When I woke up on the morning of 20. January and looked at my emails I expected to find an email with my flight details for the Sólstafir tour that was supposed to start the day after. What I found instead was an email from Aðalbjörn Tryggvason, signed by him and the rest of my now ex-bandmates telling me I was fired from the band that I‘ve poured my sweat, blood and tears into for the last 20 years because of communication problems between us that were unjustly being blamed solely on me and me alone.
I called the airline and found out that my ticket had been cancelled without me knowing it. In a state of panic I quickly bought a new ticket, refusing to acknowledge Aðalbjörn’s right to kick me out of a band that I had formed with him 20 years earlier. Aðalbjörn’s response was to make it clear to me that he would refuse to perform on stage with me and this would irrevocably harm the band and ruin any chance of reconciliation between us. Loving the band that I have dedicated my life to I decided it would be worth it to try and solve this matter with worlds instead of war.
I begged them please not to do this, this was not the right way to handle things, but was only given the vague answer that they‘d maybe be willing to reconsider this in a month, or maybe in 6 months or a year, maybe, just maybe. I was forced to sit quietly at home and witness my life‘s work being taken away from me while it was made clear to me that if I’d speak out about this injustice in public I’d have ruined my chance of ever returning to the band.
By this they were trying to get rid of me in a quiet and painless manner (for them), releasing a bullshit statement (hidden inside a start-of- the-tour Facebook post) that I was absent from the on-going tour for personal reasons, telling people to refrain from asking questions. No questions asked, no consequences for them and I was being threatened to shut the hell up.
While the rest of the band was on tour I sat quietly at home, unable to speak out because of their threats of taking away my chance to regain the purpose of my life. But by every day the hope faded and it became increasingly clear to me that I was being kept in a prison of false hope with the penalty of total excommunication dared I speak out.
It became crystal clear to me that Aðalbjörn had no interest in reconciliation when I found out that the very next day he had applied for a patent of the name Sólstafir in his own personal name and I.D., not in the name of our company that runs the band and not with the signature of any other band members. Had I not discovered this by chance (a lawyer friend checking on the name Sólstafir in the Icelandic firm registry) he would have gained 100% intellectual and monetary control over the name and the brand that I had done more than my fair share to create.
Note that Aðalbjörn says he called Sæþór and Svavar to a meeting at Sæþór’s house on the evening on January 19th and they subsequently sent me the email shortly before midnight. Knowing it was my girlfriend’s birthday they must have known I was out for the night and wouldn’t read the email until late the next day. In fact I had been speaking to her on the phone next to Aðalbjörn a couple of days before about what restaurant we should go to. The very next day, before I had read the email Aðalbjörn had already submitted his patent application. This goes to tell that Aðalbjörn’s story doesn’t add up and that he had been dishonest about his intent.
During this time I tried time and again to reach some sort of agreement with Aðalbjörn. I even booked a session for the whole band with a family councillor upon their return and hoped that we could talk things out with the guidance of professionals.
We were given one and a half hour session, to discuss a decision that has had a bigger impact on me than any other event in my life so far. Despite the short time we were given, my ex-band members showed up 15 minutes too late. The weather was indeed kinda shitty that day, but then you just leave earlier.
Once we were all there the councillor said that if things would get heated we’d just take a 5 minute brake, calm down and start again. Aðalbjörn replayed to this with resentment stating that if things would get heated he would leave immediately. So big was his desire to reach an agreement. After sitting quietly listening to the others speak it was my turn to speak and like clockwork Svavar Austmann started interrupting me and finally stood up and stormed out and Aðalbjörn then made good on his threat and proclaimed this the meeting’s end. Thus ended our session with no results, and little or no attempt to reach any conclusion.
While Aðalbjörn was putting on his jacket, before he could storm out I managed to ask him if there was anything he had not been honest about that perhaps he’d like to tell me now. His answer was no. No? I asked. What about trying to get a patient for the Sólstafir name in your own personal name and I.D.? Obviously he had thought he was home free and got very upset and defensive by me asking this, and aggravatedly barked at me “you’re not in this band anymore”. We’ll see about that I said, and besides I still have some right regarding the use of the name and logo on merchandise and other things. His answer was short and to the point: Then get a lawyer! And with that he stormed out.
