For Damon Albarn and Blur, the Nordic island nation of Iceland holds a special place in the heart of their creativity.
Albarn, who is reportedly interested in exploring the idea of obtaining Icelandic citizenship, began his love affair with the country in 1996 after a experiencing an “epiphany” of sorts during what was a deeply creative period of his life which also coincided with heavy drug taking.
Blur, who recorded sections of their fifth and self-titled studio album in Reykjavík, became so inspired by the country’s remarkable landscape that they recorded now-iconic songs such as ‘Strange News from Another Star’, ‘Essex Dogs’, ‘On Your Own’ and, of course, ‘Beetlebum‘ in the city. “I have a house there and it’s the perfect place to write because of the light [The sun doesn’t rise until midday]. Not good during the summer because it’s sunshine all the time, 24 hours a day,” Albarn said at the time of the album’s release.
“I used to have a recurring dream, as a child, of a black sand beach,” Albarn once said. “And one hazy, lazy day [laughs], I was watching the TV and I saw a programme about Iceland, and they had black beaches. So I got on a plane, and booked into the Saga hotel. I didn’t know it meant Saga holidays, for older people—I thought it was Saga as in Nordic sagas. But it was actually an OAP cruise hotel. I was on my own: I didn’t know anybody. I went into the street, Laugavegur, where the bars are, and that was it.”
He added: “Icelanders are a bit more durable. They’re true existentialists. They really understand their environment and why they are all connected to it. I think it’s to do with having lots of space.”
With the back cover and inside sleeve artwork created by Paul Postle in an attempt to the depict sulphur fields in Iceland, Blur’s affinity to the country grew strong and, a year later, the band returned for an unusual string of tour dates through Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland in late 1997.
Blur, touring where most other bands and record companies ignore, their activities were filmed and created into a one-hour documentary which includes interviews, soundcheck footage as well as live tracks from the shows themselves.
See the film, below.