En détails

 

Telegraph 01

Björk Introduction

this issue is mostly about the people who help me change a record into a concert, also other people that nourish me tons, I’ve been dying for you to meet, ¡ voila !

Edito

Dear Reader

When Björk was presented with the idea of a fan magazine, she wasn’t sure that anyone would like to subscribe to a paper only on her. Who could be strange enough to buy something that consisted only of pictures and stories of her ? Isn’t the music enough ? And anyway she wasn’t alone in making it...
Well, we took the doubts and the questions and used them to shape a magazine. We tarted with a pilot issue on ’Post’ called ’Post’ It was mostly on the people around Björk, her collaborators in music, video, touring. Of course there was an interview with Björk herself and some pictures but as it was only one of many she came through as just another piece in the puzzle.

We liked the way it worked. And as nobody complained we’ve carried on the same vein. ’Telegraph’ is a healthy mixture of articles and interviews on people from Björk’s past and present.
In the future we’ll add the only piece missing : your letters and responses to the magazine. So until then : ENJOY

Sjón

Credits

Edited by Sjón
Articles by Sjón with the exception of "Didda" and "FAQ Part 1"
Fan Club Co-ordinator : Andrea Helgadóttir
Björk Fanclub P.O. Box 4219, London SW17 7XF

Designed by Me Company meco@meco.demon.co.uk

Photographs by :
Mick Hutson (Thanks to Select Magazine)
Benni Valsson, Stefan Arni, Nobuyoshi Araki.

Sounds Going Through The Muscles

The Tours and The Shows From ’Debut’ via Unplugged to ’Post’.

One of the things Björk had to face when the success of ’Debut’ took her by surprise was that it demanded touring. Doubtful the electronic music of ’Debut’ would translate into a live performance she did her best to avoid it. But thankfully, at least for us, there was a but and another but.

The ’Debutante’s Progress

’My instinct was that I shouldn’t play ’Debut’ live. The music wasn’t written with that in mind. I wanted to wait until the next album and then write and arrange the songs knowing i’d perform them. But while the pressure increased from the outside for me to play live, I slowly started to think I’d be a coward not to.

I think one of the reasons I wasn’t so into it was because from the age of 12 I’d been in bands where everybody wrote their own part of the music. We had our punk and anarchist ideas and it was really a taboo to tell people what they should or shouldn’t do. It was total equality. But in the end I came to the conclusion that if this was going to work I had to tell others what to do and control what they did. Which has always been completely against my philosophy. Hooray for individuality !

A part of what made it agreeable was that I’ve always enjoyed working for other people. And the times I’ve put myself in the hands of someone I trust - like when I did Play Dead or the backing vocals for Megas - I’ve never felt my part of the work any less important just because I was playing by somebody else’s rules.

I had never worked this way before so I had to swallow the bitter fact that maybe the tour wouldn’t be perfect, that in a way I’de be learning and making mistakes in front of lot of people, and it was a question if it was fair on the audience who had paid for a ticket to a proper concert. As the tour got under way I started realizing who I’d like to work with on the next tour. It was Talvin, Leila and Guy. All three are very different from me and their performances really exciting.

It’s so gorgeous what Talvin does, you just leave him to it. Just make sure there’s space for him and let him exist, he’s definitely his own person. Guy seems to become more and more liberated with every restraint you put on him. He’s like Houdini, you handcuff him and tell him he can’t do this or that, and he finds a way out of it. Guy later became my musical director. He’s a real genius in making my unusual combinations of instruments work. Leila was for me like a younger version of myself. We really bonded through both being form a very earthy, different country but still completely into modern pop music and we share that common disease of love/hating english culture.

So in the end I had a big band of musicians playing what at first the computers did, the thing is when you write music for computers you can have as many musicians playing as you want. So when you arrange it for traditional instruments you would ideally have five hundreds on stage and one of them maybe plays just one not in one song. But as you can’t do that in real life this becomes an experimental process.

I was faced with all those questions about what is acoustic, what is electronic ? And when is it possible for a human being to play what the computers do and when is it the best left to the computers ? I’ve always preferred a synthesizer to be a synthesizer, an accordion to be an accordion, marble is marble, plastic is plastic, a drum machine isn’t a drum kit etc. But it’s all fine and well to have seventy five theories about it all, at the end of the day what works is what counts.’

The Unplugged Experimentalist

After arranging the live version of ’Debut’ and touring with the band for a year, Björk had a pretty good idea about what worked. So when MTV offered her to do ’Unplugged’ Björk got a chance to try out some of her theories and she went as far as possible from the electronics of the ’Debut’ album.

"The Unplugged session came at a great time. We had toured for a year and a half, tried and tested the songs, and the band was in good form. And after all the speculations about what should be acoustic and what electronic it was brilliant to get the opportunity to go all the way in one direction : Acoustic !

Because Unplugged was recorded in one day in one place I didn’t have to work within the practicalities of touring. For now things didn’t have to be mobile. I felt like a kid in a toy store. I could get Olivier Lake to do Anchor Song and Aeroplane with me, Evelyn Glennie came and played the marimba, Corky Hale came from LA to play one song. We got in contact with a man who rents out strange keyboards and we hired a lot of them, a duck organ that makes squeaking sounds, a harpsichord and a small organ. We found a man who plays glasses. It was madness, but what can you do when they tell you there are no limits.

This period was pure luxury. By doing the ’Debut’ tour and ’Unplugged’ I learned to arrange for acoustic and electronic instruments. And for an old punk like me it was interesting to experience what it is to be a band leader and in charge."

The Postwoman Delivers

"For the ’Post’ Tour I built the band around Guy, Talvin and Leila, then I knew I had to find a solution for the strings, there are so many string arrangements on the album.

Guy was to be my musical director and right hand, Leila would do a live mixing of samples on ’Post’. I decided to use them as they were but did not want them to feature as something that was just played back in a loop, the only way to make samples a live element is to mix them creatively on stage and Leila is good at that, then I choose a lot of new sounds with Guy and we added them to the samples, and to make the samples even more live I contacted Markus Dravs, an electronic effect specialist. We bought a lot of different effect boxes and Markus worked with Leila on placing them in the mixer. So like a saxophone player blows sadly on a sad day and aggressively on a bad day, Leila plays the mixing table as an instrument. You should respect electronic noises and treat them as a living element. But at the same time I want discipline and stay true to the song. I want Isobel to stay Isobel and not turn into hippy nonsense.

When I contacted Talvin he had gone on his own mission. That was sad but we’ve all got our missions to do. The situation was a bit difficult because my ideas of the band were based on the way he functions. I went out, witnessed five thousand auditions without success and had to rethink the whole rhythm part of the arrangements. I’ve always been obsessed with rhythms and if they don’t work I don’t work, if I’ve got a good percussionist I can sing and I really don’t need anything else.

One element quite audible on ’Post’ is my fascination for shuffle snare rhythms the kind you play with brushes and the "hoofers" used to dance to. You can hear this in the verse of Hyperballad, it takes a real jazz drummer to be able to play this.

I focused on finding someone who knew how to play those shuffle rhythms but in a modern way. He also had to be able to work with Leila, since she had the original rhythms in her mixing desk. On top of all this, he had to feel comfortable with electronics. I was looking for a superman and I found him, Trevor isn’t only an experienced jazz drummer, he’s one of the pioneers in playing electronic drums."

Now Björk had to find the last piece missing : The strings... "It was Guy who came up with the idea of using the accordion. I really don’t know how to describe my admiration for that man. At first he was going to teach himself playing the accordion and do it himself. But he was already my musical director, playing the harpsichord, the celesta and I don’t know what. Then by coincidence I came across an advert in Time Out. Koba, a japanese accordion genius was playing in London. I went to see him and after the concert I went backstage and asked him if he wanted to be in my band. He didn’t have clue who I was and asked me if I had a record with my music, then he said that if he liked it he would consider it. Koba liked it and joined the band."

So with the band ready and rehearsing the concerts had to be planned and designed, the result was a concept very different from the ’Debut’ tour, while the design for the ’Debut’ tour was plain and simple, the ’Post’ tour is theatrical and exciting.

With the ’Debut’ tour I wanted to give people the feeling I had just arrived. The album was about moving from your home to a new place, about the honesty and the simplicity of the newcomer. A blank page. The only decoration was lights, shadows and ships.

’Post’ on the other hand was about living in the city, about everything happening at once and you’re in the middle of it all. Seven-thousand-
nine-hundred-and-fifty things are happening NOW, you’re on the verge of nervous breakdown but still enjoying it. So, when I started working with Paul Normandale (who has done lights with me for eight years) and Daniel Adric (who designed the props) I told them it was okay to be glamourous and artificial. We also worked with the idea of feminine techno.

"Later when Guy had to go on his mission, I got Ed and Andy from PLAID to join the band. That was me spoilt rotten. They’ve been my favorite musicians for years and sometimes when we’re playing I look at them and think : Wow, my favorite band is in my band. Definitely spoilt rotten !"

How It Works Out

I suppose you’ve been there. The music starts, you recognize the song. The band is playing in semi-light, semi-darkness. You wait. The intro is long. The words are on the tip of your tongue, the singer is waiting in the wings - we hope. The same words wait on the tip of her tongue. The melody in her mind is waiting to reach you. The LIGHTS go up : the wait is over for you, the singer, the words and the music, the tip of the tongue and the body on the edge of the stage. And then, for an hour and a half it’s all there for both you and the singer. Paper skyscrapers, shining forests, blinking radars, volcanoes erupting confetti, sounds going through your muscles...

To Howie or not to B

The ’Global Leap Frog’ edit of a conversation with Howard Bernstein.

Since he left Glasgow for a Kibbutz in Israel at seventeen, Howie B has made himself comfortable in different places and continents. He studied psychology in Manchester, went back to Glasgow to work as youth leader, headed for London, left London for the USA, and finally came back to London where he’s still based. But only just.

As a popular DJ engineer and producer Howie is constantly on the move, a one man big band bringing music to the masses. But no matter where you come across Howie B he seems to have settled down nicely. He’s equally at home in the studio, in his club, on stage, in the street, and obviously, at home. And what is more you are always more than welcome to join him. His Sunday nights at the Paradise pub in Kilbum make it the friendliest spot in the whole of club crazed London.
I caught up with Howie in his flat in West Hampstead. His daughter Chilli, the inspiration for the album ’Music for Babies’, slept peacefully in the next room while her father recounted his travels around the world she’s learning to know.

Sound Awakening (Glasgow)

Music opened up to me when I was about six or seven. There was music at home, my dad used to listen to Led Zeppelin and we used to listen to Nana Mouskouri, the Greek singer, all sorts of mad things. Crazy-crazy things, really soft core music like James Last but hard-core music as well. It was really interesting, really good for me, so when I grew up there was nothing for me to react against. I was quite into my dad’s musical taste. My first memory is of my father trying to teach himself how to play the guitar, he played it with a card.

And then there was the radio. I remember how for days and weeks on end I thought about how it worked. I just couldn’t understand how it was working. ’What s going on with the radio ?’ I still don’t understand it. It’s mad to have all this music in the air, that vibe is really funny - it’s crazy. Then I bought my first record when I was eleven or twelve, and there was no turning back. Glasgow was mad at the time. It is a port so it’s got interesting vibes. There’s a heavy
mixture of people there, as fits an industrial port. I guess it’s the same in Reykjavík : An Italian freighter comes to harbour and nine months later you’ve got an explosion in the birth of curly-haired brown eyed babies. That’s the sort of vibes that are happening in Glasgow, people bringing stuff from over the seas.

There were maybe two or three good record shops in Glasgow at the time, so it was very difficult to get good music. But there was always the radio, brilliant stuff on the radio. A guy called John Peel was on five nights a week when I was like thirteen. At ten o’clock I would religiously go to my bedroom, turn on the radio, and listen to his show. And I taped it and wrote down the names of the bands he was playing. It was such a great little thing, sitting in my bedroom pretending I was on heroin...

Punk opened a few doors for me. But by the time there was a new selection in the record shop called ’PUNK’, I’d started checking out the RNB. My dad had turned me on to James Brown through one of his cassettes. James Brown is so massive, ooh that was mad, I’d play this cassette all the time. All those songs like ’Please’, ’It’s a mans world’, I’d listen to them constantly and sing along to the lyrics. The lyrics were so brilliant and simple. Like ’King Heroin’ that is about things I had no idea about but gave me an atmosphere, a vibe. At thirteen I suddenly knew what it was like to take heroin without having touched it - and I still haven’t touched it.