I dropped by at Aðalbjörns house the night after our failed meeting. I couldn’t believe he really wanted to go this way and thought that maybe we could sit down and talk about things, but no money talk allowed. He wasn’t at home but obviously his mother told him I had dropped by so he called me later that night. Again I was very careful to stay calm, because my one and only wish was to resolve this matter. I could not believe that someone that I used to consider my best friend and brother really wanted to fight me in court. But again, to my disappointment that was his clearly stated will.
So I lawyered up.
My aim from the start was to not give up on negotiating a deal. I have made several attempts to do so but have been met with silence or (in one case) “negotiations” that add insult to injury.
Aðalbjörn’s idea of a deal was to buy me out for an amount way less than it coasted me buying an I.D. for the company, which I and I alone paid for with my student loans. At that time it was quite common that I paid things for the band with my student loans. I am the only member of the band that has in that way put my own money to use for the band and had it not been for that the band could not have toured and played festivals and would have broken up as a result.
My last offer, which was in my opinion more than fair, went unanswered.
So this is where I stand today. I have been forced out of the band that I dedicated my whole adult life to. I am left with a huge personal debt for pursuing my right (and the matter hasn’t even been prepared for trail, I’ve just been trying to negotiate). On top of that our company, that I am now alone financially responsible for is in debt too, of which the biggest part is for flights and tours I wasn’t even on. I am not getting paid for any merchandise sale (even though I personally designed most of it) and I’m not even getting paid for albums sold on tours that are bought by the band from the label by deducting their price from all of our royalties, including mine. I get no appreciation for all the work and sacrifices I have put into this band, which is a LOT more than you see on the surface. This has affected every single aspect of my life, down to the core of my existence and my self-image, my identity. I really don’t know who or what I am right now.
And Aðalbjörn even dared to tell me to just move on and do something else, like I had just lost a job at the local gas station and would just go work in the local supermarket instead. Let’s not kid anyone, I am 37 years old and have been in this band more than half my life, since I was 16. It took 20 years of super hard work, dedication and personal sacrifices to get here. I am not just going to form another band and act as if nothing happened.
He has also excused his action by comparing it to a love relationship, saying the love just isn’t there anymore as if that can justify his action.
You do have a choice of whom you have a romantic relationship with and to an extent you do have a choice whom you work with. Nobody can force you to work with someone you don’t like. But please realize that growing apart from someone doesn’t allow you to take away his/her life’s work and continuing it on your own. Aðalbjörn’s excuse to do that has been to say that there simply was too much at stake, that the band would eventually have broken up had he not taken this unjust action. Well, the band is not a sovereign being, it is an extension of the people who have put their work into it. Thus it cannot be justifiable to rob one person of the chance to enjoy the fruit of his labour while the others keep on going like nothing has happened.
I am not innocent of behaviour that has led to the problem we face today, we are all guilty of that, but unlike them I admit my guilt and only ask that I am not made a scapegoat to be blamed for all that has gone wrong.
It has pained me beyond believe that I have not been able to answer your questions about my absence from the band because of their threats and because I wanted to do everything humanly possible to solve this matter. I didn’t want this to become a public shitstorm fought over the internet. But while I do believe certain matters do not concern the fans, this is not one of them. You choose to support a band by paying for their concerts, paying for their music and paying for their merchandise. In that way you are the band’s employer. They might not make their music for you, but you enable them to keep on making music, and that earns you the right to know what is going on within the band.
Please know that the band have very deliberately tried to sweep this under the carpet. They have ignored questions and even deleted comments on their social media pages.
So it looks like this is the end of my involvement with the music business. I won’t miss the business side at all but I’ll miss all the wonderful people I’ve met around the world, and I’ll miss doing what I love, playing the music that I love.
