Bjork and Michel Gondry to Work Together on 'Scientific Musical?'
Posted on Mar 17th 2010 7:20AM by Barnaby Smith
Bjork and director Michel Gondry, who have teamed up before to create some of the most spectacular music videos of modern times, are said to be joining forces again for a new film project.
Speaking at SXSW about his new film 'A Thorn In The Heart', Frenchman Gondry said, "We have a very ambitious project, a sort of scientific musical [it's a movie], but maybe more for museums. Like a 40-minute IMAX project in 3-D."
According to Pitchfork, Bjork's publicist has not confirmed the story, but such a thing would be fitting for the pair, who memorably combined to make Bjork's 'Bachelorette' video in 1997, which told the surreal story of a girl who finds a book buried in her garden that starts to write itself. Gondry also directed Bjork's 'Isobel', 'Hyper-Ballad' and more recently, 'Declare Independence.'
Bjork hasn't released a studio album since 2007's 'Volta', though she is contributing a song to the forthcoming Finnish children's movie, 'Moomins and the Comet Chase,' due for release later this year.
Gondry, meanwhile, has revealed his disdain for Lady Gaga, stating he is not interested in working with the singer, and that "it's hard for me to talk about it; I've seen a couple of videos of hers, and not for very long. I stop watching them each time because I don't think there's melodies. I'm sorry to be negative."
can't wait to see and hear what this collaboration will be like. i hope it's confirmed soon. björk+gondry=magic,imo.
interesting,that last bit as well....i suppose gaga is trying to whore her fame to maintain some sense of coolness. like that gondry isn't interested because really it is why i don't feel it from her.
The singer, who was recently announced to be working on a 3D film project, is to share the honour with composer Ennio Morricone. The award is handed out by the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.
“The Polar Music Prize 2010 is being awarded to Icelandic artist Björk. With her deeply personal music and lyrics, her precise arrangements and her unique voice, Björk has already made an indelible mark on pop music and modern culture at large, despite her relative youth. No other artist moves so freely between avant-garde and pop. With her albums and videos, Björk has taken avant-garde to the top of the charts. She has also always embraced technological advances, combining computers with ancient sounds. Björk has introduced an arctic temperament to popular music and shown how passionate and explosive it can be. Björk is an untameable force of nature, an artist who marches to nobody’s tune but her own.”
Both will receive a prize of £87,000 and be presented with trophies at a ceremony in Stockholm later this year.
The Polar Music Prize is Sweden’s most high-profile music award and every year is split between pop and classical artists.
Previous winners include Sir Elton John, Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.
BJÖRK ON WHAT SHE HAS BEEN UP TO THIS YEAR, AND NOT JINXING IT
-What have you been up to this year?
I am working on a project that I started over a year ago and has grown a bit in the process. It’s gotten quite large in scope, actually, so nothing will probably come of it until next year or the year after.
But it is what most of my year has been devoted to, and it will see the light of day next year or the year after. This is why I haven’t been talking to the media this year; I’ve learned a rhythm over the last twenty years. I enter an introspective mode when I am working, and then I switch to ‘extrovert’ when the music is released and needs to be promoted and toured. Actually, all this action over the last two weeks has left me scared that I am getting too extroverted in the middle of my introvert process, that I might not be able to enter it again.
Let’s talk then. What are these projects?
The first one to appear is the one I made with Dirty Projectors. It’s an EP called ‘Mount Wittenberg Orca’ that’s being sold on-line [www.mountwittenbergorca.com] and all the proceeds are going to creating international marine protected areas, in cooperation with the National Geographic society.
I had been talking to them before. The music website Stereogum organised a tribute to my album 'Post', where different musicians recorded covers of the album’s songs. And one of the participating bands was Dirty Projectors, and they wrote a really nice treatise on how my music had influenced them. Stereogum put David and I in touch, and we were e-mailing back and forth. Then they released ‘Rise Above’, the Black Flag record, and I fell in love with it. Especially what David was doing with the voices. And he had been talking about how he was inspired by Medúlla. We kept on e-mailing, sending each other notes and ideas and vocal processing software tips; it soon transpired that both of us were total vocal geeks.
