The beloved Icelandic singer and gay icon Páll Óskar has released his first album in nine years. The album, which bears the name The Crystal Album (Kristalsplatan), was sold up front both as a CD and a vinyl record and sold 1.100 exemplars which the singer is delivering personally to each buyer, giving them a hug as a bonus.
He is also preparing for a huge concert at Laugardalshöll on September 16 and to top the year of he’s taken on the role of Frank N. Furter in The City Theater’s production of Rocky Horror Show which will premier next March. As busy as he is Páll Óskar took the time to chat with GayIceland and told us all about the album, the concert and the show.
Listening to the lyrics on The Crystal Album one gets the feeling that you are in love, are you?
“Not at the moment, no,” Páll Óskar says with a heartfelt laugh. “But I’ve been in love four times in my life and each one of those four wonderful men has a special room in my heart. When I’m working on lyrics I can open these rooms and get hold of the feelings. Feelings never die within your body, even if the love affair didn’t last.”
I’m especially referring to the lyrics of Ég elska þig tilbaka (I love you back), does that one have a special meaning?
“Not really. I guess you could say that I’m sending a wish to the cosmos, secreting a special guy into my life.” Páll Óskar laughs again. “It might work!”
Asked to describe the album in one sentence he takes a moment to mull it over, says it’s hard to be objective when you are in the middle of a project. But then he finds the words: “I would say that it’s definitely a pop album, high quality pop music, but with a serious undertone,” he says.
Yes, some of the lyrics sound as pep talk for people who are having a hard time: believe in yourself, stand by yourself etc., is that the message of the album?
“That pep talk is mainly for myself, but if there are others out there who can take it to heart and benefit from it that’s great,” Páll Óskar says. “You know I was a mess when I was younger and it was not til 2004 that I started working on my issues and getting help, both from the people in my life and professionals. I can pinpoint the exact moment when I got rid of the old issues, but it’s never over and you have to keep working on yourself all the time.”
“I think every gay man has a kind of post traumatic stress disorder. Realizing when you are still a child that you are gay and the process it takes to come out to the world leaves it’s marks. All the bad remarks you hear about being gay while you are still a child/teenager in the closet can leave you broken.”
What issues are you talking about?
“I think most gay men have a kind of post traumatic stress disorder. You are at risk from this particular stress disorder from the moment you realize you are gay. Realizing when you are still a child that you are gay and the process it takes to come out to the world leaves it’s marks. All the bad remarks you hear about being gay while you are still a child/teenager in the closet can leave you broken. Remarks that come from the ones who are closest to you, people you even look up to and then just remarks from everywhere around, even in the media. And after you come out people start commenting on everything you do from the standpoint that you are gay. You constantly have to prove to the world that you are good enough, and it takes the strangest forms sometimes. I, for example, was intolerable and I was pretty difficult to work with. I was this
perfectionist who didn’t really trust anyone and kept pushing people away from me. Now I know that the people I’m working with are brilliant and completely capable of doing a good job and I can relax around them, trust them with my projects. It’s a great relief.”
A few years ago Páll Óskar was quoted saying that the cd was dead, that there was no longer any reason to publish music otherwise than digitally, what made him change his mind?
“There are fans out there who have followed me all these years and bought every record, people who love me as a musician and I started thinking that I owed it to them to make something special. Even if you can get all the music you want on streaming services like Spotify you still want to own the albums of your most loved artists. I love Madonna and I always buy her CD’s even though I can easily get them otherwise. So I decided to make an album and sell it upfront to those who wanted to buy it. 1.100 people bought the album that way and to show them my appreciation I decided to deliver all the albums in person, all over the country, give the buyers a hug and make them feel that I loved them back.”
The Crystal Album is also available digitally, both on Spotify and YouTube and Páll Óskars website, palloskar.is, and has gone on sale in stores as a material CD and vinyl record. But Páll Óskar is also giving his fans a chance to experience him life in Laugardalshöll on September 16th and he promises that they are in for a treat.
“… the guy who controls the lighting can control the images on the bracelets and at some part all the bracelets in the audience will light up and become a part of the overall effect … Apart from all that we will also build a new stage in the concert hall so it does not matter where you are in the audience you have the same view of me on stage.”
“I’ve been longing to do a professional concert in years,” he says. “I wanted to do it in 2008 with the Silver Collection (Silfursafnið) but then the crash happened and it was just ´God bless Iceland´and everything was swept off the table. Now everything is back in action and we have the technology and professionals to do a show like it’s never been done in Iceland before; with all the technology in lights and sound that has sprung up in the latest years. It’s gonna be spectacular!”
Among the things that have not been done in Iceland before is making the audience a part of the show by wearing special led bracelets when they enter the concert hall. “The bracelets are connected to the lighting desk so the guy who controls the lighting can control the images on these bracelets and at some part all the bracelets in the audience will light up and become a part of the overall effect. The dancers will also have led lights with wi-fi in their palms that are a part of the overall lighting effect. Apart from all that we will also build a new stage in the concert hall so it does not matter where you are in the audience you have the same view of me on stage.”
Will there be other performers than you?
“Yes. There will be a DJ to start with, getting everyone in the right mood and then Áttan will appear on stage. Then of course there will be a lot of dancers with me and I have the absolute best band in the world to back me up. I’m telling you, you don’t want to miss it!”
Despite rumours about the show being sold out Páll Óskar says that there are still available tickets on the floor (both for the family show and the evening show).
“Absolutely! The seating area sold out in an hour and a half but there are still tickets available,” he says. “Just go to tix.is and get yours today.”
To top this great year off Páll Óskar will be playing Frank N. Furter in the upcoming production of Rocky Horror Show in the City Theater of Reykjavík. He is familiar with the role as he played it in the legendary production of the musical when it was staged by secondary school Menntaskóllin við Hamrahlíð, MH, in 1991. Are there any other of the people who staged that production involved in the show now?
“The musical director, Jón Ólafsson, was with us then, but none other of the ‘original’ cast will part take in this production,” Páll Óskar says. “We have already started discussing the piece under the guidance of the stage director Marta Nordal, and I can assure you that we will not be doing some copy of other productions of this legendary musical. We are going for the core of it and dragging up hidden meanings and I’m really excited to be a part of this.”
But Frank must have a special meaning for you as playing the role back then kind of put you on the map as a gay icon. How does it feel to revisit him?
“It’s a great feeling, for sure,” Páll Óskar says with a huge grin. “I’m a very different performer from who I was back then. When I got rid of my issues, back in 2004, I really started loving to perform. I had always liked it, of course, but then I started loving it and the audience felt that and responded. And the peculiar thing happened; straight guys started coming to my concerts, letting me hold their hand and sing to them without being embarrassed. These guys who had made fun of me since high school, criticising everything I wore, said and did, suddenly accepted me for who I am. The girls had always loved me, but it is a special feeling finding this love from the straight guys. It was like we had made a secret pact. And every time I perform now we are honouring and renewing that pact. It has opened up a whole new perspective and I’m very happy and grateful to be in the place where I am right now.”
Páll’s concert in the Westman Islands, which might be an indication of what’s to come in September: