After working with the likes of Tricky and Graham Massey, 1995 saw her return with the equally fantastic ‘Post’. Last month Björk paid a visit to Manchester, just in time to talk about her next single, ‘Hyperballad’. It’s an epic love song, in which Björk describes chucking things off a mountain top in order to feel happier. Indeed, it does sound very therapeutic, but what’s really going on ?
“It was inspired by a situation I saw a lot of my friends get in to. I really like reading magazines about science, you see, and when people fall in love, they make this kind of drug in their bodies so they become addicted to each other physically. Nature makes things so that the drug lasts for three years, so if they’re together they’re just on a natural high. Nature makes sure that people get three years to sort out if they want to be together for life or not ; that three years is a try out time. Then they wake up and it’s a ‘Whoops, what am I doing here ?’ kind of thing ? Then they are forced to sort out if they love the person, like real love, or if it was just a trick.
“I just read this article and I looked at all my friends since I was a kid, and I saw that it always happened after three years, it’s so strange. You think you’ve never seen people so much in love and then after three years, like precisely, they ring the phone in the middle of the night and it’s , ‘Björk, I’m coming over’ and they come over and say ‘I don’t love him, what is it ? I don’t look forward to coming home anymore. What’s wrong ?’ Then at that point I could actually say,
‘Well listen, it’s science.’
“They get really hurt of course, it’s this David Attenborough dilemma I’ve got, I really want to be him. Another completely different angle on the same thing is when you fall in love with a person, you think that might be the last time, that maybe you will never ever fall in love again, so it becomes a very precious thing to you. So you start showing the person you’re in love with you’re best side only and you keep all your bad parts in the bag behind your back.
“For some terrible reason, for which I’m actually a bit pissed off with, is when you fall in love with a person you start to separate into two sides and you’re only sweet with them.
“So basically, ‘Hyper-ballad’ is about having this kind of bag going on and three years have passed and you’re not high anymore. You have to make an effort consciously and nature’s not helping you anymore. So you wake up early in the morning and you sneak outside and you do something horrible and destructive, break whatever you can find, watch a horrible film, read a bit of William Burroughs, something really gross and come home and be like, ‘Hi honey, how are you ?’”
Good, now we’ve got that sorted out, how’s Björk coped with all of this going on, being a star and looking after her son, Sindri ?
“I think what happens when you have a child that young is, I think it’s quite common, is that the child becomes more of a pal, like a person rather than a child. Obviously you still take care of them and feed them and dress them and everything, but it’s more like a companion. That’s kind of what’s happened and I was really lucky. He travelled with me until he started school. A lot of my friends put their child into care eight hours a day, when it was three or six months old, and that’s a lot of time to be away from a child. Whereas I was in this working situation with the Sugarcubes where I could take him with me to a rehearsal and if he was crying we would just stop the rehearsal.
I don’t think that would have been very likely if I worked in Tesco’s.
“I don’t look at myself as a martyr at all, it’s rather the other way, it’s given me a lot. Anyway, I think children are such pure creatures and they’re so correct about give and take. With grown-ups you give them 900 and you get 1.3 back, people are a bit warped sometimes when they grow up. But with children you give them this much and you get ten times more back. Sindri’s never ever been a burden to me. If anything he’s made things easier for me.”
Björk and Sindri didn’t like England much at first. It was something to do with our strange attitude, which as Björk suggests, is related to having had some colonies a hundred years ago. Then they discovered ‘Have I Got News For You’ and ‘French and Saunders’. Which is interesting, since Dawn French morphed into Björk for a recent show. Incidentally, the singer loved the sketch. Of course, she’s probably used to that kind of thing by now. Frequently described in terms of a deranged pixie, elfin alien or Nordic child-woman, Björk smiles as she says,
“I never had any intention of being taken seriously.”
Maybe not, but later that evening, a huge sense of event takes over as the Manchester G-MEX fills up. Glittery make-up is applied in abundance and young girls show off hair that’s been skilfully crafted into Björkesque knots. The second time the lights go down (an Icelandic support band have already graced the stage) a somewhat unexpected hysteria takes place, only to be faced with the Brodsky Quartet. Yet the feeling of urgency and desperation remains, climbing to a peak as Ms Guðmundsdóttir herself joins the Brodsky Quartet for two numbers.
Essentially, the enticement doesn’t really begin until Björk’s band emerge. She then delicately trips into ‘Isobel’, soothing the crowd with its string-laden appeal. All of a sudden other details, such as knowing that the bar’s closing a tad too early, don’t matter. Björk just seems to dance right too ; barefoot with intricate movements down the runway of the stage. Despite the exactness of her gestures, she somehow glides.
But such brimming loveliness isn’t the only way to seduce an audience. Björk is everything ; the inelegant ‘Army Of Me’ to the mad, energetic dance-pop of ‘Violently Happy’. And, after all, only Björk could successfully carry off something as damn cute and cheerful as ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’. This becomes clear when the mass gathered in front of her sing along.
If this had been anyone else, chances are it would have been a slightly naff spectacle.
With vocals that are every bit as convincing live, she appears completely absorbed in her music. Really, though, she’s very aware of the eyes upon her, triumphant as she looks around her. Björk thinks that her next album will be “more homogenic, a more complete thing”, yet the same conflict of ideas that already teases us is one of the things that makes her so remarkably alluring.