Q. I once heard you described by the designer Peter Saville as ’the alternative Madonna’. For me, you represent a genuine alternative to other ostensible ’post-feminist icons’ by demonstrating that women creatives can be successful by being genuinely innovative rather than packaging themselves in terms of conventional modes of sexualisation. Is your power as a gender role model important to you ? - Asked By Penny Martin, Editor In Chief, Showstudio, London
Maybe I’ve always felt defensive when I’ve been compared with Madonna. It’s probably because of my roots as a punk in Iceland and me and my mates being very certain that we were going to do it the opposite way as the calculatede marketing, ambitious, power-hungry Eighties way. So when I’m compared to her, I feel a little bit sad that maybe I didn’t stick to my ideals, but it’s healthy for me because it means that I have to check myself again and see if there is a grain left of that punk idealism or if it’s all gone down the drain. I think for someone like me, it’s hard to see what i do from the outside : why are you doing it ? But when people tell me that I inspire women to do what they want, I feel very flattered and think I must be doing something right. That must be one of the best compliments that you can get.
Q. Dear Kroejb, are you aware of the fact that you have this strange ability to mirror and project yourself through other people’s eyes and brains circonvolutions ? In this sense, do you know that you are one of today’s greatest ’signmakers’, by producing, through those other people’s eyes and brains, living and mutating ideograms of yourself ? - Asked By Mathias & Michael, M/M, Paris
I think my answer to this one is that I work very differently, visually, than musically. Musically, which obviously is my life, my work, since I don’t consider myself a visual artist, but I’ve been very lucky to always have had a few people who are visual artists, who are interested enough to collaborate with me. Maybe that explains the question. When I work with visual artists, I’m more giving them clues of what I’m going through musically, emotionally and sonically at any given moment. They each in their own way will then interpret that into a visual image. I do have very different relationships with different visual artists that ranges all the way from me providing all the visual ideas to simply just being a muse.
Q. Clearly imagery plays a huge part in interpreting each music project you release for the audience. How do you select the photographers that you collaborate with, and do you ever get behind the camera yourself ? - Asked By Gavin, London / Kristian Skylstad, Oslo / Joe Krebs & Robert Greene, New York
I think me picking is very intuitive and I usually don’t find out why until much later. But it’s all different things : some visual artists I work with like Nick, for example, I have an ongoing relationship with that grows like a plant and it sort of goes where it wants to. Sometimes, I will have a very definite musical idea and I will have to go out and search for the specific visual artist that could cover something like that.
Q. You are known for having a broad range of musical interests what are the characteristics and virtues you most cherish in the mind of the composers and creators of these various musical styles ? - Asked By Alex Poots, London
I guess my angle on this one is that when I started to make music, I found it sad when people were too stuck in a genre, where I think a human living in our time and age, who wants to be truthful, can’t possibly be just one style. I guess I look at styles as more as an outfit that you put on, so you can, you know, wear a bikini or a builder’s overall and you’re still the same person. I guess in that sense, I’m quite an old-school romantic that thinks the heart and emotion of the music is what matters and that is what I listen out for, not the style. The characteristics and virtues I most cherish are when a music-maker can express an all-round character with integrity, a complete universe that thrives on its own. When it elevates above all styles.
Q. Why do you make music ? - Asked By Gudjon, Iceland
That’s such a big question. I guess I just have to say that if I don’t, I don’t function. So, in a way, it’s an urge I was born with. All the attention and everything came from outside. I would be making music if I wouldn’t have all that anyway. It’s hard to explain, but if for some reason, I haven’t written for a while, because of circumstances, I kind of build up. The pressure builds up and I get...it’s like sleep or hunger or something. It’s one of the basic functions in me.
Q. Why don’t you rock ? - Asked By Frankie Poullain, Bass Player, The Darkness, United Kingdom
I guess I was brought up with rock 24 hours in my house. My stepfather is a rock guitarist. By the time I left home, around 14, 15 or something, I sort of felt that I should come up with something else. Enough is enough ! I love extreme rock, though. I love death metal and Jimi Hendrix, early Queen : anything that goes all the way. I guess the more bland, passive rock that stands for stagnation like Oasis and a lot of the Indie Rock stuff drives me nuts.
