Ring of Gyges – interview

PROGRESSIVE ICELANDERS

Straight from the land of fire and ice, beyond the night sky, independent power shaping own second creation from infinite puzzle box.

Five true Vikings play metal in the middle of the storm. They don’t have any ring of gyges but they are the one and only Ring of Gyges.

Welcome to the world of thriving Icelandic progressive rock/metal band.

source: Ring of Gyges https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qLgQVBTsgQ

We’ve met with Ring of Gyges in person directly after their show in Dillon at the main Icelandic street Laugavegur (it was off venue part of popular Iceland Airwaves Festival). This concert was OK but such ambitious band needs much more space for performance.

I guess that it’s a matter of time when they will become famous among progressive metal fans although everybody with open mind is able to appreciate and have fun listening to their music.

Indeed, have fun – these artists turn out to be cool, relaxed and friendly, with awesome sense of humor and right understanding that music is an entertainment.

from left to right: Helgi Jónsson (guitars and lead vocals), Guðjón Sveinsson (guitars and vocals), Þorsteinn Ýmir Ásgeirsson (bass), Einar Merlin Cortes (drums), Gísli Þór Ingólfsson (keyboards)

CONCERTS

How are you after your show at Iceland Airwaves? What do you think about this festival?

Ring of Gyges: Very good. We play at unofficial part of Iceland Airwaves so we didn’t have the wristband to watch all of these bands.

I barely was able to hear the lyrics of your songs during your performance here in Dillon. Too small venue for such a progressive music?

Ring of Gyges: Yeah, one of the smallest place to play in Iceland.

Was it your first concert (November, 10th, 2019) this year at all?

Ring of Gyges: No. We made a small Scandinavian trip in January 2019: Sweden, Oslo (Norway) and Copenhagen (Denmark). It was pretty nice.

Ring of Gyges: Today we wanted to play in Iceland because we didn’t perform here for a long time. We had only one rehearsal this morning cause Helgi (vocalist) lives in Norway so it’s hard to meet together. We spent few hours playing two new songs before the show.

Ring of Gyges: During last two years or so we usually meet together couple of times before the show and practice. We don’t have much time for preparation together but of course me make it independently.

Ring of Gyges: We are not at the point yet to make music professionally – it’s not our main source of income, but when we get to this point, we will completely solve it.

What was the most spectacular show which you have ever played and why?

Ring of Gyges: Slottsskogen Festival, Gothenburg, Sweden, 2019. We played pretty well for big audience. Seventh Wonder was the headline of this event – well known Swedish progressive metal band.

PHILOSOPHY

Ring of Gyges is an ancient mythological artefact which makes the owner invisible. How did it become the name of your band?

Helgi: I have a bachelor in philosophy; it was my favorite subject in high school so I wanted to spend few years with something interesting for me.

Helgi: I’ve founded Ring of Gyges when I was on the first year in the University (here in Iceland).

Helgi: Name Ring of Gyges is inspired by an ancient philosophy; there was a guy who gets invisible and he is corrupted by power of this ability. The same concept was depicted by J.R.R. Tolkien. I thought that it’s a cool concept for the name of metal band.

DEVELOPING IDENTITY

Ring of Gyges released two interesting studio albums:

EP “Ramblings of Madmen” (2015)

LP “Beyond the Night Sky” (2017).

What do you like mostly in this music? How would you recommend this albums to somebody who didn’t hear Ring of Gyges yet?

Ring of Gyges: We are still creating our own identity. We explore different styles of music. It’s not completely formed yet and I think we will continue development. We mix different things and I guess that it can be interesting for many people.

Ring of Gyges: We are open minded and create whatever we want. Hopefully other people will enjoy it as well. We are not businessmen to define specific target, so we play for everybody who enjoy that.

Ring of Gyges: Our next album will be different than debut. It’s a mix of more classical and more modern influences; older progressive staff and also newer sounds.

My very first impression about your music when I encountered Rings of Gyges in Internet was that you don’t play progressive metal but progressive rock. Do you consider your band as a metal act?

Þorsteinn: Let’s wait for our next album, it will be more directed towards metal!

Helgi: What was your impression when you heard us live, metal?

Definitely you play metal, and you enjoy headbanging!

Ring of Gyges: (haha) yeah of course.

Ring of Gyges: We started out as a progressive metal group, playing not covers but our own songs from the beginning. Well, we tried to jamming some fragments of songs of other bands but we have never went through all song of another band.

Ring of Gyges: Then we mixed some non-metal elements into it.

Ring of Gyges: Our second full length longplay will sound definitely like progressive metal. Not extreme progressive metal, but more old school progressive heavy, with more beat, more prog, kind of more everything (haha).

Ambitious approach!

source: Ring of Gyges https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgS9cW2TU64

There are many impressive instrumental parts on “Beyond the Night Sky”. I appreciate especially “(Instru)mentality” because it’s a true artistic achievement to create interesting and original instrumental piece. Very good technique and excellent ideas! Could you reveal the secret to achieve that please?

Ring of Gyges: (haha) Well, we work hard to develop whatever we really want. It’s important to don’t be afraid to try different things. But that’s probably not a secret. I don’t know what would be our edge over other bands… We always watch and listen how other bands play and try to learn from them. Well, we make things complicated for ourselves, we challenge ourselves, we also try to maintain good level of songwriting, create memorable melodies. We take care about good balance between catchiness and inventiveness.

Ring of Gyges: If we can give one tip for others bands: let’s copy other bands but in such a way that nobody will notice (haha)

BEYOND THE NIGHT SKY

It makes sense to listen to “Beyond the Night Sky” from the beginning to the end – then it sounds like a concept album.

Helgi: It doesn’t have a story but there is one common theme in each song: ways how people can escape from reality. Our listeners can feel better when they listen to our music, what is also a result of some positive sounds.

