Montreal Gazette

Björk gives Red Bull Music Academy a glimpse behind her mask

A few moments before taking the stage at DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art Wednesday afternoon, Björk was fixing her makeup, and her mask.

Between sold-out DJ sets Tuesday and Wednesday nights, the Icelandic songbird sat down to answer questions as part of the Red Bull Music Academy, a roving annual festival and conference for budding musicians the world over.

For more than two hours, Björk, 50, talked freely with moderator Emma Warren about her career, her views on music, her love of her native land and her ongoing quest for inspiration.

That night, she changed masks, and outfits, opened her laptop and played an adventurous three-hour selection of her favourite songs in the loft-like headquarters of Cirque Éloize. Styles ranged from ambient and classically inspired pieces to African, hip hop, raucous electro, avant-R&B and exuberant pop (hello, Ariana Grande !).

Here’s what she had to say.

On DJing : “I’m the worst live DJ mixer ever. I leave that to the experts. … I have a lot of weaknesses, but my forte is as a musicologist. It’s my nerdy thing. My friends say I have the biggest iTunes collection they’ve ever seen. I like DJing because you can start in one place and go somewhere else. I like building a steep curve, going from small nothing(ness) to big and frantic. DJing for me comes from hanging out with my mates in New York. We would start playing at the Housing Works book shop at 4 in the afternoon, with symphonies and cello concertos, and at the end of the night we would go berserk.”

On Iceland : “I love Iceland. I feel blessed. We have the cleanest air, the most space, no army — sorry to rub it in. I really like the village vibe. Reykjavik has 150,000 people, so everyone knows each other. You can’t get away with anything.”

On dancing : “I’m not a dancer, I’m a musician. But certain movements can be an entry point into emotion. … Most of the time I don’t succeed, but sometimes I do, liberation happens and I get to continue my journey. (Dancing) is simple and ancient ; in a way it’s similar to yoga and tai chi, these keys to the body that are both spiritual and primordial.”

On singing : “The voice is a very interesting instrument. The body is the instrument, and there are issues like time and emotion which can sometimes f— you up. You can use that to your advantage.

“My technique is self-taught. I learned outdoors, blasting (singing) at the top of my lungs. … I write most of my songs walking in nature. … Sometimes I feel like I sing my best on the top of a mountain. Then I try imitating that when I’m in the studio.”

On wearing masks : “It’s a way to hide, and to reveal a different side of yourself. I’ve been burned by photos and phones. At concerts, you can feel the clicks around you the whole night. It’s this weird energy. Wearing a mask I feel protected, like I can be more myself.”

T’CHA DUNLEVY

publié dans Montreal Gazette - 27.10.2016

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