About six years ago, Önundur Hafsteinn Pálsson (Önni) purchase Tankurinn, the old concrete cylindrical building that sits just right out the road just before entering Flateyri. The building has an interesting and rather diverse history. It was first constructed around 1925 to store fish oil from herring, and as such its life began as an actual holding tank. It was used for only about ten years or so, and then stood vacant until 1980, when it was renovated and used as shop for building fiberglass boats. Around 2000, a freezer unit was installed in part of the tank and it was used as a baiting house, where crews baited long lines for the boats fishing around the Westfjords. It has also been used as a carpentry shop. With Önni´s ownership, Tankurinn serves a rather different kind of purpose--now it is a recording studio.
As Önni explains, the engineering for such a building was somewhat uncertain when it was first constructed, so it was kind of overbuilt. The walls are nearly a foot thick of concrete and wire. Crews had to use dynamite to blast holes in the wall for windows, which are circular and framed with concrete culverts, when beginning the renovations for the boat shop. The building now has two floors. The first is still being renovated, but it serves as a kind of lounge and kitchen area. Önni plans to have the renovations finished by summer. When he bought the building, he tells, it was full of stuff left over from all of the past uses of the house-six truck loads full. Over the past few years, he has enlisted the help of friends and musicians coming to record there to renovate the building.
Atop the spiral staircase used to access the floor, one enters the main studio (the live room)--a large 100 sq meter room room that follows the curve of the tank, and adorned with acoustic paneling, drums, several Hammond organs, and amplifiers and assorted instruments, microphones, and other recording paraphernalia. On the south side of the floor is a second room, cut off from the rest, which is the control room where Önni keeps his recording equipment. When he is recording a band, this is where Önni does his thing, giving directions through the window between the live room and control room, adjusting levels, mixes, and a host of other controls to get the best quality possible.
Over the past couple of years, Önni has had several bands record at his studio. Most of these have come from the Reykjavík area, but he has had few come from Europe. The round shape of the studio offers a distinctive sounds, especially for the drums which really come through. "The metal bands really like it," he explains, although he has recorded an eclectic variety of music there. He plays for us a cut from a klezmer band from France that recorded there-fantastic! He quite enjoys recording the acoustic stuff.
Born and raised in Flateyri (indeed, he his named for the fjord on which the town is located) Önni cut his teeth in recording at 12 or 13 (he is now 32) when he got his first multi-track recorder. He also worked as an intern for a recording studio in Reykjavík where he learned a lot of the professional skills and techniques. He is anxious to get the studio completely renovated so that he begin to attract more bands with more of a name. About 60% of the visitors to his website
these days are from the US and Europe.
When he is not recording, he is often doing his thing on the drums, and in addition to some of the recordings he has done at his studio, he plays for us some drum tracks his has been laying down as part of an experiment he is doing with drum songs. "I can't remember when I started playing music," he explains. "I remember my grandfather holding me on a chair while I was playing the drums when I was really little." He teaches percussion at the music school in Ísafjörður, and on occasion performs at the old pub in Flateyri, Vagninn.