Interview Exclusive

Record Collector #276, 1er août 2002

Human Behaviour
After the Sugarcubes, I guess I had a mixture of liberation and fear. It had been obvious for a while in the band that I had different tastes than the rest. That’s fair enough - there’s no such thing as correct taste. I wrote the melody for ’Human Behaviour’ as a kid. A lot of the melodies on Debut I wrote as a teenager and put aside because I was in punk bands and they weren’t punk. The lyric is almost like a child’s point of view and the video that I did with Michel Gondry was based on childhood memories. Have I worked out human behaviour ? I guess not.

Violently Happy
I want to give and I want to tell stories. I was like that as a kid. I wanted to go to my grandmother’s house and if she was feeling grumpy or something, I wanted to make her happy by singing to her a song. It’s probably quite naive but that’s what drives me. I’m a storyteller and I love telling stories : I wanna be generous.

Do I put a lot of my private life on record ? I think you feel it when you are revealing too much when you write a song. It’s just the same as if you go out with a mate and get drunk and get to the ’truth’ stage and you wake up next day and think ’fuck, what did I say ?’. Sometimes you feel fine, sometimes you feel embarrassed, sometimes you feel a friend has told you something they shouldn’t have. I think our instincts know when you’ve given too much.

Venus As A Boy
I think I wrote it in my living room in Iceland and sang it into my dictaphone. Later, by accident, we were going through sounds and I found this broken bottle sound. It wasn’t intentional but it sounded great. It was one of the last songs recorded for Debut - the album was ready to go. Sometimes the more unpredictable side of me does several headstands and flicks-flacks once the album has been delivered and the best song come out.

It is about a specific person but I’ve always been very protective. I’ve never told the press who a song is about and I always make sure I tell the person themselves. I’ve shown people lyrics and asked them to live with them for a week, to make sure they would feel comfortable.

Possibly Maybe
’Possibly Maybe’ is a song that I can really do rollercoaster rides on and just go for it vocally. It’s one of the first songs that I wrote but didn’t hold my voice back. For me, and this is why I play it live almost every time, as a singer I can really use my voice as an instrument.

Actually, it was supposed to be a country song - an ambient country song - and when I first wrote it, we got a slide guitarist in. I’m not sure it ended up as one but that’s where it started. We were thinking about that song by Chris Isaak.

Big Time Sensuality
A lot of my songs - including ’Big Time Sensuality’ - are about my friends, not my lovers. It’s not erotic or sensual even if it may sound like that. As you know, you create pretty deep, full-on love relationships with friends.

A lot of it is also about myself. I can be a coward a lot of the time and there comes a moment when I write a song when I get quite brave. It’s a lot about me dealing with myself rather than attacking other people. Would I like to know the future ? No.

There’s a side to me that likes to plan a little bit ahead and there’s a side that just needs to be free. I’ve got problems with booking airline tickets - I always change them. Sometimes I wonder if it’s just for me to feel free. To kind of not be nailed in is really important to me.

Play Dead
I’d just written Debut when I was asked to do this song for ’The Young Americans’. I watched the film and wrote ’Play Dead’ based on the main character. It was actually fun because the character in the film was suffering and going through hardcore tough times and at the time I was at my happiest. It was quite liberating to sit down after writing a whole album to write from someone else’s point of view.

The particular character was pretty fucked up, you know. In the film, he had a girlfriend who just wanted him to be happy and in love and he just couldn’t get his head ’round it. It was just me trying to imagine what he would say to her. Things he never actually said to her in the film but things he would have said to her.

Army Of Me
It’s actually written to a relative of mine who had been a bit out of order for a while. I’m not sure why I wrote it. Maybe I felt that Debut had been such a polite, shy album - there was a side of me that was so shy and such a beginner, I was very flattered when everyone loved Debut but also a bit confused because it wasn’t really me. Maybe ’Army Of Me’ was an attempt to balance it out.

There’s an epic continuity between ’Human Behaviour’, ’Isobel’ and ’Bachelorette’. I’m not sure if it’s a joke or serious - probably a bit of both. It’s basically a character I invented called Isobel.

