Chatting with Þráinn Árni Baldvinsson of Skálmöld

Some weeks ago we reviewed their recent album Ýdalir”, you can read the review here. Today we interview Þráinn Árni Baldvinsson, lead guitarist, to be fair, one of three guitarists, of Skálmöld from Iceland. We will soon report about their upcoming autumn tour after we already enjoyed their festival set at Summer Breeze Open Air, so stay tuned.

Thank you for taking the time after we couldn’t make it at the Breeze due to circumstances. You know, I had a small amount of Icelandic Floki Whisky with me to raise the glasses to the album release with you. He laughs “Ah, yes I know it. The interview would have gotten interesting then…” I’m going to have a sip with me when I see you tour in October. “We’ll raise the glasses there, Skol!” Today Þráinn raises his mug of tea instead.

“you don’t need other gods next to him

We realised, my colleague Katja already interviewed you in 2018. “Already five years ago? I remember well.” I re-read it a few days ago and it seems you had a funny time together, by the way, I like your t-shirt. I have the same one. “Oh Thank you, that’s just cos ‘Lemmy is God’, you don’t need other gods next to him.”


“20 or 30 people…

Exactly, but back to the Summer Breeze, I liked your show, I was surprised you played that early the day but at least it was on the Main Stage. They played at 13:00 on Friday. “We were so happy that we played the Main Stage, we didn’t care about the time. We were surprised by the attendance. I thought there would be 20 or 30 people and then the crowd was amazing.”


Nightly race

Is it snow or ashes?

Come on, you are kidding. I hoped for even more though it was an early time at 13:00. “Yes but for us, to see the sea of people waiting for us, we were really happy.” How was the show the day before when you played at Castle Rock in Czechia? “Ah yes, we were playing after U.D.O., something like 12 o’clock at midnight.” I checked the time schedule and thought, that is demanding, last one there, almost first one here, there should be no traffic jams. “Yeah right, we hoped to be there three hours before but due to traffic we made it only one and a half before.”

Here comes the summer snow

“Warming up, getting ready for the snow machines and all that stuff, you know.” That was a funny gag, I first thought it is no snow but ashes. We both laugh about the idea. “It really was like a Spinal Tap moment when you think of the snow and 34°C heat and the sun.”

“it is the best feeling in the world.

It was crazy, it simply was crazy. What do you generally think about your show, was it good for you? You said, you liked the crowd. You must have been quite tired though! “We talked about it with boys before, I mean when you play show number 20 on a 37 gigs tour. I’m never tired exactly at the show. When you’re tired 30 minutes before, you know, you played 30 gigs straight. Your body and your mind, especially the mind is like ‘tired’. As soon as you start feeling the vibe, you’re warming up and the intro starts, it is the best feeling in the world. There were some problems, not on our half. On the stage were some mic-problems. I hope it wasn’t during the show but before some mics didn’t work. We had to cut out one song of the set list.”

Ignoring Baldur…

The ignored Baldur

That was also my feeling, your slot was a little bit too short. But that’s the problem of festivals, you can’t play any longer to catch up. “We are used to dealing around with difficult situations. But Baldur [guitarist of Skálmöld], the one who doesn’t wear a shirt or shoes on stage. He really was…, because we went kind of three minutes beyond our time… We were doing the last song and nobody was rushing us. No stage manager, none.”

 … because Metal is no race

Yeah, they knew, they made a mistake so maybe they gave you some extra time therefore. “BUT, we didn’t know why the delay was. So in the last song when I was playing the slow part, you know, really relaxed, in the middle part, Baldur was coming to me, poking on my shoulder ‘Play faster, play faster!’” He laughs, “I ignored him so he went to the drummer ‘Play faster, there’s another band coming’ and Jón just said ‘No!’ Baldur’s mind was just going crazy!!!” Þráinn can’t stop laughing about it. So nobody played faster? “No, nobody and everything was good.”

I can’t remember who was the next band but there indeed only was a short gap in between because there wasn’t much to change. “Me either, but we went to them and excused, all was fine, no problem anyway.”

“Summer Breeze itself is fantastic

We exchange some memories about bands’ being late, losing gear on the flights, lost costumes, etc. so this really was a minor incident, it could have been much worse. Did you stay for longer at the Summer Breeze, or did you leave early? “Our album was released at Summer Breeze basically. And it was our manager’s birthday so we had a kind of little party. I did a lot of interviews and all the media stuff until something like eight o’clock [20:00], so afterwards I could actually go and see others.