Anyway. It happened. And it’s been great, the whole process. There was so much positive energy, and the collaboration was really fertile. Hats off to all of them! It could have been so complicated, me with my world and they with theirs. But it wasn’t, not at all.
I feel a certain resonance with their generation of Americans. For some reason I have more in common with them musically than my own generation. Some musicians have mentioned Medúlla to me, and there seems to be an upswing in acapella music, which I am really enjoying. When I was in England, singing was all but illegal in the circles I moved in, with the whole Warp scene and so on.
I think these are exciting times, and I am really thankful for getting to observe this generation making its way in music, and getting to interact with its members. When I first started dividing my time between Reykjavík and New York back in the early 2000s, I could not at all relate to what was going on there. I was all nostalgic, shopping music off Bleep.com and thinking about England. And it’s just so great, what’s happened since. The difference between New York in 2010 and 2000 is vast. I guess it’s just closer to my personal musical tastes. People like Antony [Hegarty, of Antony and the Johnsons] and Joanna Newsom and Dirty Projectors and Animal Collective. It’s all music that I’m really enjoying.
-And you are actively interacting with it now, in the form of your collaboration with Dirty Projectors
Yes. I feel this is very fertile and giving. The fact that David has talked about my music inspiring him and then I just walk into the studio and tell him back: “I am ready to be your instrument. I trust you, and I will obey.” There is a healthy rotation there. Trust. They were so creative in the studio, and the mood was just right. I have the feeling that they’ve only just begun making great records; that they have many to come.
-Why do you think you connect so well with this generation of Americans?
I have a homemade theory about this... The same year I moved to the US, Bush took over the White house and stayed there for eight years. I used to think it didn’t matter who was President, but now I know different. It matters. I can imagine a similar situation as punk was being born in the UK during the Thatcher era. I wasn’t that politically involved then, but now I observe that Bush taking over spurred a certain contingent of people to retreat to nature. There was so much anger in America, from people who didn’t support Bush and his policies, who didn’t feel at home in the mainstream. So much anger and a need for something new. I think it’s no coincidence that Britney Spears and pop stars like her reigned over the Bush year. They’re not exactly ‘organic’...
All the while, this underground was brewing, an underground of people who yearn for organic things, for connecting with nature. Eight years pass, and these people start gaining a following, moving up from the underground. People like Joanna Newsom and Animal Collective, which would have been written off as hippie remnants a decade earlier. People started thinking: there must be other ways.
Anyway, this is my homemade theory.
And I come from a country that is very nature connected. When I was at their age, Iceland didn’t have banksters or corporate Vikings, no one was planning to build five aluminium smelters. It was all very organic and in close connection to nature, maybe with similar emphases as this generation is now making. I am raised in that climate, so maybe that’s why I relate to them.
-Working on that EP was obviously a great experience, but how do you feel about the results? Do you like the album?
I need to listen to it. I last heard it while it was being mixed, and I haven’t heard it since. I need to download it... Things have just been so crazy with this Magma thing, but I really want to find a time to listen to it on a nice stereo, in a car or something. Listening in a car is always nice.
I am really happy with it, though, and proud of it. When we initially performed this project in the Housing Works we had only practiced it two times, it was very spontaneous and fun. When the girls started doing their thing, with their voices, I jumped and had to be careful not to scream with excitement. It was like a new World Record in acapella. I was really in awe, and honoured to get to be a sort of vocal ‘old aunt’ that was invited to the acapella party, so to speak.
-You’re appearing as a guest on albums by Antony and Ólöf Arnalds. You haven’t really collaborated with many artists like this—outside of your own albums anyway—in past years. Is there a reason why it’s happening now all of the sudden?
Actually, these three projects that I’m appearing on in 2010—Dirty Projectors, Ólöf Arnalds and Antony—they aren’t connected at all. But I was wondering about it. Maybe it’s because I’m older now and, as the oldest of three brothers and three sisters, it is natural for me to assume the role of the oldest sibling. Maybe a new period in my life has begun? I used to always be the youngest, like in the Sugarcubes, but maybe I am more comfortable with being the oldest. I always tell the boys of Sigur Rós that I am their old, proud aunt, so it is a role that maybe comes naturally to me.
