With the media’s laser focus on indie/rock and experimental acts like Björk and Sigur Rós, Iceland’s strong hip-hop and dance music scene is often ignored. This lack of acknowledgement, however, has little to no effect on the quality of music being created. Influenced by both sides of the Atlantic, this small yet flourishing community has developed a distinct place within Iceland—a country that has always been a fertile breeding ground for innovative musical acts.

Take the case of Bjarki Hallbergsson aka Balatron. His interesting blend of hip-hop and drum and bass productions have caught the attention of d’n’b heavyweights Noisia, while landing him a spot on future iconic trio Ivy Lab’s 20/20 LDN imprint.

I caught up with Hallbergsson for a brief interview about his background, his stage name and what he has in store for the future.

Freq: Let’s talk about how you came up with the name Balatron.

I took a break from producing for about a year. It was just frustrating the hell out of me, [I] wasn’t feeling what I was doing, so I dropped everything and took some time off. After that year I got back at producing hip-hop for some Icelandic artists, BlazRoca and Kilo, really talented MCs. Some of my beats were too hard so I kept those to myself, and after a while I thought ‘Why not just do this as a solo project, making beats for me?’ So I needed a name. I actually can’t remember how I got to the name, but the dictionary says it means buffoon, clown. Well, that I am, so I shouted ‘SOLD Mr. Internet,’ and bam! Balatron.

Freq: How did Noisia and Ivy Lab—two of bass music’s biggest trios—find you?

I’ve always been really critical on my music, thinking it wasn’t good enough, not letting anyone hear it, but in the end I said fuck it and just sent it to every label and artist email I could find. A producer named Posij was the first to reply he liked my stuff and asked me if I had sent it to Noisia. A week later he hits me up and says I’m on today’s Noisia Radio. Two days after that, I’m surfing on SoundCloud and I see Ivy Lab posted a Sonar Festival mix, I check it out and hear that my track is in there, so I got a hold of Halogenix and he says ‘Yeah man, been playing it out for a month now.’ After that I kept sending tracks and they picked one for 20/20 vol2. I’m a big Ivy Lab fan and getting to be on this record is a huge honour.

Freq: What drew you towards hip-hop and drum and bass?

The golden era of hip-hop was in full force when I was a kid, and the music during that time had a profound impact on me. I was blown away by east coast hip-hop, but the thing that drew me to it more than anything was the beats. DJ Premier and Pete Rock produced the best beats of all time, and they’re a big part of my music today.

On the flip side, in Europe everything was going on—house, techno, jungle, drum and bass—I listened to all of it, and it opened my mind to the possibilities and creative freedom of electronic music. One album in particular was The Prodigy’s Experience. That album to this day is amazing. Liam Howlett is my spirit animal!

Freq: How did you end up getting involved in both scenes (hip-hop and d’n’b)?

I started making music at about 15 or 16 using FastTracker, chopping and sequencing breaks and making crap tunes as we all do [laughs]. I’ve never been stuck on any one style of music. I tend to get bored doing the same thing for too long. I like to mix it up, so I’ve produced everything from Eurovision (singing contest akin to Canadian Idol) to d’n’b. I always come back to d’n’b and hip-hop and that’s always going to be my main focus.

Next for Balatron is a new EP coming out December 9, 2016 on Flexout Audio. To stay up to date with Balatron visit https://soundcloud.com/balatron-1

By: Jay Remy


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