Chicago Sun Times

The Do-It-All Icelander

Björk Expands Musical Menu

In her 30 years, Björk Guðmundsdóttir has composed electronic film scores, played clarinet in a jazz band, produced a heavy-metal band, played drums in a punk band and performed baroque music on flute.

“I’ve tried everything, to be honest,” Björk says. “I’m not saying I was brilliant at it all. I’m not bragging about it. I’m just saying I have to taste everything. I’ve got this in my character that I’m really easily bored and I have to try it all before I die.”

Björk became famous as the singer for Iceland’s first (and only) successful rock band, the Sugarcubes. But that was never her only interest, and now that she’s working as a solo artist, her wild eclecticism shines through.

“When we’re talking now, we haven’t got a clue of what we’re going to feel like at 8 tonight,” Björk says. “That’s a reason why all the songs are so diverse, because we are all in different moods all of the time.”

“The album is sort of a challenge, like OK, life, you can throw whatever you want at me—an earthquake, a devaluation of all currencies, or maybe I’ll fall in love—and I don’t have to know what happens next. I’m just going to enjoy it to the max and go with the flow.”

On her second solo album, “Post,” Björk follows the flow from twisted alternative rock (“Army of Me”) to relatively straight forward techno (“The Modern Things”) to “Blow a Fuse (It’s Oh So Quiet),” a World War II-era big-band number originally recorded by film star Betty Hutton.

“Five or six years ago, I was part of a group called the Jazz Legends of Iceland,” Björk says. “We toured and played little villages that 200 people lived in, from 2 years old to 80 years old, and that was probably the most critical period in my life.”

“My own songs tend to be quiet and introverted, and sometimes when I pick songs that other people write, I tend to go for the opposite. “Blow a Fuse” is brilliant. I can scream and shout and it suited me perfectly because it balanced everything.”

Another standout on the album is “Possibly Maybe,” a No. 2 single in England that made headlines as part of a sampling controversy. The song includes a snippet of telephone noise sampled from a record by Scanner, an English group that specializes in lifting cellular telephone calls (many of them risque) from the airwaves.

Björk says she contacted the group and it was happy to let her sample its work. She intended the song as a tribute, and she paid the group 1,000 British pounds. Then Scanner signed with a publishing company, held a news conference and announced plans to sue the singer for 200, 000 pounds. The case has since been settled.

“Their philosophy was that all the noises in the world are for everyone, and I really admired that,” Björk says. “Then they basically lied and said that I had never contacted anyone and I was this big star who was trying to step on the little guy.”

Björk doesn’t seem bitter about the controversy—that’s clearly not her style—and she doesn’t foresee changing the way she works. Her scattershot approach to music and life is ingrained.

“I was in music school from the ages of 5 to 15, and I studied everybody from Beethoven to Stockhausen,” she says. “My grandparents listened to jazz, and my parents listened to Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and all that. There is no such thing as Icelandic music ; there are no roots.

“We’re back to Scanner territory here,” she says, laughing. “But I really do believe that everything belongs to everyone.”

Jim DeRogatis

publié dans Chicago Sun Times - 04.08.1995

 

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