Greenland's Heavy Metal band Arctic Spirits started in Qeqertarsuaq in 2003, when Juuna A. Zethsen returned from boarding school in Denmark, shortly after acquiring a drum set for his younger brother due to lack of a band. In the fall of 2004, after producing several demo's, the band consisted of 4 musicians:
Juuna A. Zethsen - guitar & vocals
Inuuteq Olsen – guitars
Malik B. Andersen – bass
Aalut Zethsen drums
The band rehearsed in Aalut’s bedroom and progressed fast, and although they hadn’t yet produced a CD, they participated in several festivals and concerts, which resulted in the plans for producing a CD. Arctic Spirits recorded their first CD at Atlantic Studio in Nuuk in 2008, and released it in 2009 with the title: Arctic Spirits "Pissutsit" (Circumstances). Although sales proved to be slow, Juuna A. Zethsen received the Danish KODA award “Talent of the Year” in 2010 for the first release of Arctic Spirits.
Although the musicians lived in different regions, and not discouraged by the slow sales, the musicians decided to produce yet another CD. The band leader Juuna A. Zethsen produced new text and music, and decided to use a new and previously unknown singer. After searching for a while, he contacted Lars Bech Mathæussen from Maniitsoq, who immediately agreed to participate and went to Nuuk to sing for the band. After preliminary production of several demo's and rehearsal, the band commenced on their new recording in 2012, using Junna A. Zethsen’s equipment.
The recording lasted most of the year, since it was mostly produced during leisure time and several negotiations between band members took place. Juuna worked as a carpenter’s apprentice, but had to call sick leave in order to mix the CD with Gedion Andersen, which subsequently resulted in Juuna’s suspension from work. When this process was concluded, Juuna went to Atlantic Studio and asked for his CD to be released. Juuna was immediately hired as a producer at Atlantic Music and released the CD “Iluliarsuit Akornanni” (Among The Icebergs) in 2012.
The members of Arctic Spirits all currently reside in Nuuk, and are exploring ways to play internationally, due to the sparse population of Greenland as well as limited interest in playing heavy metal music.
Juuna A. Zethsen - Guitar
Aalut Zethsen - Drums
Inuuteq Olsen – Guitar
Malik B. Andersen - Bass
Lars B. Mathæussen - Vocal
Below are thoughts by Juuna and his playing career.
I started in 2003 with bassist Malik, initially with no band name. In early 2004 my little brother Aalut started playing the drums, and Inuuteq on guitar. In 2010 we got a new singer, when we were recording our second recording.
You can feel that music is evolving in other countries. Concerts, CD releases and sound engineers get better and better. However, rock is still the dominant music genre in the country, some of which make it difficult for Arctic Spirits to compete with, and because we live in such small society.
In public schools, various local community centers and other schools, there are unskilled music teachers who teach music. So, no, I'm not formally trained in music.
The name of our band is in English, this is perhaps because we hope to be more 'visible' in other countries, whilst our lyrics are in Greenlandic to better express our message. We have learned from the Europeans that the Greenlandic language is very suitable for hard rock.
In my younger days I listened to Heavy Metal a lot, which made me want to try to play it. It was not possible to find people who could play metal amongst the 1000 inhabitants in my home town. In 2002 I went to school in Denmark, and had written a lot of songs, even though I knew that I was not able to find musicians that I could play with. But when I came back the following year to Qeqertarsuaq, my cousin Malik learned to play the bass, and we began to record demos together, and Malik was well underway, to evolve. In early 2004, I worked in a bakery when I bought drums for my little brother Aalut, he began to play on them everyday and was really good, he was then allowed to record demos with us. My new teammates had a friend who had already become a pretty good guitarist, he was also allowed to come and play with us at a later time. We recorded our first album in 2008, which was a little more like a kind of a 'test' for us as we were we were very young and inexperienced, you can feel it in the music and the lyrics. "Pissutsit" was released in 2009. "Iluliarsuit Akornanni" is a little more organized, and the lyrics meant something more. Despite this, the music could be better, this also applies to recording. The difference between the 2 CDs is that I’m the lead singer of the first release, but another one is the lead singer on the next CD.
