"Mother" Björk paves the way for new generations

Facts: More questions for Björk

TT: You are 56 years old now, do you never feel tired, worn out and old?

— Yes, of course. But I’m lucky because I work for myself, I’m my own employer. And ever since I was 20, I’ve had to listen to my body because I’m a singer. I can’t drink if I have a concert the next day and since my body is my instrument I have to rest a lot.

— Before, I was often mad because my friends could party and let loose while I always had to go home and take care of my voice. But now I’m actually grateful because it taught me at a very young age how to rest and recover.

TT: It feels like “Fossora” is a very Icelandic album. Do you agree with that?

— I suppose it is – but I think all my records have been Icelandic. I’ve written most of my songs here, even when I’ve had a second home in London or in New York. Then I wrote the songs during my walks in Iceland and did other things, like arranging them, in London or New York.

TT: As usual, there are unexpected collaborations on the album. How did you end up working with Indonesian Gabber Modus Operandi?

— During covid, I DJed in a small record store in Reykjavik, in a small venue where only 20 people could come. Back then I often played this band. So at the end of working on the album I contacted them – they couldn’t come to Iceland because of the pandemic, but they sent me some beats that I mixed into the songs.

TT: Two of the songs are written in memory of your mother. My mother died in 1999, but I still find myself wanting to call her and tell her about things that happened to me. Is it like that for you?

— Yes, sometimes when I see something on Facebook about some environmental thing or a protest meeting for nature’s sake, I sometimes invite her too. She always appears in my thoughts, “I invite her, she probably wants to come”.

TT: Sometimes you can find solace in movies and songs. Do you have anything that comforts you in your loss?

— There is a Vietnamese-American poet in the US called Ocean Vuong, he is a friend of mine. First he wrote a novel about his mother and then when she died he published a collection of poems where some of the poems are about her. They are important to me.

“Mommy dances gabber.” The wording may not be entirely accurate. Little Jinder’s comment on the song “Atopos” from Björk’s new album “Fossora” swipes past in stories on Instagram and is gone 24 hours later.

One thing is certain: the Swedish artist is overjoyed that the matriarch of the music world is back on the track again. “I wouldn’t be who I am today without Björk,” she has said in a previous interview.

In the video for “Atopos,” 56-year-old Björk appears as a refined hybrid of a Teletubby and one of artist Cindy Sherman’s more disturbing self-portraits. She is accompanied by bass clarinets and dances to the aggressive beats that characterize gabber, a kind of hardcore techno with roots in the Dutch Rotterdam.

Björk has, as usual, created a whole universe around the new record. “Fossora” is an earthbound album, the title roughly means “she who digs”. Press photo.

A female universe

Björk herself is humbled by the fact that others – and specifically younger female artists – have been inspired by her, she explains to TT from her hometown of Reykjavik.

— The view of women has changed so much and for me it has been so exciting to see Kate Bush number one on the charts all over the world. I feel that the generation of 20-somethings is ready to accept women not only as singers and songwriters but more importantly – that the entire universe around them is female.

Björk has hardly escaped criticism for her experimental artistic expression, but she recalls that predecessor Kate Bush was mocked even more openly for her “crazy” lyrics and her distinctive way of singing and performing.

— In the 80s when she made great songs, she was ridiculed by journalists and music critics and called crazy, which made me very sad. Because it was okay to be a rock’n’roll guy on heroin and sing songs about beer and tits – that was okay and cool – but if you sang songs about women’s inner worlds then you were insane and crazy, says Björk seriously.

— Maybe there was no room on earth for it then. But now it’s a different era, for the generation that’s coming now, it’s not even 50/50 that applies, with them there are also rooms for queers and trans people, yes, all kinds of genders.

Marked by the pandemic years

Björk has spent the last few years at home in Iceland. “Fossora”, which will be released next Friday, is strongly marked by the time of the pandemic that forced her and the rest of humanity to stay at home and dampened the increased pace in which we lived.

In a way, she has had it easier than others, she points out. Iceland was not as affected as many other countries and the restrictions therefore not quite as severe. But the trips were canceled and the socializing shrunk – small house parties and DJ gigs for 20 people in a record store replaced the usually hectic touring life.

— Our lives have really become slower, we have perhaps lived at half the pace we had before, which I have really liked. But maybe it’s also been, like with a lot of the songs on this album, that you have four minutes that are really slow and suddenly at the end of the song it’s double tempo.

This is where the bass clarinets and gabbers come in.

— Bass clarinet is one of the best instruments I know, it has a kind of woody texture or timbre that works so well with this feeling that all of us on this planet have spent so much time in our homes for two years that we almost have formed roots in the ground. And gabber, I think that came more from the pace at which we live our lives.

Björk has spent the pandemic years at home in Iceland. “I almost feel guilty saying this, but in Iceland we haven’t had to change our lifestyle that much,” she says. Press photo.

Anchored in the earth

Almost all of Björk’s albums are made as a kind of reaction to the previous record. If 2017’s “Utopia” was a kind of sci-fi story about an island up in the clouds, with twelve flutes and almost no bass, then “Fossora” is much more rooted in the earth. On the album, Björk collaborates not only with musicians from the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Serpentwithfeet and Gabber Modus Operandi from Indonesia, but also with her children Sindri Eldon Thorsson and Isadóra Barney.

— It felt natural in a way because I met them much more often than usual, because of covid. And maybe it had something to do with the fact that they are both adults now so it felt like they were more equal to me. When I asked them if they wanted to work with me, they could answer in a more responsible way, they could sort of take the consequences of it.

Both Björk and Isadóra (or Doa) are also seen in the film “The Northman”, which premiered this spring, where Alexander Skarsgård plays the male lead. Björk looms over in a memorable supporting role as a nurse while her daughter has a larger role as a 16-year-old slave girl.

Björk doesn’t want to brag, she says in her bright, sincere voice, but she is very often asked if she wants to appear in films “and I really don’t have time for that, so I usually say no”. This time it was different, because one of her best friends, the poet Sjón, was one of the screenwriters.

— And I have this thing with my friend Sjón that when he asks me to do something, I always say yes. I did him a favor, even though I’m not really into acting. It felt like good karma, because he has really represented good energy and been a positive light in my life.

The punk helped her survive

Many artists succumb in the extremely tough music industry, but from the outside, Björk seems fairly intact decade after decade. How is it that she has survived as a human? She herself believes that it is because she started her career in a punk band in the 80s. At the time, Reykjavik was a small town with 80,000 inhabitants, where there were two record companies.

— It was the big commercial company, the bad guys, and then there was us. I was the youngest, like 14 years old and we were very self-sufficient, our philosophy came from the do-it-yourself spirit of punk. We weren’t looking for record deals, or thinking that a record company would come and save us like some kind of prince on a white horse. If you were to exist in the world, you had to do everything yourself.

Working from scratch in her teens – making her own posters, putting them up around town, pestering the local radio station to be played and arranging her own concerts – laid the foundation for an artist career where she not only sings and writes songs but also creates a universe of its own around the music. The goal has never been to make money or to be valued according to a commercial yardstick, she claims.

— I still do the same thing after all these years. If people like it, that’s a bonus and if people don’t like it, I’m ready for that too.

As usual, Björk and her team have also put a lot of energy into the visuals in connection with the launch of “Fossora”. Press photo.

Source: Then24

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Deborah Acker

I write epic fantasy; self-published via KDP. Devoted dog mom to my 10 yr old GSD, Shadow! DM not a priority; slow response at best #amwriting #author.

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