Smekkleysa, Bad Taste Records, Home to the Sugarcubes…
Located down the main shopping street ‘Laugavegur’ in Reykjavík is Bad Taste Records: Smekkleysa (Translation tastelessness) which is one of Iceland’s most important record labels with an interesting history. The record label was set-up in 1986 by a circle of friends who were musicians, artists and poets spawning back from the early 1980s Icelandic Punk explosion. They got together to publish Music, Art, Novels, Poetry, Clothing, Entertainment or Revolution in any possible way .
Their label at the time was not popular among the mainstream (hence the name Bad taste) and one of their main objectives was world domination. Bad taste was named after Pablo Picasso‘s manifesto: ‘Good taste and frugality are the enemies of creativity‘
The first bit of work published by Smekkleysa was a postcard drawn by Fridrik Erlingsson (Ex-guitarist of the pop group the Sugarcubes, a band led by Einar Örn and Björk ) of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, surrounded by the American, Russian and Icelandic flag due to the Reykjavik Peace Summit meeting which was to take place in october 1986.
Around 5,000 copies of the postcard were sold and sent to homes around Iceland which earned the label enough money to release their first 7 inch vinyl record titled ‘Einn Mol’á Mann’ (One cube per person) which featured tracks ‘Birthday‘ and ‘Cat’ by the Sugarcubes. Those tracks later appeared on the Sugarcubes first album Life’s Too Good through Elektra Records which paved the way for international acclaim. Einn Mol’á Mann did not sell particulary well but still remains part of the history of Bad Taste records and the beginning of International fame for the Icelandic Sugarcubes and Björk.
Although in it’s early years the Sugarcubes were the backbone to this record company’s success, the organization went on to produce some of the finest Icelandic artists for example Björk, Sigur Rós, Ghostdigital, Kimono and Jan Mayen (See below). The Shop also has a museum which hosts an exhibition about popular Icelandic culture which demonstrates the growth of the Sugarcubes among other icelandic artists over the past few decades.
The Laugavegur is the main shopping street in the capital of Reykjavík, Iceland. I visited here last year and the first thing i noticed was the fact that a lot of the shops are independently Icelandic. I think i seen 3 francise stores which you would see in most other major cities. The Laugavegur is a bustling street with people in many colourful bars, shops and quirky restuarants. There are many side streets to explore with Hallgrímskirkja towering over the city with it occasionally in site. There is a real friendly safe feel to this city and it’s lovely to see that Iceland have kept their own identity. See below to view a few photos to demonstrate the Icelandic culture of this city.