Liquid music

Björk explains why she never really liked punk.

A sunflower of an interview with Björk on 6 Music (11 September, noon). I say interview, but the presenter, Matt Everitt, merely had to give a standard intro ("She's been making music professionally since she was 11 years old in Iceland. Dance music, electronica, the avant-garde, pop, soundtracks and jazz . . .") and prod minutely ("Was that really what it was like?") while the great artist ran from one side of her internal stage to the other, jumping with spastic grace for an hour. There were sudden riptide gales from unimaginable places, but she was mostly as sweet as Mary Tyler Moore.

Giggling, she said, "To cut a really long story short, my parents were hippies. And there would be a queue at the record player and it would never stop and I would be sitting there, aged five, going through the albums and looking at the pictures of Frank Zappa, Cream and Joni Mitchell." It's unusually easy, is it not, to imagine the child Björk handling those stacks of vinyl - ankles twined around her chair rungs, burning little eyes - good-naturedly enduring Don McLean singing yet another dull song.

At seven, she rebelled and bought an album by the LA synth-pop brothers Sparks, got in the queue and played it to everyone. The commune was horrified and marched her to the studio to record a roster of Icelandic folk tunes. Ten thousand people bought the album. In her uniquely optimistic speaking voice - which increasingly sounds part-glockenspiel, part-enraptured puppeteer - she confessed that, as a teenager (she is now 45), she dug the spirit of punk but never much the music, secretly preferring Kate Bush, whose songs had a "structure that was liquid and not square like rock. It was curvy."

She also recalled with brimming happiness recording more than 20 jazz tracks in a single day, and then telephoning Graham Massey of the Mancunian electronica group 808 State to introduce herself. "He said yeah, come up. So I asked my mum to babysit and just went." Björk leaned back, freewheeling point made, and giggled. This was entirely the woman who, in "Big Time Sensuality", nailed one of the simplest, bravest lyrics ever, about new love: “I don't know my future after this weekend/ and I don't want to."

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 19 September 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Meet the next Prime Minister