Dr. Gunni aka Gunnar Lárus Hjálmarsson
Born: 7 October 1965
Birthplace: Kópavogur, Iceland
Race or Ethnicity: White
Executive summary: Icelandic underground mainstay
One of the central figures of the Icelandic underground music scene, Gunnar Hjálmarsson made his first appearance with the short-lived group Dordinglar in 1980. Within several months he had moved on to the punk outfit F/8, soon followed by an equally brief stint with new wavers Geðfró (later known as Beri-Beri). It was in early 1983 that his first enduring band, S. H. Draumur, came into being -- the same year that he published his first book of poetry, Tíu göt á hausinn eða blóðbolla?, which obviously translates as Ten holes on the head or a cup of blood?. With S. H. Draumur he released several albums throughout the late 1980s (most notably the full-length effort Goð in 1988 and the EP Bless later that same year), as well as opening for acts such as Einstürzende Neubauten and fellow Icelanders The Sugarcubes.
At the end of 1988 S. H. Draumur transformed into Bless, under whose auspices Gunni -- with some help from the Sugarcubes-founded label Smekkleysa (Bad Taste) -- secured his first release to be distributed in the States, 1991's Gums. Bless also provided his first opportunity to tour North America, although this experience was largely a disaster and ultimately led to the band's destabilization; a different line-up of Bless continued for a while after the tour, but a permanent end to their existence arrived in the final months of '91. Over the next couple of years Gunni released a series of entirely self-performed singles under the name Dr. Gunni through the legendary Finnish label Bad Vugum. The energetic viciousness of the arrangements on tracks like Nonni Stubbur (which explored the circumstances of a disadvantaged young boy on the 1992 Eins og Fólk er Flesk 7") and Doktor Moðerfökker (no explanation needed, from the 1993 Vessar EP) meshed perfectly with the label's peculiar aesthetic. A brief ressurection of S. H. Draumur took place in the middle of all this excitement.
During this time Gunni also pursued parallel careers as a freelance writer for newspapers and magazines and a radio presenter for various Icelandic stations. 6 shows with the astonishing Finnish multimedia project Keuhkot were accomplished in 1992. His concession to the pop market was finally made in 1994 when Gunni formed the band Unun with ex-Sugarcubes guitarist Thor Eldon. Three albums were produced under this name before the band dissolved in 1999: æ (1994, also released in a mostly English-language version as Super Shiny Dreams the following year), the EP Bones (1997), and Ótta (1998). Numerous appearances were made in Europe to support the records, but the breakthrough never quite arrived; Eldon jumped ship in mid-98, and Unun performed their final show approximately one year later.
In the midst of his work with Unun, Gunni had a surprise hit in the form of Prumpufólkið -- a song about farting from his solo album for children Abbababb! (1997). Between recording and touring, service for the Smekkleysa label was dutifully rendered. In the final years of the 90s and the first couple of 2000 he returned his attention to radio and journalism work (although never fully abandoning music), hosting The News and Fun Program of Dr. Gunni and Mr. Mikael and Alætan, as well as writing a book on the history of Icelandic music, Eru ekki allir í stuði? Rokk á Íslandi á síðustu öld. His Dr. Gunni project was revived as a proper band in 2002, and the role of host on the pop music quiz show Popppunktur was undertaken that same year.
S. H. Draumur Bassist/Vocalist 1983-88
Bless Bassist/Vocalist 1988-91
Dr. Gunni Multi-instrumentalist/Vocalist 1992-present
Unun Bassist 1994-99