|Genres||Punk rock, post-punk, goth rock, avant-garde, free jazz|
|Labels||Crass Records, Gramm, V.I.S.A.|
Beginnings and first releases
The band was formed in August 1983 when Ásmundur Jónsson from Gramm Records wanted to create an avant-garde supergroup to perform on the final episode of a radio show called Áfangar. He assembled Björk Guðmundsdóttir, vocalist of Tappi Tíkarrass; Einar Örn Benediktsson, a trumpeter and vocalist in Purrkur Pillnikk; keyboardist Einar Arnaldur Melax, from the surrealistic group Medúsa; Birgir Mogensen, the bassist from Spilafífl; and finally drummer Sigtryggur Baldursson and guitar player Guðlaugur Kristinn Óttarsson (a.k.a. Godkrist), both from the band Þeyr.
KUKL's first live show was on Reykjavík on the September 20, 1983 opening for Crass. They soon after put out their first release, a single for the song Söngull b/w "Pökn (fyrir Byrjendur)". "Söngull" is the Icelandic version of "Dismembered", a song which would later appear in English on a later album.
Since Einar Örn, one of KUKL's frontpersons, studied media at the Polytechnic of Central London he had the chance to get in touch with several punk groups such as Flux of Pink Indians and the anarchist band Crass, which is why KUKL’s first album, The Eye, was published through Crass Records.
The title The Eye was given after Björk’s favorite book: Story of the Eye, a piece written by Georges Bataille (1928), whose plot involves the sexual adventures of a young French couple within a violent context.
The album cover was illustrated by Dada Nana and contained the English version of “Söngull”, under the name of “Dismembered” and a song called “Anna” from which a video clip was shot, with the direction of Óskar Jónasson.
Kukl's music portrayed a different style in Crass Records: it was a complex mixture of goth rock, punk, free jazz and rhythmic music with references to Killing Joke and the cutting-edge after-punk of The Fall. The guitars played by Gulli Óttarsson, with elaborated notes next to Birgir Mogensen’s bass line create a sound base, vibrant and sometimes distorted that with the inclusion of Björk, Einar Örn and Melax end up with a sophisticated, rather obscure kind of music, and scrabbled lyrics.
For the recording of The Eye, the band used different kind of drums, trumpets, and even bells. Many music experts named references of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Killing Joke, Einstürzende Neubauten and the early stage of The Cure.
In 1985 Kukl toured Europe. They visited the Netherlands during the Pandora's Box Festival and Denmark during the Roskilde Festival, next to other bands that were doing presentations in the hope of achieving success out of their own land.
- ”Through the ugliness of mankind we try to shine. Against stupidity of mankind we try to fight. As our wages we get the lunacy of others. Our nourishment. Atrocities of the world. Our nourishment, joy of the world.”
Manifesto taken from page 3 of the booklet belonging to The Eye.
Also in 1985 Kukl and renowned rock singer, Megas created a new band called MEGAKUKL and after creating about 20 songs, they gave several concerts in Iceland. However, MEGAKUKL never released these songs, and they still remain as unpublished material.
Kukl à Paris and Holidays in Europe
By the same period they also had some presentations in France and edited KUKL à Paris 14.9.84, through V.I.S.A., an independent record label in MC format limited to France only. By 1986, and with the production of Penny Lapsang Rimbaud, KUKL released Holidays in Europe (The Naughty Nought) automatically becoming into the first band to release more than one record through Crass (with the exception of Crass themselves). Crass Records press release showed one of Kukl manifestos:
- ”The Naughty Nought” pertains to the insignificance of the individual as being nothing but a numb number in a computer game of loss/profit good/evil black/white binary pairs. You are taken from Quintessence to the four elements from the Holy Trinity to duality and then from mooistism to the naughty nought. In this process the music breaks the scale by thundering trumpets and pouring vials of wrath together with subtle musical poetry. The naughty nought is the source of all creative energy and is manifested through whirling cyclonic motion from the very shatters of matter to the spiralling galaxies. By contemplating the kinetic aspect of this naughty ality you gain your former potency as the master and creator without mutilating your fellow beings.”
Manifesto published on Crass Records press release to announce KUKL’s new album, Holidays in Europe (The Naughty Nought), on January 24, 1986.
Holidays in Europe (The Naughty Nought) music style has been considered as some sort of after-punk or an alternative indie-rock. There were two video clips shot for this album: "Outward Flight (Psalm 323)" and "France (A Mutual Thrill)"
Kukl break up
After exploring all music alternatives, the end of the band was getting closer. Guðlaugur Óttarsson and Björk formed The Elgar Sisters a group which featured Kukl musicians (but with the exception Einar Örn), and the collaborations of Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson and Þorsteinn Magnússon. They recorded 11 songs in 1986 and disbanded thereafter.
By the summer of 1986 Einar Örn returned from England with two projects: the creation of a new record label and a new band to gather more money and thus support their activities.
That’s how Smekkleysa/Bad Taste came into being and by June 8, 1986 after dating Medúsa’s guitar player, Þór Eldon Jónsson, Björk gave birth to a boy named Sindri Eldon Þórsson. This date is also usually referred to as the birth of the new band called Sykurmolarnir, later translated as The Sugarcubes. The only members who did not continue with the new project were Guðlaugur and Birgir.
The fate of Kukl’s members
Björk, Einar Örn, Einar Melax, and Sigtryggur Baldursson worked in The Sugarcubes, with Bragi Ólafsson in bass, Friðrik Erlingsson in guitar, who was replaced by Þór Eldon, and Melax was later replaced by Margrét Örnólfsdóttir. Einar Melax later formed Exem with Þorri Jóhannsson of Inferno 5, Exem has made one album called Kjöttromman (The Meatdrum).