Meeting friends

I saw a Black Metal band which I was told to see. It was a good band, a really cool band. I missed for example Abbath though because we already had to go to the airport. But it was enjoyable. I love being at festivals in general. Everything was fine, the weather of course, so different to Iceland. We also met friends, Eluveitie and their kids, we’re good friends. We toured with them quite often, three or four tours! Summer Breeze itself is fantastic, I think, we played there twice before.”

Sharing stage with Maiden

“And we played Wacken this year. Our manager started to discuss the fee there, and we were just like ‘Stop talking, just make sure, we will play the same stage as Iron Maiden so we can see Iron Maiden!’ So the funny thing is, our president of Iceland [Guðni Th. Jóhannesson] is a fan of the band, and he was in Canada but somebody from the Wacken organisation invited him and he said ‘Yes’.”

Presidental Pit

Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and Lemmy ( pic taken from RÚV)

“He arrived a few minutes before our show and during the show I always tried to find and see him, somewhere at the mixing desk or so, any special place. And during the third or fourth song I saw him in the front, in the circle pit and he was so happy to show the horns. Yeah, THAT’s my president”

Did you tell the crowd, your president’s in the mosh pit? “No, but I saw afterwards, there were a lot of selfies with him. He was also invited backstage, to some panels and to talk about Nordic Mythology and Heavy Metal on Saturday. He actually was there by two o’clock in the morning because he wanted to see Skálmöld, Iron Maiden and Sólstafir from Iceland too. Good taste of music” I don’t want to know, what kind of music my president listens too, maybe ‘Volksmusik’… [he likes Jazz] “Or Schlager” Þráinn picks up one of his guitars again and plays some notes.

Prainn’s pride: a Soloist 1991

Showing Soloist 1991

You want to play something for me? “Oh, no, no, sorry, let me introduce, that’s my Jackson Soloist 1991 model” What does that mean, 1991 model? “It is just one of the original Soloists.” So it’s a quite rare one? “Yeah, and I have two of them, this black and a red one.” Which one do you prefer? “First, I got the red one because somebody else already bought this one. A famous guitar player from Iceland. So every time I saw him, I was like ‘Are you going to sell me this guitar?’ When my band got some attention here in Iceland we accidently met at some airport and he said ‘Hey, about that guitar, I found it in the basement, you can have it.’”

Pick-ups and batteries

Check the pick-ups

Þráinn smiles like a “Honigkuchenpferd” which might best translate as “pleased as punch” telling me this story. I love this guy; he is such a natural happy face! “But this one has different, passive, pick-ups, I changed them, the red one still has the original active pick-ups. I hate active pick-ups.” What’s the difference, advantage or disadvantage of active pick-ups? “Nothing, I just hate, I hate changing batteries that’s all. And, I don’t know if you can see that, the middle one is a distortion pick up, I usually screw it down as far as possible or pick it out.” That’s a cool detail, I hope, it will be visible in the pic from the interview.

“I’m so used with my Fenders

“Most of the times, I take it out, but I’m so used with my Fenders, I use Fenders most of the time, switch and everything is nearer.” He shows me all these little details on his Soloist. “So I thought, if this is a problem, I have to practice more.” But come on, the Jackson guitars just look amazing. “Yeah, I love it.”

Even more Jackson details

Guitar details

Fender might be easier to play. I’m not a guitar player so I depend on what real experts people say, Strats and Fenders seem to be easier to play than Les Pauls or Jacksons. “I’ve never been a Les Paul fan; I have one but I’m no fan. But these guitars” he turns it to all sides while talking about this little beauty “are amazing. I used this one in one of the videos we released for the [new] album.”

 Do you also have a different tuning on both guitars? “No, not for Skálmöld, I use a standard E-tuning.” Thank you, I’m always interested in these small technical details. “I also released a solo single if you are interested in guitar music. A full album will follow later.” I’ll give it a listen for sure! So here it is, enjoy, I did:

From Flamenco to Stratocaster – Prainn’s 40+ guitars

And the acoustic guitar in the back, is it just decoration? “Ah this one?” He takes it from the wall “I love it. I’ve done some session work this year. I used this one quite a lot. And also when I play funerals or so, I use this one. It’s a Flamenco guitar. It sounds like this:” Þráinn starts strumming around a bit, I immediately feel Spain’s summer sun and the thirst for some Rioja. “The sound is fantastic, very clear.” It sounds like she was singing. “Exactly, I tried her a few times at the store, and one time when I played her, I couldn’t resist anymore and had to take the guitar with me. It is fantastic.”