With Ólöf, I really get energized from hanging around with her. She has heaps of creativity surrounding her, and the energy is infectious. It’s exciting. For that project, I really didn’t mean to butt in like that, but she played me a song and as soon as I heard it, a vocal to go with it popped in my head. I didn’t tell her about it, I thought it was a really tacky thing to do, but when I heard the track for a second time the vocal part jumped out again.
So I told her. I said: “I have this vocal part in my head, and if you want to record it, I’ll be happy to sing it. I’ll totally understand if you decide to not use it in the final mixes, and I won’t get upset.”
I felt I needed to make that clear. It can sometimes be a burden for a young musician, having some old-timer singing all over their record.
Were you really afraid of becoming a burden to her?
Yeah, I was laughing about it with Ólöf the other day. Saying that it’s as if she’s a beautiful little bird sitting on a branch, singing its youthful melody, when all of the sudden this big peacock sits on the branch next to her and breaks the tree. Ólöf and I are friends and equals, but as interpreted by some American blog that doesn’t know anything, my singing on her record might become a burden. But it all worked out, though, and she decided to use my vocals in the end. Hopefully I didn’t break her tree.
Then the Antony thing came up a bit differently. When I was making Volta, I rented a studio in Jamaica for a month and invited him for a visit, and to sing with me on ‘Dull Flame Of Desire’. We spent a few days singing together, and during that time he wrote a piano song that I sang over in gibberish Icelandic, you know, that hazy undefined scratch vocal you make when you’re coming up with a melody
source: Oh No They Did'nt
A long collection of new news on Bjork.
Well, it sounds really new age-y [laughs], but when I’m writing a melody I’ll generally just start off with sounds and empty vowels. Then I write a lyric and sing that. I’ve always respected Jónsi for daring to leave it at that first stage. But anyway, I was improvising over his piano track, coming up with a melody. After I went to bed, Antony stayed up all night, recording vocals and harmonising all my gibberish with these lush four part harmonies, effectively making a choir out of it. When I woke up in the morning, he told me he wanted to play me something. I was really honoured when I heard his work. And the track is great. It’s him singing in Icelandic, even if he has no idea what he’s singing about.
Afterwards, we didn’t really know what to do with the track. It was completely different from the rest of his album, a tiny accident. In the end, I told him: “This is your song, you do with it as you please.”
It’s been a while since we recorded it. It was during Easter of 2006. So this is a four-year-old song. I am very happy that he finally used it, I was always very thankful that he made the trip to Jamaica to make a song with me, and it is beautiful that we can stream the energy back and he can use something from the sessions. It is all very healthy.
-You are working with all these people and singing their praises. All of them have made some stunning music, but none seem to have breached the mainstream like you did. None of them have had a top forty hit. Have times changed since you came up? Are the masses harder to reach?
One day, the internet showed up and changed everything. All of our yardsticks are in flux. A band like Dirty Projectors can be called big on the Pitchfork scale—but it maybe doesn’t translate to physical copies sold. Things are different now. The posters are hung in other places. We are still figuring out how to define ‘success’ in this day and age. When the last Animal Collective album was released, they were on the covers of all the magazines in New York, and they won ‘record of the year’ everywhere. Isn’t that success? I don´t know ...
I think these are exciting times; we are inventing our own definitions of success. Both in terms of record sales, but also these... these Lady GaGa moments that keep popping up. She is the first superstar of our time. She maybe isn’t doing anything new or interesting musically, but she still is a very interesting character. She has individual style.
I’m no musicologist or specialist in pop matters, but it seems to me that everything was perfectly aligned for her to make her appearance. And I feel that a similar thing happened—albeit in an entirely different way, with a different outcome—for me when I released ‘Post’. All these different factors lined up to make it as big as it could get.</b>
I can’t judge how it happened, though—I am too involved with it to do that. There are probably several reasons. Instrumental electronic music had been around for a while then, all these introverted electronic scenes, like Acid House, were dominant and upcoming, but it lacked all narrative and all lyrics. There was a big hunger for that when I lived in London. People would say: "This is great music, but where are the songs?" Songs, not as in techno songs, but songs with stories and refrains and choruses. They were missing. That was one of the hoops we passed through...
