Bjork - Ex:El On Main Stree
30th March 1991
She sang on 808 State's LP, she bewitched 10,000 ravers at G-Mex and she's about to record another EP of 808-produced material. In addition, there's the third Sugarcubes album. A breathless PAUL LESTER tries to catch the elusive BJORK. Pics: ANDREW CATLIN
BJORK IS DANCING DOWN AT THE SOUNDGARDEN. BJORK IS PLAYING CLUEDO backstage at G-Mex. Bjork is eating strawberry gateau in the tea-room at Manchester's Holiday Inn. In fact, Bjork is doing everything but talking. She's everywhere and nowhere. Pinning her down is like trying to strap a seat-belt round a puff of smoke. Except 6r right now. Blink and you'll miss her, but, as of this split millisecond, Bjork is sifting still.
"I'm just hooked on action!" laughs Ms Gudmundsdottir, about as near to a butterfly as a girl from Iceland can get. She's in between darting over to the hotel reception to ring friends and making arrangements for tonight, sipping orange juice and repeatedly dabbing invisible germs off her teeny nose with her hand. "I caught a cold the other night. It always happens in big cities."
THE other night, Bjork was in Paris, where The Sugarcubes travelled to play to 3-400 die-hard devotees, and discovered, much to their shock and mega-delight, 9,500 excitable Parisians. The 'Cubes had been told to expect a scout hut - what they got was an aircraft hangar.
Twenty-four hours later, the human flame found herself making shapes and munching octaves in front of 10,000 E-types and Acid casualties at G-Mex, squeaking and hiccuping her way in and out of the dark tunnels and bright halls of mirrors that form "Ooops" and "Qmart", her divine collaborations with 808 State.
WHEN the North Atlantic's favourite waif pin-up came on, 15 songs into 808's set, dressed in a pink mini-dress and matching lycra tights, the crowd's freaky head-bobbing and rhythmic gymnastics suddenly stopped, as a city prepared to have its ghast flabbered.
"That whole crowd was so plugged in and determined," Bjork remembers, 18 hours after the event. "Was I nervous? Yeah. I mean, because I haven't been doing things like this really often, so I had to totally concentrate hard to be able to get in touch with what I was doing. I didn't really notice the people at all.
"But it was very exciting. The most fun things I do are the ones that take all of you, that are very difficult. And this was very difficult . . . but very enjoyable."
808 STATE'S magnum techno opus, "Ex:El", is still in the Top 10, which means that the otherworldly tweaks and strains of Bjork's "Ooops" and "Qmart" are currently splashing around thousands of homes.
Next month, that might be millions. Any minute now, "Ooops" will be released as a single and, if the success of 808's previous half-dozen 45s is any measure, "Ooops" could well be the new national anthem within weeks. Whatever your views on "Ooops" - and, if you don't like it, you must be deaf, daft, dead or all three - there's no denying the pleasure that will be had by seeing Bjork turn "Top Of The Pops" into an Arctic wonderland, potentially the programme's shiveriest three minutes since The Associates' "Partyfearstwo".
After "Ooops", the busy little Bjork plans to finish vocal duties for the forthcoming Sugarcubes album, as well as release an EP of tracks that she's currently working on, again with 808 State. According to those who've heard the new material, it sounds like nothing on Earth, proves there's life on Mars and will do strange things to our brains. Mindblowing is a word that's been bandied about.
Do you doubt them? "I can't really describe this new music that I am doing," explains Bjork, coming overall modest and unassuming. "It's probably going to be unlike anything people over here have ever heard. I'm not sure if you can imagine what it will be like. But I can tell you one thing - it's going to be pretty personal."
"The music and the words are personal. They're about private sorts of things."
IN a recent interview with 808 State, the chaps and I tried to get to grips with the meaning of "Ooops". Martin Price thought it was about the way men treat women, and Darren pointed to the "Dog, I won you!" line as suggestive of the song's preoccupation with misogyny.
Were we right, Bjork?
"No," she answers tersely, before smiling, as if to say, "Ha! Peasants! Wrong again!"
What's it like being consistently misinterpreted?
"I like that," she says. "I like it when people put their own sense into it. I'm not going to say what 'Ooops' is about, but I'll tell you one thing - I consciously made a certain relationship into a love affair once," she adds, cryptically. "But the song is not about a love affair."
So you manipulated a situation - and a person - to turn things to your advantage? Are you really that cold and calculating? "I don't know how to answer this! I'm not an expert, but I have done this, yes!"
When "Birthday" first fell into Chris Roberts' lap back in summer '87, grown men started leapfrogging over each other to praise Bjork as some extraterrestrial child-woman, equal parts innocent waif and worldly-wise sophisticate. What is she really like? "I'm not really good at describing myself," she admits. "I can tell you what I like and what! do not like, but when it comes to describing myself I don't know what to say. And I don't want to."
FAIR enough. So what do you like, Bjork?
"My favourite thing is people and my good friends," she explains. "I've got several very good friends that are just so important to me it's a question of, er . . . just like we share the same blood or something. I can't live without them. And I guess, secondly what I like is music."
Hmmm, very Miss World. What kind of people do you prefer? "I like all sorts, but I guess what they have in common is they're extreme!"
As in taking lots of drugs and driving fast down motorways and smashing up furniture?
"Anything! You can eat 20 bananas a day and be extreme! Then again, you could bring a formula of an extreme person in here, and I wouldn't like him or her. I dunno, I guess I just like people when I like them!"
Are you extreme?
'That's more for other people to say. But I think so, yes."
BJORK is mad about harmoniums (miniature organs that you pump with your feet, which are often found in small Icelandic churches) and synthesisers. She loves wind instruments and computers. She adores cooking for her five-year-old son and boyfriend ("It sounds tacky, you know, but it happens to be the truth") and is a total technology buff. And her absolute favourite groups are The World Saxaphone Quintet, NWA, Public Enemy and 808 State.
Oh, and Scud, the speed metal outfit she's just formed with a bunch of pals back home.
"It's sort of a joke, but it's a joke where we can do what all people want," she says. "I think all people very much want somewhere in them to play speed metal."
Speak for yourself! Do you play guitar in Scud?
"Yeah. I do solos! I just forget myself, it's so much fun. Scud is gonna play in this karaoke bar, the only one in Iceland. Wigs? We're thinking about it. You have to have long hair, don't you? But we've got some pants with pink and black stripes already. It's gonna be a lot of fun."
Bjork prefers fun to furrowed brows, and why not? She doesn't like it when this pop lark gets too serious.
"People tend to take the idea of being on stage, whether it is acting or singing or whatever, as a very important thing, that's above other things. But I think that's wrong. You shouldn't sit around all day thinking that you're not doing important things, like washing the dishes or brushing your teeth or having a walk or going to the cinema and then - tadaa! - suddenly you're on stage at a concert and you're doing a super-important thing. I think that's the wrong attitude. It's a question of doing things with equal importance."
Blink. The tiny lady vanishes.
"Ooops" is released on ZTT on April 8