THE Flamenco guitar

I would not have expected a Heavy Metal guitarist having a Flamenco guitar on the wall. “I just love guitars.” What else do you have? “I have right at my home no more guitars but I own over 40 guitars, so… I have a Telecaster, a few Stratocasters, one Gibson Les Paul, Ibanez, Schecter as well. On the album, I used three guitars, my main Fender guitars which I tour most of the time with.”

Which guitars where?

So I got you right you use the same guitars on stage as in the studio? “Most of the time. I always had like one or two Jacksons in the studio to play around when I feel like. But on this album, I used an Ibanez for all the solos. And I used two different Fender guitars, one for all the clean stuff, the other for the rhythm parts. If I had to play some melodies which are not solos, I used the three coloured sunburst Fender. Ah and then I used an Oscar guitar from 1920 for the intro. Its sound is just amazing.”

No antiquity on stage

A 100 years old guitar??? But you’ll never bring it on tour? „No, never, it will never go out, it is just there. Ah, sadly I have another interview later but we should definitely have an only guitar related interview once!” Well, THAT’s a promise. So wait until the tour is done, maybe there will come more.

Did I say”Vinyls”?

We could talk about this stuff and these details for hours, but what could we do? We need to continue with the interview of course and speed up a wee bit. Þráinn leans back and shows me his collection. “Time is running out and we didn’t even start talking about the vinyl records…”

“We lost almost three years

Looks like I’m going to skip some less important questions. “Or I’ll answer very fast.” The album…, it  took five years since the last one, right? “Yes, and of course there are reasons. We released albums in 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016 and 18. But in 2019, we were all really tired, not because we hate music or touring but is was just… The schedule was hitting us. So we decided to take a break for one year, and this year was the Covid-year. Then it was actually two and a half years until we played again in 2022. We lost almost three years.”

“we became hungrier

But you were tired and needed to recover! “Yes, but the Corona killed everything and because we COULDN’T play again, we became hungrier.” That is also the vibe you get when you listen to the album. It sounds very intellectual and still very fresh and like a young and hungry band which wants to blow everybody away. “One year ago, we scheduled, when we are to write and when to record or we would just do ‘blablabla’. We always take a lot of time for writing and thinking about the songs. I mean, we demoed the album three or four times, listened to it and said ‘Oh no, this doesn’t work’. WE went to the best studio I’ve ever been to and we worked really hard on the album and I hope that’s what it shows!” Honestly, it was absolutely worth the efforts. You know, Sarah-Jane [of Napalm Records] actually came to me and said ‘I have a band for you which you might like’, she knows my taste very well. To me the whole album is simply great.

Staying authentic means singing in Icelandic

Summer Breeze 2023

You’re singing in Icelandic, normally I would say ‘I don’t understand a single word’, but I didn’t miss English and my feeling was that I completely understood what the songs were all about. “Good to hear. We don’t want to change because this is our way of communicating. This is how we talk, how we sing. So we thought, instead of trying to gain more attention by singing in English, that would not be honest. So we continue to do what we do and if people like it, that is awesome.” Þráinn smiles all over his from left to right ear. “But we will not change.”


That would be like an Icelandic football player playing for an English club. “Kind of!” Their success was because they all play in Iceland. “Yeah true, that’s it. You know, everybody puts in some pride into representing a country that only a few people know about, and the others don’t even care about. So we have to be like ‘Hey we are here’!” One could almost feel Þráinn’s pride for his country in these words and his gestures.

“go Vikings go’

I remember well the 70s when there were the Fishing Wars between the UK and Iceland going on. “I was not even born when the first battles started. But it is a quite interesting part of history and I actually think, that sometimes the USA had their influences. I think, they called the British government and told them ‘Hey, back off’.” I was 15 or so and like ‘Yes, somebody’s f*cking up the whole British Empire, yes, this little island, go Vikings go’!“And they just cutting it off, I mean, they took their ships and just ‘BANG’, tough wind to the others. We just thought, we got to do something.” He takes a sip of his tea while I take a breath. We really had a good laughter, not taking this topic so super serious. But hey, Vikings rule, you know!