That someone can do that with a song, that’s fucking brilliant. It doesn’t matter what the song is about, if it’s got lyrics or not, just to be able to give a vibe like that is mad. I loved that idea.

That Slippy Mr. Freud (Manchester)

I went to Manchester to study psychology. I didn’t finish but I had good time. The course I did was very boring, it wasn’t what I thought psychology should or could be. It was Freudian and because I wasn’t to much into Freud I only lasted eight months. I was more into James Brown. I went to lots of clubs, the club life was good, good clubs, good drugs, good woman. But to do that for three years didn’t seem to be the right thing.

A Mini Full of Soul (Glasgow - London)

Back in Glasgow I worked as a youth leader for a little bit and started to DJ. I’d get people around to my house, my parents house, play new tunes and records for them. I like to do that, have my friends over listening to this or that old record or new. I loved to turn them on with music, even scare them with music.

Then I went to London. London is a horrible place to arrive to when you’ve got no friends, no job. But I had to get in there.

I used to work in the Camden market, selling second-hand clothes, and that’s where I hooked up with the Soul II Soul guys : Jazzie B and Daddae Harvey. It was a great little vibe. Then Jazzie and Daddae said : ’Listen, let’s start our own little thing going.’ So I started DJ-ing with Daddae. We had our own little sound going, which we called ’Nomad Soul’ in those days.

Daddae and I would go all over London doing our things on Friday nights. We played in all sorts of crazy clubs, doing teacher association clubs, social clubs, the School of African Oriental studies, you name it. All over the place, DJ-ing was mad, it was great. My girlfriend at the time, called Tanya, would drive Daddae and me in this little Mini. We wouldn’t sleep cause we were DJ-ing till four or five in the morning and then |’d have to be up and do the market till half six in the afternoon. We were all wearing the second hand clothes, big thick coats, big hats, even though it was very hot. It was very funny.

So I did that for about a year and a half, and then burst off to America.

So Long And Thanks For Nothing ! (America)

I wanted to go to America, so I saved up some money and went there with my girlfriend at that time. I stayed in Florida for about two or three months, then got a car and drove across the States to Nevada. I stayed in Nevada for three months and then went back to Florida, that was great. Then I drove up to New York. And there I decided I wanted to get a job in a studio except I couldn’t because I didn’t have the green card nor a working permit. I phoned up my grandfather and I said : ’Listen, lend me some money so I can go to audio school in New York ? When I’m done I’ll give it back to you.’ But he told me to fuck off : If you want go to an audio school and you need some money, go and get it yourself ! And I went : Oh, great ! That was it. I was stuck in New York thinking of ways to stay in NEW YORK, and no one was helping me. So I thought :
Fuck it !

Pop Goes The Tea-boy (London)

Back in London I did the same things as before. During the day I worked in the market and at weekends I’d been DJ-ing with Soul II Soul. But I also took classes in electronics at a night school, and after about six or seven months I’d gotten sufficient knowledge to pass me off as an electrician. All the time I had been knocking on doors asking for a job, as a tea-boy or anything, and eventually one studio said : ’Come in be our tea-boy...’

So, 1986 I started to work in a studio as a tea-boy and from there I moved up to assistant engineer and then engineer, went freelance, started re-mixing, producing, and then I had my own little deal as well ... pop-pop-pop ... and there you go !

Do The Frog ! (Here, there and everywhere)

Now we frog leap Quantum style over the next seven years. On the moving earth beneath us we see Howie fiddling with the knobs for projects like Soul II Soul’s first album ’Club Classics Volume One’. There in a rift in the clouds we see him recording for the Mo Wax label as Howie B Inc. and Old Scottish. A small aeroplane writes the names of the people and bands he works with over this period : Nellee Hooper, Massive Attack, Major Force ... Björk ...

And as the earth finishes its umpteenth circle he sets up his own label Pussyfoot Records and begins working with Matt Ducasse in the group Skylab.

’Help !’, croaked the Frog, ’let me into the interview again !’.

OK ... We continue where Howie is describing the wonders of the telephone. In the meantime he’s already talked about how he got to know Björk through Dom T. and Nellee Hooper... He worked as an engineer on ’Debut’ and later on ’Post’...

Telephonetics (London/Dublin)

(+44 171) Björk phones me up one day and she goes : ’Howie, I want to write some music with you !’. And I went : MAGIC. GREAT ! I’ve been wanting you to say that for years. That’s brilliant, I’d love to do it. Thank you very much !’.
So I went into the studio. I went in there for like a week and started laying down beats, getting the grooves going. Björk would come in and go : ’Yeah. I like that, or I don t like that. And that was it. There were about five backing tracks, five little different grooves I did with Björk. She was vibing on it. I was vibing on it,
and then we went to Nassau, to record what became ’Post’.

But as it goes, none of the songs made it to the album in the first round. OK, that was fine by me. It didn’t matter, they were good songs, I knew that I could use them again for something else.

But then one day, while she’s putting the final touch on some of the songs, Björk phones me up again and goes : ’Howie, do you remember that song, and bla di bla...’. And I go : ’Yea, yea..’. And she goes : ’Can we try one more time ?’
I went down to the studio were she was working, set up the samples and the grooves. Björk put some brass down on it, and we recorded it that day. Then I left her with it for the day. The third day I took the tape, did some overdubs, she did the vocals and I mixed it. Three days and it’s on the album, thank you very much. MAGIC ! It was really quick, it was brilliant and that’s what I like about music, great things happen, you get called...

(+ 353 1) ... like when I hooked up with U2, it was just a phone call. One Wednesday I got a call from this geezer saying : ’We know that you are coming to Dublin to DJ tomorrow. Would you mind coming over to the studio on Friday morning so we can play you some stuff ?’ And I go : ’No problem’. I had done a mix for Bono’s version of ’Hallelujah’ for the Leonard Cohen tribute album. But then I didn’t hear anything from Bono, or any of the U2 guys, until I just got this phone call.

When I got to the studio they told they had two weeks to finish the ’Passengers’ album. They felt they hadn’t quite made it but wanted it to happen. They had their ideas and said : ’If you can do something, great, but if you can’t then sorry’. I came back from Dublin two weeks later.