In ’Human Behaviour’, she’s a little girl. In ’Isobel’, she moves to the big city and big lights. She functions with her intuition wich isn’t very good in cities and crashes with a lot of ill-behaved people. So she goes back and trains a lot of moths and sends them back, as messengers of intuition, into the city to people who are not working with their intuition. In ’Bachelorette’ she takes over and trees grow over the city. It’s part autobiography part storytelling.

There’s a side to me that’s really casual and that’s in them. There’s a side to me that’s very dramatic and very romantic and there’s a side to me that’s pretty hardcore. I guess the line of songs were meant to be like an epic, 19th Century novel but at the same time taking the piss. I can be a little too dramatic at times.

I Miss You
It’s not about anyone in particular because it’s about someone I haven’t met. It’s like a word game : ’I miss you but I haven’t met you yet’. It’s about looking forward to something that hasn’t happeed.
It’s Oh So Quiet
It was sort of a joke really. It was a song Guy Sigsworth used to play on the bus when we were touring. Ever since, I almost regret doing it bacuse I wanted to put so much importance on making new music. So many people are doing old music and you’ve even got new bands doing old music. If I put something out in this world, it would be the courage to go ahead and invent things, so it’s ironic ’It’s Oh So Quiet’ became my biggets song. The best bit was the video.

I guess that song is about when you’re in a relationship and it’s going really well and you’re really happy and maybe you have given up parts of yourself. To fall in love and be in a relationship for a long time is like giving a lot of parts of you away, because the relationship becomes more important than you as individuals. It’s a bit of a tricky balance. I think everyone in a relationship needs to know not to forget themselves...

Obviously, it’s imaginary and didn’t actually happen : she wakes up before him and sneaks out and throws stuff off a cliff so she can climb back into bed and go ’Good morning honey’. There’s maybe a side of you that you can’t fit into a relationship.

I guess that song’s about when you have a lot of people that work for you and you sort-of have to write songs or people get unemployed, you know ? In most cases, it’s inspiring but in that particular song I was pissed off with it. I was ready for a break but it didn’t seem fair on the people I worked with at the time.

Alarm Call
I do believe in the power of music to change things. I do sometimes feel like I’m the only one left who believes that.

Hidden Place
I guess the microbeats were from me getting heavily into my laptop and just trying to enjoy the music from its speakers. The songs on Vespertine are introvert. I tried to make it frozen, winterlike. It’s an inside album, a domestic album, I had loads and loads of beats for ’Hidden Place’ but it still wasn’t up enough. Matthew Herbert came for a visit in the studio and offered to do it. He ran away to his studio and came back after a few hours later with a DAT.

I think that songs is several things. At the time, I was going to move to London for a couple of months to record an album. I ended up doing two records and touring the world. I’d never been so long away from Iceland, so when I started preparing for Homogenic, it was very obviously supposed to be a love album to Iceland nature. I’d learned enough about studios and beats to make modern Icelandic pop music. It’s isn’t Icelandic music trying to be English or American. I was doing a lot of experimenting with beats trying to make them sound volcanic. With this song, I really had a sort of National Anthem in mind. Not the National Anthem but certain classic Icelandic songs -very romantic, very proud. All the puffin stories are rubbish, though.

Because I wanted the lyrics to be so epic, I got my friend Sjón - who’s a poet in Iceland - to write them. We sat together at the kitchen table and drank a lot of red wine and I told him the whole story for hours and days and he wrote the words from that story.

Pagan Poetry
I’d always wanted to work with music boxes but it was waiting for the right occasion. I’de been collecting them and stuff. The main thing was that I wanted to write my own songs in music boxes.

In the beginning, the music box company weren’t very excited. They’d made wooden boxes for eons and I wanted see-through plexiglass. They couldn’t get their head round it - they were like ’Why ?’

They wanted to make the plonky sound softer with wood but I wanted it as hard as possible, like it was frozen. In the end, they said it was the best thing they’d ever done.

I had to go to Denmark for a year. There was nothing going on. I was literally lying on the beach, looking at the ocean, with a ghetto blaster listening to Thomas Knak/Opiate’s album. I realised he was from Copenhagen. I just called him up.

It’s In Our Hands
It was nice to do a full-blooded song after doing a whole album that didn’t have any blood in it, though that was the point with Vespertine, that it was see-through like a crystal. When we played it live, we were all looking forward to rocking out.

publié dans Record Collector #276