Stand by for Björk’s answers to your questions in the comments thread below …
We’ll also post your questions and Björk’s answers in this article to make the Q&A easy to follow.
I am going to Iceland for my birthday in a few weeks. As the world’s most famous Icelander what do you recommend we should see?
Landmannalaugar is a good one, relatively easy to get to and you can have a wonderful walk in one of the most beautiful landscapes in Iceland without having fancy mountain gear stuff. Just a stroll through all different coloured clay and volcanic areas
Is there any chance of you leaking (or releasing) the songs you made with RZA around the time of Homogenic?
Hi there, probably not, these were more sketches really …
Hi Björk! I’ve had the chance to listen to the album on stream (no luck experiencing any of the apps yet, sadly) and I loved it. Do you already have plans for the next cities you will visiting with your project? Any chance to include a city in Latin America?
We are receiving offers from some cities now … nothing had been decided yet … we will put info on the website as soon as we know …
I was at Bestival when you performed last month, it was great. Did you get scared when the Chinese fire lantern flew into the stage? I thought the stage might go up in flames. You did not even flinch.
Oops … I didn’t even notice it …
I can’t wait to hear your new album but I remain more interested in experiencing an artist’s vision than having it presented interactively. As Alexis Petridis said in his review, isn’t music already interactive?
Very good point!! I have always been very skeptical of interactive music. That’s why I place a virus in the role of generative music in the song virus. Sort of a passive aggressive thing, right? But because it is a taboo to myself it really turned me on to brake it, because it was sort of impossible to do it well. But at the end of the day, like anything, you have to try it and see what it feels like. And if it is good, it is good and if it is bad it is bad.
In ‘Human Behaviour’, you sang “There’s definitely, definitely, definitely no logic to human behaviour”. For some years I’ve quoted this in a lecture on the evolution of human behaviour that I give to 3rd year Anthropology undergraduates. Did you mean that – unlike all other animals – human behaviour does not follow any evolutionary logic at all? That we have somehow transcended our genes and are no longer subject to the forces of natural selection? Or just that it is harder for us to discern the “logic” in the complex patterns of human existence?
Good question … which is also something people say when they don’t know exactly how to answer it … at the time I wrote it I was referring to my childhood and probably talking about how I felt more comfortable on my own walking outside singing and stuff than hanging out with humans … I experienced harmony with kids, the mountains and the ocean surrounding Reykjavik and animals I guess but found grown ups rather chaotic and nonsensical. When I went into sixth form school I choose science, math and physics and thought psychology, anthropology, sociology and history and such was for sissies. A huge majority of Icelanders do the same thing. They call subjects in school about people “kjaftafog” which means nattersubjects. As I got older and became a grown up myself I have learned to appreciate nattersubjects and recently read many books for the first time about psychology and I guess my last album volta had a anthropology angle on it … so I have learned a little about humans. Now I can keep up a conversation (still rubbish at small talk though) and through my experience probably understand them a little better …
Being a 3d animator by trade, me and my colleagues were pretty blown away by the visuals coming with Biophilia. Particularly the footage accompanying your Bestival gig.
Is it all the work Scott Snibbe? If not who was involved with the live stuff and how did they achieve it? (the dna strands especially, love to know something about the way it was done)
Keep up the good work!
There is a lot of people behind it. The DNA strands are by Drew Berry, Scott Snibbe’s team did the viruses and the lightnings, Luc Barthelet did Crystalline, and Max Weisel did Moon, Solstice and Dark Matter but I think those last 3 he did, none of them where on the screen at Bestival. But Scott Snibbe was the project manager as well as making individual apps …
Hi Björk, do you think science and art can ever be combined successfully? Was Biophilia perhaps an attempt to breach the divide between science and art?
Well, seems like science and art were pretty much the same thing for thousands of years until the industrial revolution and the enlightenment separated them. I feel the 21st century is going to be the one where not only they can unite again but they have to …
My 2003 Saab 9-3 pulls to the right under heavy braking. I’ve had the tyres, tracking and steering checked and they look fine … but it still happens.
What do you suggest?
Birthday by The Sugarcubes is one of my all time favourite songs and it still sounds beautiful and unlike anything else I’ve ever heard.
I was a gooey teenager when I first heard it and I fell a little bit in love with you when I saw the video on the Indie chart on the chart show.
Anyway, my question is, what’s does the line “sows a bird in her knickers” mean?
Thank you. Obviously it is about haberdashery … and embroidery of course …
Hello from Scotland Björk!
I have recently just read the book about your music by Nicola Dibben and I wondered if you were aware of the book and how you feel about your work being examined within such an academic context?
I got it given afterwards and read it few years later when I became less shy of it. I liked it because it wasn’t about my boyfriends or my children which female artists get a lot … but seemed to be quite up front and down to earth about my music. She also seemed to be able to cover both the electronic and the more academic angle of my music which is rare. You either have the pop folks being intimidated about the string and the choir arrangements or you get the semi classical lot who sort of seem keen of “promoting” me into being a composer my fair lady style. Like they want to rescue me from pop. Which I am quite comfortable and proud to be part of. Nicola Dibben seemed not to care about either of those hurdles. And then she also took on the emotional angle of my music and I remember one sentence where she talked about me feminising techno which was very flattering … there are biographical errors in it and some facts are misquoted from the press but rather minimal really …
What musicians do you like to listen to when at home or going out etc?
I have been listening to Oval, James Blake, Joanna Newsom, Dirty Projectors, Micachu, Antony and of course some good r’n’b on Friday nights. Stuff from sublime frequencies , soul music from sixties south-east Asia … I also have by now a selected songs from thousands of all sorts of CDs and stuff I have gathered together on playlists, mostly something people would call “world music” even though I think it is a hideous title, music from various times from various areas of the world …
I have sadly never had the chance to see you perform live – but I live close to a perfect venue for you to play a gig, The Eden project. Please can you come to beautiful Cornwall next summer and play among the biomes of Eden? It would be a perfect setting and a dream come true!
Funny you say that, we were looking at that building during the research of Biophilia, we are getting offers in now about places to play but haven’t committed to anything yet … we’ll see …
What do you envision the music industry to become in the near future, in terms of efficient business models, artists creativity, successful formats, etc?
I think overall people are overrating my abilities and interest in rescuing the music industry … I am more interested in the freedom of expression. The touchscreen is an incredible tool to write music with. But it isn’t all lazy, just touch and stroke … you would have to make the programs that turn you on to bring it individuality and that it is about what you want to express …
Q: Dear Björk,
I would have two questions:
1. This new album stands out from your previous work because it is musically quite “stripped down”. Your previous albums always had the tendency to accumulate layers of sounds/music and on Biophilia there is a lot of space.. was that conscious? what were your motivations?
2. Again Biophilia is different from the previous albums because it does not seem to aim at always creating unheard “sonic textures”; instead the emphasis here seems to be the composition (song structures, choir arrangements etc). Were you aware of that? Was that a delibarate risk you took?
The album is great, all the best!
1. Yes , it was conscious. I kept thinking about how sound operates and thinking it behaves similarly to atoms or the planets, with a lot of dark space around each blob. Also the stars of the album are the natural elements and the patterns they make, like for example how crystals grow or how viruses multiply or an lightning arpeggio and so on and you couldn’t clutter that. This album for me is similar to Homogenic in the way there are few big things. When Vespertine for example was about many small things. I guess I also came out of Volta which was a chaotic wanderlust album and Biophilia for me is about clarity .
2. Thank you, that is so spot on. I feel grateful someone gets me. This album is about patterns and structures. The sounds of the bespoke instruments are not so out there actually, harp, organ, gamelan. The unique thing about them is that they can understand digital information, read midi, so they can react immediately to whatever patterns are formed on the touchscreen .
Do you plan to work with Tony Ferrino again?
‘Short term affair’ was a classic.
No plans but if he comes into my part of the world, you never know …
Isn’t all the interactive stuff just a distraction from the music and an advertisement for Apple? Not many people own or can afford Apple products.
For me it is about the music first and last. But I agree, in the interviews I have been doing they seem to put way more importance into that side of things than the songs. Like every fifth interview I would be asked one song question. My angle on the touchscreens is that they help me lay out the tools I want to work with when I’m writing. This time around I was interested in structures from nature and playing with them and singing along. I did this with a touchscreen called Lemur. We have been working with touchscreens like Lemurs and reactable since 2005, 2006. Four years before the iPad came out. When the iPad came out, we had already spent two years writing and programming the songs on a touchscreen. So it seemed silly to not put it out on a touchscreen. I think it will be soon enough that touchscreens will be cheap and available to everyone.
Which was the first album you fell in love with, and why?
dyrin i halsaskogi by thorbjorn egner. norwegian childrens play. It was huge in Iceland. and still is.
I wondered whether you have an special rituals or things you look forward to about the darker months as winter approaches?
We make icelandic haggish, I get also very excited about the Christmas present wrapping and sometimes start preparing that with my children way before. We did pick berries and sometimes prepare them … the light in Iceland is only couple of hours in the darkest months so you kinda run out and do physical stuff like walk or bike and you kinda make more sure you enjoy it while it is there. I’m up in the north west Iceland right now and we watched the northern lights last night and they were spectacular!!!!
Caspar Llewellyn Smith, The Guardian