Margeir Ingólfsson talks about the origins of Reykjavik Karnaval, uninvited rainstorms, and how technology is opening doors to new multimedia experiences.
CCA: Let’s start with Karnaval. It was an amazing experience to see the entire city of Reykjavik laughing and dancing in the streets and the clubs. Were you DJ-ing, or just producing it?
Ingólfsson: Both. It’s my event. This will be the sixth time I did it, and the original idea came from when I had my birthday. Instead of throwing it in my house, why not do it in front of my house?
CCA: So the main street for the Karnaval is also your front door?
Ingólfsson: Outside my house, yeah.
CCA: I was there earlier in the afternoon, when it was mostly a lot of parents and kids, everybody was jumping around and dancing with plastic flamingos and real parrots.
Ingólfsson: Yeah. [LAUGHS]
CCA: But the amazing thing about Karnaval was, it wasn’t just contained in that area, it was spilling over into the entire city—I’ve never seen it like that, and I’ve been here for New Year’s and Secret Solstice, so every year it seems like it just keeps getting bigger, right?
Ingólfsson: I paid for everything myself when I just started. And I invited everybody, ‘It’s my birthday, just come. We’ll do a small party on the street, it’s a block party, so come and walk—open for everybody.’ And I started up with a yoga session, which evolves into a dance.
CCA: You’re talking about Tomas Eiriksson?
Ingólfsson: Yeah. He’s very much a part of this project as well, an important part of it. We’ve been working together with a yoga moves as part of the theme. We started yoga and it evolved into other events at his
yoga studio. We also in Harpa we do in September, and basically, yeah. I also was the founder of Sónar Reykjavik festival. So this is what I’ve been doing for as long as I remember, doing events. But it’s not something I have to do. I’m not counting on the income or anything—it’s in my blood to do stuff like this. We also did a show for Lykke Li in July and also a Gus Gus show at HARPA last November; it was really, really successful. Beautiful concert. HARPA is a venue usually for a symphony orchestra, but we turned it into a nightclub.
CCA: I’d like to get into the Content Creator’s Alliance’s concept of intellectual property, and Iceland’s unique history of storytelling and supporting creative people and artists. So it’s about everything from the Bible to the Icelandic sagas, but also the idea of how information and culture has communicated identity and even—not just for individuals, but for entire countries. And, you know, we’re at a time now where digital technology is accelerating and expanding the possibilities of what creative people can do. But what I’ve noticed, and talking to other people, they all agree that the boundaries between these things have gotten very murky, and it’s obviously a growing, expanding thing—the accessibility to be a creative person in a digital world—it’s almost limitless right now. But the idea at the core of the Content Creator’s Alliance is to create some pathways, advice, toolkits to help people deal with that.
Ingólfsson: When you talk about toolkits, what does that mean?
"The people that are going to win are the people that are able to be creative and also use technology. It’s the perfect blend. Also, with this [CCA] toolkit, because we also live in a world when it’s good to limit the role of middlemen, lawyers and stuff like that that are taking a piece of the pie."
CCA: Well, for example, how to do a simple contract, if you’re starting a business with somebody.
CCA: We live in a time right now where a lot of people are saying, “Technology is going to take over and machines will be smarter than us, and we’ll just be there along for the ride, and machines will rule the world,” and I feel—
Ingólfsson: Machines are not creative.
CCA: Well, yes, and more than that, I think people underestimate the ability of humans to evolve with technology, but not necessarily to be slaves of technology.
Ingólfsson: I actually think that the people that are going to win are the people that are able to be creative and also use technology. That is like, for me, it’s like the perfect blend. Also, with this toolkit, because we also live in a world when it’s good to limit the role of middlemen, lawyers and stuff like that that are taking a piece of the pie.
CCA: Or putting up barriers or doors.
Ingólfsson: So all this is music to my ears, this part.
CCA: So, in your events, obviously, you’re conscious of the fact that you’re not just entertaining, but maybe educating the people you work with.
Ingólfsson: I have a team of people that I trust, and they know what I want, and are quite detailed and everything.
CCA: They have the vision of what you want to do.
Ingólfsson: The vision, and I do mood boards, and I tell them, “This is the kind of stuff that I would like to do,” and then I give them the creative freedom also to express themselves.
CCA: Right, right.
Ingólfsson: And then it’s also—actually, about the education thing, back some years ago, some companies, some lighting companies did not know how to put up the proper DJ stage. They were just focused on guitar, bass, drums—they were really good at that. But when a DJ came, even with vinyl, it was like they—it was just feedbacking, the vinyl couldn’t handle the bass—they had no clue. So it’s been a process. We’re always trying to do some new stuff.
CCA: Right, keep it fresh. I’ll definitely come back for Karnaval next year. And you had fantastic weather, too.
Ingólfsson: Yeah, that’s important. Yesterday it was like a monsoon.
CCA: I know, I was thinking the same thing. I was like, “Boy, that was close.”
