Vox

Björkabout—Quaking in Oz

The Big Day Out—the Antipodean zinc-cream-lipped bastard son of Glastonbury and Lollapalooza—has just survived a cyclone, and Björk has just endured, and enjoyed, an earthquake. The earth is moving and Iceland’s queen of blue-eyed pop is having a good time.

A series of six concerts that rolls across New Zealand and Australia, The Big Day Out was launched in January 1992 as a one-dayer in Sydney with Nirvana top of the bill. This year, more than 30 acts— including The Ramones, Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, Urge Overkill and Björk—are hanging out Down Under.

A few days ago, a cyclone scoured Brisbane on the day of the show there, nearly levelling the venue. But organiser Ken West is unfazed—today’s Melbourne date is coming together at a 20,000- capacity racetrack, and there is no wind, hail or snow forecast. He’s determined that the ever-expanding show should be fun for the slightly left-field line-up, which includes local acts.

“We knocked Morrissey out,” explains his partner Vivian Lees with typical Antipodean irony, “because he would’ve been a miserable bastard.”

Meanwhile, on the 16th floor of Melbourne’s Bryson Hotel, Björk is taking in the view of the city and the parched landscape beyond. She’s due on-stage in five hours, but right now she’s recalling what happened two nights before in Brisbane.

“It’s strange,” she says in a chirruping voice that slides between London and the burring brogue of her homeland. “While we were playing, the crowd was just standing with their mouths open... we thought nobody liked us. So we thought ‘Oh fuck’em...’ and we just had fun. We are a bit strange on this bill. It’s 12 hours of Grunge, and we’re like the pink dot in the middle of all these noisy rock guitars.”

She shrugs and smiles. A few days before flying into cyclone-torn Brisbane, she’d been in Los Angeles— just in time for the big quake. “It was brilliant,” she says, jumping up from her seat.

“I always thought it would be a really nervous thing ! But it was this really deep, big bass in your guts. I thought : `Yes ! This is what I’ve wanted to feel ever since I was born !’ It’s funny, it’s like your body is thirsty for it and it satisfies you in a strange way.”

People are telling her she could tour on the back of her Debut album for the next two years, but she can’t be bothered. She’s still reluctant to go ahead with a remix album of Debut (it was originally scheduled for Christmas), and would much rather do another album than extend her tour.

“I love singing live, that’s the ultimate... but you sing one hour and you have to hang around two or three days to do it. Then you come off a three-month tour and realise you’ve spent all that time for maybe having done 30 hours of singing.”

Although her son Sindri is now at school in London, and no longer travels with her, Björk’s offstage behaviour has been more controlled than usual.

“Touring gives you the freedom to go to extremes. Sometimes you have tours where you’re just drunk the whole time, and you keep really high because you don’t eat and you just go to clubs and meet lots of unhealthy people. Then you get a natural high for the next tour and eat lots of celery, and for the next you only listen to jazz.

“Last time, because it was Europe and I know a lot of people, I was getting drunk a lot,” she explains. “On this tour, though, I’m leading a very different life. I know fewer people, so I get up early, run into the ocean and read a lot of books.

“Because I’ve been touring for years I can go to 20 gay clubs in 20 different cities, but for the first two years I was completely disorientated and I’d have to sit in a chair, eat a lot of bread and cheese and say : ‘OK, you’re in London, your name is Björk, you come from Iceland,’ and keep myself on the ground like that.”

Touring with her son also helped Björk to maintain an essential level-headed perspective on the world.

“For the first five years I toured with my kid. That was brilliant, because we were just looking for waterslide parks. I became an expert on those things... where to find nappies in various cities around the world ! I could write a book on where to find second-hand baby clothes.”

The singer sips her lemonade and stretches in the sunlight. Japan lies ahead (“they look after you very well and work you very hard ! Fourteen interviews a day,” she laughs), but first she needs to buy some books and find out where in Australia Yolumba is, as it’s the home of a character in one of Sindri’s books. Oh, and she has to appear at the Big Day Out in about five hours’ time...

The sun dips below the horizon as The Ramones belt out their final “Gabba Gabba Hey”, and Björk comes on-stage in a full-length, clinging dress as the moon starts to appear white in the sky. The audience, which had been baying for ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’ just minutes before, is suddenly lured into clubland by a visceral ‘There’s More To Life Than This’ delivered with fat-bottom bass, and the hipsway of ‘Big Time Sensuality’.

With the seven-piece band keeping a discreet profile, Björk sets the crowd alight with some crazed, dervish dancing. ‘Human Behaviour’ is guttural, then ‘Venus As A Boy’ leads the audience into a brace of ballads, which invest The Big Day Out with its most enchanting moments.

Interview by Graham Reid

publié dans Vox - 29.04.1994

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