"Iluliarsuit Akornanni" was made in a year, and we had to borrow musical instruments and rented a room. But during the recording all the instruments were mine, but we had to borrow guitar amplifiers from others. Gedion Andersen, was a great help in the mix, as he has several years of experience in the field. I have quietly started to write and create new songs, but I can’t say with certainty when they will be published. Our music can be purchased on iTunes.
Since we started in 2003 we lived in our home town Qeqertarsuaq, and did not have a real studio where we could record our music. We felt that if we were to do it properly, we should do it in the Greenland capital, Nuuk. Although it was a good recording studio, our limited experience in music, our songs, texts and our way of playing was "childish". This was no wonder of course, since my fellow players were only around 18-19 years at the time. It was pretty easy for me then having to write texts with my "young mind", but I think the reason we got the green light to record was because we had a different way of playing music than any others.
It can be quite difficult to have to work together when you do not live in the same city, so we used the Internet a lot to send each other songs that were practiced. In the case of the very expensive transport rates in Greenland, we have been exposed to have no options just to meet and rehearse together despite the fact that we otherwise had a great need for it. As a songwriter in the band, I put great demands on the others, which might have resulted in my taking the "leadership role", but it's probably just a characteristic of any songwriter. KODA's talent award is also called "Talent of the Year" and is awarded each year to a "rising star".
80's heavy metal still is very important for my way to write / create songs, but also other genres and artists have had much impression on me, such as: Yngwie J. Malmsteen, who I have always looked up to, and if I even get the opportunity I could easily go down on my knees, to kiss his feet no matter how much they stink! : D
Unfortunately there is no metal scene here in Greenland. Very rarely do we get the opportunity to play in regular festivals where we meet as a group. The Greenland musicians evolved greatly, and can be compared with other musicians worldwide. But as said, the Greenlanders’ way to play rock is very different. I believe that "Greenland rock" is the most popular music genre here, and I can’t name a band which is my favorite, because there are so many good ones. This means that there are plenty of concerts where we sometimes do not know which concert we should attend, when there are several to choose from at the same time.
My way to write songs / making music, might be a little too new and too strong compared to the "traditional" and "preferred" Greenlandic way of making music. As an example, I can mention two young guys recently started a satirical program on KNR (local TV) and the reaction was great, also in the news there was many mentions, however it was not so much positive publicity. It was new, and the Greenland audience is too sensitive yet. But fortunately, we have not experienced it as a group.
I really want most of the world to understand my lyrics. The text is mainly about the Greenlandic way of life / lifestyle now and then. But if you want to understand them correctly, you have to listen to the music. We learnt English in school, but I remember that I wasn’t really interested in other languages. But when I went to school in Denmark, the mindset toward language became different, and I learned only at this time to talk other languages, but my English is still very limited. The reason I write songs in Greenlandic, is because I want my fellow countrymen to understand them, and make an impression on them. But as mentioned before, the Greenlandic people are not yet ready to understand the hard music genre. Therefore, in the future I would like to try to write lyrics in English. The Greenlandic language and the Danish language is very different and can’t be compared with each other.
I have not been directly contacted by venues yet, but private persons from other countries on Facebook and mail contacted me, and would have liked to get us there. I would more than happy if we could get the opportunity to do so again :).
I've noticed when tourists come to Greenland, they want to try Greenlandic food, such as: mattak (whale skin), seal meat soup and whale meat. Since I am a meat-eater, I would recommend it to them :). Greenland has a beautiful landscape and I think clearly if you want to see the country you must experience both summer and winter. In winter you can go dog sledding in Northern Greenland and East Greenland. In summer you can enjoy the green landscapes, beautiful and different mountains / hills, and take cruises and do whale watching..