Dummy Magazine

Electro-Pagan Thing

 

Were you to judge a book by its cover, or in this case a record by
its sleeve, you might quickly come to the conclusion that Björk’s
new album, Volta, is her most avant garde and downright bonkers
yet. It features the 41-year-old Icelandic singer sprouting chicken
feet and wearing what appears to be a multicoloured apple.
However, following 2001’s emotionally raw Vespertine and 2003’s
experimental Medúlla, which was composed entirely of vocals,
Volta is her most accessible and upbeat record since 1995’s Post.
It features a feisty collaboration with LFO’s Mark Bell, some
superlative duetting with Antony Hegarty from Antony And The
Johnsons and beats programmed by hip hop/R’n’B superproducer
Timbaland. Volta’s rhythmic tribal sound suggests she’s having
fun once again. She recently reformed the Sugarcubes for a fund
raising show in Iceland. In 1987, the band’s debut single,
Birthday, thrust her into the spotlight exposing the world to a
unique voice.Twenty years later her mercurial talent remains
undimmed. She answered the following questions by e-mail
while on her recent American tour.

What on earth are you supposed to be on the sleeve of Volta ?

“It’s supposed to be a humorous electro-pagan thing. Kinda neonature.
If it stimulates the imagination of people : great. If it doesn’t :
stagnant.”

The album artwork also has photos of you wearing tribal face paint and a crocheted costume. What are you trying to portray ?

“Perhaps a more feminine version of the neo nature thing.”

At which point do you start to think about the artwork and imagery ? Is it always at the end of recording, or do you conjure images and then base a song around them ?

“Sometimes when I write lyrics there are images in them, usually
on a quite simplistic level, like colours. But most often music
comes first and then later I sit down with visual people and we
chat about what we want to do. I don’t look at myself as a visual
artist. I make music.”

For Post you were photographed in a London backstreet with 50 giant postcards being blown about by a wind machine. Now it would all be done on computers. Is something lost when everything becomes computerised ?

“I don’t agree with you on that one.The Volta cover is a sculpture
that took ages to make and I was inside it dancing during the
shoot. There is nothing computer generated on that cover. I did
way more stuff on computers visually ten years ago than now.”

Volta is very rhythmic. Did you start with the beats and then decide on musical content/lyrics ?

“Melodies almost always come first.Then we noodle with the
beats forever. There are exceptions though.”

You said you felt restless on Post.What word sums up the way you feel on Volta ?

“I feel in a lot of ways Volta is Post 2.Very restless and sort of
schizophrenic. Promiscuous in collaborations, but sincere. It’s
consistent in its restlessness.”

You say that first single Earth Intruders is about a tsunami of people fighting for justice in the world. What three things would your earth intruders change first ?

“It came from a sort of a naïve dream. But wouldn’t it be great
to distribute the world’s power equally. No more muzak would
be good as well. Either people play loud music they really love,
or just skip it.”

How do you know Timbaland ? What common ground do you share musically ?

“I don’t really know him. But in the past there has been a long distance
respect kind of thing. First time I met him he came up to me
at a party and said he loved the bassline in Venus As A Boy.Then
he sampled Jóga. I feel we’re both into some prangsta rhythms.”

Will you be asking him for tickets to see Justin Timberlake ?

“No.”

Can you remember the first time you heard Antony And The Johnsons ? Where you were and how did it affect you ?

“I was in my kitchen in New York. Someone brought me his then
unreleased album. I thought it was a black woman.”

Last year, your old band The Sugarcubes reformed for one show. Did it all go smoothly ?

“Yes. It was extremely enjoyable.We wanted to rescue our label
we have run in Iceland for 20 years from bankruptcy, and we
did. Hopefully it will be OK for another 20 years.”

You had a love affair with London around the time of your first two albums. What do you miss most about London ?

“I miss London’s relationship with music. The CD shops, the
DJs, how passionate people there are about it. The paparazzi
there is horrid though – four tabloids compared to Manhattan’s
one. Both are cosmopolitan cities a reasonable distance from
Iceland. I have always spent half of my time there.”

Let’s explode some myths about you. Björk myth one:You attempted to eat your blouse in frustration while filming Dancer In The Dark.

“Wrong.Totally fabricated by the production company of the
film desperate for attention.”

Björk myth two:You once recorded vocals naked in a cave full of bats to get ‘the right vibe’.

“Not naked, but I did climb in a dark cave and sing the vocal
for Cover Me [from Post]. I have to credit Nellee Hooper with
that idea though. He did it as a treat. Put me blindfolded in a
car and when I got to the cave, he had headphones and generators
set up with the song and I sneaked in and sang it in one
take. One of my favourite experiences ever.Yes, there were
bats there.”

Do you ever indulge in lowbrow culture ? Kick back, open a can of lager and watch Grease ?

“Definitely. I don’t like lager though. I prefer cider. Berry cider.
Does that count ?”

Are there any instruments you have yet to use ?

“Tons. My taste is actually quite limited.”

Why do you rarely use guitars ?

“They suck.”

What is your favourite sound ?

“Breath.”

You sifted through 500 of your own concerts in order to pick the four best for 2003’s Björk : The Live Archive.What was that like ?

“Torture. I could only have done it because I was pregnant. My
nesting hormones had kicked in and I was into tidying up and
making space for new stuff.”

Do you think you would ever record an album entirely on your own ?

“I do record 90 percent of my albums on my own. The guests
are really not that time consuming.”

You saw your first tree when you were nine years old. Can you remember how you felt ?

“Well, I have to correct that. It was the first tall tree and the first
forest. It felt a little claustrophobic not be able to see far. In
Iceland you can always see far.”

I went to a warehouse party in London last week and a couple of kids were shouting “raise your flag” from Declare Independence in the queue for the toilets. Have you ever heard your songs crop up in unlikely places ?

“People usually keep that stuff from me. But that warms my heart.”

publié dans Dummy Magazine - 13.06.2007

 

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