-You’re saying the environment that young musicians face these days, especially in regards to the media, is totally different from what you experienced? And still in formation?
This populism that has followed globalisation and the internet, it is so crazy. People are gagging on it. Like how they treat Britney Spears. She can’t exit a cab without panties without close-up shots of her crotch being spread all over the internet five minutes later. This is vulgar. People do not want to participate in this. I can imagine people that are in their early twenties now and maybe releasing their first records not wanting any part in this atmosphere.
I think people are more and more starting to bypass these places, this sphere that has been created by the tabloid newspapers and gossip websites. Media gossip has changed so much since I was young. It’s so pervasive and dominant. Amy Winehouse leaves a club, five minutes later there are clips of her throwing up on YouTube.
When... [makes an old woman voice] when I was young, being a ‘celebrity’ really only consisted of one thing. You got invited to these premieres or charity events, and if you were interested or curious you went along and got photographed on the red carpet. You maybe gave an interview, posed for some photos and then you were done.
Now, we’re facing quite a different situation. A whole new league has been created, this Paris Hilton league, with her and Lindsay Lohan and others. I was actually pretty grateful when this new media culture appeared. It meant people like myself and Radiohead—people that would rather focus on making the music and didn’t want to participate in the whole celebrity package—could leave the stage to these new people.Sheesh! What a relief! I experienced it when a bit when I was living on Warwick Avenue in England, with forty photographers camping in my backyard, stocked with zoom lenses and stuff. I cannot thrive in that environment, and that’s why I backed out of it. And I was lucky, as soon as I got totally sick of it, the internet and this new league of celebrity fascination came along, these people like Paris that were really craving the attention.
They saved us.
-Like celebrity martyrs, hanging on their cross to set the rest of you free?
Exactly. And this is maybe causing a lot of the music websites and outlets that cover new music to not focus on the persons behind it so much. They’re not publishing crotch shots of Animal Collective all the time.
People are exercising their freedom to choose. They can choose this way, or the other. And I like that.
That’s certainly a refreshing way to look at it. Every time I go online and see all these news sites turning into sleazy gossip blogs I feel disheartened. It is a lot nicer to think that the über-gossip is isolating itself, and those interested can take care of it.
Yes, not pretend I know everything again, but in my experience: You have a choice. I got caught up in the whole celebrity gossip ride, and I had a choice. I simply chose not to participate. I did have to move to another country, but I chose to do that.
-I understand you’ve also recorded a track for the upcoming Moomin feature film?
Yes. That was very joyous. They contacted me and asked me to write music for the film. After seeing a screening copy, I agreed to write the title track, and I asked Sjón to write the lyrics. The film looks great, and I feel it is much truer to the Moomin spirit than some of these Moomin things I’ve seen, which often stray from the original stories, have all these pastel colours and depict the Moomins as being all cute. This is a full length movie, about the comet, and it isn’t at all cute. It’s real, like the Moomins.
I felt that writing the track was a great opportunity to support [Moomin author] Tove Jansson. I’ve read many of her books—she wrote a lot beyond the Moomin series—and is now finally receiving due credit as a writer, not just of children’s novels. She has this great philosophy, and the way she lived her life on a small island is also inspiring. All her characters are different, everyone gets to be as they are and they all live in harmony. I agree with a lot of her messages, and really empathise with Tove.
I am superstitious and would rather not talk about it—often, if I talk too much about a project before completing it, it implodes. So I’d rather not talk about it. Having vocals on your track was tantamount to selling out, or selling oneself short. Everything was instrumental. It’s funny to see how things turn around. Everything goes in circles. I really enjoy all these vocal harmonies in bands like Animal collective, Grizzly Bear and Battles.
Can anyone recommend a Björk album for a beginner? I want to like her, I just haven't enjoyed the songs I've heard until now, which though isn't many. And I want to check out an album, but where to start..