Her new anthology Utopia imagines a bigger world, while our own plunges into darkness. Why? Because abnegation is not activity to save the planet, a fired-up Björk tells Al Horner, in a chat additionally spanning nights in New York with the Wu-Tang Clan, self-care aqueduct walks in London, a near-collaboration with Jay Z and her acrimony for Spotify and Apple Music.
“You apperceive aback you should go home from the bar? But you aloof breach for one added alcohol and one added alcohol and one added drink…” It’s aboriginal November, and Björk Guðmundsdóttir is analytic for the words from her Icelandic home to call an addiction she afresh threw herself into: texting. “Oh, I was texting bodies like ambiguous crazy,” she laughs. “If I was with bodies in a room, my affection would be 51% with the bodies I’m texting and alone 49% with the bodies in the room.” Afterwards a aeon of anguish afterward the breakdown of her marriage – distilled into stark, bitter audio abandon on her aftermost album, Vulnicura – the 52-year-old begin herself fatigued to the bemused thrills of acid letters aback and alternating to accompany and new acquaintances in her life. The addle of what they’d altercation back, the all-overs of aback or even if they’d reply, was a aberrant rush. “I absolutely enjoyed it, but it was kinda fucked up!”
This, it turns out, is article Björk does a lot: finds a pastime, afresh takes it to an about obsessive-compulsive acute till she can canteen its awareness in agreeable form.“The aforementioned way I would captivate over an anthology or a lover,” she explains. During the authoritative of 2001’s Vespertine, she didn’t aloof watch the TV balloon of Michael Jackson: “I followed it manically. I aloof binged. I absolutely binged, analytical to see how acculturation would amusement a beastly like him.” Afresh there was her backward addition to Facebook. “At first, I didn’t appetite it in my life. Afresh aback I did, I went absolutely extreme. If I was activity to do it, I capital to do it with force and obsession, like it was the ocean,” she says. “I capital to accomplish it a feeling.”
“When you’ve been at the basal of the basin for so long, eventually you’re activity to float up to the surface”
There’s an altercation to be fabricated that this, aloft aggregate abroad – her connected chase for innovation; her immaculate, instantly apparent voice; the devastatingly admirable beheld worlds she builds about her music – is what has fabricated Björk one of the best absolutely atypical artists of the aftermost 30 years. Björk is a translator. She scrounges in all corners of the beastly experience, award the activity of nuanced, generally bond situations, afresh translates them to melody, to the admiration of hundreds of bags of admirers worldwide.
In March 1997, aback the Reykjavík-born artisan won the aboriginal anytime Nordic Council Music prize, a board affiliate compared her to the Norse god Heimdallr, guardian of Bifröst – a afire bubble arch bond the realms of god and man. Raised on classical piano and flute, baptised with jailbait in her adolescence afresh absolute herself to be an avant-pop curiosity as her career took flight, the association was that she bridged the gap amid “the classical and the acid edge,” as Emily Mackay puts it in her 33 1/3 book on the star. Two decades of trail-blazing later, you could advance the affinity further: the best cogent gap she bridges is amid the affections we all acquaintance (and sometimes accept never anticipation to articulate) and the melodies that truthfully, absolutely best represent them.
“Vulnicura was a arid landscape. On Utopia, we capital to accomplish melodies that were like constellations in the clouds”
Like, for example, the assorted mini affecting rollercoasters that bounce from your phone’s messaging apps daily. “There are some songs on there about texting and over-texting,” she beams of Utopia, her ninth album, and aboriginal feature able accord with new agreeable soulmate, Arca. The Venezuelan ambassador had a cardinal role on Vulnicura, but alone began accidental in its final stages. Here, he was so acutely involved, “we kinda capital to [title the album] ‘made by Björk and Arca’ because the approach was so acute amid us,” Björk reveals.
The anthology was billed half-jokingly in an account as her “Tinder album” and understandably so. The aerial and ablaze animation to Vulnicura‘s asthma-attack panic-grip of grief, it’s a harp, canal and romance-filled boating to a peach-pastel paradise, in which Björk is acquirements to be affectionate again. On advance distinct ‘The Gate’, the titular aboideau is the one in which you let addition in, and let adulation out in return: “If you affliction for me, I’ll affliction for you,” she sings over the sparsest of agreeable blossoms. “Didn’t acclimated to be so needy.” She is, critics accept been in a blitz to point out, abounding of adulation again.
21 years ago, in Martin Aston’s Björkgraphy, she likened absolution an anthology to “putting your account out for anybody to read.” Has that awareness intensified, I ask, over these aftermost two albums, on which her claimed activity – the affliction of annulment on Vulnicura, and the activity of affair new bodies on Utopia – has been such a accessible allotment of those records? “Yeah… but in a acceptable way,” she smiles, and our chat – affecting on her continued absent Wu-Tang collaboration, her frustrations with alive services, our attraction with the end of the apple and much, abundant added – gets underway.
“We don’t accept the affluence of indulging in this “poor me, the apple is activity to die” dystopia stuff. We accept to get up on our all-overs and act”
Do you still get afraid afore a release?
I still get fretfulness aback I absolution an album. It’d be odd if I didn’t, you know? I’d be afraid if it was like, bubbler a bottle of water. It’s additionally a acceptable feeling, like AHHHHHH. There are two altered things: authoritative an anthology with your accompany in a array of adequate cocoon, and afresh seeing it adventure out into the ablaze outside. I’ve done it continued abundant now to apperceive that bodies will acknowledge to it abnormally than it acquainted central the cocoon. What I authority my animation a little for is that it’s the appropriate proportion: that they don’t booty one aspect and amplify it into article huge, or booty article that’s a big accord for me on the album, but be like, “forget about it!” So it’s like that. Accepting that bodies are activity to see it altered from what I see, but acquisitive that they see article abutting to what I intended.
Was the animation of Utopia, compared to the black of Vulnicura, article you carefully set out to do, or article you gravitated appear naturally?
Because it was such aphotic accountable bulk with Vulnicura, we were absolutely agog on lightness. I assumption we’d aloof been alert ceaseless for two years to absolutely austere lyrics and asperous cord arrangements. And aback you’ve been at the basal of the basin for so long… eventually you’re activity to float up to the surface. It’s like physics. So I was absolutely aflame by things absolutely creamy and aerial and amphibian and, like, fireworks!
The aboriginal song we did was the aboriginal song on the anthology [‘Arisen My Senses’]. I absolutely begin a bend of a mixtape or a SoundCloud affair that [Arca] had done three years prior. I aloof anticipation it was the best happiest firework that he’d anytime done. I didn’t acquaint him about it – I aloof sampled it, sang it to him and he aloof exploded, you know? I wasn’t absolutely acquainted of what I was doing. I was extensive for the best euphoric, antigravity moment that he’d done, and afresh I abstract that by looping it and autograph a harp adjustment about it and singing on top of it these athrill lyrics. Afterwards we’d taken the saddest coordinates of ceremony added and accumulated them into Vulnicura, we were accomplishing the adverse now. And that was kinda the starting point.
“Since Trump got adopted and accommodated from the Paris Climate Accord, I anticipate attrition has to be DIY”
So ‘Arisen My Senses’ became the acclimate for the blow of the album?
After that, the songs would aloof cycle out. You know, we didn’t absolutely apperceive how to acclaim this album. I anticipate we managed with what little analytic abandon of our accuracy are larboard – and there’s not a lot, by the way! – to address on a allotment of cardboard the altered [ways] we wrote this album. One is: he’d accelerate me music that he’d made, afresh I would aces a bit, like I aloof declared to you, in ‘Arisen’… I would acclimate it on ProTools, because all the songs on my albums are edited by me on ProTools. That’s one way.
Another way was added agnate to Vulnicura: I would address a song like I commonly do – I’d do a canal adjustment or a harp adjustment afresh sing – and afresh he would appear and accomplish a exhausted to it. There were a brace of songs like that: ‘Blissing Me’, ‘Body Memory’ and I anticipate like bristles or six songs like that.
Then there were songs he would accelerate me [complete] songs and I’d address over the top of it, which I’ve never done but I’ll do with him. ‘The Gate’, the aboriginal single, that was that array of song. He beatific me the active and it was so perfect, it didn’t charge any editing. Absolutely I booty that aback – it did charge some alteration [laughs]. So I wrote the canal adjustment and my vocals. ‘Painstaker’ was additionally like that, the additional aftermost song.
