The Daily Telegraph (UK)

‘I’m glad you think of me as a nutter’

Björk is known for her eccentric behaviour—but, these days, she’d rather be doing the housework, she tells Bryony
Gordon

I am always slightly cynical when I hear that a Hollywood actor
has chosen to conduct their latest press interview in a run-down
cafe in an unglamorous suburb of LA or New York.

I assume it is a public relations ploy to suggest that the star is
terribly down-to-earth, when, in fact, he or she will probably
head back to their plush Bel-Air pad as soon as the interview is
over. So I am slightly wary when I am told that Björk wants to
meet me in a fisherman’s cafe-cum-log cabin in Reykjavík.

I am soon humbled, however, because, after just a few minutes in her company, it becomes clear that she
is genuinely and disconcertingly down-to-earth. I’d even go as far as to say that she is quite normal.

This is no small surprise. Björk is, after all, the woman who turned up at the 2001 Oscars dressed as a
swan ; who once physically attacked a journalist at Bangkok airport, and who proclaimed she was a “grateful
grapefruit” in her acceptance speech for a Brit award in 1998.

“She’s completely insane,” one of my friends, who has met her, tells me before I interview her. Wacky,
loopy, mad—these are just a few of the words that have been used to describe the 36-year-old Icelandic
singer.

“People think that I’m some sort of strange Teletubby,” she says, quietly. It is easy to see why : she just
looks so unlike anyone else. When we meet, she is wearing a peculiar white tunic dress, dotted, rather
endearingly, with food and ink, and a pair of red pumps adorned with huge black pompoms.

Yet, Björk is as quiet as her clothes are loud, and she has a perfectly good reason for her choice of outfit :
she is seven months pregnant with her second child. The dress, she says, is “just comfortable”. She would
rather not be wearing the shoes, but, when she became pregnant, she had to stop wearing high heels and
go back to flats. “I was all off balance,” she giggles.

Björk Gudmundsdóttir was born in 1965, and grew up in what has been described as a hippy commune,
just outside Reykjavík. “My upbringing has been exaggerated in the press over the years,” she says.

“There were lots of adults and they all had normal jobs, but they just happened to have long hair and
believed in a certain ideology. I mean, it was a block of flats, not some strange place where we reared
cattle and grew our own food.”

She began her musical career at the age of 11, when she released an album of Icelandic folk songs, before
going on to form a series of short-lived punk bands in her teens.

In 1986, she joined the Sugarcubes, the band that would launch her career internationally and bring her
a husband, guitarist Thór Eldon, with whom she had a son, Sindri, who is now 16. After three albums, the
group disbanded and her marriage collapsed.

But, when she moved to Britain, her career soared. Debut, her first solo album, released in 1993, sold four
million copies ; the follow-ups, Post, Homogenic and Vespertine, cemented her reputation as a commercial
and critical success.

Two years ago, she won the Palme d’Or at Cannes for her role as a mother fighting to save her son from a
hereditary disease in Lars von Trier’s film Dancer in the Dark. The perception of her as a troubled personality
was boosted by reports that she had a breakdown during filming.

But, while Björk may be unique, she isn’t mad ; she just isn’t interested in being a celebrity. Her commitment
is to the music, and only the music. During our interview, I lose count of the number of times she tells me :
“It’s all about the songs.”

“My aim has never been world domination or to be the most famous person on earth. I just have a hunger
to make music,” she says.

“I think I have a choice : whether I want to be part of fame or not, and I have chosen not to be.” She admits,
however, that she chose to be part of it in the past, when she was dating fellow musicians such as Goldie
and Tricky.

“Five years ago, I was getting all of these invites to parties and I thought, ‘Wow !’. But it is actually hard
work ; I think being famous is a job in itself. So, I had to ask myself, why did I get into this in the first place ?

“Was it for the music or for the attention ? It’s fine if people do it for the attention, but I had to choose
music, and now I have much more space to create and to be as idiosyncratic as I want to be.”

