A Mind-Blowing Conversation With Björk

Santiago Felipe

When it comes to making a mark on art, fashion and music, few people have been as prolific as Björk. The Icelandic artist—who has 9 albums to her name and has already been the subject of an expansive retrospective exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art—has managed to create work that is constantly challenges and questions the status quo. The tributes to her work on youtube, soundcloud and mixcloud are endless testaments to her dedication to exploring ancient and new genres of music. What she does best is fuse them together and that is why, regardless of how obscure or high-brow her works are often depicted as, she has inspired a new generation of musicians. Her recent conversation with music scholar Emma Warren at the Red Bull Sound Academy in Montreal had attendants in tears as Björk opened up on the intent of her artistry, her creative process and the way in which she reacts to technology and inequality.

On how she’s managed to stay true to herself:
“I’m Orderless,” she said. “It’s a work in progress. Subconscious comes first—it’s a beast that comes out…then you have to define it and try to match the inside with the outside. Colour helps a lot. Stop wearing your red tshirt & try one more [suitable] sometimes. You pick what suits you at the moment. Friends also help. They can work out the murder mystery that your psyche is. I say this like its easy but I still feel like I’m always two years behind.”

On the importance of dance:
“Certain movements can be an entry point to emotion.Trying to unite physical spiritual emotional & visual. Once in a while they line up & a liberation happens.They are like keys to your body.I think of myself doing 21st century folk music with tribal elements because we all like to dance.”

On her DJing techniques:
In her 3 hour set at Montreal’s Cirque Eloize night club last night, Björk revealed that she wanted her audience to go from “slow to frantic” in an effort to “be as extreme as possible in a club.” One way she did this was using the sound of wild birds taken straight from jungle recordings so they would help her achieve the “minimalist to maximalist” approach she wanted. Her set started with slow piano and chirps and ended in heavy beats and thunderous bass. Her aim? “When you end the night where they are dancing topless on tables, that equals a success for me,” she said.

On how fashion protects her from trolls:
“”I wear masks because they are an interesting it’s a way to hide & reveal. With phones & selfie culture – I can [always] hear the click of phones—it’s weird energy. With masks I feel protected.”

On why Iceland wins:
“I don’t mean to boast but it’s the cleanest place and we have no army. It has a village vibe that I like. Reykavick has like 150,000 people in it, which means you can’t get away with shit. Someone is always connected to you.”

On the importance of building an ideal world for yourself:
“I’m a big believer in Utopia,” she said. “I think Utopia is knowing what you want. I don’t think it’s escapist—you have to be clear about your dream.”

Her thoughts on the environment:
“I’m concerned about ecology,” she said when asked about the themes of certain albums, which talk about impending threats to Mother Nature. “If we know how to make iPhone 7—we should know how to get rid of fossil fuels.”

On building your taste level:
“The arrogance of youth is important. It defines you. It’s great to hate. Be furious but remember what you don’t want but figure out what you do want. It’s about pulling out the weeds & figure out what your palate is. It’s what makes us human.”

On why women make great editors:
“I’ve been editing for 17 years. I’m a pretty good editor but I think there is a reason for this. Francis Ford Coppola and a lot of Hollywood movie directors have a lot of female editors. Women are good at connecting the dots and not missing anything and making sure it is all in there. If you’ve got 12 kids, you’re not going to just feed 9 of them. You’ll find ways to protect everything…”

Her experience with dealing with inequality:
“I was protesting when I was 10 about women not getting paid the same as guys. When I first started, I though ‘Every time there is hindrance, I’ll just do double or triple that the guys do.’ And I did. I can feel change right now. There’s a lot of girls getting stuff done. Five years ago, [Donald] Trump would have gotten away with his treatment of women.”

Her advice to upcoming musicians:
“You’ll always be from where you are. You have to keep being truthful-if it turns you on, it’ll work. You don’t have to sacrifice the emergency of feeling. If you do things you’re supposed to do– things go horribly wrong.”

Santiago Felipe

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