Then there were songs agnate to how we did ‘Notget’ on Vulnicura, area I took a song he’d already written, and a song of abundance that I’d already written, and we’d do a mash-up. I aloof afraid them to pieces and fabricated a new affair out of two songs that already exist.
Was autograph article that was lighter beneath of a ache than mining the black that you did on the aftermost record?
Yep, absolutely! It couldn’t be added extreme. I anticipate article about affliction of Vulnicura, which was so sad, fabricated the melodies like they were aloof lying on the floor. They don’t move a lot. The strings were actual abundant and the beats were actual heavy. There were no plants: it was aloof a arid landscape. And so I anticipate we capital to do the opposite. To accomplish melodies that were like constellations in the clouds.
I anticipate for me, in the alpha of Utopia, I was actual aflame to breach abroad from the anecdotal on Vulnicura. It was so abundant and “me me me” and “poor me.” I aloof capital to abandon and become one of the instruments and lose that abundant narration. All the aboriginal songs I wrote [for Utopia] had three or four advance vocals and not one of them was in the front. Allotment of it was because I was accomplishing a lot of VR and I capital to do article area my vocals were about you. But additionally emotionally, I’d aloof OD’d on the airs of the narrator. So a lot of the melodies accept like bristles vocals and none of them are advance vocals. They’re like agreeable statements.
“After demography the saddest coordinates of ceremony added on Vulnicura, we were accomplishing the opposite”
You mentioned in an account aftermost year that you and Richard D. James bandy advance via email. Did Aphex get a bastard blink of Utopia?
Hah, no. I was kinda abashed that that was absolute up… Aback aback I lived in London, we did. If we apprehend a clue we anticipate the added one is activity to like, we accelerate it to ceremony other. But added people’s music. Aggregate I acquisition I absolutely try to share.
The anthology is blue-blooded Utopia. In literature, in film, in TV and in video games, you’re abundant added acceptable to appointment savaged worlds and post-apocalyptic tomorrows than futures in which humankind has got its bits together. Do we as a association fetishize dystopia?
Yes, absolutely. Utopia is a political account for me. I’ve had abundant of western civilisation activity apologetic for themselves and actuality bedridden and not acting. Western acculturation thinks their adventure is the alone adventure in the world. The airs of the west makes them anticipate they’re accepting this tragic, Titanic moment area they appetite the blow of the planet to authority their animation and feel apologetic for them while they sink. That’s accept for a little bit aback article sad happens, but not like for like 100 years. We can’t additional any time. We charge to go into action. We charge blooming energy. We charge to react.
We don’t accept the affluence of indulging in this “poor me, the apple is activity to die” dystopia stuff. I anticipate we accept to get up on our all-overs and act. And I anticipate the ball industry should feel responsible, definitely. Maybe I’m actuality too abundant of a mum but 90% of actual that is advancing from the [western entertainment] has normalised killing. It’s accept if it’s an artful of a atypical artisan who wants to be anarchic or dystopian. That’s one thing. But now our adaptation of the beastly breed is at pale and I’m not actuality dramatic, unfortunately. I anticipate we charge to bang into activity and appear with solutions. And we charge to do it now.
What do you anticipate is the aboriginal step?
I could cry all day about the actuality that the majority of the beastly breed are dematerialization and my grandchildren ability not see a lot of them. That’s adverse above words. But we charge to ask ourselves: how can we accomplish the best out of area we’re at appropriate now? That has to be blooming activity solutions that are functional.
I’m not a megalomaniac. I accept that utopia is not singular. But I anticipate there has to be a accumulation that bend up and do stuff. Seeing what’s accident online, abnormally afterwards Trump got adopted and accommodated from the Paris Climate Accord, I absolutely anticipate it has to be ground-up. I has to be DIY. It has be grassroots, the people. We cannot await on governments to go green. And that’s area accepted music comes in. It’s consistently been the articulation of the people. So yeah, that’s how I feel about that.
“RZA and I wrote a brace of songs. And I absolutely anticipate what we fabricated was magic”
That aeroembolism you call – area bodies are so afflicted by the negativity that they’re butterfingers of acting – is a absolutely catchy affair to overcome. How do you stop yourself acceptable afflicted by negativity? How do you abstain that aeroembolism point?
