When Sign’s front man Ragnar Zolberg was 6 years old he walked into a Guitar school in Iceland with a guitar case in his hand, dragging it on the floor because of his short height, dressed in ripped jeans and a leather jacket he asked for guitar lessons, something that would play a huge roll in his life.
But the real Sign story begins in Iceland, 1998 when then the 11 year-old Ragnar Zolberg released his first solo album, a collection of original pop/rock songs recorded and released by Zolberg’s father Rafn Jonson via his indie record label.
Two years later a band was formed by Ragnar and Hörður Stefánsson featuring Ragnar’s brother Egill on drums, the main purpose of the band being 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. 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.”
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 harmony guitars in the style of Megadeth or Iron Maiden.
Sign’s debut gained them a loyal fan base of teenagers such as them selves battling with the teen angst 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 usually 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 discs “Higher Voltage” and “Maid in Heaven”.
After covering “Youth Gone Wild” in 2008 for the “Higher Voltage” Kerrang 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 to name a few….and Sign.
For which they 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 I’m still proud as fuck” 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 which resulted with Egill leaving the band and Sign leaving the management. Zolberg moved to the woods in Sweden putting his bands status on hiatus.
In 2011, Ragnar’s wife and part-time manager got him an audition for the Swedish band Pain of Salvation which he has been working with as a touring member for the past year, following up on the Rod Salt pt.2 album.
Ragnar started working in Germany through his publishing company and got asked to perform in a Vodafone tv commercial doing a cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes” which was broadcasted heavily in 2009 and led to a collaboration with producers “The Resetti Brothers” with whom Ragnar Zolberg has been working with for the past couple of years developing the Sign sound even further. A new Sign album is scheduled for a late 2012 or an early 2013 release.