To celebrate the Icelandic star’s 50th birthday, we trace all the times she graced us with her ever-evolving presence – all the way back to 1995
Our favourite Icelandic songstress is turning 50. Quite unbelievable really, as it feels like only yesterday that The Sugarcubes released Birthday and launched Björk into the public sphere in 1987. Her eccentricity is what makes her brilliant, and with nine solo albums to her name – the latest being Vulnicura, released early this year – her ever-evolving music style and uniqueness is what makes her a quintessential Dazed icon.
This Icelandic visionary has not only been an interviewee and cover star at Dazed, she is also a contributor (we asked her to edit our 200th issue). We have always supported her and will continue to do so as she relentlessly pursues the creative vision that makes her so special. To celebrate her birthday and who she is – not just as an artist, but a person – here we trace Björk’s journey through Dazed history, starting 20 years ago with an interview with co-founder Jefferson Hack.
SHE SPEAKS TO DAZED FOR THE FIRST TIME, BACK IN 1995
“I fucking wake up in the morning with a far too big heart, I don’t know what to do with it really. I love so many people so deeply I could happily die now. It’s scary. It’s so scary it’s outrageous. If it wasn’t for my kid I would... emotionally-wise, I think I’ve achieved as much I think I can achieve.”
SHE INTERVIEWS COMPOSER KARLHEINZ STOCKHAUSEN IN 1996
“I think that in popular music today people are trying to come to terms with the fact that they are living with all of these machines, and trying to combine machines and humans and trying to marry them in a happy marriage: trying to be optimistic about it.
“I was brought up by a mother who believed fiercely in nature and wanted me just to be barefoot 24 hours and all of these things, so I was brought up with this big guilt complex of cars and skyscrapers, and I was taught to hate them, and then I think I’m, like, in the middle. I can see this generation who are ten years younger than me making music, trying to live with it. But everything is with those regular rhythms and learning to love them, but still be human, still be all gritty and organic.”
SHE TAKES DAZED ON A TOUR OF HER HOMELAND
“When I forget what I’m made of I go back and make it humble me. And it does...”
APPEARING ALONGSIDE ALEXANDER MCQUEEN IN DAZED’S ‘REBEL YELL’
“For every person who writes a tune and wants to be heard it’s easy. Music has always been about that. Now just because of mass culture there are whole offices of people deciding what to do about a tune, and I think that is a situation that could never last, because music was never about that. The people that are writing and swapping music on the net are the people who love music.”
ON NATURE AND THE ROOTSY INSPIRATIONS BEHIND MEDÚLLA
“Over the years I’ve been asked a lot of questions about what makes Icelandic people so special. I used to talk a lot about things like elves and isolation, but as I get older I think, especially with what’s going on in the world today, I think perhaps what really makes us stand out is the lack of religion. Give me a few bottles of red wine and I could probably go into that one all night. It’s just amazing talking to friends, especially from the States, who will tell you that half of their teachers at school were religious fanatics. I never had any religion imposed on me, I went to church maybe twice as a child.
“I find that when a lot of foreign people go through problems, like messy divorces, they suddenly start going to church more. In Iceland you wouldn’t do that, you’d start going in to nature more. The difference is as you grow up you don’t expect anyone else to sort out your problems – a priest or a president or a god or any kind of authority to surrender to or seek punishment or guilt from. If you are in trouble, you have to sort it out yourself. There are plenty of things we’re not good at, though. We’re hopeless at teamwork because everybody is so independent.”
“I’m always wearing his clothes. I’m so surprised because I keep finding old cardigans of mine that have holes in, which turn out to be Bernhard’s – his clothes are quite timeless. With Volta, I was interested in mixing together 2007 and a tribal thing – but without it being ‘hippy hippy’. I was brought up by hippies so, being a punk, this was the ultimate taboo.”
GRACING THE COVER, FEATURING IN AND EDITING THE 200TH ISSUE
“Now I have a lot of friends who are making music that are from the next generation, and it’s a different landscape out there… but in a way there are more opportunities. I remember when I did Vespertine (2001), everyone was like, ‘Oh, computers are going to kill music, and it’s all going to sound rubbish.’ I just thought it was kind of hilarious. Now you can download huge files and do very complicated things – technology will always solve it. And now we have other riddles to solve.”
STARRING AS ONE OF 20 COVER ICONS FOR DAZED’S 20TH ANNIVERSARY
“Debut was a collection of melodies I’d written since I was a teenager, I think a lot of first albums are like that. But Post was stuff I’d written in England (since Debut). Debut was almost my diary for the last 15 years and Post was more me being promiscuous in London! Doing two songs with Graham Massey, two songs with Tricky, a song with Howie B and songs with Nellee Hooper.”
SHE EXAMINES BEING A FEMALE ARTIST IN CONVERSATION WITH ODDNÝ EIR
“Female musicians are expected to go fully into the emotion and then burn – to be totally consumed by it as everybody watches with their eyes and mouths open. They have to be destroyed in the end because the moral of the story has to be that letting emotion rule is bad for you. Then the patriarchy can sit and watch and say, ‘That was really entertaining! But if I was to live my life like that I would die so I’m not going to do it.’”