Upholding the bardic tradtion…

Fully concentrated

What caught my interest in the lyrics was that you sing a lot about Nordic sagas, my name comes from the Nibelung-Saga which is related with the Edda and I’m a history nerd so I am very interested in songs with historical content. How did you get this idea? “Well, we kind of thought all these old stories, Icelandic folk tales, mythology, sagas are really cool. How many times have you picked up a book about Thor, Odin and this stuff? It is always like almost the same like it was written a 1.000 years ago. So Snæbjörn, our bass player who writes the lyrics, has the idea to write new stories about these characters. If you think about it, back in the days before somebody wrote it down, people would be travelling around telling the stories. They were alive and changed and depended on who was telling the story. That is something we cannot stop. We HAVE to continue with these stories, writing new stories and editing them and making them bigger today.”

… in a modern way

So you are more or less the modern version of medieval bards? “Exactly, exactly!” Once more, pride swings in his voice. I’m pretty sure, a German or English band couldn’t do it the same way. Scandinavians can do it much better. “I don’t know, but I think it is really important that we teach our children that the stories, that somebody decided to write down are not the final versions.”


Do you have children? “Yes, I have two daughters, they are ten and seventeen years old.” I have daughters too, they are twins, 15 years old… “So you have real teenagers! Good luck with that!” Þráinn grins as if he knew or experienced something I have yet to see.Are they into music?” One of them liked Jinjer and Arch Enemy for quite a while but her taste changed. The other has a completely different, more pop-orientated taste. I hope to gain back more influence. “Don’t give up, with music they will eventually find their way back.” Thank you, that gives me hope.

History nerds talking

Tour d’Eiffel in the fog (

To come back to the interview with Katja, you mentioned that one of you guys wanted to climb the stairs of Tour de Eiffel for ages when you play Paris, did he make it? “YES, it was probably me. For the first time in all my visits to Paris, I saw it. Yes, it was me, I was the guy, it was November last year. We’ve never been there in our 10 or 12 times. So we just took an Uber, straight down to the tower, me and Björgvin, the singer. It was about nine o’clock in the morning, and there was nobody there. It was awesome.” Could you go to the top? “We didn’t want to because there was a lot of fog so if we would go up, we would just see… fog.” I once was on top, it was frightening, very, if not too high. “I would like to go on top too but it was just about going there, it is a historical place, you know.”

Museums and historical places

Pic taken from <>

Can you do some sight-seeing when you are on tour, do you have days off? “No, usually we see the walls of the venue and that’s all. You don’t see anything. We never have days off on tour but if it happens it usually is because we have to drive the whole day. I remember, of these twelve or 15 years we’ve been touring, we woke up two times in a city, and we had the whole day off. Usually then I look for record stores or museums.” Which kind of museums? “I go to history museums. I don’t go to something like Modern Art or something like that, I want to see the old stuff.” Military museum? ”Yeah sure, Stockholm is fantastic in this case, the Vasa and one about a battle in the middle ages. They just dug out the skeletons and put them in a museum. It is like walking on a battlefield. It is terrible.”

Frightening recommendations

You should once go to Portsmouth to see the Victory and the Mary Rose, comparable to the Vasa experience! Or go to Battle in Kent. That’s the battlefield of Hastings. You can still see where a warrior is sunken in. Due to my other hobby, re-enactment events, I also slept on this ground, very frightening… “I’ll do that once, thank you for the recommendation, indeed sounds frightening and interesting at once. I imagine, these are great experiences. We have to talk again about all this stuff!”

Too little time

Sadly, we had to stop here because we already exceeded our slot, and I was borrowing somebody else’ interview time. But be assured, there will follow more. More technical guitar details, more stories, more of everything and more of Þráinn Árni Baldvinsson. He really was a very lovely, interesting and funny partner with a good sense of humour for me. We had some good laughter, didn’t take everything super serious but been to the point were necessary. I hope you enjoyed reading the interview as much as I did holding it.

Nevertheless, a tour is coming up, save the dates and get your tickets:






Please buy merch and physical music or downloads  from the bands official sources and don’t stream music for free because it steals your artists’ income

Live pics taken during SBOA and screenshots of the interview by Friend.X aka Mr. Deep

proof reading by Muumi-Katja

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