A few days before release Fossora single “Ovule” (the music video shows her reunited with Nick Knight), GQ spoke with Oddný Eir and Ásmundur Jónsson — via video call from Reykjavik — about Negative Symbolismgrowing up in Iceland and the magic of old friendships.
GQ: The series begins with Björk telling this story about being eight years old, walking to school in inclement weather, and learning to sing against the elements. It’s a great story, and I think says a lot about her as a singer and an artist. I’m curious, growing up in Reykjavík, have you had a similar experience?
Asmundur: I always walk to school, yes. I think most kids did. But I didn’t sing. [Laughs] But yes, I remember the weather and the circumstances she described in the interview.
Oddný: Yes, me too. We allow our children to go alone from a very early age. They travel quite long distances alone or in groups consisting of only children. The changes of weather are too sudden here in Reykjavík. So you can have 10 different weather every day. But yeah, I don’t sing. I think what she’s describing, she’s walking alone, is singing as a survival mechanism.
You’ve met Björk in quite different ways, haven’t you? Oddný, I know you met while working on nature conservation projects, while Ásmundur, you met her at a record store. Can you tell me about the first time you met her?
Asmundur: We met while I was creating a record label called Gramm Records with a few others in the early 80’s. Björk had already joined several bands and we were starting to release [music that] happened in Reykjavik at the time. Some of the real kids in the band just came to play at the store and she started working at the store. She’s doing all the different things that are needed to run the store — like washing the floors — and I think she’s really into it. So I worked with her for 35 years or so.
Oddný: Actually, what Ásmundur can’t say for himself is that he’s really a pioneer. He created the Icelandic music scene – not by himself, but because it’s such a small, young community, you have to do a lot on your own. He really has the only store that sells something progressive. Somehow, Björk and the others, somehow, they grouped around him. As I saw it, they were somehow together, a group of people – not just working – on the scene. The scene did not exist.
Asmundur: We finally started working closer together. I ran this radio show for 10 years with a friend of mine from ’73 to ’83. For the last show, we asked some of the musicians we’d worked with to form one. group and perform in this show. At that point, they decided to call it Kukl. From there, we worked very closely together for the next three years until the band split and they formed Sugarcubes.