And now I’m working with them again on their new album, and again it’s the same vibe, the same electricity, the same hunger for music.

Music For Chili (London)

When Chilli was born it was the biggest moment in my life, it was mad, and I wanted to express it. The way to express it was creating music for the baby. I wanted to make an album for her, about her entry into this world. Then I went to the studio and wrote three songs. The first track was ’Music for Babies’, and it was music for my baby. Magic ...

I decided to carry on working on the project and was going to put it out on Pussyfoot when I got a contacted by Polydor Records. They’d heard about my idea and said they where interested in it. I ignored them. I’d done the ’major label’ route before and thought the same thing was going to happen now. I didn’t want to listen to all their ’buts’ again. This project was for Pussyfoot.

But two or three weeks later Polydor got in contact again. They said : ’Listen Howie, we really are interested, let’s meet for lunch and have a chat’. So I met their guy and he was really cool, really nice and honest. There was no number one album in his eyes. He totally understood where I was coming from. He’d just had a baby himself and knew about the joy I was talking about. Six months later I signed a deal with them. The ground rules were set, no surprises, no punches. We know what the ground rules are and that’s it. They don’t want me to release seven inches, the only musical direction I have from them is I’m not allowed to deliver them a tape of white noise. Fine, I’m happy with them and they are happy with me, so why should I give them an empty tape ?

Three weeks after I signed the deal. WHOA. I gave them the album.

P.S. Since this interview was done Howie B. has had an ep called ’EP’ out on Polydor, he’s been adopted by U2, and has started collaborating with Björk on her third album.

The Stuff Clothes Are Made Of

Born in Nicosia, Cyprus, Hussein Chalayan went to school in England as a child and then again to study fashion design at St. Martins.
His graduation show gained him rave reviews and the fashion shop BROWNS put his collection on display.

Since then he’s continued to surprise and dazzle the (fashion) world with clothes that not only embody the wearer but his stories and observations. Interviews with Hussein Chalayan in the fashion papers show that the journalists have been seriously confused by meeting him. Instead of dishing out platitudes about the colour of the season, reasons for the length of skirts, or gossiping about super models, Hussein prefers to talk about the ideas that go into his designs. And because those ideas are an amalgam of his interest in philosophy, spirituality, technology, language, biology, and sociology, the poor journalists are at loss of words. But Hussein being one of the top fashion designers working in England today they try and come up with something the average fashion magazine reader is supposed to understand.

Well, as that’s not good enough for the readers of this magazine we met up with Hussein lo get a glimpse of the mind behind the matter.

After hearing Björk talk about how you seem to weave your thoughts into the fabrics you are close are made of, it sounds as if they are ust fragments of a much bigger reality.

I wanted to do fashion, not because I’m interested in fashion as trends, but because it deals directly with the body. The body can be used as a tool for expressing many things. I had thought of going into architecture but although there’s a strong link between the two I chose fashion. Clothes and things that revolve around the body are more direct and more immediate.
Fashion is a good way of responding to things, inevitably you’re also making a statement by responding but I’d rather like it to be seen as a response rather than me predicting. It’s also important for me to leave people with a feeling, a sad feeling or a good feeling, or even to provokes other thoughts.
Normally it has to do with things from my immediate life or I’m communicating my own narrative and then the clothes symbolized that. I kind of recreate a situation or something on that level.

So, what was the first concept that got you started ? The first thing you wanted to get across ?

It was my graduation show. I was very interested in Decartes, the French philosopher, but I thought much of his theories where quite unrealistic. He was very mechanistic. It all had to do with neglecting the intangible, things that you can see and touch and just creating formulas for everything and models for that aspect of reality. I developed an idea where Decartes’ 17th century theories were contradicted by eastern philosophy. In eastern philosophy the believe is that knowledge is unlimited and they don’t reduce everything down to formulas and models.
I began with writing a small story with a fictional character, a writer who in her lifetime tried to integrate eastern philosophy with the Cartesian world view. Then the ideas to make clothes out of paper, and to bury clothes, evolved from events that take place within her story. The paper clothes represented the rejection of the articles she wrote to contradict the mechanistic world view. I put Part of her text on the garment to make it look as a sheet of paper that was about to be thrown away. But when you opened the pages up they were clothes. You couldn’t rip them like you couldn’t reject her writings. Her ideas survive. They look as rubbish but are really clothes that you can wear.
The buried clothes had to do with a group of dancers who approached the writer because they wanted to stage a piece that symbolized her theories. This dance troupe wasn’t taken seriously in their day but they wanted to create tension by using a burning issue of the time. In their piece they wore magnetic clothes to symbolize intuition, and as the fabric interacted with the stage intuition met earth’s forces.
Then I took the story to an extreme level. In the 17th century peoples reactions were very violent, like if you committed adultery you would be starved to death. So, in my story people came to the show and threw iron peelings and iron powder on the dancers to ridicule them. The iron stuck to their clothes and made it impossible for them to dance. And some of the dancers would be kidnapped, immediately killed and buried. It was an extreme sense of revolt against eastern believes. Not because they are eastern but because they represent believe in the intangible and basically oppose the Cartesian philosophy.
To represent this part of the story I made the clothes and buried them like it had really happened. Then the garment would also relate to the fact that death is a part of life rather then separated from it. It was almost as you would be wearing death.

So, you are really a storyteller then ?

No, it’s not stories all the time. Doing the graduation collection I discovered a structure for working. I don’t believe in formulas but I’ve worked in a similar way since. It depends on the situations how it works out.
My last collections have been more idea based and at some of the shows I have presented them to the audience in writing. It provides information about what’s behind the clothes at the same time it creates a gap between the idea and what you see and feet. Then you can make up your mind, your own story. I’ve also given the audience visual information related to the idea. For a show I based on games I gave away a board game that if played by the rules resulted in the death of the player. All the instructions were contradictory.

Tell me about the show where Björk appeared as from beyond the grave.

