In 2000 Ragnar and Hörður Stefánsson started a band (originally called Halim but later changing the name to Sign). They recruited Ragnar’s brother Egill on drums and the main purpose of the band was to bring quality rock music to the withered rock scene of Iceland at the time.
Zolberg spent most of his teenage years in his basement recording songs on an 8-track.
“My parents gave me an 8-track reocrder for my affirmation present, I really didn’t like church but I did it for the same reason as most do, money and presents. I hated being in school so everyday after school I’d go down to my tiny basement, turn on my red lightbulb and just get my aggressions out. I usually wrote and recorded one or two songs everyday and therefor totally missed out on social life except on the weekends, then I’d throw the best parties down there, sometimes squeezing up to 30 kids in.”
This intense music making, however, resulted in more than efficient material for the band to work on.
2001 saw Sign releasing their first album “Vindar og Breytingar” a compilation of songs about the misery that often comes with being a teenager mixing nu-metal with classic rock.
Sign’s debut gained them a loyal fan base of teenagers such as them selves and the song “Cassandra” hit the top charts of Icelandic rock radio. The follow up “Fyrir Ofan Himininn” came out a year later and Sign were already playing all the major schools, clubs and events around Reykjavik.
At 17 Ragnar and his mom got called in for a meeting with the high school principal, “The purpose of the meeting was to kick me out of the school in the nicest way possible, so the headmaster insisted that I’d leave and focus on my music instead. And so I did with a big smile on my face” Zolberg states.
Zolberg’s and Egill’s father had suffered from ALS since the year Ragnar was born and he passed away in 2004.
“I guess I was as well prepared for it as one can be, he passed away at home in his bed right in front of us and it was a beautiful tragedy in a weird way. My lyrics became dark as hell of course but it also gave me an extra boost to get out there and make my life worth living, so when my day comes I’ll have no regrets.”
In 2005 Zolberg began writing in English and Sign released the album “Thank God For Silence”, it was also the first time they’d work with outside producers.
New Yorkers Mark Plati (bassist of David Bowie band) and guitar legend Earl Slick (John Lennon, David Bowie) came to Iceland and worked on three tracks on the album giving Sign a more broad and consistent sound.
“Anyone in Iceland can get all the media attention they want because of its incredibly low capacity so we weren’t satisfied with being just one of the big bands around, so we decided to give England a go.”
Sign recruited the band, now with Ragnar’s childhood friend Arnar on guitar and Silli (Dimma) on bass they played their first UK gig at Barfly, Camden. Shortly after that Sign got introduced as new-comers in Kerrang! magazine with a picture sporting a topless Zolberg with his trademark bleeding-eye make up and Arnar’s t-shirt saying “I fucked your boyfriend” which immediately caught the readers attention.
Sign had a good success with only a few UK gigs under their belt and between 2005-2007 they toured the UK and parts of the continent with The Answer, Wednesday 13 and The Wildhearts. Sign gained a reputation as a thrilling live-performance act and often got better reviews in the media than the head-lining bands.
“We had absolutely nothing to loose so we gave it our all, being 18 and touring with these great bands was exactly what I’d been waiting for since I was 4 years old”
Rock critics praised the band as the “next big thing from Scandinavia” and Sign were asked to join Kerrang! for it’s tribute compilation albums “Higher Voltage” and “Maid in Heaven”.
After covering “Youth Gone Wild” in 2008 for the “Kerrang! – Higher Voltage” album, Sign got in as the main support act for Skid Row, which had been Ragnar’s favorite band for years.
The ladder album, a tribute to Iron Maiden consisted of some of the worlds biggest rock acts such as: Metallica, Machine Head, Avenged Sevenfold.
For which Sign got their first gold record presented to them at the 2009 kerrang! awards.
“I had the idea of doing something really foreseen like “Run to the Hills” but fuck it up big time, so I sort of re-wrote parts of it and skipped the intro that everybody loves. We got a lot of hate mail and death-threats from die hard Maiden fans who saw this as blasphemy…..but hey, Corey Taylor of Slipknot told me in person that he thought it was really cool so just for that alone, I’m very proud f it” said Ragnar on the subject.
That same year Sign played at the main stage of Download festival right after KISS, another dream realization for him. Sign’s loyal fan-base entitled “The Sign Army” marched the fields in their uniform and were hard not to notice in the Download crowd.
In 2009 after finishing a 5 week long tour with Aiden and Slaves to Gravity Ragnar had a dispute with the management about a record contract they were offered, one that resulted with Egill leaving the band and Sign splitting with the management. Zolberg moved to the woods in Sweden putting his bands status on hiatus.
In 2013 Ragnar and Arnar Grétarsson entered Dugout studio with the producer Daniel Bergstrand and drummer Leo Margarit (Pain of Salvation) to record their first album since 2007’s The Hope. The album “Hermd” was released in Iceland in december 2013, this is their heaviest album to date with a very dark atmosphere. The name Hermd is old Icelandic meaning anger.
Ragnar Zolberg – guitar, lead vocals
Arnar Grétarsson – guitar
Hálfdán Árnason – bass, vocals
Ragnar Ólafsson – keyboard, vocals
Leo Margarit – drums
Agnar Friðbertsson – keyboards, guitar, vocals
Heimir Hjartarson – bass, vocals