Q. What music are you currently listening to, and how do you find out about new music ? - Asked By Stephanie Rogers, Florida / Gabriele, Bologna / Sebastien, Paris / Josh Guisinger, Denver / Ben, Indiana / Kyle Vait, Detroit / Zanie Brunei, Dubai / Mathias & Michael (M/M), Paris
OK. This Summer I was lucky enough to have play with me on the tour two of my favourites at the moment : Peaches and Will Oldham. Which is actually what i was listening to anyway. And then, as usual, a lot of rare, eccentric stuff that I seem to thrive on while I’m searching for a sound for my next album. I try to play that stuff to my friends and they just think it’s horrible, so it’s probably me just feeding myself with abstract noises. I guess I find out about it from all the people I hang out with. Through the years, i probably have 1-2 record stores in every town or city with nerdy shop-attendants that tell me ab out stuff.
Q. What are the three most memorable sounds or sonic situations you’ve heard ? - Asked By Olivier Alary, London
That’s a fun question. I have to say the ships in the harbour in Reykjavik. I saw Ella Fitzgerald live when I was fifteen. Maybe I’ll have to say that in the 80s when all the car alarms started and they were a bit chaotic in the first few years and then hearing Public Enemy managing to make a song out of it was a revelation.
Q. Where do you find your lyrics ? - Asked By John Wolfington, Los Angeles
Lyrics are tough for me. It’s sort of the opposite to making music. I write most of my songs in one or five minutes. They’re just like a spontaneous flow. They lyrics are like the opposite. I’ve said this before, but I think of them as signposts, explaining the music to people. Sort of like David Attenborough telling you about the animals.
Q. You have had a huge number of questions asking if you are planning to tour, specifically from locations including Brazil, Mexico, Columbia, Argentina, Bulgaria, Australia, USA, South Africa, Chile and Japan. How do you choose your tour destinations ? - Asked By Albert Suazo, California / Lucila Esquerra, Mexico / Doris Bartels, Cape Town / Jose Luis Garcia, Brazil / Renato Ignacio, Venezuela / Juan Manuel Sanchez Orozco, Brazil / Jean-Pierre Van Jaarsveld, The Netherlands / Bube, Toronto / Chihiro, Tokyo / Smadar Regev Agmon, Israel / Zhang Fan, China / Brett, Australia / Juliana, Brazil
Because my tours have been quite expensive, the Vespertine tour for example, often with more people on stage than in the room, I will allow the people who organise paying my bills to pick the locations. Sort of thinking, you can’t have it all. As much as I’d like to tour Madagascar, Lapland, Hawaii and the world’s most exciting places, I have to pick between musical aesthetics and location. Sorry guys but music comes first for me ! And also, writing my next album. I learned from touring with The Sugarcubes that if you tour an album too long, it’s hard to get back into the studio. It’s important to go back into the studio when your ideas are developing. If you wait and do all the world’s continents you will only give birth to still-borns.
Q. I have always loved and admired your creativity. Nature’s struggle to survive alongside mankind has been an inspiration for me : given the natural beauty of your Icelandic homeland, how does nature inspire your work ? - Asked By Michael Jackson, California
I hope this doesn’t sound too naff, but being alone in nature, especially after walking for hours, just puts you in your place and you realise how small you are and how plenty of everything is all around you. Then you just let go and surrender, become part of it. I’m so chuffed you asked me a question ! I have to say you’re the best, keep fighting and it angers me how cruel everybody is to you. It’s like in the US right now, it’s illegal to be an eccentric. Maybe people would have been more understanding if you were a contemporary of Ludwig II of Bavaria, who comissioned Wagner and lived with the swans. I listen to Butterflies off your last album all the time. You are a true artist ! Thanks for fighting and believing in magic even though the rest of the world have forgotten about it.
Q. Do you ever experience feelings of alienation ? How do you deal with them ? - Asked By Stine Cirkeline Fogh, Copenhagen
I do, but I don’t mind it. Since I was a kid, I’ve quite liked being on my own and I don’t experience it as loneliness. I experience it more like that when all the people are gone, the universe finds space to harmonise all around you. So, I quite enjoy it. I remember quite a few occasions of my friends describing painful alienating experiences and they always make me feel quite curious because I’ve never felt that.
Q. If you could switch your life with any other person, who would you choose ? - Asked By Oscar Arzamendi, Mexico City / Alba Solaro, Italy / Alexandre De Bellefeuille, Montreal
I don’t really have those feelings. I remember as a child, wanting to be the ocean. Does that count ?
Q. Is enjoyment important ? How about novelty ? Is progress always a good thing ? - Asked By Simon Foxton, London
I personally think that enjoyment is absolutely essential. I never believed in this S&M, no pain no gain, monk-like, self-denial discipline. I think life is too precious to waste it on such self-punishing, negative stuff. I’m not saying that I have a laugh all the time, but I do try enjoying my work and believe that it should be the target, even though you don’t gain that all the time. As a singer, I have my voice as probably the most ancient musical instrument there is. It is the most traditional thing about me that I was born with, like it or not. Working with my voice becomes therefore, most of the time, quite traditional, conservative part of my work. Therefore, I tend to get a bit wild on the other stuff ! I’m probably overall more conservative than people think. I’m an ancient European eccentric.