Since Kukl disbanded, Guðlaugur has made several collaborations with renowned Icelandic and international artists, besides of giving guitar solo concerts in Iceland. As a polytechnic engineer in practice and inventor, he has also combined his music work with scientific projects and delved into quantum physics, thermoelectricity and navigational systems.
Birgir Mogesen, who after Kukl had collaborated with three tracks for The Elgar Sisters, has worked for recording and video studios and joined Inferno 5 a multimedia ensemble founded by Þorri Jóh, and had other music collaborations. He was asked to play the bass for Killing Joke and went to England and rehearsed with them for some time, but returned to Iceland when Paul Raven joined Killing Joke again. Birgir plays bass in some songs on Exem's Kjöttromman. He is currently working at a TV station called Skjár 1 as a broadcast supervisor.
Music publication reviews
“A new interpretation of Rock-Music, unlike anything I have ever heard before.”
(DV, September 17, 1983)
“For once I find myself at a loss for words. This concert can not be described. Those who lived it will have it with them for the rest of their life.”
(DV, November 26, 1983)
“SHOCK: An Icelandic band whose name nobody knows, except it has to be shouted, stormed into life and made perhaps the nicest noise of the whole evening. Apparently with two lead vocalists, (impossible to see over the rhythmically swaying snoggers) this curious bunch generated an intensity born of a vaguely Fall-ish chaos everything getting wonderfully hysterical, but all the while, foundations remained under control, easily enjoyed.”
(Sounds, January 1984)
“We had expected some combination of Þeyr and Purrkur Pillnikk, but we were served with surprise in every respect. The music retains the manic quality of P.P. and the sophistication of Þeyr, but it moves far beyond. At first I thought I could not stomach the rhythmic frenzy and the crazy tonal combination but then my stomach and eventually my whole body began to move along. And who am I to disagree?”
(S&T, April 18, 1984)
“Their musical creation literally explodes into the faces or masks of the audience, thrusts itself into its consciousness and even if you don't happen to be interested, there is no way of avoiding it or refusing to take it into consideration...”
(DV, April 28, 1984)
|Date||Place - Tour/Concert||Other bands|
|September 20, 1983||We Demand a Future||Crass|
|??? 1984||The MH Satellite Gig||Psychic TV|
|??? 1984||The Continental Europe Tour||-|
|December 1, 1984||Austurbæjarbíó: Krists-Mas-Konsert||-|
|September 1985||Rotterdam: Pandora's Box||-|
|June 29, 1985||Roskilde: Roskilde Festival||-|
|February 25, 1986||Berlin: Metropol||Einstürzende Neubauten|
|September 14, 1986||Eldorado, Paris: KUKL Concert in Paris||-|
|September 19, 1986||Eldorado, Paris: KUKL Concert in Paris||-|
Taken from a collection of news articles distributed in connection with Kukl concert at Austurbæjarbíó, Reykjavík, on December 21, 1984.
"FLUX OF PINK INDIANS / D & V / KUKL / CHUMBAWUMBA. Conway Hall. Such stuff as legends are made of - REALLY. A concert that put a final nail in the coffin of plastic-pose-punk-piss, featuring four of the five best anarcho-punk (sorry about the label!) bands in the world. A shame that Crass weren't there as well to complete the power... Kukl are an Icelandic group, which immediately puts them into a fairly select family: even if there were other Icelandic groups to make comparisons with (well-known journalist's pastime), it would be impossible. Venomous and humorous by turns, they possess a peculiarly charismatic frontperson; if you don't manage to see them before they depart on a European tour, buy their indispensable LP The Eye on Crass records and bemoan what you've missed. Fascinating!".
(David Tibet. Sounds, September 3, 1984)
"Things brightened up there with Iceland's finest (albeit unopposed) K.U.L.K delivering a spunkish drunkish short set of Bow Wow Wow sounds, the words coming from the plainest boy in history and a girl with the most unsightly pageboy cut since Skafish. The guitar was groovy and the drums were bendy, and I could have listened to them for at least another 12 years if duty had not called".
(New Musical Express, October 6, 1984)
"PANDORA'S BOX FESTIVAL Rotterdam. Goodness gracious, great balls of fire - it's KUKL! Boy and girl charging around, shouting and screaming, while four others contrive to make one hell of a racket, lapsing into occasional bouts of melody. I'm not sure that it was their intention, but I found them jolly entertaining, and they should be seen if only to witness the extraordinary performance of that manic little girl".
(Sounds, October 13, 1984)
- 1984 - The Eye (Crass Records)
- 1985 - KUKL à Paris 14.9.84 (V.I.S.A.)
- 1986 - Holidays in Europe (The Naughty Nought) (Crass Records)
- 1984 - V.I.S.A. Présente (Bondage Records / V.I.S.A.), European compilation.
- 1987 - Geyser - Anthology of the Icelandic Independent Music Scene of the Eighties (Enigma Records), compilation.
- 2002 - Family Tree (One Little Indian), CD box set by Björk.
Unpublished material: MEGAKUKL (1985):
- No official releases: Megas and Kukl recorded about 20 songs during a concert, but the tapes have never been released.
- Rokksaga Íslands, by Gestur Guðmundsson. Forlagið (1990).
- Björk, Colección Imágenes de Rock, N°82, by Jordi Bianciotto. Editorial La Máscara (1997).
- Alternative Rock : Third Ear - The Essential Listening Companion, by Dave Thimpson. Backbeat Books (2000).
- Lobster or Fame, by Ólafur Jóhann Engilbertsson. Bad Taste (2000).
- Official site of Kukl
- Website about the history and discography of Kukl
- Always on the Run.net - Site about Kukl. It includes lyrics and photographs.