I go for walks in nature. Alfresco my window now, there’s a beach. I charge that attributes connection. I anticipate there’s article in the molecules of attributes that aloof brings calm through the elements. Aback you move through it, it balances you. And you’re not meant to do it on your own. That’s not how attributes advised us. You’re not declared to go into an abreast tank. [laughs] If you go for a 30 minute airing every day through trees, or a river, or whatever accustomed elements are abutting by, it’s absolutely actual healing.
When I lived in London, I absolved about the canals a lot. It’s maybe not like the highlands of Iceland, but the elements of baptize and the actuality they are not beeline lines… article bewitched happens. [Science is] proving added and added that attributes harmonizes amid your apperception and your body. The three things are not separate. I acquisition actual generally aback I go on walks, whatever is authoritative my apperception active or is causing me annoyance afterwards 20 account will appearance its face, and usually, by the time I’m aback home I accept a plan of how to accord with it.
I anticipate article in our adaptation apparatus brand you to airing and acquisition a rhythm. So, walking. But also, accept you approved kundalini yoga? I aloof acquisition it on YouTube. There’s a lot of breath and if you accept anxiety, the best cure for it is that bulk of breathing. If you deathwatch up with anxiety, aloof acquisition a 40-minute kundalini chic on YouTube and you’ll be amazed. The all-overs is aloof gone. And sometimes afore bed – if you’re award it adamantine to beddy-bye at night, that’s a absolutely acceptable trick.
“The catechism with all technology is: how do we acclimate chastity to it?”
As able-bodied as nature, you’ve continued been an apostle for the absolute ability of technology. Accept the changes in the way technology has impacted our lives over the aftermost few years – affected news, Russian bots, the aphotic ancillary of companies like Facebook and Google – threatened to accomplish you reevaluate that absolute acceptance at all?
Yes. I anticipate we accept to acclimate all the time. Advance is activity to appear if you like it or not. We don’t alive in caves. So it’s like, how are we gonna alive with it? I’ve said this abounding times before, but every apparatus of the beastly race, it’s consistently been absurd and miraculous. But afresh the after-effects is always: well, okay, how do we acclimate chastity to it? How do we acclimate this to the beastly soul? It’s consistently the aforementioned catechism – whether it’s blaze or the radio or Facebook.
Homogenic afresh acclaimed its 20th anniversary. Here’s article I’ve consistently wondered about that era in your career, as a big Wu-Tang fan: RZA is said to accept recorded with you about that time, but the sessions never saw the ablaze of day. What happened?
Ha! You know… I don’t know! I anticipate what happened was… I capital these kinda Icelandic, agitable beats, and I was affectionate of disturbing with it. I had done beats on my albums, but it takes me a continued time to accomplish them. And sometimes I get abrupt and I appetite added bodies to do it, so I sit there and call to them what I appetite them to do. So, I was in Spain, and Wu-Tang Clan were declared to appear to Spain. RZA was declared to come. But afresh months passed. Afresh the anthology got accomplished and I delivered it. Afresh RZA was like, “I’m ready! Shall I appear to Spain?”
Instead, I went to New York. We wrote a brace of songs together. And I aloof felt… sometimes aback you do things and you don’t plan them it’s magic. And I absolutely anticipate what we fabricated was magic. But I anticipate because it wasn’t allotment of the accomplished Homogenic affair and it wasn’t allotment of what Wu-Tang were accomplishing at the time, it was bigger as an idea, if that makes any sense?
We met a few times admitting – my favourite moment was aback I did an in-store at Tower Records. I’d never done annihilation like that before. I angry up – and seven of the Wu-Tang Clan angry up to, like, assure me! I was signing books for an hour, and they beatific some of their team, continuing there with me. That was one of my best favourite moments: I had been on my own, so aback they angry up I acquainted actual protected. It was magic. In my eyes, they’re punk. We are absolutely [similar] – we do things in, like, a ritual way. The acceptable affair was that I got to adhere out with them. I got to see Wu-Tang’s adaptation of New York. Which was appealing cool. A actual specific bend on that burghal that I feel actual adored to accept experienced.
“Hand to heart, I anticipate alive platforms are demography the piss”
I additionally already heard a buzz you recorded with addition New York rap luminary, Jay Z. Is that true?
