Land of fire and ice
Singer-songwriter John Grant has curated a Nordic music festival for Hull UK City of Culture. Duncan Seaman reports.
Singer-songwriter John Grant may have grown up in the Western United States but in recent years his heart has found a home several thousand miles away, in Iceland.
His last two albums, Pale Ghosts and Grey Tickles, Black Pressure – which were both top 20 hits in the UK – were recorded in Reykjavik while in 2014 he was called upon to co-write Iceland’s entry in the Eurovision Song Contest.
“I feel like I’m slowly becoming part of a community,” he reports. “I’m learning the language more – it’s been a huge challenge, I have to say – but I have a solid relationship with an Icelander, that makes a big difference. I like the people a lot, I like the way they are... people don’t sweat the small stuff up here nearly as much.”
Later this month the 48-yearold will perform at North Atlantic Flux: Sounds From Smoky Bay, a four-day festival of contemporary Nordic music which he has curated for Hull UK City of Culture 2017.
The idea was originally suggested to Grant by Chris Clay of the City of Culture team and Andy Brydon of the innovative arts organisation Curated Place. “I’m just chuffed to be asked to do something like that so I said ‘yes’,” the singer says.
“They know that I am excited about all things Scandinavian and very remotely I have some strange connections to Hull too because of some of my favourite artists coming out of there like Tracey Thorn and Cosey Fanni Tutti and the whole Throbbing Gristle thing and Lene Lovich, another of my favourite singers – she spent time in Hull as well.
“I’ve always heard that Hull was very bleak and that it was a rough place – and that sounds really good to me.”
Pulling together an adventurous bill – that ranges broadly from classical to punk but “certainly has an emphasis on the electronic” – took over a year’s work.
From Iceland there’s GusGus, Sóley, Sykur and Fufanu, from
I’ve always heard
that Hull was very bleak... and that sounds really
good to me.