“I liked Discharge, and really respected Crass too.” Before she became a world-famous pop star, Björk had an angry anarcho-punk band called Spit and Snot

Bjork, in 1990
(Image credit: Catherine McGann/Getty Images)

Slipknot fans seated at balcony tables for The Nine's first ever UK show at the Astoria in London on December 13, 1999 were more than a little surprised to find Icelandic pop star Björk Gudmundsdottir in their midst. But perhaps they shouldn't have been, for the Reykjavík-born musician had been playing in furiously noisy punk bands before Corey Taylor was enrolled at elementary school, years before she first began to attract international recognition as the singer of acclaimed alt. rock group The Sugarcubes.

Something of a child prodigy, the singer recorded her self-titled début album Björk when she was just 11-years-old, but by the time it was released, in December 1977, the teenage Bjork had fallen in love with punk rock. “That was a big scene in Reykjavík,”  she recalled in a 1993 interview with Q magazine. “I think we hold the world record of how many people lived in Iceland, and how many punk bands there were... We definitely got over the problem of not knowing how to play – that was mind over matter.”

Björk's first band, when she was 13, was an all-girl anarcho-punk band, Spit and Snot.

“It was four girls, and we hadn't really been in a band before, and I wanted to be the drummer,” she recalled in a 2017 interview with BBC 6Music DJ and former music journalist Mary Anne Hobbs. “When we started rehearsals and stuff, I think nobody kinda wanted to sing, and I kinda ended up singing. I think it was an idea, more than anything, I can't actually remember that many rehearsals.”

Speaking to Q about her record collection in 1993, Björk singled out Discharge's 1984 compilation album Never Again as a key influence on her punk years, revealing that she actually owned “three or four records” by the Stoke-on-Trent D-beat pioneers.

“They had such hardcore energy,” she marvelled. “I've always thought this line between complete energy and getting muso should be kept very thick. I wasn't into the new wave scene when they started to put chords to punk. It was... not pure any more. That's why I liked Discharge, and really respected Crass too.”

Following a short-lived spell with jazz-fusion band Exodus, while still in her teens, when Björk was the lead singer of the more gothic-influenced punks Kukl ('Sorcery' in Icelandic), the group were offered a record deal by anarcho-punk legends Crass, who had started their own label, Crass Records. Recorded by Crass' Penny Rimbaud, the Icelandic band's debut album, The Eye, was released in September 1984. A second album, Holidays in Europe (The Naughty Nought), was released by Crass Records in 1986, before the group disbanded. But those who know Björk say that she has never lost her anti-conformist edge. 

Talking to Select magazine in 1994, the singer's former Kukl bandmate Guðlaugur Kristinn Óttarsson said, “I remember in the middle of the ’80s, an outdoor festival with a lot of drunk people calling out for her to play a new pop song, or a greatest hit, or a dance song. She was very proud just to play her own music, so to make her statement she jumped offstage, went to the centre of the dancefloor, and went to the toilet on the spot. It demonstrates that she speaks out very frankly.” 

A true original, and a true punk soul. 

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.