Guðjón: It depends of what is your definition of concept album. You don’t have to escape from your problems, but maybe you can feel better when you take them on from another perspective, another point of view, another angle.

I need to ask yet about the idea behind the cover of “Beyond the Night Sky”.

Ring of Gyges: The author was an Indian guy? Not Indian… Anyway, we were searching for an artist who could make it for us. We explained him our ideas but I think that he didn’t completety understand it. Albeit the effect is very good.

Ring of Gyges: There are two sides of the world: light and dark; and the human who take a challenge to escape from real to magical world. By the way, many progressive bands shows a guy on cover, aren’t they? This hero from our cover, he is brave enough to reach out to his dreams.

Ring of Gyges: But it can also depends on how you think about this. It’s open for your interpretation. It can be as well a symbol of different points of view to look at our reality.

Icelandic reality or…?

Ring of Gyges: (haha) I think that during the winter Iceland has darkness all day but during the summer – sunlight all day. That’s why we can see a track on our cover because we can escape to warmer countries to catch some light!

source: Iceland Close-Up https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-wCrrsq9Lw

NEW ALBUM

However it can be quite difficult to comprehend entire musical complexity of “Beyond the Night Sky” in era of Spotify and short attention span.

Guðjón: This is not a big deal. Our next longplay will be even longer! Anyway, we hope that people who don’t listen everyday to progressive rock/metal will also like Ring of Giges.

Ring of Gyges: Next week will be more challenging for us – we will record drums for upcoming album.

Einar: I was born in challenge (haha)

Helgi: We needed to record drums for “Beyond the Night Sky” in one night, 17h long session.

Guðjón: Now we have whole week to make just drums. Seven days, probably seventeen hours each day.

Will you start working on the second album from drums?

Ring of Gyges: Yes, typically this is the process. We need to start with drums. Bass will come after that and then we will build everything based on drums and bass. However, drums doesn’t need to stay the same as recorded on the beginning, we will be able to change drums until the end of all recordings. Vocals will be made pretty late. Everything will be evolving constantly during entire recordings, you know it’s like: “o, maybe we need to add this harmony over there; but maybe better not!”. When we suddenly get any new idea, we can come back to the previous part.

Ring of Gyges: Nevertheless, the foundation for all second album is ready. Main structure is pretty much done. We made a lot of demos somewhere in the isolation of Eastern Iceland between the period of debut and May 2019. Actually we met all together in May 2019 here in a house in Eastern Iceland where we are able to make complete focus and finish everything. This session gave us a lot of energy!

We are looking forward for the new album!

I listen, I wait, I scream

No reply

Palms trembling

Into the night

I seek the life I conceived

Ring of Gyges “Dusk”

INSPIRATIONS

What are your biggest music inspirations?

Helgi: Haken. This is the one band which inspire us most. Absolutely phenomenal English band.

Ring of Gyges: Beside that, we are quite diverse.

Ring of Gyges: Some inspirations are obvious: Dream Theater, Pink Floyd, Rush, some old good staff.

Ring of Gyges: Actually all members of Ring of Gyges are exposed to different stuff: prog, metal, hard rock, funk, blues (all the way back to Robert Leroy Johnson), even punk. Our keyboardist is focused more on old school prog. Our drummer listens a lot of the heaviest and darkest metal.

Þorsteinn: I always want to convince others to listen more bluegrass.

Ring of Gyges: You would need to look into our Spotify playlists: very long and there is everything!

Don’t you argue about this? Somebody wants to play this, somebody else prefer something very different?

Guðjón: Yes, we do. All the time. And it’s healty. It’s really good to make a brainstorm and choose the best solution. Usually when we argue about different visions, something interesting comes out of that.

ICELAND AND SCANDINAVIA

Helgi, I’ve read that you live in Sweden, although recently band told me that you live in Norway. How is it? How would you compare living in the land of fire and ice with living in Scandinavia?

Helgi: I’ve had been living in Sweden two years and I just moved to Norway around six months ago. These countries are definitely very welcoming especially that I can speak Swedish fluently and Norwegian is similar to Icelandic. But I didn’t have the opportunity to speak Swedish while I’d been living in Iceland so it took me few months to switch from English to Swedish after moving to Sweden (I needed to gain confidence). I’m learning Norwegian yet. Norwegian is much simpler to learn than Icelandic.

Helgi: Metal scene in Sweden and Norway is a bit different than in Iceland. There are largest “scenes”. I would say that metal in Iceland belongs to mainstreem much more than in Scandinavia.

Þorsteinn: Especially when it comes to black metal. We have a lot of black / death metal bands in Iceland. Icelandic metal festivals are focused on these genres.

FUTURE

What are your plans for the future?

Ring of Gyges: We are making new album, we are arranging new tournee (summer 2020), we want to promote the new album everywhere in Europe. It depends how much time we will be able to spend on this tour. We want to play in Scandinavia, Germany, perhaps in Eastern Europe and in other countries as well.

Thank you very much for the interview 🙂

Ring of Gyges: Thank you, bless bless!

from left to right: Sam O’Black (eyeglasses and pen), Helgi Jónsson (guitars and lead vocals), Guðjón Sveinsson (guitars and vocals), Þorsteinn Ýmir Ásgeirsson (bass), Einar Merlin Cortes (drums), Gísli Þór Ingólfsson (keyboards)

written by: Sam O’Black

talked: Þorsteinn Ýmir Ásgeirsson (bass), Einar Merlin Cortes (drums), Guðjón Sveinsson (guitars and vocals), Helgi Jónsson (guitars and lead vocals), Sam O’Black (Musictivity), Jonathan Romulo Ompad (from Philippines)

photo: Jonathan Romulo Ompad (from Philippines)

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