San Francisco Chronicle

Björk Returns With Strings Attached

Singer’s latest incarnation has classical tinge

Björk’s burbling voice comes through the telephone receiver, saying she is in bed at her New York hotel
room, eating a pear.

“I am really bad at eating the same things all the time,” the 32-year-old singer says in an accent shaped as
much by her Icelandic heritage as by her British residency. “I like to eat different things every day. I like
surprises.”

It’s clear why Björk, who returns to the Warfield Thursday, has charmed so many fans around the world.
Her appeal transcends the music on the three solo albums she’s released since leaving the indie-pop
group the Sugarcubes in 1992.

People adore Björk because in both her art and personal life she shuns convention. She embraces traits
that are rare in contemporary celebrity figures : courage, honesty and joie de vivre.

Just listen to her album, “Homogenic,” released last fall. Pairing cold computer rhythms with warm strings
and her emotionally charged lyrics, it manages the exceptional feat of making electronically produced
music sound human.

Björk does not restrict her extraordinary world view to song, though.

After some small talk, she pauses. “It is so strange. When you stop talking all the oxygen stops in the
phone. It’s some sort of hiss killer.”

With that revelation out of the way, she then gets down to the business at hand, which is to discuss her
tour. The road trip was aborted twice before it finally got under way ; the first time because of illness and
the second—a proposed trek with Radiohead—because of its unusual setup.

Björk’s touring band consists of an eight-piece Icelandic string section and drum-machine specialist Mark
Bell.

“I’m very excited about having the eight-piece string set,” Björk says. “They’re the best string players in
Iceland. I think all these people went on a little side route from their mission to my mission. I feel very
proud of that.”

Björk also explains that she was determined to complete this tour because she saw it as a personal challenge.

“It was against all odds,” she says. “When I told people I was going to have a gig with eight strings and one
guy playing drum machines, they just looked at me and said, ‘Listen, get a life.’ I guess I’m doing it just so
I can prove them wrong.”

The singer should get a rise out of seeing American fans react to the odd collection of instruments onstage.

“I love making surprises,” Björk says. “In Europe they are not surprised by me anymore. It seems like in
North America the audiences are so cute. They think things like, ‘Where is the guitar ?’ “

Björk is not impressed by mainstream America’s recent fetish for techno music.

“I get bored with people looking at rock as a normal situation, and all the other ones as weird,” she says.
“To me, they’re all the same. You use a guitar or drum machine or whatever to express yourself. People
have been playing electronic music for 50 years. I was just seeing a documentary yesterday on Lou Reed
and he did an electronic noise album in the ’70s, and he was American. And you look at this electronica
thing as being something imagined yesterday.”

She even attempts to distance herself from the genre in which so many journalists naively lump her. “I
never looked at my music as dance music,” she says. “People flattered me by calling me this dance diva.
But I think if you put any song from my albums on in a club, everybody would go to the bar. They are more
records for headphones. I enjoy dance music very much, and I enjoy drum ‘n’ bass fiercely, but that is not
my music.”

Björk considers her recordings to have more rustic roots, stemming from the Icelandic folk tradition of
storytelling.

“Drum ‘n’ bass belongs to the drum ‘n’ bass people,” she says. “I’m this woman from Iceland and I’m just
being truthful to where I come from and what I’m made of, which is a very nature-loving creature, but
still hearing music from all over the world. I think people make music for different situations. When I
write my songs they just happen to be almost like a diary.”

For Björk, whose romantic escapades usually make headlines in popular music magazines, that means
most of her material is inspired by matters of the heart. Still, she has a hard time defining love.

“What keeps me obsessed with it is, I don’t know what it is,” she says. “It’s so delightful sometimes to feel
that something is stronger than you. It’s just a question to surrender, which is so ridiculous because
everything in you is saying, ‘No.’

“All your precepts are just being thrown out the window. I think for me it’s just like magic. But I’m fiercely
loyal and ready and willing to support it when it happens. But because (love) is a creature that’s
independent from us, it goes wherever it wants. It’s a cheeky demon.”

And how much does Björk feel a part of the times ?

“I feel that I do communicate,” she says. “I’m still curious. I’m still waiting for that moment when I’m not
curious anymore. I’ve always dreamed, since I was a kid, that I would go to a little island and have a tower
and an organ on top that I would play at midnight. I’m always ready to do that, but it always seems there’s
one more thing I’ve got to do before.”

Aidin Vaziri

publié dans San Francisco Chronicle - 17.05.1998

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