Ingólfsson: [LAUGHS] Super-close.
CCA: It would have been not so much fun.
Ingólfsson: But actually, I think proof of concept, like the year before I started, I did not promote it; I just put up the speakers and I played, and it was raining, and then I thought, “Okay, this could work, because people are dancing in the rain.” It was like, okay, this could work. And then I went full-on.
CCA: If people will dance in the rain, they’ll really dance in the sun.
Ingólfsson: They will dance in the rain, and if there’s no rain, it’s going to be like five times more people here.
CCA: Are there any things that you would like to see happen or that you think could be better as an environment, as a platform? Where do you see this going? Are there other things you want to do beyond events?
Ingólfsson: I’m just super-open to finding new stuff to do. I’m always looking for more opportunities, or if I see an opportunity, I go there.
CCA: One of the things that’s starting to happen a little bit is more interactivity. Obviously phones are very powerful devices, where people could feedback or contribute things. There’s also, now you can get wristbands or little sensors where people could maybe interact with the environment in a more direct way or as groups of people. Have you thought of doing stuff like that?
Ingólfsson: That’s super-interesting, yes. Do you know the Snorri brothers? They are two guys that are filmmakers. They’ve done Super Bowl commercials, they’ve done music videos for all sorts of bands, like R.E.M. And they are developing a device called snorricam. It’s a device that you wear, and this is like a huge stick that comes in front of you, so it follows you, and you could be running, and you move and it moves. So we decided that for this event, I would wear this machine, or this device, while I was DJ-ing. And if you see something going on, you can scroll to either side. It catches everything.
CCA: Will you post the video?
Ingólfsson: I will post the video, yeah. So for me, this is marketing. Of course I should get money for posting it to the platforms, like Facebook or Google, but obviously they are taking all the advertising money.
CCA: Yeah, I know.
Ingólfsson: So that’s probably the biggest issue with the national intellectual property that you have at the moment, because they are the aggregators, or they are the platform.
CCA: They give you a platform to reach a bigger audience, and then they take everything.
Ingólfsson: They take everything.
GusGus and DJ Margeir on Esjunni!
CCA: Yeah, I think that’s one of the biggest problems, because we can’t fight Facebook. But if the artists are paying for creating content and getting nothing back from it, it’s an unsustainable model, unless you’re super-rich and you just want to have fun. But for people who still have to make a living, it’s not a good deal, and there’s real value in this in a million ways—bringing people into the city, you know, if you start adding up the positive sides, it’s worth a lot of money.
Ingólfsson: I don’t even get money from the city to do this. It’s crazy. And I had to really fight for it in the beginning, but there were two shops close by that they were furious that I was doing this.
CCA: They didn’t like it?
Ingólfsson: Yeah. And I had to really fight for it. And Jakob (Magnusson) knows about this, because we had an emergency meeting at the mayor’s office. They were shouting at me, two people. But for those two people we had, like, 50,000 people who understood the value of what we were doing. I got a personal thank-you letter from the mail, like, “We really appreciate what you are doing.”
CCA: Yeah, some people are going to be left behind a little bit. It’s human nature; not everybody evolves at the same pace, but we’ll see. That’s one of the things we’d like to help with, and bring other people and build awareness. Like I said, an aggregator of creatives—that’s why it’s called the Content Creatives Alliance, and knowing that—I don’t
know if people—I took some videos and posted them on Instagram, so I was advertising the festival. I said, “These are pictures from Carnival Reykjavik,” and I know from the feedback I got right away that now people know about this
Ingólfsson: I was just saying, for me, it’s super-important that people post about this. And I saw on the feed, I got so many mentions, so many videos were posted on Instagram without hash-tag. It’s crazy.
CCA: That’s another thing that CCA can help people understand – the importance of giving artists credit for the things that they do.
Ingófsson: There were also some other interesting events. I used to do events at the Blue Lagoon.
CCA: You produced DJ dance parties at the Blue Lagoon?
Ingólfsson: Yeah. I did three CDs for them, called Blue Lagoon Soundtrack. The first one was super-successful—went gold sale in Iceland. Second two were also pretty good, but now they’re all sold out. But you can still get them on the streaming platforms. Then also another quite interesting project that I did, we did a dance concert on top of the mountain, the big mountain, Esja. And I brought the same sound system that I had at the Karnaval and put it on top of the mountain with a helicopter.
CCA: Wow. [LAUGHS]
Ingólfsson: This is the sort of stuff I like to do. I’m always like, “Why am I doing this? Why am I putting so much work into this, because I’m getting zero money for it,” and sometimes I lose money, or have just one sponsor that pays me. But then I do it anyway, and then I’m like, “Yes, this is why I do it.” It’s not about the money.
CCA: You like to make things happen. And make people happy, and that’s fantastic.
Ingólfsson: Because for me, that’s the reward.
Margeir Steinar Ingólfsson
Co-founder at Sónar Reykjavík / DJ & Producer
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