákon’s other project The Third Sound.
KAE is excited to present you the UNEARTHED interview with Hákon Aðalsteinsson.
Photo credits: Lilly Creightmore
THE UNEARTHED INTERVIEW WITH GUNMAN AND THE HOLY GHOST
KAE: We start with the typical first UNEARTHED question: describe your music in five words.
HA: Music for the darkest hour
KAE: You’re living in Berlin, but are originally hailing from Iceland. Please tell us a little bit about life in Iceland, especially as artist and musician.
HA: I played there in different bands through my late teens and early 20’s, most notably a band called Singapore Sling. It’s a small but pretty active scene over there although I haven’t been following it very closely in recent years
KAE: What places would you recommend to travelers or newcomers in Iceland?
HA: I haven’t lived there for quite some time so I am not the best person to ask. Things changed a lot with increased tourism few years back but with the pandemic it has changed again I suppose. In Reykjavik I would say the music hall, Harpa, down by the harbour is worth visiting wether going to a concert or just to explore the building. Krýsuvík is a beautiful geothermal area close to Reykjavík that is good to visit if you don’t have time to travel far from the city.
KAE: What made you move to Berlin and how do you like living in Germany, especially in Berlin?
HA: When I was a member of Singapore Sling we played Berlin few times while touring and I always felt the city had a good atmosphere and seemed to offer good conditions for creative work, with affordable living and available housing (back then). I also had friends living in Berlin that could help me out as I moved which made it easier.
I still enjoy Berlin and find life quite good here, plus it is a good city to have a base in when you are a touring band in Europe.
KAE: Your project Gunman And The Holy Ghost is just one of several music projects you are involved in. I would describe the sound as a mixture of Americana, desert rock with some folk and occasional country elements and you carry this line through in all your releases. What influences have shaped the sound of Gunman And The Holy Ghost?
HA: Those type of ballads come quite naturally to me, but the start of this project was actually when I moved to Berlin. Back then I was living in a one bedroom flat without internet and had hardly any furniture. It was winter time and really cold outside, so I borrowed an acoustic guitar and wrote all the songs that would end up being the first album, Things to Regret or Forget, in couple of weeks. I then recorded them that summer with help from Icelandic friends that lived in Berlin at the time.
I guess many artists I have listened to throughout the years have influenced me one way or another as well, I could mention Lee Hazlewood, Hank Williams, Rowland S. Howard, Ennio Morricone, Leonard Cohen and Townes Van Zandt to name few.
KAE: How did you actually come up with the band or project name “Gunman And The Holy Ghost”?
HA: Gunmen And The Holy Ghost is an English translation of a title of a lesser known spaghetti western that I saw when I lived in Italy. That name stuck with me somehow but I just change it to the singular Gunman to avoid confusion.
KAE: The current Gunman release from July 1st is titled “The Death Of Gunman And The Holy Ghost”, in the description you mention that with this album an old chapter closes and a new one opens. Does this refer to the whole project, that is, to the end of Gunman And The Holy Ghost, or to a new chapter within the project?
HA: It is not referring to the end of the project, rather just that it is changing. The line up of the live band has changed a lot through out the years, but before the pandemic it had almost become the same as in my other band, The Third Sound. So after recording this album during lockdown I want to bring the project into another direction.
Photo credits: Lilly Creightmore
KAE: For the album you played and recorded everything by yourself in your home recording studio. How long did you work on the album? How does it feel to record an album alone?
HA: Couple of the songs I had mapped out roughly before the pandemic started, but most of them were still just sketches in my head or got written during the lockdown. It is a bit hard to say how long the process took as my perception of time got so confusing during that period (and still kind of is), but I was working on it for several months at least.
Initially I wasn’t planning to do everything by myself, the idea was to re-record parts of it and have other people playing on it, but as lockdown dragged on the ideas just developed and it just started making sense to me to fully finish the album on my own this way. It seemed fitting for the time.
I usually do like working alone when writing and mapping out the initial ideas. Getting too many people involved at the early stages is very hard unless everyone has the same vision, but on the other hand it can be easy to get lost when doing the whole process on your own.
KAE: How do you develop your initial ideas into finished tracks?
HA: It usually either starts with a combination of a chord progression and a vocal melody or a simple lyric idea that then grows and develops. When I have something with a bit of a structure I will record a demo and then either develop that further on my own or with other collaborators, depending on the project.
KAE: Another project of yours that was featured in the current UNEARTHED program is “The Third Sound”. You recorded the debut album of The Third Sound in Rome and later in Berlin permanent band members joined. How did the collaboration in Rome come about initially?
HA: I was living in Rome at the time and it was there I started writing the songs that ended up becoming the first, self titled Third Sound album. I struggled finding the right people to work with over there, although couple of good friends help me out in the end. I also found the process there was moving way too slowly, which was also partially the reason why I decided moving to Berlin.
KAE: The Third Sound can be seen on 08 September at the Lido in Berlin and then, in December in the UK. Will there be a chance to see Gunman And The Holy Ghost live at some point as well?
HA: I am still trying to figure out which way to do it, but I am sure there will be a Gunman show in Berlin at some point and maybe in other places too.
KAE: How did you spend the pandemic times – highly creative and productive or more in paralyze on the couch?
HA: Apart from doing the Gunman album I worked on recording new material for Anton Newcombe’s band The Brian Jonestown Massacre with Anton and Uri Rennert. We recorded around 60 songs in total during that time. Me and Uri are both now members of the band and have been on an American tour earlier this year as well as playing couple of European festivals.
There were times though towards the end of lockdown when I felt totally uninspired and didn’t write anything for weeks, but I am getting back into it now, writing and recording new demos.
KAE: Which five artists or bands -contemporary and active- would you like to recommend to our readers and listeners?
HA: I have to admit I haven’t been following closely what is going on these days but here are some projects from friends that are doing interesting things and deserve attention: Federale, Camel Moon, Beyond The Breath of Grace, Daisy Rickman, The Cult of One.
KAE: Please tell us, what’s to be expected in the near future (regarding all your projects)?
HA: As mentioned before The Third Sound will be touring later this year but before that The Brian Jonestown Massacre are touring in Europe as well. Both those bands also have tours coming up early next year.
The Third Sound also has an album of live sessions coming out on Fuzz Club Records before the end of the year.
And hopefully some Gunman shows will be happening as well.