With the release of her new sex-, love-, and utopia-fueled album, Björk takes a moment to reflect on her past—and dream about her future.
sooo i’m all sleepy but happy here, just having sent the last files to mastering, album ready…! and then got asked to write questions to myself…hmm…what would i want to be asked? tricksy. i kinda do have a soft spot for some of them cliché questions like what would you tell your teenage self? perhaps i could reverse it? like what if i could ask a future self stuff?
how about i envision a place in nature, with all the warm headspace possible for music making and love in the air, will that happen to me? i mean, i kinda already have this with my cabin in iceland, but like a full-time thing? i have craved it for so long…
also i’d probably ask about health and happiness of my loved ones? and if there is something i could assist with…?
but mostly i’d probably want to know if i remain brave with music?
before i fell asleep last night i tried to think of some like normcore magaziney questions, but i didn’t feel too inspired, but maybe i should answer them, perhaps they are just a warm-up into some ice breakage later? like any lush daily rituals, like the bridge or the tunnel…which reminds me of the bridge in noh theater and the slowest walk ever of the actors from the dressing room on stage in full view of the audience. kinda more epic or important than the show.
so first proper question, here we go:
what is your relationship with flutes?
well, i wanted to learn the oboe as a child and my mother couldn’t afford it so i learned the flute and a little bit had this strange immature feeling that it was my second choice for the 6 or 8 years i studied it, depending how you count (recorders included or not). my main interest in music school was always music theory which i think overall was unusual and nerdish especially from a girl. everyone was focusing more on their instrument. i do remember putting my foot down around 10 or 11 years old though and refusing to play music by old dead german guys, i couldn’t relate to them and being an icelandic girl in the late twentieth century there wasn’t much in common. so they got me this young flute teacher who introduced me to recent finnish flute music which was so gorgeous and kinda folk and very connected to nature but also had a bit of atonal avant-garde in it. it kinda liquided back and forth between ancient folk melodies and the sound effecty abstract. what’s not to love? then i started in punk bands and played flute in a couple of them, for example “anna” with kukl and “glóra,” i think it’s on youtube? i think also looking back it really trained my lungs well with breathing and stamina so when i started singing which was also my second choice (wtf) because i wanted to be a drummer, i probably had a very naive clumsy voice but i had killer lungs even though i say so myself. but it was crazy for this album now coming back to it after all those years later, like looking at a not so “cool” part of my childhood, flutes were always a bit naff, and looking at it so much later through a timeglass and seeing another thread and linking it together and bringing it forth to now. i feel also doing my last album vulnicura which was me letting it all go into the most darkness of loss and grief that i’ve done so far, suddenly all sounds that were light and fluffy sounded so appealing.
why did you work with alejandro ghersi?
at the end of vulnicura i felt a deep musical connection with him, i felt guilty having dragged him through such a dramatic and difficult subject matter and that we had earned a lightness. and he had served my mission with such elegance and dignity, i wanted to find another point of view where we could have the ideal utopian musical collaboration without the baggage of my heartbreak, but there was also some sense of a deeper purpose neither of us even understand today. something about when 2 musicians that could both do albums on their own would still merge, looking at it afterwards now that it is done, we wanted to leave our defenses and egos behind, the patriarchy, hierarchies, everything, and travel into pure abandon where no one is a victim. he’s not oppressed by adapting to my songs like on vulnicura, i can merge with a male producer and not be paranoid about being typecast as just the vocalist and so on. like embrace all the weaknesses and make it into strengths. stay vulnerable. we managed to watch each other’s backs, making each other braver. maybe it was weirdly also about the timing of me having just talked during vulnicura about how little credit women get as producers. maybe exactly then it was gonna take the most courage to merge with another. and still keep your dignity as a musician. because like all justice battles, black rights are not about isolating black people but that they can live in a society with white people but still keep same strength. same with women. i’m not sure how much it helps to isolate. i think it is important now that everyone is more aware of the culprits of sexism, we should be able to embrace collaborations and guys don’t get all the credit.
did your dream of utopia come true?
as weightlessness and freedom or hindrances in music making: yes! but i think the idea of the album was never to fanatically pollyanna forth some ideal perfection but rather a speculation of what our fantasies are and what the reality is and where can they help each other. have courage in going for your first choice and standing by it. i feel in this time of trump it is a necessity to have a plan, a manifesto, an alternative. it’s a question of life and death for our species. as a musician i feel i can suggest the musical poetic angle which is that after tragedies one has to invent a new world, knit it or embroider, make it up. it’s not gonna be given to you because you deserve it, it doesn’t work that way. you have to imagine something that doesn’t exist and dig a cave into the future and demand space. it’s a territorial hope affair. at the time, that digging is utopian but in the future it will become your reality.
i have to say at this point last night i got incredibly sleepy or i found it almost impossible to ask myself questions, it seemed so incredibly narcissistic and i got very quickly cabin fever in my own brain so i imagined asking random people i like questions, like if they were hypnotized and i could only ask them one question each but it would be the spot on one. i then wrote them down and then when i woke up, i’d forgotten them and then answered them like i’ve never heard them before.
so here they come.
do you enjoy pressure or hard work?