Q. When I meet you, you have the complexity, depth and raw sexuality of a woman but a lot of your imagery is from a child’s world. Is this a conscious decision to separate the two worlds and if so is it a positive choice, or indeed do we never really become adults ? - Asked By Nick Knight, London
That’s an interesting question. I think when I was about five, my relatives would tease me and tell me I was an old lady. Apparently, I’m supposed to have brought up my mum. So, I guess I’m quite confused when it comes to how old I am. Yeah, I’ve always been quite old and silly at the same time. This is probably not my thing to judge. It’s hard for me to see it from the outside. But, I’m probably more mature sonically than visually. That’s probably why I am attracted to quite mature, visual people. But thanks Nick ! You’ve given me some food for thought there. These are speculations, but maybe part of it is coming from Iceland, where there is no tradition of ladies in fishnets (it’s probably too cold !) but a lot of strong women poets, intellectuals, authors. I think it’s the highest rate of women in politics in Iceland. Maybe we don’t share the physical, sexual flamboyance of say the French. It’s more for the imagination.
Q. Has your son shown interest in a career in music ? How has having children influenced your style of music ? - Asked By Fiona Wylie, Leeds / Fabien, Germany / Andy K, Minneapolis
My son is in two bands right now. He’s too young to have to commit to anything. Because I’ve had kids since I was twenty, I can’t remember anything else. It’s very natural for me to do what I do and have a child next to me.
Q. You are as well known for your sense of style, frequently changing your look entirely, and wear great designers like As Four, Jeremy Scott, Hussein Chalayan, Marjan Pejowski and Alexander McQueen. How indicative is your image to the tenor of your work ? - Asked By Chendler Manuel, Italy / Paul Brown, Arizona / Manuel, Italy / Guillame, Toulouse / Jun Kit, Kuala Lumpur / Flora Mclean, Hammersmith
I try not to think too much about it. I don’t think these things should be that calculated. I think I’m more driven by enthusiasm and excitement by these people above’s work and like a child, wanting to come out and play and see what happens. I think eventually, what you are at any given time will come out if you like it or not.
Q. Do you work with a stylist ? - Asked By Kyle, Usa / Jun Kit, Kuala Lumpur / Manuel, Italy / Amboy, Chicago / Natalie, Miami
Overall, no. There are exceptions. If what we’re doing requires it.
Q. If you were to curate an exhibition at a museum or gallery, what or who would be it’s focus ? - Asked By Rebecca Ward, Showstudio, London
I think first I would focus on the building. What it needs. That would have to be the starting point. I have to say, though, I’m such a sonic person that the majority of stuff I’ve liked in museums or galleries have been audio pieces. I’m pathetic ! Predictable !
Q. My manager Terry recalls having a conversation with you backstage at an awards ceremony and you were both discussing the merits and difficulties of buying a private island. Do you still harbour the desire to find such a retreat and what were/are your reasons for wishing to do so ? Is it to escape the oppressive feeling that public and media attention can bring or do you think you would still have thought about this even if you were not known. - Asked By Kylie Minogue, London
I think I have romanticised about this since I was a little kid. I almost bought one at one point but when it became public, I retreated so it must be connected with an escape. I have to say though, that when I’m making a lot of music, and singing a lot, I don’t think as much about islands. So, it started me thinking that maybe I don’t need one literally, it’s more of a state of mind. I still dream about getting one, though. Maybe when I get old, with a pipe organ and a lighthouse and a lot of birds.
Q. You have been quoted as disliking hearing the words ’I love you’ from fans. How do you maintain a manageable relationship with your audience when their attitude towards you is sometimes uncomfortable ? - Asked By Katrin, Vienna / Caffall, Houston / Whitney Maurice, Toronto / Ukasz Drobnik, Poland / Jose Luis Garcia, Venezuela
I hang out mostly with my friends. Maybe because I know my job so well and I know where i can be generous and where I’m not, I’m very aware that the most generous thing I can do to a stranger is putting a song on a CD. I have a lot of people that I adore whose music, books, films and so on have saved my life on several occasions. But I am also very aware that their generosity that I enjoyed happened because they got some space to work in peace. Their work then managed to get from point a to b - well, to me, somehow- and I then, being generous with my time enough, by sitting down and either listening, watching or reading with devotion, created a shared experience. That shared experience would not happen if me would then meet that person in the street. That’s something else and it’s important that those two things are not confused.
