Did you know the singer of Iceland’s top pop hit of 2009 is from Seattle?
Although his father is from Reykjavik, and his mother from Hafnarfjörður, Haffi Haff grew up in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood, and Everett.
“I was born here;” said Haffi, holding court during our recent chat
at a Starbucks on Capitol Hill. “My blood is there.”
He was born Hafsteinn Thor Gudjonsson. From the ages of eight to eighteen he went fishing in Alaska on his father’s boat during the summer. And at Christmas he played Santa at Seattle’s Jólaball for three years in a row. “I was the skinny one.”
But lately he’s been appearing on Iceland’s version of American Idol, working on his debut album, and plotting world domination. “I don’t want to push anything until I have an album. I want to know exactly who I’m going to be, what I’m going to sound like, what I’m going to do. And then I’ll go for it. Then I’ll take on the world.”
He’s off to a promising start. Last year Haffi debuted his single Give Me Sexy on Icelandic Idol, and it went on to receive massive radio airplay. And his performance on Söngvakeppni Sjónvarpsins (Iceland’s Eurovision pre-selection contest) made The Wiggle Wiggle Song an audience favorite.
Haffi also makes time for his Puget Sound fans. In December, he headlined a New Year’s Eve concert in Seattle, played a nightclub in Everett, appeared on KSER Radio, and even squeezed in a modeling gig at a private reception at a men’s designer underwear boutique. And that was just part of a brief vacation.
“A lot can happen in six months. A lot just happened in three weeks,” he said, winding down from his whirlwind visit.
But as focused as Haffi looks on paper, he’s the first to admit that he is also ruled by his Libra nature.
“I grapple with the whole Iceland thing. I don’t want that to be some kind of title. So I was joking with my friends the other day. And all of a sudden came up with the idea of Haffi Haff Icelandic Superstar. Like that being part of the album title. I think it’s funny, I think it’s kitschy. And then you don’t take yourself too seriously.”
“Your name is a real icebreaker,” I told him.
“I’ve spent my entire life being an individual. But when you have ten million other Hafsteinns around you--and there are a lot of Hafsteinns in Iceland-- I’m not gonna do that. I’m not gonna have someone say my name, and all of a sudden three other people are saying, ‘Hey what’s up?’ So after a night of debauchery and fun, I was walking home at about five o’clock in the morning, and I was like, I’m tired of this. I don’t want to do this anymore. So I said I’m gonna be Haffi Haff."
“Just like that?”
“Yeah. And I always thought of going by the name of Thor. If I was gonna do something it was gonna be as Thor. I don’t know. I’m going back and forth with that. I’m doing my Libra thing.”
In spite of that, Haffi is firm on one thing: singing in English.
“My Icelandic? It’s pretty shitty. I speak Icelandic and English at the same time. And people don’t understand that. They don’t know how I do that. I’ll choose what word fits best for what I’m saying.”
Words, though, are irrelevant when it comes to Haffi’s music videos. Flashy costumes and urban attitude speak a universal language. The backdrop for his Jealousy video, which he shot in Reykjavik, features concrete and graffiti, black wigs, and green paint.
“There’s a crowd of people in that video,” I said. “Did you film that outside of a nightclub?”
“No. They’re all standing outside of a hot dog stand. And I came along and painted their hotdogs and threw things at them.”
“That certainly makes an impression.”
“The point is, you need to shock people. If you’re not gonna shock people with what you’re doing then why are you doing it? Whether it’s good or bad, well…I’m not aiming to be number one. I actually like number two.”
Riding the wave of the current glam revival, and hailed by some as the male Lady GaGa, Haffi may have no choice but to accept number one when his album is released later this year.
“I’m an outsider no matter where I go. That’s just the way it is. That’s part of my character.”
c. Kelly Hughes
Check out Haffi's videos:
Give Me Sexy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFjmSr9LpM8
Dirty Side http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JPqlTc3QMk
Buried Alive http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MIBXdwzDUs
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