Happy Happy Happy BJÖRK

brit awards magazine , 1994

When you’ve been famous since you were 11 years old and pointed out on every street corner in old Reykjavík, then
you’re probably entitled to view fame as an uncomfortable travelling companion.

The fact that Björk is currently Iceland’s number one star, established as a major name in the UK and fast emerging on the international circuit doesn’t help when you want to retain your privacy. “I spent long enough in bands in Iceland—I began singing on albums when I was 11—to know that I’d had enough of fame. I’ve grown used to being recognised since I was a child. I didn’t like it then, but I have grown used to the fact that if you want to do your music then all this other stuff comes along.”

Björk (full name Björk Guðmundsdóttir) is the lady who used to share the vocals for The Sugarcubes, went solo last year and proceeded to make one of 1993’s best-received albums. The aptly titled “Debut” went top three in the UK, produced three hit singles and brought her not just success but solo success.

“I thought it would be really difficult and I would have to close my eyes, rush in and do the album and then rush back to Iceland and become a housewife. But it was more effortless that I thought and wasn’t focused on me as much as I thought it would be.

“I’ve been working with designers one day, video directors the next and musicians on another day and that has taken the focus off me. Even working with lawyers is interesting !!”

The making of her debut album brought Björk into contact with producer Nellee Hooper, honoured for his work with Soul II Soul and Sinead O’Connor. “I had five tunes already in my head for the album before I even met Nellee. I had no idea who he was, had no idea of his past, but he was very charming and obviously very talented and it was clear that we had something in common in that we were both tired of pop music as it stood. We both wanted to create something different in pop music which I think really one of the most important parts of your life.”

The end product was an album described by one journalist as “a surprising playful collection” on which Björk “reclaims all her wit and jouissance”. Is this what she set out to create when she embarked on a solo career ?

“I’m pleased that people say that my album is happy. I do get pissed off with people who moan about things and with music that’s full of self pity. Miserable music does nothing at all for me. Nobody has an easy life and people should look at it in the face and get on with it. Iceland is that sort of country but the UK is very different ... people here are preoccupied with small things”.

Going solo means that Björk has now become the centre of attention on stage, no longer able to be just one of the band, and she loves it. “Being the front-person gives me a kick. I love making music and performing in front of people. There is a risk element that it will go wrong when you do things live and that’s such a kick. But I still love best of all writing and arranging music, working in an intimate way with good people. Being able to sing is just convenient ; is makes it easier for me to explain what I am about.”
Hit records, BRIT Awards nominations and great reviews—what could a girl ask for in her first year as a genuine solo artist ? “I’ve been extremely lucky. Everything has gone kinda my way and it’s been so effortless. When I made the album it was done as a private thing after working with other people and on other people’s projects for so long. I didn’t really expect all the attention but I would be lying if I said id didn’t make me happy.

“I had got used to being misunderstood in Iceland over the years and this was the first time my music has really been appreciated.”

After visits to Japan and Australia in the early part of this year, Björk will set about making her follow-up album and she’s hot to trot. “I wanted to go straight back into the studio right then. I did record five tracks almost straight away and I can’t wait to start making the second album. I’ve spent ten months promoting the first album and when I make the next one it will once again become a very private affair— it is something only I can do.

“Of course, people will expect something special. Everybody really overestimated my first album—I’m not pretending to be humble—but they really have and, while it’s great to get support from the public and the media, I have got pretty tough about people’s opinions and can function without that support when I have to.”

Being a sensible Icelandic person with a canny grasp of the fluctuating fortunes of the international music business, Björk has made provision for the future. “I have already made sure financially that I can make the next album, and the one after that. We’ll start the next one this year and it may come out in 1994 but I don’t like things to be planned out like that.

“If it’s finished, fine, but if not then it’ll come when I’m ready.”

Transcript by Adam Dawes

publié dans brit awards magazine