She does, however, concede that the continuing interest in her life is “quite flattering”.

“I like the fact that I have this other me out there, this mythological creature, and I like that, in England,
you think of me as a nutter. I have this theory that it’s all to do with colonialism and that, because I’m
from Iceland, I’m seen as being quite weird and exotic. But I don’t mind it, because I know who I am, even
if other people don’t.”

These days, Björk is an intensely private person, partly because of her experiences of the darker side of
being a celebrity. “I didn’t realise that I could opt out of the fame thing until it was too late,” she says,
possibly referring to the episode in 1996 when Ricardo Lopez, a fan from Florida, took drastic action after
reading a newspaper rumour that she was to marry Goldie.

Lopez sent a letter bomb to Björk and then shot himself in the head ; he died from his injuries. The bomb,
luckily, was intercepted.

Björk now divides her time between Reykjavík and New York, but won’t reveal what part of Manhattan
she lives in because “I still get crazy fans, you know ?”

She is wary of her more ordinary fans, too. As we talk, an American woman approaches us in the cafe,
asking to take a photograph. Björk refuses, politely.

“It’s nothing personal,” she says, “it’s just that this is my home.” Later, when Björk notices that the woman
is still standing outside the cafe, she asks if we can move to a less visible table.

“I find the idea of autographs and paparazzi a bit silly,” she admits, in her strange accent, which is stuck
somewhere between east London and the Arctic Circle.

“In Iceland, people don’t really care about fame. Reykjavík is such a small town ; there’s no mystery. You
are who you are ; you’re just a normal sod like everyone else.”

She will reveal little about her unborn child and its father, the American artist Matthew Barney, except to
say that she is currently thinking of names, but doesn’t know the baby’s sex. “I’m less and less willing to
talk about these things,” she says, gazing out of the window and humming to herself.

“The moment you talk about something, it’s out there ; it isn’t yours anymore. I think that, when I first
started, I was this blue-eyed girl who gave too much away.

“You know when you’re on an aeroplane, and they tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself before
your child ? Well, I never understood that before, but now I do.

“The thing is, if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t look after the child. And I think that’s a metaphor
for why I don’t want to talk about my private life ; I have to keep the oxygen mask on to protect others.”

Her protective, private streak was in evidence last week, when her flat in London was burgled while she
slept upstairs. The thieves are believed to have stolen valuable recording equipment, but, when confronted
by reporters afterwards, Björk would say only : “I wish everyone would leave me alone.”

The one thing she is more than happy to talk about is her music. She says she has been very lucky, because
she is signed to a small label, One Little Indian, that has given her full creative control. “I like to protect
my music, like a mother would protect her child.

“Nobody can tell me they want to change a song to make it more radio-friendly. I’ve never had to go to a
record company meeting to convince them that my single should be four minutes and 23 seconds long.”

Björk will shortly release a “greatest hits” album, made up of songs chosen by her fans, as well as a four-
CD box-set, Family Tree, tracing her 25-year career. “I’ve definitely had a craving to release something that
shows how I have got to where I am now,” she says.

“The Family Tree set is like a map of my career so far. It’s been a good education, because I can look back
and see what I have covered and what I haven’t. I feel like I’m spring-cleaning ; like I’m starting all over
again.”

Spring-cleaning is something Björk talks about a lot, and not just metaphorically. She has a passion for
housework. “I was a housewife when I was 16, so I am a bit of a homemaker. I’d like to think that, when I
am very old, I will have a lovely garden and tend to it every day.

“My mother was always very anti doing the housework, but I’m from the school of doing what you enjoy.
I love knitting and sewing, and I cook and clean and everything ; I really do enjoy it.”

I take it all back ; perhaps she’s not quite normal, after all.

Bryony Gordon

publié dans The Daily Telegraph (UK) - 09.09.2002

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