We’re all slightly unsure about what Björk will or won’t be doing in the coming months, what we do know, however, is that it will be brilliantly honest.
Björk recently shared a new 2D teaser for a new video for Vulnicura’s ‘Family’ a video that follows the touching album cover. The reemergence of the Icelandic singer/songwriter punk is a joy to see, Björk’s opened the London leg of her ‘Björk Digital’ exhibition in spectacular fashion – as if she didn’t have enough going on already.
Speaking to the brilliant ‘Strombo Show’, Björk spoke intimately in conversation with George Stroumboulopoulos at the Red Bull Music Academy in Montreal, Quebec to celebrate her new virtual reality exhibition, which unveiled Family.
On the episode, the pair shared a conversation where she reveals how her signature singing style was born, some details on her upcoming album, her approach to her DJ sets, performance art, Kate Bush, feminism, childhood success, Sugarcubes, punk music, environmentalism, hope, Iceland, gender rights and what brings her joy:
Björk on learning her signature singing style through necessity…
“Us punks, in those days, we didn’t have much money. I can’t remember how long that we went without a PA. I think it was 4 or 5-months at least. The bass player I worked with, he had a Fender amp and two inputs. The bass would go through one and I’d go through the other. The only way that I could be heard is to do these kind of screechy noises. I mean, they were obviously quite punky. A lot of being this creature.”
On her DJ sets, fear and uncertainty:
“I think the original idea came from us mates DJing together and we would. I had this thing, I wanted to start Djing in the daytime and play really slow, euphoric classical piece and then sit, drink coffee and kind of talk, chat if you’d like to or not and a couple of hours later, you would gradually, BPM would go up and by the time that the sun would go down, you’d get one cocktail.. Then you’d end up on the dance floor with a disco song. The sets, I’ve been doing it like that. The ideal is to do the first hour in the day light, but I was really pleased with the room, the sound was amazing and the people were really into it… The first hour was really slow, swimming at the bottom of the ocean slow. People seemed to be up for it, the journey… I like that feeling of uncertainty, where you think – will I get away with this and stretch into something. When the first beat kicked in, 50-minutes into it, it is like you earned it… I was really feeling, I like this a lot. When you DJ, at least when I do it, you have a lot less inhibition and are a lot more brave in making a sound palate… It’s quite liberating to not have to sing it, just making the environment…
But how has the DJ sets evolved over time?
“I really enjoy it. I’m grateful for people having the headspace to let me do this other thing, I mean – being up for it. I like challenging sets myself… I like it when you have those moments, one minute – fuck, what is this, I’ve never heard this sound ever! You’re just lost in space and then suddenly, you get the opposite – a pop song.”
And the difference between singer vs. DJ?
“It’s different. It’s more difficult obviously than pressing buttons and, no offence to DJs – I’m not much of a scratcher, as well. Full respect to those people. I’m not slacking it for a second. You having to sing a full show is quite a commitment, as a singer. It’s just a different energy…
Björk on jumping from character to character, performing throughout her repertoire
“It’s emotional. I have to kind of tap into that emotion, a little drama here and a bit of ecstacy here. When you DJ, it is different. You can be more deliberate, I want to play that song or I feel happy. It is just simple, you know?
And, of course, the power of performance:
My friend who is a masseuse, people say, like we were looking at some metal bands and thinking, they really need massages. She was saying, actually no – because I massaged a lot of metal people and they are the ones with no hard shoulders or anything because they just let it all out like they don’t need a massage. So it is something about doing these sort of visceral sets that are quite cathartic, liberating as well. It’s just day to day life, sometimes it is tough – existence.”
Björk on Kate Bush, feminism:
It was kind of sexist. People thought that Kate Bush was insane. People were embarrassed about admitting that they actually liked her and I think that is something, actually, one good thing about feminism nowadays is that she is not a threat at all.
how has your music career as a child impacted you?
“Iceland is like a miniature model of the world and when I was a kid, it was 80,000 people. So I think my album sold 5,000 copies, which was a gold. That’s the sort of proportion that we’re talking about… I got offered to do another album, but I was just really stubborn. I was 12-years-old and said I don’t want this. Thank you. I am going to sound like a real ungrateful person here, but I want to hang out with my contemporaries. Kids that are my age. I did that whole album with grownups, they were amazing to me and they taught me everything, the studio and how that works. It was really a precious experience for me. I was just really determined, no I don’t want to do cover versions.. I wrote one song on the album when I was 11. I wanted to be in a group, write songs ourselves and be in that family… I was sheltered too, in a way. I was very shy and introvert.”
Talk more about the punk movement..
“I was lucky in those years because I was the youngest one, almost too young for the punk thing. I was the little shy kid, believe or not. I was the really shy kid, all these older guys that were handing me literature and playing all this music and then I thought it was a really, really, really good environment to learn in. It wasn’t until later that I realized that it wasn’t actually my music. I loved the spirit of it and I think of myself, politically or socially, that I have punk roots. I still stick to the same values, especially when it comes to the environment, record companies, but musically – maybe it was a little too simple for me, I like more complex with chord progressions myself… I was listening to Kate Bush, Brian Eno or more synth stuff…”
On the new record:
“That’s kind of what is exciting. The older that I get, it becomes more natural to do the whole picture – it is not just one thing or two or three things, it is the whole picture that has to be right. The visuals, the whole sound world that you are making. It might be a little too early to talk about it now openly, because sometimes when you do that, it jinxes it and you go back to the studio and cannot do it because you already described it or put a curse on it by describing it before it exists… What I said before, I’m very interested in utopias. Right now, the difference between the dream and reality and there should be a difference, but the dream has the right to exist and it is not escapist.”
“I think that I’ve come from this place that it is very natural for women to be as strong as guys. Pretty matriarch as it goes. I don’t remember ever thinking that as a kid or a teenager – Iceland is unusual, no. I just thought the whole world was like that. I thought that was a bit of shock when I would go abroad and hit those walls and meet photographers, directors and get – Oh, no… It’s not one thing, particular, but very curious world where women are more sort of objects. I think that women that go to the bars in Iceland are quite shocked because Icelandic women are just as promiscuous as the guys and they make all the moves just as much and are quite open about it and a lot of guys when they go to Iceland, they blush because they’re used to making the moves… I don’t think that Icelandic women are not used to being treated like they’re just pretty objects to be owned or something. Feels a bit boring.
“My friends, family, good music and outdoors, I think. I like being outdoors. Nature in Iceland is brutal, nothing romantic about it. Definitely not acoustic guitar and a blouse in the bush, it is not butterflies and rainbows – we’re talking volcanos, eruptions.”
Björk on what her music would sound like if she was not from Iceland
“I haven’t thought a lot about that. I would probably prefer to be from, if I had to not be from Iceland, to be from places like the Amazon or Japan or some island south of Japan… San Diego? I’m not sure how urban I am actually. I like cities, but I’m not sure that I’d want to live there full time. I’m probably quite rural.”
Interviews, intimate sessions and out-of-its-mind full blown house concerts. The Strombo Show reflects the beautiful and the badass of Canada’s diverse cultural landscape. There are no boundaries, with the gamut running from Aretha Franklin to Slayer and everything in between.