That wonderfully expressive Icelandic singer known as Björk—pronounced Byerk—has been through a mighty rough personal patch in the last year. First she attacked a Bangkok TV reporter who approached her and her nine-year-old son, Sindri, in the Thailand airport.
And then police intercepted an acid bomb sent to Björk’s London home after the Florida fan who made it had videotaped himself constructing the device before commiting suicide to the strains of Björk’s song I Miss You.
But the pixie-like pop star, eating from a plate of fruit at the Four Seasons Hotel, is tougher than her elfin face and small frame would suggest.
“I wasn’t afraid,” says Björk. “I can deal with the ugly sides of my job because I get all the good sides of it, which are quite a few. So I’m ready to take the downside of my job but when it spreads out over the people I love, I think it’s very unfair, and then I get very protective and that’s what happened very much last year.
“There would be a lot of paparazzi sticking their noses into my son’s life and it was just out of my control. It can be very mixed emotions when your success is actually making the one you love most not very happy.”
Björk, who formerly fronted the Sugarcubes, was visiting Toronto to promote her third solo album, Telegram, which hit stores this week. The album is remixes of nine songs from her last album, Post, plus one new song but fans eager to hear new material won’t have to wait that long.
She expects to have her fourth solo album, Homogenic, which she is currently working on in a mountaintop studio in Spain, finished by the fall.
“I’m really seeking after something that’s Icelandic. And I want it to be more me, this album. Debut and Post (her first two efforts) are a bit like the Tin Tin books. Sort of Tin Tin goes to Congo. Tin Tin goes to Tibet. So it’s all these different flavors, me sort of trying all these different things on, which is very exciting, but now I think it’s a bit more Björk goes home.”
Homogenic, she explains in her charming Icelandic-British accent that often makes her sound like Dr. Ruth, is full of stringed arrangements, similar to those on Telegram, which features the Brodsky Quartet on Hyperballad, and a 60-piece orchestra on Isobel.
But Björk sees herself touring for Homogenic with remixer Mark Bell, in a duet of synthesizers and drum machines, plus an eight-person string section from Iceland.
“Most people look at technology that it’s cold and people that use synthesizers and all these samples are lazy bastards who just have everything on tape and just press ON and out comes the song, which of course, isn’t true,” says Björk.
“Synthesizers are quite an organic, natural thing. But I think it’s always with mankind that every time something new arrives, like say when they invented fire, they were terrified : `Oh this is going to kill us all ! It’s doomsday !”
When asked if she misses Iceland, for example, she says she moved to London four years ago for one reason only.
“I don’t even like London,” says Björk. “But it’s brilliant for work. It’s like you can’t even imagine a better place. And it makes my life very comfortable and I can focus on my work and the city is so ugly that it doesn’t take my attention away from my work.
“Whereas in Iceland I’m quite happy just doing what I did before I moved, which was being like a housewife, doing several jobs, cooking with friends, getting pissed, going to the tundra and driving around in the wildnerness. Writing songs is a way of trying to connect you with your surroundings, I guess, and plug yourself in somehow and it’s almost like you don’t have to in Iceland.”