mugison by Ari Magg

Örn Elías Guðmundsson, aka Mugison, is one of Iceland's hippest musicians. His thundering voice and roaring blues guitar propel listeners to crank up the volume, as they fall in love with his no-nonsense attitude and experimental sound. 

As is perhaps evident from his bearded sailor-like appearance, the acclaimed rock'n'roll sensation Mugison is born and raised in the Westfjords of Iceland, more specifically in the fishing town of Ísafjörður

Moving to Iceland's bustling capital Reykjavík at the age of 17, Mugison attended high school and became influenced by the rugged sounds of the 1990s, including rock sensations Nirvana and Sonic Youth, as well as Icelandic virtuoso Björk. 



The would-be artist then moved to London to study Recording Art, where he started experimenting with generating music on computers. This eventful period eventually resulted in his beginning working on his debut album called Lonely Mountain

Mugison falling seamlessly into the role of a fisherman, from a photo-shoot on location in the Westfjords of Iceland.Picture from mugison.com

One of the main turning points in Mugison's career would be his live performance at the music festival Sónar in Barcelona, 2003, where he allegedly became the talk of the festival. After this monumental gig, he was booked as a headliner for shows around Europe, as well as performing with acclaimed Icelandic band Múm.



Most agree that there is simply something different about the music this cool cat generates, as his soulful tracks range from head-bangingly rowdy to sensationally romantic. His second album, Mugimama Is This Monkey Music? was released in 2004 to both critical and commercial acclaim.

Mugison performing at State X festival in Den Haag.Picture by Rene Passet 

Since then, Mugison has recorded several soundtracks for some of Iceland's most acclaimed films from the last decade, released five studio albums, toured around the world, and collaborated with both local and international musicians.

The small-town boy was also the brainchild behind one of Iceland's most outlandish music festivals, Aldrei fór ég suður, along with his father Guðmundur, whose nickname (Muggi) is where Mugison got his name. 



The Discography of Mugison

Mugison has five studio albums to his name. These are: 

  • Lonely Mountain (2003)
  • Mugimama, Is This Monkey Music? (2004)
  • Mugiboogie (2007)
  • Haglél (2011)

Upon its release in 2011, Haglél broke the record for the best-sold album in Icelandic music history, as well as winning Album of the Year at the Icelandic Music Awards. In addition, Mugison wrote songs for the soundtracks of Icelandic films Niceland (2004), Little Trip to Heaven (2005) and Mýrin (2007).



Aldrei fór ég suður Music Festival 

The name of the music festival Aldrei fór ég suður translates to 'I Never Went South' and references a song by local folk legend Bubbi Morthens, with the cardinal direction in the title referencing Reykjavík's location in South Iceland. 

Mugison, along with his father Guðmundur Kristjánsson, came up with the idea for the event after playing together at the 2003 Rough Trade festival in London. The idea is that of a music festival by the people, for the people, as it would feature up-and-coming artists getting equal stage time to the headliners―with no ticket fees. 

This romantic notion of a free festival instantly took flight, where even internationally acclaimed Sigur Rós performed, along with the likes of local church choirs and indie garage bands from Ísafjörður.



The beautiful fjord of Ísafjörður in West Iceland on a still summer's night.

The festival has happened annually in Ísafjörður since 2004, where the rules include that no-one gets a soundcheck and each performing act, big or small, only get 20 minutes up on stage. 



The event takes place in factories by the edge of the small fishing town, which, in turn, becomes packed over the course of the festival with visitors from all over the country. 

Where to Hear Mugison's Music

If you want to rock out with Mugison, you can listen to his songs or purchase his albums on his official website. If you're already a fan, you should check out his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter.

It also comes highly recommended to make your way to Ísafjörður in March and become embedded in local culture at the music festival sensation that is Aldrei fór ég suður, where Mugison performs almost every year in his home town.



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