Jóhann Jóhannsson was born in Iceland but currently resides in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Jóhann’s musical background is varied: he studied piano and trombone in his native Reykjavik but amplified music soon beckoned and through most of the 90´s he played guitar and keyboards with various bands in Iceland’s flourishing music scene. Jóhann began writing music for the theater in the 1990’s and in this medium he developed the style that he is most known for. He wrote music for several productions with the respected company Hafnafjardarleikhusid, including the play Englabörn. The score for that play - which combined the influence of Baroque music, Erik Satie, Bernard Herrmann, Moondog and the electronic music of labels like Mille Plateaux and Mego - was released in 2002 on the well respected British label Touch.
Englabörn was re-released in 2007 by 4AD, by which time its combination of classical instrumentation and subtle electronics had been proven to be quite influential. Englabörn was written for string quartet, percussion and electronics, and Jóhann’s second album, Virthulegu Forsetar (Touch 2004) was written for a brass ensemble, pipe organ, electronic drones and percussion. Both releases met substantial critical acclaim, whilst his third album and his first for 4AD, IBM 1401 - A User’s Manual (2006), was his most ambitiously orchestrated composition to date involving a 60 piece string orchestra. Fordlandia, was released in November 2008 also on 4AD. The album was voted best classical album of 2008 at the Icelandic Music Awards. In April 2010 the Type label released And in the endless pause there came the sound of bees, an album of Jóhann´s award-winning music for Marc Craste’s animated film “Varmints”.
Although mostly instrumental, Jóhann’s work often involves complex narratives, which deal with our relationship with the world of machines and decaying and obsolete technology. His music often incorporates found recordings, such as his use of reel-to-reel recordings of a decommissioned 1960’s IBM mainframe in the piece IBM 1401 - a User’s Manual.
Fordlandia was another orchestral album combining complex narrative themes with a sound that expands upon his earlier work while also exploring new ground. It combines romantic minimalist string writing influenced by Gorecki and Arvo Paart and baroque-influenced counterpoint with elements derived from Krautrock, post-rock, glitch electronics and Icelandic folk music.
Jóhann signed to FatCat’s orchestral imprint 130701 in 2010 and his debut release for the label - the beautiful, brass and church organ soundtrack to acclaimed US director Bill Morrison’s found-footage silent documentary ‘The Miners’ Hymns’ - was made available worldwide in May 2011.
Jóhann is founding member of Kitchen Motors - an art organization that curated events, commissioned works and released records and has been an influential part of the art and music scenes in Iceland for the last 10 years. Members of múm, Sigur Ros, Aniima and many others were all affiliated with Kitchen Motors and participated in their projects. Jóhann´s many side projects include the all-analog Apparat Organ Quartet and the electronic “supergroup” Evil Madness.
Jóhann is also an award-winning film composer with many international feature film credits to his name, including The Good Life (Eva Mulvad, DK 2010), Dreams in Copenhagen (Max Kestner, DK 2009), Varmints (Marc Craste UK 2008) and By Day and By Night (MX 2009). He is a prolific collaborator, having worked and performed with artists such as Marc Almond, Barry Adamson, Pan Sonic, The Hafler Trio, Jaki Liebezeit, Laetitia Sadier, David Tibet, Baby Dee, Larsen and many more. Jóhann is also an accomplished composer for contemporary dance and theater. His acclaimed collaborations with the internationally renowned choreographer and dancer Erna Omarsdottir, “IBM 1401, a user’s manual” (2002), and “Mysteries of Love” (2005), have been performed widely across Europe. Jóhann performs regularly throughout Europe and the rest of the world with his 6 piece ensemble, which includes a string quartet, piano, electronics and percussion.