One of the most anticipated people to appear in the interview tent had to have been Björk. She was scheduled to speak at the press conference Saturday morning, but for one reason or another, never showed up. I didn’t even catch a glimpse of her until she arrived just moments before this gathering in the interview tent on Sunday. By this time we had all been surrounded by ‘pop stars’ for the past 24 hours, and nothing seemed to phase anyone. With the arrival of Björk, everything changed. All around me, people were whispering, “There she is... Björk is here...”. She wandered around, saying hello to familiar faces and being introduced to new ones, very unassuming, but nevertheless Björk has a presence that cannot be ignored.
Once the press realized Björk had arrived, they all went straight to the interview tent and huddled around the empty gray couch and waited for her to come in. People pushed and budged, trying to get a good vantage point for photos, and to also get their mic in place to capture Björk’s distinctive Icelandic voice. I just sat there, inches away from that gray couch, crouched down on one knee with my camera in one hand, and my tape recorder in the other. I came all the way from the other side of the continent for this, and wasn’t about to let anyone shove in front of me. Grown men were whining about how it wasn’t fair that they weren’t right in front. I sat there and grinned.
Björk walked into the tent and everyone took two or three baby steps towards the couch. The whole time she spoke, I could feel people behind me trying to shove their way to the front, and I could hear mumbling about how they were unhappy with their positioning. All the while, Björk sat there, composed and seemingly oblivious to the madness just inches away from her. When someone asked Björk a question, she would look them in the eyes and speak to them as though they were the only two people there. Except for me, of course, but you’ll read about that later...
The following is the transcript from the press gathering in the interview tent with Björk, as recorded by Dustin Rabin
What will your set be like today ?
Well, I’m being quite brave, just because I try to compete boredom. So basically what I’m doing is this is the first time I’ll play songs from my next album, and we only rehearsed yesterday. This is just jumping off a cliff, but we love those things. I’m not sure if I’ve got a parachute or not, but I’ll see. But what I’m doing is, because my next tour will be eight string players, and then just one person which is this gorgeous person. He’s doing, he did the beats with me for this album, and he’s just live performing the beats, like the technology. And then I’ve got eight string players. And so basically what we’re doing also is some of my old tunes which have got eight strings in them, and like Hyper-ballad and Isobel and then we’re doing some of the new tunes, but it’s gonna be really like, it’s our first gig.
How did you get involved (in the Tibetan movement) ?
Well basically, I kind of met Beasties several times and when Adam (Yauch) asked me to take part in the last event a year ago, I was completely into it. I’ve said this before, but I’ll repeat it ; for two reasons ; first of all is the whole cause of this, which I don’t think is literally people shouldn’t just look at it as Tibet and China. For me it stands for all minority groups in the world. And sort of, I can really understand that, coming from Iceland. And me, it’s no way I could speak Icelandic here today (says something in Icelandic) and I sort of really support that. That you’ve got a modern society, and I’ve got real optimism for the year 2000 and future and that we can all have mobile telephones, and fucking satellites and be completely modern, but still be completely Icelandic or Sicilian, or from Thailand, or Tibet, and can still be really from, stick to our culture and our beliefs. And to a lot of people these are two completely opposite things, but for me I think you can combine the two. You don’t have to sacrifice your identity to move on. And if you’ve got a strong enough identity, you can hang out with aliens, and still be yourself. And for me it’s, I mean of course I support the whole Tibetan fight and all the terrible and cruel things that happen there, and don’t want them to continue, but I think all these people and the reason why so many people are supporting this cause has got a lot of other things. That it’s not anymore like this superior, white, male, sort of like American / European thing. You know, there’s all these other voices in the world.
How much more important is this gig to you ?
I was going to do all these radio gigs this month. This supposed to be like a correct career move, and I said ‘No, I’ve got to focus on my album’. But this one, I wanted to support this. Because this is supporting a voice that I understand. And also, I have to say because I’ve taken part in a lot of benefits things, but I said this last year, and I’ll say this again with my hand on my heart, it’s just the way all this is done. It’s just done for so much the right reasons, there’s so much integrity, passion. Because unfortunately a lot of benefit things are done for the wrong reasons. But this is like very pure, very pure.