a bit of both. i think as creatures of nature we are designed to be hunting or gathering, barely surviving and it’s a pro-life statement to make things. but i also have strong feelings about not working too much, i find workaholism really anti fertile. for example in my work with scandinavian schools with biophilia it is very apparent that short schooldays and a lot of free time inspires the imagination most and not only makes the kids happier but also they make more original things in the end. i’ve seen how the working until midnight in the biggest cities is really destructive of families. and you aren’t coming up with any new ideas but just repeating old stuff on a loop.
do you allow space to think abstractly?
i probably could some more? but i have to say, sometimes in the heat of solving riddles, like when i was finishing mixing this album for example, i got the most abstract and fast fluid moments…but sometimes, especially in the writing process i have to allow myself to truly freefloat to get to that new fertile place and not just repeat myself. so in short: it is abstract when and where it is abstract? can’t plan it?
how do you avoid routine crystallizing your days into stagnant firm form?
ha, ha, ha, ha, it’s an ongoing riddle. i do get it though half of the time right. but just juggling children and everything else sometimes especially out of consideration for others you have to go a little rigid with them dates. but i try not to plan too much ahead or i get claustrophobic. as a musician there has to be a lot of space for me to improvise, otherwise i’d never write anything.
what is your favorite ritual?
i think the mornings are the most precious ones. they can be most magic but also the hardest ones if you get them wrong. to remain fluid but gently open to changes or different people and include everyone. the evenings are easier because then you have all the ingredients of the day and its easier to guess what will go down well or what element is lacking.
how important is the sexual force to you?
extremely. it is what drives you, i think obviously it is not literally only in sex but it is vital to include it into the choreography of all things.
how does one fuel vibrancy in life?
listen to yourself. allow space to be heard. do what turns you on most.
can you unite sex and love?
who would you most want to meet?
my friends, omg, been in the studio a little too long.
when do you feel freest?
making music. being with friends and family. walking in nature.
do you trust where life is taking you?
3 years ago no. for the first time it felt like an error. but now i do. i understand better.
how much risk do you like taking and how safe?
i’m probably more conservative than people think. i still live close to where i was born, i am surrounded by nature, friends, family, a lot of my life involves music in one way or another. but then perhaps i try to bungee jump in songwriting or arrangements or how i sing. not saying i succeed but i do try.
do you have fear of not being heard?
not more than others but my weakness is definitely claustrophobia so loudness in big cities and the weight of the concrete somehow feels suffocating sometimes. but overall i feel very blessed. i make my music and people are still listening and i am surrounded by incredible friends who i talk to all the time about everything.
do you believe in love?
what kinda essence would you like to leave behind once you’re gone?
i enjoy most often with musicians on recordings like breaths, or coughs, or in lyric-writing, the sense of them and reality erotically merging or not merging…that kinda soft, truthful coordinate where the 2 touch effortlessly and unknowingly. if how they deal with it or how they don’t deal with it is captured, i guess its called the human condition? that sounds super self helpy though. damn.
do you like people you can control?
definitely not. i thrive on equals, i love that feeling when you reach a balance of 2 very different creatures letting each other surf and bloom in the best way.
how vulnerable do you feel one should leave oneself to remain vibrant?
ha, ha, ha, ha, i must have been very sleepy at that point ha, ha, ha, ha i feel it’s a constant balancing act, to remain open enough but also not to implode. to keep a skeletal structure but stay open chested.
the challenge of a lifetime…
Björk Returns to Iceland, for a Dreamy Photoshoot with Tim Walker
1,000 copies of W’s Björk Special Collector’s issue will be available at the below locations:
New York City, USA: Housing Works book store, Opening Ceremony, TRADE at PUBLIC, Project No. 8, Brooklyn Museum shop, McNally Jackson bookshop, Rachel Comey, Totokaelo, Apolis, The Apartment by The Line, Dover St Market. Los Angeles, USA: Magasin, Reservoir, Rachel Comey, Opening Ceremony, Apolis, The Apartment by The Line. London, United Kingdom: Photographers Gallery, ABC books, Dover St Market, Maison Assouline, Huh, Opening Ceremony. Paris, France: The broken arm, Merci, Fleux Paris. Berlin, Germany: Bless, Voo Store, Andreas Murkudis. Tokyo, Japan: Tsutaya Books. Toronto, Canada: Soop Soop. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Such. Reykjavik, Iceland: Eymundsson.
Björk wears a dress by threeASFOUR in collaboration with Cristina Cabada
Björk wears a Sinéad O’Dwyer bustier; David Ferreira dress; Damselfrau earrings.
Sinéad O’Dwyer bustier; David Ferreira dress; We Love Colors tights; Björk’s own shoes.
Viktor & Rolf Haute Couture dress; Damselfrau earrings; We Love Colors tights; Micol Ragni boots.
Sinéad O’Dwyer bustier; David Ferreira dress; Damselfrau earrings.
Dilara Findikoglu corset; Marlou Breuls pants; Damselfrau earrings; neck piece by James Merry; We Love Colors tights; Björk’s own shoes.
Maison Francesco Scognamiglio coat; Damselfrau earrings; Renee Verhoeven gloves; Gucci shoes.
Mask by James Merry; Philip Treacy London hat (on floor).
Marlou Breuls shirt and pants.
Related: Watch “Suspension of Disbelief” by Tim Walker