Leila Arab

At college she became a DJ and something of a regular on the London party scene, and in the early ‘90s was a patron of the city’s jazz clubs. Here she encountered the Brand New Heavies, who later recommended her to Björk. The Icelander was putting together the touring band for Debut and on the hunt for a female keyboardist who could sing, and Leila fit the bill. Soon after she was playing live on stage to a sold out Wembley Arena for what was only Björk’s second ever solo gig.

Invited back for the Post world tour in 1995, Leila put her foot down about doing any kind of backing vocals this time. “It was a bit like Tom Waits duetting with Mariah Carey,“ she laughs. “She sings so high, it was like torture for me.“ Björk’s first and last comparison to Mariah Carey aside, Leila was appeased by being put in front of a mixing desk for the very first time, giving her ultimate control over everything the audience heard. After baffling a few technicians with her naivety for the desk at first (“They’d say stuff like, ‘and if you press this button, you can hear that channel through the headphones.’ And I’d be like ‘Noooooo way !’ They thought I was taking the piss !“) this new tour duty would form the basis of her future career and sound.

wearsthetrousers.com, 10 September 2009