There was, perhaps… He asked me to address for one of his albums. It was a area for a song. But it aloof didn’t appear in the end. Wasn’t meant to be. I’m consistently flattered aback bodies ask me. There’s a lot of things that I like about him.
I capital to ask a catechism about streaming. You’re a abundant accepter in technology and the abstraction that advance is activity to happen. But you’re additionally addition who makes actual complete bodies of work. How do you accommodate those two things aback the attributes of platforms like Spotify and Apple Music agency a lot of bodies will apparently acquaintance advance from Utopia on playlists, rather than as a whole?
I’ve consistently been a abundant accepter in polarity. Polar opposites. We don’t accept to accept attributes or urban, that’s not the point. The point is, how can we accomplish them coexist? I anticipate the aforementioned with men and women, pop and ‘serious’ music… Why choose? Eliminating things is not natural.
So aforementioned goes with this. Albums can be albums, but songs can abide on their own. I’ve been authoritative playlists of a array added or beneath aback I was a teenager, for DJ sets. It’s one of my favourite things absolutely – actuality able to booty three account of that song and three account of that song, complete opposites, and putting them aback to back. Completely altered musicians. If we say we can’t do that, we’re attached the admiral of music. It’s one of the best able things that music can do.
I’ll acquaint you though, duke to heart, I anticipate alive [platforms] are demography the piss. I anticipate we charge added fairness. I’m accept – I awash CDs in the ‘90s. I’ve got a house. But kids who are now in their 20s, I’m seeing it actively affecting abundantly accomplished musicians, who could become absolutely absolutely absurd and abound into admirable artists, but they can’t do it, because aggregate they make, they accept to accord abroad for free.
So they bout more.
Exactly. It tears them abroad from their ancestors and uproots them. Alive has abstract that. Kids in their 30s now accept been on the alley for 10 years. You know? With no breaks. I’ve toured a lot, but I would bout for a year, afresh I would be about for a year and a bisected and address an album. So you could lick your wounds and alleviate and get your bits calm and be with your ancestors members. Now, you don’t accept that. Alive is not fair. I’m acquisitive it will change. Maybe we are boring addition out a way that is activity to be a solution, so musicians get paid for their work.
“Rihanna’s articulation in ‘Work’, it’s so present. It’s like appropriate there with you. Appropriate abutting to you”
You mentioned your DJ sets a few moments ago, which accord admirers absolute acumen into the music you like that maybe isn’t represented in your assignment as Björk. Lil Yachty for example. How do you breach beyond new music in 2017?
It’s a combination. I accept websites I go to area I acquisition things. I’ll absorb canicule online attractive for inspiration. It was absolute fun aback I was bond my album. I couldn’t booty in any added music. So I was alert to a lot of announced chat for like a ages or two. Already I delivered my album, I was so accessible for new music. And I’d put abreast all these links. Afresh I spent two or three canicule on these links. Actuality abroad from it for two or three months meant there were tonnes of amazing things.
You’ve alone Rihanna in absolutely a few sets.
I aloof anticipate what I acquisition best agitative about her over the aftermost two years is how she’s developed vocally. Like, her articulation in ‘Work’, it’s so present. It’s like appropriate there with you. Appropriate abutting to you. But still the best airy way possible. I adulation the affect of her beats. I anticipate it was absolutely adventurous on her aftermost anthology not to anticipate in singles. She did the songs she would accept to herself and ball to herself and you could absolutely apprehend that. It’s in the accent of her voice. That’s what’s amazing. It’s about sound. But I don’t know. I aloof like it, it’s that simple.
Coming aback to Utopia: does the affection of your abutting anthology depend on how abundant of this album’s bulletin altruism chooses to adopt? Do we accept it in us to accomplish your fantasy a reality?
Hmmmm. I anticipate fantasy and acuteness are aloof as accurate as reality. And I anticipate that’s maybe what Utopia is additionally borer into: how our fantasies are aloof as accurate as reality. It’s kinda analytical how the two things afresh try to coexist. Aback you appetite that fantasy to appear true, if bisected of it comes true, that’s acceptable going, you know? But how do you assassinate that? I acquisition that fascinating. It’s a admirable thing.
Al Horner is the editor-in-chief of FACT. You can acquisition him on Twitter.
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