It was called ’Intro/scope’ It was about how we strife to preserve everything via computerization and via decoration, how in fear of death we try to make things immortal. In third world countries valuable objects like televisions and cars are always decorated, it’s as if people wants to keep them alive. The same
goes for the dead, when someone dies you decorate his body with flowers, to preserve it. It’s just my observations, right or wrong. I took this idea up to the point where art begins to get preserved. Because it comes from within it can be said with storing art in computers we are preserving a products of the spirit.
To represent this idea I got a girl who makes art textiles and prints to paint flowers. She painted roses that we then digitalized to symbolize the preservation. When digitalized the roses were metamorphosed into little coloured boxes who in a way contained different forms of the spirits.
The other part of the idea was destruction, the end of the world. Because I think the whole idea of preservation comes from faith I wanted to associate it with religion. I looked up the chapters on Noah’s Ark in the Bible, and as the idea evolved I decided to use images of water, drowning and the sea spilling over to contrast the preservation. The waves I used on the garments were taken from comic strips.
To show that the ideas are real to people, that we are behaving as the world is coming to an end, I put arrows on the clothes to represent escapism. They go fast aside and create the illusion that you are going somewhere - and that’s also quite cartoony in a way. It was important to me that the audience felt I was dealing with situations from our reality. And to make the whole idea look as if it was taking place in real life I used denim and leather. It’s something we all wear, so it was a part of the concept, not just because it was stylistic.

Some of the models had some kind of jewelry in their mouths. It forced their mouths open and in the middle there was this tiny light. They look very scary.

The mouthpieces were meant to be scary, they illustrated the face of death.

And the last spark of spirituality ?

Yes. I wanted to represent death spiritually. To me death is like a light, an escape almost. Because basically I think it is life and not death that should be feared.

But how do you feel about the woman who goes into a shop, buys one of your dresses and knows nothing of the things you’ve been telling me ?

That is like the secret of the whole thing. At the same time the ideas behind the clothes are abstract and you can’t point them out the clothes also have to work on their own - without somebody knowing from what they evolved. You make me talk too much...

Björk got to know Hussein through the stylist Judy Blame and the two became friends. Björk is a great admirer of Husseins designs. Apart from wearing them for her daily pleasure she was photographed in one of his famous paper jackets for the cover of ’Post’.

Didda

Swarm of vices and loose screws. Didda’s first book of prose and poetry is published. Flash of terrified literati. Countless coffee tables smashed to smithereens as terrified snob-hags gasp, yelp, faint. Poetry becomes the talk of the town like seldom before. Opinions differ. Devotees clutch their copies bearing sly disquieting grins amidst the cries of outrage. Who is this fierce poetess dares to disrupt our tranquil nirvana ?

Everything can happen, and it will

Reality Check

Didda prominent back room figure of Icelandic punk in the early eighties. The girl responsible for the lyrics of punk band Vonbrig∂i (trans. disappointment), most notably their much touted love/anthem to Reykjavík (suitably names Reykjavík Oh Reykjavík of film "Rokk a Reykjavík fame) was generally known to be a flamboyant character gone a bit over the edge. A tad dangerous underworldly type if you will, her exploits are legendary up here in the north. She’s the one that took Björk to the only tattooist in Iceland where they had their tattoos done. "It was a shady place with all these petty criminals hanging around boasting their recent scores. Björk thought I was courageous going on there. But I was just plain out of it. It was she who thought who was the tough one." Didda eventually got her shit together and now works in a halfway home for young substance abusers. She lives in down-town Reykjavík with her young son Úlfur (Wolf) where she graciously hosts the journalist from Telegraph and tells it all in a husky voice that promises and delivers.

"I just got back from Höfn a Hornafir∂i (a picturesque fishing village on the east coast Ed.) where I did a reading with some other authors in the fish-freezing plant. It was their coffee break so to speak. Anyway I’m reading my stuff and everybody is getting really into it, lots of clapping and catcalls : You say it like it is ! and all that. Then this little old man rose to his feet and demands quiet. I’m blaspheming he says, making fun of those demons of drugs that are busily killing our youth etc, that I should be stopped and thrown in jail in the name of the lord. The other workers just told him to shut up, turned out he was a member of their local cult "The Living Water". That was fun. Reality slapping you in the face.

"I’d been writing a diary for years when I started writing consciously. That was when I started doing the lyrics for my friends in Vonbrig∂i (aforementioned punk group). I was required to write a lot of social commentary, punk being what it was, and a lot of anger and hate. But when I became more sure of myself I had turned so bitter that my lyrics where one oozing mass of squealing pain and hopelessness. In the end the guys said they couldn’t use them. That’s when I formed my own band SLAGVERKUR (untranslatable mix of Icelandic for earache and percussion) to sing my lyrics. We were active for a while. Did one song on a compilation cassette, did some gigs around the time KUKL was going on, but the music was to new-wave for my tastes so that sort of ended. I’ve written some lyrics for Sogblettir and Ni∂ur (ice punk bands) since I always write a bit of something for my boys when they need me. You know. I did one song "I’m Happy" with Meiddu mig mjükt (Hurt me softly). It’s a good catchy tune. If I knew how to play an instrument I could pictures myself writing simply catchy tunes. Like Elvis you know. I could buy a white suit and go on the lounge circuit.

Most of my poems in my book are recent though they tell of less recent happenings. For years I was in what you could call really bad company. I became part of the underworld. Got on real well with the most seedy criminal element in town. I still have a lot of friends in that world. I took great pride in my drug dealings. Dealing as an honorable trade or some notion in that direction. But it got to be too much so I’ve become an abstainer now. Most of my works was written after I got myself straightened out, so to speak. Things happen when you go on very long drunken binges and do heaps of drugs. You get to the point where you stop doing things and things more or less start happening to you. You’re just along the ride. That can be fun, just waiting to see what happens next. But of course the things that happen tend not to be equally enjoyable and some are not fun at all. There was some trouble over the question of my feeling guilty about all these hazy going-on’s I’d made myself party to or not. I decided to write about them rather than dwell on the subject.

"When the American writer Charles Bukowski died some Icelandic fans of his got together to do a program of remembrance. A wake of sorts. Since I was known to be a fan and had translated some of his poems I was called in to do a reading. I was so new at this that I ended up just doing my own stuff and that’s when the ball started rolling. People were impressed, some magazine did an interview and then Thor Eldon (the poet and x-Sugarcube) came up to me and said it was time to publish something. Honestly I had very little say in what happened after that.