If you do like to stay in touch however you can do so through my photography pages:
http://www.facebook.com/kuggurart and twitter.com/KuggurArt
Before I stop ranting I want to address one thing. I’ve come across comments on the internet (yes I do google myself sometimes) saying that there’s not much loss in me. To those of you saying that I just want to tell you that I can honestly understand why you think so. I am totally aware of my limitations as a drummer (and believe me my confidence as one has systematically been torn down by Aðalbjörn over the last 20 years). I know there is a long line of drummers willing to take my place, probably all of them better than me, but would they have wanted to do that 5 years ago, or 10 years ago? I really doubt it. What you don’t see is all the work I have done for the band behind the scenes. I could go on and on about my role in establishing the name Sólstafir through endless work on social medias, making videos, designing posters and merchandise, operating the merchandise store, packing and posting every single order myself, etc. Since I created our first Myspace page I have handled 99% of the band’s social media. Aðalbjörn, and recently their manager have occasionally posted something on Facebook but did never even once log into Twitter or take time to answer fan comments. Now they’ve got a guy in Ireland doing their homepage and posting on social media and booking agents posting show details directly – all this used to be handled by me.
I also built and managed the band’s merchandise store, which has kept the band financially afloat for the last 5 years. Up until a few months ago I hand folded and packed every single t-shirt and brought them to the post office.
The band is now riding on a wave I had a big part in creating. Sólstafir wouldn’t be where they are today without the music, but they also wouldn’t be where they are today without my endless p.r. work over the last 20 years. It’s always been my believe that the most important part in success is getting the name out there. And that is what I’ve worked towards for 20 years. You don’t go and see a band you’ve never heared of before, now do you? But just seeing the name around might invoke your curiosity to go check it out. This is the same simple methood big brand corporations use to ensure their product is always in your mind.
This work has been both selfless and selfish at the same time. Selfless because I’ve worked harder than anyone within the band to get the name out there, and selfish because I wanted to enjoy the fruids of success with my bandmates. (When I say success I don’t mean money and fame for their own sake, I mean being able to do what you love doing on a full-time basis.)
I have never been in this for personal glory and those that know me well know that I even felt uncomfortible at first when the bands growing success ment more personal attention.
And that brings me to one last thing. The personal attention.
The hardest thing about making this statement is bringing all the personal attention upon myself. I feel like I’ve failed and now it’s being brought up for everyone to see. Those who know me well know I’m an extremely closed person when it comes to my feelings and other personal matters. I loved talking to the fans about our music, not because I felt it made me somehow better or more interesting than the fans, but on the contrary because I saw it as a common interest and I felt honoured and privileged to be a part of it. It was something that brought me close to other people I felt were my equals and I viewed as friends. Sure I can’t be a close personal friend with all the fans, but I always talked to them on that level, and sure enough some of you have become my friends beyond the confines of this band.
The hardest thing I’ve done in my life is admitting how much destructive influence my unjust departure from the band has had on me. I feel so ashamed of having failed in front of all to see. I feel ashamed to admit how vulnerable I really am and how little control I have over my own life’s work and my destiny. Admitting that I am week enough to let this plunge me into an abyss of suicidal depression is therefore not a cry for attention. I don’t want the attention, but I want you, my friends, to know the truth.
To you Aðalbjörn I want to say this directly: I suspect this statement will be met with an attack on my personality. Although I have to get this statement off my chest I will not be dragged down to the level of fighting in public. I never wanted to drag the name of my beloved band through the mud. Everything I’ve said and done after I was unjustly fired has been and effect OF the fact and therefore cannot be a cause FOR the fact as you have tried to twist it around to be! You cannot justify your action by pointing at my reaction! This statement is my long held-back reaction. Now instead of using my reaction to justify your initial action I challenge you to take this opportunity to sit down with me and work out our differences, be the better man. I am in no way perfect, far from it, and I have made my mistakes, but so has each and every one of you. Do I not deserve that after 25 years of friendship? Does the band not deserve that after 20 years of extremely hard work and personal sacrifices on both our behalves? I hope you can see that the punishment does not fit the crime!
I’ll leave you all with one thing that’s been stuck in my mind since Aðalbjörn said it to me on 20th January: “I know you can’t see it right now, but this will be the best thing that ever happened to you!”
I can assure you all, it is not!
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason