Mike Lindsay (Tunng) on Múm’s ‘Green Grass of Tunnel’
In 2000, I moved to London; I was 21 years old. Before that I lived in Hull, studying radio and sound production, and before that I’d grown up in Southampton, mainly playing in, and listening to, bad metal bands.
It was when I moved to London that I felt my life, as I know it now, really began, so I want to talk about a song that kicked everything off for me from that point. I was recording music even as a 13 year old, using 4-track recorders and drum machines, playing guitar and singing silly tunes, but I never found any focus on what kind of music I really liked, as I was constantly making different sounding stuff – sometimes cover versions of TV theme tunes, sometimes thrash metal. Once I moved to London I was lucky enough to get a job making music for TV – not great TV, but it meant that I could be in the studio and experiment all day. The man who gave me the job was Ben Edwards, aka Benge, who also ran an electronic label called Expanding Records. He and the label provided my first introduction to the electronica scene. I instantly loved these sounds; they were unlike any I had never heard before, all non-structured glitches and sine waves. The music really appealed to my sense of playful experimentation, and I grew extremely curious as to how these musicians were making their sounds.
During this time, I came across a band called Múm. I think Paul Merrit, who was running Expanding with Ben, had given me a copy of their album, Finally We Are No One. It was the best thing I had heard in a long time. It had all the beautiful, glitch and blip that I had been hearing at that time, but it also had so much more, combining acoustic instruments and lo-fi production with really intense, twisted vocals and lyrics that took you on a fantastical journey. I listened on repeat constantly. This started to influence my own music and became the beginning of my experiments with Tunng, a band that wouldn’t form properly for another couple of years. I later found out that Múm came from Iceland, which sparked my curiosity about that country.
The song ‘Green Grass of Tunnel’ from the album remains a timeless classic, for me, and still sounds totally relevant today, as it will in 20 years. It sucks you in slowly and builds subtly with sounds that crisp your ears. One by one, new instruments enter on a rising hopeful melody, and then, after about a minute and half, this haunting, soft, almost beautiful, witchy voice – like no other voice you have heard – enters so very close to your ear, telling you a story that doesn’t quite make sense. It still brings me close to tears and gives me a sense of floating uneasiness, keeping me slightly on edge but in a warm, nostalgic fantasy.
I ended up moving to Iceland in 2011, and made my own record, called Cheek Mountain Thief. After a couple of months iving in Reykjavik I was lucky enough to meet Gunni Tynes and Silla from Múm. I didn’t tell them at that point how much their album was an influence on me and my music, and one of my reasons for eventually relocating to Iceland; it didn’t seem right somehow. As with so many Icelanders, they were just such warm, friendly, funny, welcoming and humbly talented people. It wasn’t long before we became firm friends. Gunni ended up mixing my album, to which Silla also lent some guest vocals. This was such an honour for me. It’s so amazing in life when things come full circle and seemingly random moments of inspiration and love for art and music can directly take part in your big decisions in life.
I still listen to the album, and have since discovered so many other fantastic records from this band and others in Iceland. Both Gunni and Silla will remain good friends forever. In 2014, I moved back to London, which is where I am writing these words, listening to this song and feeling pretty teary, floaty and nostalgic.
So thanks Múm for a life-changing song, one that represents, and bookends, an amazing chapter of my life. Any time I want to feel Iceland, and all the love, magic, music and friendship that it gave me, I just have to listen to ‘Green Grass of Tunnel’.