When the book first came out everything went crazy. People were stopping me in the street thanking me. Papers were full of stories about me. I guess I really gave a nasty shock to the good old national soul (a much talked about Icelandic phenomenon). I didn’t think what I had written was all that special. It was like now I’ve knitted this sweater, now I’ve written a book of poetry, so what ? Lots of young people tell me they’ve had their parents read my book. So how did they like it ? I ask, they thought it was disgusting, people are using my book to freak their parents out ! My grandmother didn’t think much about it either. I guess I was naive in the way that I thought everybody would enjoy turning over some stones to see what was crawling around. In the way I Like Reykjavík ; it’s seedier sides, the shit and the crime, the dementia, I thought we’d all have a jolly time over analyzing things and poking fun at all those embarrassing memories. Now I see it’s not all that wise to rattle those skeletons in the closets. There are loads of people walking around carrying the burden of some minor blunder or mishap they experienced years ago, they just want to forget, not face up to things. When you’re a little kid you see the world of grown-ups as a sort of special world, like a theme park that you gain admittance to at a certain age, like they let you in at some point in your life. Then when you finally get in you find it isn’t allowed to tell about it. Your squealing in some way on this secret universe no-one is supposed to know about, to make matters even worse I wrote everything in the first person which looks to folks like screaming. Here I am, my soul bared. Now what about you ? People don’t like to be forced into a corner over these things.

In some aspects I think my writing is an exorcism of sorts. It’s my way of working things out and dealing with my past and present. Instead of walking around with this load of guilt weighing on my soul I chose to get it out in the open and operate on it. Sometimes when you’re trying to fall asleep you get this anxiety. All the bad and embarrassing moments of your life sort of roll by like a continuous movie. This is your life sort of thing I just popped my movie out of the machine and put it into this book. I got my guilt published so it’s not bothering me anymore.

Last words ?

Everything can happen and it will.

Three Poems by Didda

It’s not unlikely

it’s not unlikely that I have done
something which nobody have
wished to have done, but did
nevertheless.
It’s not unlikely that I have lied
swindled and walked backwards through
other peoples personal lives.
It’s not unlikely that I have received
things inside me and right in my face.
it’s not unlikely that I have been fucked
without realizing it, that I have been
raped in the mouth totally conscious of it.
And it’s not unlikely that I screamed
and just demanded money for it.
It’s not unlikely that everything is OK,
even thought I have been shat, pissed
and puked on.
It’s not unlikely that some days are
funnier than others and that which is
sad fades like the complexion of us all in
winter.

Today

No, today I will not
be melodramatic
and compare myself
to a dried rose
hanging upside down
on a piece of string.
No,I will compare
myself to the figurehead
on a pirate ship, breaking through this
with bare salty breasts.

Nobody

It would be dreadful
if anybody confused
themselves with me.
That’s why I make sure
I’m exceptional.
Nobody has ears like that.
Nobody, exactly nobody
has this scar
on the inner thigh
left side
by a wire fence
in London
the day the hurricane
went over and I
and the one I met in
the Dolphin
(who’s name I never knew)
broke into his uncle’s caravan
to fuck
while the little angry dog
lay growling
under the table.
Nobody

© Didda 1996

E-Mail

Of Fanzines and FanZites -
Björk in the eyes of the beholders

Björk presence on the internet is astonishing. Apart from her very own official site ’WebSense’ there are around 23 others sites that have been put up by her loyal fans. They range from being professionally made and in a healthy competition with WebSense, to humble shrines of devotion. In a way the sites on the net can be sad to be the fanzines of today - FansZites. But where fanzines are more than often nicely eccentric and draw battle lines between the true believers and the heretics, the fanzites have a tendency to be no more than an accumulation of links to others sites on the net. What they lack in general are the feverish editorials about the glory of ’the worshipped one’ and the suffering the followers have to endure in a world without pity for their adoration of - in our case - Björk, of course the fanzines are not only bout that, once you find yourself inside their photocopied 2D walls you’ll find drawings, poetry and personal reviews of Björk’s records and concerts. How the criticism differs from what you see in the music press is delightful. As fans the writers are happily biased in favour of the artist, but at the same time they are very demanding. And it’s not just what Björk does that evokes (un)justified cries of shame-on-you etc. Her collaborators are also egged on to serve her with greater passion. (I should know in the first issue f the UK fanzine ’Sweet Intuition’ there is quite a harsh judgement of WebSense. Boohoo...)

On the net there are honorable exemptions from the Chain-gangs (sites that consist mostly of links to one another. One of them is a site that has become known as ’Carla Hallfridur Kruytbosch’s Björk and norse mythology page’. The real name of it is cArLa S uNoFficIal Björk pAGe - in memory of edith, my berkeley hippie Icelandic mother, and it’s creator takes her cue from the wonderful world of comparative-paranoia-theology of the sixties. Carla’s site is exactly what it claims to be, a tongues-in-cheek (we hope) study of how everything Björk does or says has its roots in the old religion of the North. For example look at the introduction where Björk’s name serves as pretense for an explanation of YGGDRASILL, the nordic version of the tree of life. What follows is a mock version of the traditional internet FAQ.

"This page is devoted to Björk, Iceland’s modern musical shaman. The name Björk is an old norse word for birch, a tree that was considered sacred to ancient Europeans, Björk is also the name of a viking rune that look like the letter ’B’ and means roughly birth, renewal and resurrection. The word rune (run in Icelandic) mean mystery in old Norse, which is an apt description of Björk’s music. Cool huh ?

By legend, the runic alphabet (the futhark) was discovered by Odin the norse god of shamans after he hung on the Yggdrasil or cosmic world tree for nine days and nights. This web site in no way recommends or condones such a practice.

And.

"Q : I love the imagery in Hyperballad, what is the inspiration ?

A : Possibly the haunting story of King Gautrek, a humorous 12th century saga about a penny-pinching swedish family whose members jumped off a cliff called family rock every time they felt the resources were getting a little slim. The only one left was a boy, Gautrek, who founded a line of swedish kings ! (A Newl Gingrich approach to balancing the family budget.)"

This nordic/Björk site is not only innovative and surprisingly learned, it presents a playful and highly personal view of what the whole business is about : Namely that if you want to find an answer to why a world wide wonderful musicians comes from the most unlikely part of the world - answers can be found by any means necessary. Three horns of mead to Carla.

Another site that is also glorified by the fingerprints of its maker is Micha A. Wiliams site where he unashamedly confesses to be helplessly under the spell of Björk. To prove his devotion he’s made a list of his Björk music and picture collection (warts and all, he puts on display what it’s cost him so far to make the shrine that fits the adored one). But Micha is no ordinary fan, what makes his site a treasure are the pages where he publishes dreams of Björk. For pseudo-surrealist-psychoanalysts of all ages those pages are an imperative tool to understand the world as we thought we knew. Five walking sticks to Micha. (My rating system is all very Freudian if you hadn’t noticed already.)
So, the conclusion of this short survey of Fanzines and FanZites is that even though the net based work has the advantage of appearing more professional, the hand written or photocopied fanzines seem to have more to say about what it means to be totally Björkers. And for Björk herself and those who work for here there’s nothing as refreshing as a cool breeze from a good fan. Whether the fan is electric or manual shouldn’t matter at all.

PS : Feel free to send ’Telegraph’ you URLs and your addresses if you are putting out a fanzine or creating a fanzite on Björk. We will promote you and one day we’ll all get out pie.

Johnny Triumph

From Micha A WilliamsDream Collection.

I was reading the ’Post’ book before I went to sleep last night, so naturally I’d have a Björk dream right ? Wrong. If that were the case I’d be reading the book every night before bed.

But surprise ! I actually did have a Björk dream last night. Once again, she did not have a speaking part, nor did she appear in person, but there were plenty of pictures of her. Here’s what happened :

I got this package in the mail. I looked at the address and saw that it came from somewhere in the UK. I opened it up and it was like this yearbook of British music or something like that. I turned to the table of contents and saw several artists, some of whom I didn’t recognize, but in the B’s there was Björk. I distinctly recall the page number being 63. I turned to page 63, and saw the story on her. It included several pictures of Björk in her teenage years and of her family... but here’s the weird part teenage pictures had her with long curly, light -brown hair and wearing Jordache jeans. I mean , the face was certainly Björk Guðmundsdóttir’s, but there was no short, multi colored hair... none of punkish sort of look she reportedly had during her teenage years in Iceland. In fact she was dressed rather conservatively in all her pictures. (In one I remembered, she was wearing roller-skates) Not to say that she still wasn’t gorgeous, etc... What was even more strange is that there was a picture of her with her family, which looked like a working-class group from the East-End of London (You know, like in the english soap EastEnders). She had no mother, but two fathers (My Two Dads ?) Both fathers looked like construction workers and were wearing hard-harts in the picture. Björk knelt between both of them squeezing the arm muscle of one. This was really strange. The two men looked more English than Icelandic (Then again, what does an Icelander look like ?)

Anyway there were some others, more familiar adult pictures. (Like from the Vessel video) but the whole story made it seem as though Björk was born and grew up in a working-class London suburb instead of the somewhat isolated land of Iceland.

Well that’s all I remember I wish I could Described the pictures in more details, but those were the ones that came to mind, maybe this person I was reading about in my dream was not our Björk, but counterpart in a parallel universe ?

I’ll have to ask Dionne Warwick’ psychic friends about that.

Fanzines :

Sweet Intuition (in English).
Rachel Crookes’ Fanzine is a must for all Björk fans in the UK. It is rough and ready with all the information you need. Plus you can get your poems, drawings and opinions printed.
25 Elmtree Road . Cosby. Leicester LE9 1SR. UK

XtraBjörk (in Italian).
Abbiate Andrea gets the word around in Italian. Support his fanzine and he’ll bring you the news of Björk’s adventure on the Apennine Peninsula.
Verrone Massimo Via Pertini 1, 20020 Solaro, (MI), Italy

Etoile-Polaire (in French).
Olivier Cheneaux won’t sleep until he’s got all the facts and figures right. Björk is his Pole star and like a good sailor he follows her. Join him on his trip.
BP 65 65300 Lannemezan France.

FAQ part 1

One of the most frequently asked question about Björk is about the origins of her tattoo. To get the matter clarified once and for all we turned to the Icelandic composer and authority on old Icelandic magic, Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson.

On Runes, Magical signs and Björk Tattoo

The runes have always been associated with something secret, magical and mysterious. The german word raunen means to whisper and the old norse world run can mean secret or even some sort of code. It was believed the secrets of the runes were passed from the god O∂inn down to mortal men who could use them to effect both good and evil.

Most people think of the runes as being single uniform alphabet, but form various sources we learn that there may have been more than one type being used. A famous passage in the old Icelandic poem ’Sigurdrafamal’ enumerates runes to be used for different purposes : these were victory-runes, birth-runes, speech-runes, thought-runes, health-runes, ale-runes and surf-runes. While the last to might not reveal the hitherto secret existence of Nordic beach-bums, they at least show the ancient Scandinavians had a practical approach to magic. Other sources name more runes such as fertility-runes, love-runes, battle-runes and weather-runes, but whether these were special alphabets, specifics inscriptions or just single unique glyphs remains open to speculation.

The inscription of an ancient Frisian amulet, or protective charm, has been interpreted as always carry this yew in a host of battle and this might be an example of battle-runes. In Egil’s Saga, the story of an Icelandic poet-warrior, hell raiser and party-animal, we have what might be a description of the intriguingly names ale-runes. Egil detects poison in his drink by scoring runes on his drinking horn which he reddens with blood recites a poem and to and behold, the horn explodes and Egil of course repays this terrible hospitality in a typical viking fashion (He gouges out one of his host’s eyes and pukes what he’d drunk into his mouth.) This may explain why Björk so often misses the unique quality of Icelandic parties.

Sometimes the runic letters of a word or sentence were combined into a single letter or sigil called ’galdrastafur’ or ’magical glyph’ and these could range from the name of specific nordic god to things like ’let that guy who stole my sheep suffer horribly’. As mentioned before these runes and glyphs were connected with things which happen in everyday life. Thus we have specific inscriptions for people who were given to ride drunk on their horse, inscriptions for those who would not like to be cheated in business transactions and inscriptions for those who wander far away from home so that they never get lost. It is the last one which Björk has chosen as her personal tattoo and many a time will her Icelandic friends tell stories of how Björk led them through raging blizzard in the dark Icelandic winter nights and took them right to their doorsteps in zero visibility.