Are you proud to be playing with this lineup ?
Oh, definitely. Definitely.
Have you been to Tibet ?
I was obsessed with Tibet as a teenager. I wrote like my essay, a really long essay that I spent three months of doing that in school about Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism, and I would love to go. I’ve been to Beijing, China. That was when I went last time, when I toured, but it’s difficult. It’s quite.. because I travel a lot with the people that play the music with me and stuff. I’d love to go there, but I’m hoping I think I’ve got fifty years to go. I hope I can crash in there somewhere.
Can you tell about on of your new songs that you’re working on ?
Well they’re all, it’s hard to pick one out. I’m just really, this time my music has moved quite a lot forwards, and today is maybe the first time we play it live, so it’s going to be quite sort of (gasps) but it’s always like this, you play with like a new setup. It’s going to take like ten gigs to mash it in. But I’m really excited. It’s a lot of, it’s about being put in impossible situations, to the bottom of the ocean, and still heading up there. So it’s quite dark, but at the same time with and lot of lot of lot of... The darkest music I’ve made, but at the same time, with the most hope in it.
Do you like playing outside ? It’s so different than in dark clubs.
I’m obsessed with music. I’ve got so much faith in music that it’s like sick. I could be arrested for it. I think music can save any situation. I really, honestly believe music can like cure the ill, and so on. It’s not a situation that music can’t sort out. And music should never be isolated to like 12 o’clock, 3 beers, you know, blah blah blah, you know, jeans, leather jacket... Music has so much more variety than that. You can play at the top of glaciers, you can play at the bottom of the ocean, you can play it alone, you can have a sensitive moment with your grandmother. You can have like a sex orgy with dogs. You can have butterflies. You can be on your own and scream your heart out. You can cry. And for any situation, you know, any situation. And that’s what’s so gorgeous about music, is not limits, no boundaries.
*** This is where things got a little messy...
Dustin Rabin (SODA Magazine) : Is that why you started singing, because you could do it anywhere ?
Björk looks at me and starts to answer my question, then from out of nowhere storms in this woman with her camera crew ;
Melissa Smith : Björk, Björk,... Hi, Melissa Smith with Worldwide Television News.
(looks at me very confused) Sorry...
Melissa Smith : Why was it so important for you to take part in the Tibetan Freedom Concert ?
I support the cause very fiercely.
Melissa Smith : By holding a Tibetan Freedom Concert what do you hope it accomplishes ?
Well, I kind of said this here before.
Melissa Smith : Yeah, we weren’t here. That was the problem. We were with Pavement, that’s why.
Okay, I’ll try to say it again. Björk basically answered word for word the way she did the first time the question was asked, so we won’t make you read it again.
Sook Yin Lee (MuchMusic) : A lot of your music is based on collaboration and a successful relationship between musicians. You can use that as an example of people working together and succeeding and working with each other. What is the key to that ?
Most of my songs I write on my own, and it’s like a diary thing, like a relationship I have with myself. When it comes to arranging them, I almost like need a midwife to sort of get it out of my system. I’m obsessed with people. That’s like my biggest turn-on is just meeting like people that I’m just like (gasps... again). The more different from me, the better, because it’s like “How did you get that combination, but you’ve still got two arms and two legs.” And that just really excites me, like turns me on. I just can’t stop myself, you know ? And I mean to be working one minute with a harp player who’s like classically trained, and the next minute with like the Wu Tang Clan. It’s just almost proving a point that music doesn’t only live in one place. You can’t sort of nail it down. It’s for any situation, and beyond any style, fashion, culture, colour, you know. And I’m not even thinking that socially politically correct about it. Really what drives me, the force that drives me on is just, excitement and enthusiasm, you know ?
If you had the chance to say to the world why this is important, the Tibetan Freedom, what would you say to someone who didn’t know anything about it ?
Everybody’s got a voice.