Q. You’ve said in an interview that every album has small characters who write each song. Can you tell us something about your forthcoming album, ’Lake Experience’, and what characters inform it ? - Asked By Nico, France / Espen Paulsen, Norway / Laura & Humphrey, London / Erika, Brazil / Sergio Calderon, Spain / Christina, Germany / Frank, Phoenix / Nick Tsirimokos, London
Right now, it’s too early to talk about my next album. It’s funny it’s being called ’Lake Experience’, which I think was a joke from my friend, teasing me that I was going to make a prog-rock album. I think all of us have a lot of little characters who we would like to react "correctly" in every situation we end up in. These little pranksters, in my case, write my songs.
Q. Could you ever return to the low-fi production values of your early days (working at home with a keyboard, or recording straight into a cassette recorder) or could you never go ’back’ in that sense. - Asked By Jose Luis Neves, Eric Scott, Day For Night, Lisbon
That’s how I work now. I like writing in a lo-fi situation, with no pressure. Then, if I can afford it, go into a good studio for mixing only. I look at those fancy studios as a reward for long, good work. Also, the mixing process, I’m more of a back-seat driver, where I’m not actually doing the work. So the pressure’s off me. I find it very hard to come up with something creative in a fancy, expensive place.
Q. Do you anticipate writing an autobiography at some point in your life ? - Asked By Joseph A. Haran, Jr., Oregon
I’ve sometimes thought about myself, jokingly, with biscuits and sherry and a rocking chair, about 900 years old, reminiscing. But definitely not soon. I think doing it young is an offence to life and the rest of the time you’ve been given, sort of saying that it’s over or something.
Q. Describe the sounds that are in your head right now OR How did you get soapy liquid on your mobile phone and do you feel freer or more isolated without one ? - Asked By Jefferson Hack, London
I think I must have scored a lot of world records, high-scorer of Guinness Book of Records in losing or destroying mobile phones. I definitely feel freer without one. The sounds in my head right now ? Strong wind noises or maybe I just have to go to the bathroom...
Q. How does it feel to watch yourself die in ’Dancer in the Dark’ ? Are you afraid of death ? - Asked By Lou, London / Gabriel, Kidderminster / Domonic, Madrid / Miguel Mtnez, Bologna
I haven’t really watched it yet. When I saw it, all I was thinking about was how to deal with the 5.1, how the mix of the audio was spreading through the speakers in the cinema. I’m not afraid of death, I’m actually quite curious about how it’s going to feel. I have to confess, I’m occasionally afraid of fatigue, because then I lose my voice.
Q. I am very interested in the creativity of your video output over the years. Is there any video of yours that you felt could not reach the message of your song ? - Asked By Marisela Bartisolante, Paris / Marc, France / David Solis, San Antonio / Ahmad Saqfalhait, Jordan / Christopher Chan, Hong Kong
I think everything I work on I walk away from it thinking ’there’s stuff that could have been done better’. But, that’s positive. It’s good to use that as fuel for the things that you do next. Overall, I’m happy with what I’ve done. I think we all gave it the best we could. You can’t ask more than that.
Q. What sorts of things do you do to get motivated if you’re experiencing a creative block ? - Asked By Jeffery Jones, New York / Nathan Lagacy, Chicago
I think I more just overdose on people and I have to quite regularly go alone on long walks in nature, where there is room for me.
Q. Where is your favourite place to write songs ? - Asked By Nicole Balga, Germany / Matt Laker, Manhattan
Nature, preferably the ocean.
Q. Who do you turn to for personal advice ? - Asked By Jared, Houston
I guess i’m spoilt with friends. I have a lot of friends I’ve had since I was a kid.
Q. Do you consider yourself politically active ? - Asked By Antoine, France
In a more abstract sense, yes. I think expressing yourself without limitation is pretty political.
Q. Which contemporary visual artists inspire you ? - Asked By Antonio, Rome
I think of loads of people, but not one in particular.
Q. Do you draw on dreams in your work ? - Asked By Nichola O’ Hara, Vivian Rosenthal, New York City
I’ve found it the easy way out and escapist. I’ve hoped that my work would be a place where the conscious and subconscious would meet and work together. It seems overall, it’s easy to live in one world or the other, but to combine them and create a flow is the real challenge.
Q. You are one of the most successful and influential artists in the world. What advice do you give to young artists who want to make the best work possible ? - Asked By Kay, New York City
Just stick to it. Defend your universe. Don’t compromise.