As with all things magical the practicality and the reality remain open to speculation, and as the old Icelandic warrior and poet Grjotolfur Gigarmögur said :

My legs and arms
hurt from battle
my back itches
where my friends scored
the protective runes

But if they look good
and seem to work
who cares

Höh

It’s Oh So Idiotic

Zany scream queen Björk works with the father of the insaniest characters ever to disgrace your TV screens !
by Bo Fleaman From : The normal Standard - October 15th 1996

To the horror of parents everywhere two of the most disturbed minds in show business, nutty Icelandic pop star Björk Guðmundsdóttir and uncontrollable American director John Kricfalusi, have come together to make what they promise will be the silliest, most demoralizing and, as some depraved souls will undoubtedly say, funniest music video ever ! The readers of this paper know the exploits of Mrs. Guðmundsdóttir well enough. They know all about how she shrieked her way to stardom, but it s not sure they know the sorry story of Mr.
Kricfalusi.

Hailed as a genius who brought new live to cartoons with his cat ’n’ dog series ’Ren & Stimpy’ Mr. Kricfalusi was kicked out of his own project as soon as it was bought up by the responsible and ever expanding media conglomerate VIACOM. Why ? Well, one of the reasons was what Mr. Kricfalusi said in an interview with the movie rag ’Film Threat’. There he stated that the executives of Viacom’s cartoon network, Nickelodeon, had womanly humour. And they are all MALE !

So, what is HIS sense of humour ? Manly of course ! And what does that mean ? Is picking ones nose funny ? Is going alone into a blizzard in search of ones own fart funny ? Is eating soap funny ? Is a rubber nipple salesman funny ?

It’s sad to say, but Mr. Kricfalusi’s creations are a return to the days of legendary troublemakers such as Tex Avery and Max Fleischer. Avery’s Cartoons caused anger and confusion in many homes. His whistling wolfs, scantily clad women and eccentric (almost avant-garde) plots made him feared and loathed by god fearing souls around the globe. Fleischer’s Betty Boob was no better. Skimping around in a mini skirt, cooing like a tart, she was one minute in this world and the next minute trapped in a surreal fantasy from a dark corner of Fleischer’s mind. Needless to say both men found themselves in trouble with the censor and in the end they were shadowed by the true genius of Walt Disney.

Unfortunately the difference between those two and Mr. Kricfalusi is the fact he is alive and there is no Walt Disney to challenge his creativity. Far from being sore in the derriere after being booted from ’The Ren & Stimpy Show’ he’s sitting at his desk somewhere in Hollywood, churning out new characters and cartoons. Making fun of our littlest brothers and sisters, innocents, the mentally insane,
the insecure,the boy scouts and rightfully angry men.

And isn’t there something cocksure and devious about the way his company "Spumco" greets those unfortunates who stumble on its internet site whilst using the great educational tool called the World Wide Web ?

"Here in Spumco’s Wonderful World of Cartoons, you’ll get to visit with Jimmy the Idiot Boy and George Liquor, American. And you’ll meet the Spumco stars of the future, like Jimmy’s pussy, Cigarettes the Cat, Nutty the Friendly Dump, and Jimmy’s underage girlfriend, Sody Pop. (Boys, we promise you’ll REALLY like Sody... if you re normal. If you’re not, we’ll draw Jimmy naked for you once in a while. Wink-wink !).”

If this is what we can expect from Mr. Kricfalusi and his cohorts it is no wonder parents have already started to voice their concern in letters to the company :

"I have one question regarding the material you are working on now and that ultimately will become my daughters viewing material in the future : My wife and I studied in Japan and there it is against all customs to blow one’s nose. At first we found the habit of forcefully sucking the mucus back into the nasal cavities quite disgusting. But when we were given the reasons for this behaviour we had to let go of our western principles, and disgust gave way to admiration of the eastern mind. In your funny and entertaining episodes will there be characters who blow their noses ?"

AND in an official statement placed on the site a company spokesman tells one of its deranged fans that : ..."we’re working on a cartoon rock video that will really satisfy your manly desires ! It s going to star everybody’s favourite idiot, Jimmy and his beautiful admirer, Björk !"

One can just take wild guess at what lies behind the words manly desires. Maybe it’s the fact that both Mr. Kricfalusi and Mrs. Gu∂mundsdottir have unpronounceable names that made the collaboration feasible to them. Maybe the eccentric pop star thinks his creations are REAL people. (kri & Stimpy were among those who got thanks on her last album, remember !). Whatever the reason, the reputations of both Mrs. Gu∂mundsdottir and Mr. Kricfalusi are far from pretty. Prepare for the worst, lock up your kids if you haven’t tied them down in the cellar already. Then get somebody you trust to hide away the remote control or if you’re out of friends and family put on that cap, load that shotgun, sit down in that chair, turn on that TV set of yours and start waiting for ’I Miss You’.

(This is a satire you eeeeediots ! For more information on John K.
and Spumco pay them a visit on the internet : http://www.spumco.com’)

The GrapeWire

Roadrunner

Björk has a few countries left to visit this year. In October she plays South-America and South-Africa. There are two concert scheduled in Rio De Janeiro and one in Sao Paolo, Brazil. She’ll play Santiago, Chile and Buenos Aires in Argentina, Cape Town and Johannesburg in South-Africa. Then there’s no more touring, just happily recording and writing songs.

Studio Dreams

Björk has been using every spare moment she can get to write music. One the plane, in the tour bus, at the kitchen table. During breaks in the touring schedule she’s been popping in and out of studios, laying down beats, recording strings, twisting this button or that. It’s been a fruitful exercise, and according to Björk’s spokesman she now has a two handfuls of songs that slowly but surely are becoming, yes we can report it, her third album. People that she’s collaborated with The Brodsky Quartet, Howie B. and the world’s best flamenco guitar player Raimundo Amador.

Release me please

As Telegraph goes to the printer this much is known about forthcoming releases from Björk. October will see the release of Possibly Maybe as a single, with a video made by Stephane Sednaoui. Telegram is to be released in November. And ’I Miss You’ is to be put out in December.

Of the highly exclusive 12" remix release from Telegram two are out. Possibly Maybe/I Miss You and Enjoy/Possibly Maybe. The third Big Time Sensuality/One Day will be put out when Plaid who are remixing BTS have put the extra fine little touch on their mix.

But as you who have been waiting for Telegram know : Nothing is sure, everything can change. A butterfly is eaten by a bird in South-Korea and a week later Björk’s release schedule get altered in London. Over and out...

En lien avec...