Johan Wieth Broadens Iceage's Soundscape

Danish punk band's guitarist turns down the noise, opens up new space

Iceage Credit: Courtesy of Iceage

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WHO: Since their 2011 release New Brigade, the young Danish band Iceage have garnered quite a reputation with their dark, genre-blurring punk music, not to mention such live-show antics as selling knives and locks of hair as merch. But Iceage's newest release Plowing Into the Field of Love — a Nick Cave-evoking rock record, complete with rockabilly-tinged single "The Lord's Favorite" — is a change for the band. At the heart of their new direction is guitarist Johan Wieth, who's toned down Iceage's raucous noise-punk with some 1962 Goldtop Gibson-excuted smoothness.

BASS BULLY: Wieth grew up with a musical childhood marked by Kiss fandom and marching-band clarinet gigs, but his picking up the guitar at age 11 resulted in a bit of trivial grade-school drama. "I was supposed to play bass because this cool kid at my school was a guitar player and he needed a bass player," he says. But after fooling around on his mom's old guitar he discovered it definitely suited him better. "I told this guy I didn't want to play bass anymore and he got real pissed. These days I see him every now and then in Copenhagen and he doesn't say hello anymore."

VOILÁ, VIOLA!: On Iceage's new album, Wieth added a rather unconventional instrument to the punk act's lineup: viola. Getting somewhat burnt out on playing guitar during the recording session, he stumbled upon a cheap viola that he figured would make an intriguing addition. "I was like, this can't be hard, it's just four strings. Turns out it is actually really hard," he says, laughing. "We could have found a great violist but I think with our playing, which is somewhat unique and probably seems strange to a lot of musicians, there would be such a gap in sound between the two."

EXPANSION TEAM: Plowing Into the Field of Love is certainly slicker than Iceage's previous, deafening punk releases. But Wieth doesn't think they've gone fully classic rock and roll, so much as expanded how they approach composition. "When people explain how the guitar sounds in our band, the usual comment would be that it's very loud, like everything is turned up in full. The past couple of years I've been getting a lot more into dynamics and creating a broader soundscape," he explains. "We were always interested in expanding our instrumental repertoire, but before the space just wasn't there. So this time around, with our song writing, we created that space."