Björk on Telegram

Telegram, décembre 1996

“A remix for me is like a duet between the person I’m working with and myself.”

So says Iceland’s mercurial pop visionary, Björk. From her ground-breaking days with the influential Sugarcubes, to the evocative stories she’s crafted on her two critically acclaimed solo ventures, Debut and Post, Björk’s driving instinct has been to challenge herself. It is precisely because of the faith she places in the creative process that her collaborative efforts have been so revelatory.

And so it is on her new album Telegram. In bold brushstrokes, Björk reinvents 9 songs from her eclectic Post album, and offers up a brand new track with noted British percussionist Evelyn Glennie. With sweeping alterations in tempo, mood, arrangement, and exhilarating new vocal performances, Telegram redefines what a remix album can be, shedding new light on the breadth of Björk’s collaborative spirit. In the following interview, the artist talks about the making of Telegram.

The Album

I lived for four years now in London, and when I did Debut I learned so much and I met so many creative people. And some of them were asked to do remixes for the Debut album, so there were sort of a lot of seeds planted then, let’s put it that way. And when I started writing and organizing the Post album I realize now that a lot of times I was writing things in sections with particular people in mind and kind of left spaces with alternate versions already in mind.

Also it’s important for me when I do a record that it has a lot of different emotional angles. Because that’s what people are like. I don’t understand pop albums where everything is cool for the whole album, or everything is sexy for the whole album. Thank god that humans are a bit more complex than that. Post has a lot of different emotional angles on it and this album reflects that. It’s important to me that this album has a balance to it, that it changes from song to song.

On Post I flirt with this idea but on Telegram I gave myself liberties to go all the way with that. I’m indulging more with the different flavors that Post reflects. It is even more selfish because I go all the way. But I have one of those strange jobs that the more selfish you are, the more chance you have to be generous through these types of collaborations.

To me the word remix is so underestimated. Probably because until now it’s been a record company’s way to try to make a song more radio friendly or more successful commercially. A lot of the remixers have been incredibly creative over the years. For these last two decades of the century... well if I may, I’d make a comparison with this to Bach, it’s kind of similar to say like this organ piece that Bach did. He didn’t even write all the notes out so that whoever played them had the liberty of changing it. So that every time it was played it was like a cover version. And then you get the phenomenon in this century of the jazz standards. For example, like “Round Midnight,” you know you can get fifty different versions of that. I’m talking about the pure idea of a remix and what a remix can be. Unfortunately it has become like a trash word, like recycled or packaged or the notion that it has less quality.

The Songs

Possibly Maybe : Mark Bell did this mix and he’s a person I first talked to about six years ago. He was responsible for LFO, their album Frequency is like a classic, I could go on and on about it. We’ve been communicating a lot in the past. He did a lot of mixes of “Hyperballad” for me and I look at this as like a fruit of that exchange.

Hyperballad : I worked on this with the Brodsky Quartet. There’s a side to this song that I look at as very much about storytelling. Iceland doesn’t have any real musical tradition but it has 500 years of storytelling and the Viking saga and all that. And I look at this as a cross between the storytelling and chamber music and we asked the Brodsky Quartet to re-record it with us in a room live, and of course we re-recorded the vocal.

Enjoy : I’ve gotten to know Outcast (British techno artists, producers, remixers) and Enjoy is a lyric about greed, and how what you got isn’t enough for you, you kind of have to go out and get it, and I asked Outcast to make this even harder so as to capture the feel of the song. I’m working with them now on another project.

My Spine : A new song here. In approaching this album I didn’t want it just to be about remixes, in a way the work reflects the collaborations I’m interested in, what I’ve been doing the last two years. Evelyn Glennie is one of the people I’ve had the good fortune of meeting. She is an amazing percussionist, one of the most respected in the classical world. She’s the same age as me which is quite young for that field. She’s amazing. I went to her studio in Oxford which is in the country side and we drank a lot of tea and ate a lot of biscuits and then we wrote it and recorded it in ten minutes and what you’re hearing is mostly exhaust pipes. We used exhaust pipes to get the right sound. It was great. My biggest thrill in music is collaborating with someone when you’re able to sit across from someone and one plus one makes three. It seems the more different the person is who I’m collaborating with, the better it is for me because they can show me things I’ve never seen before and I can show them all these things they’ve never learned before.

I Miss You : Dobie, who I worked with on this, is a mate of Howie’s (producer Howie Bernstein who cowrote “I Miss You,”). The suggestion to work with him was a Howie idea and I’m really pleased how it came out. It has more of a pop feel than some of the other ones, I guess.

Isobel : This one is very South American influenced. I’ve been reading a lot of South American literature and also, in moving from Iceland to London and the battle that South America has had this century of being completely primitive and completely modern at the same time, well, these were some of the influences. And the lyric of “Isobel” is kind of about someone who is run by instinct, but is trying to survive in a sophisticated westernized world which is all run by the brain. And I asked Eumir Deodato, who I worked with on the string arrangement, we did it 50-50 together, I asked him to take that further and do all the way a Brazilian version of “Isobel.” We had a thirty piece orchestra and we recorded live and did the voice again in a big room in London.

You’ve Been Flirting Again : I did the string arrangement on the album but Deodato was the director of the orchestra. Deodato did the strings to it. But I did the remix myself.

Cover Me : For the four years I’ve lived in London the whole drum and bass scene has really blossomed. I feel like a fly on the wall watching it all take place. It is such a privilege, for example if you listen to the golden age of bebop in the thirties and jazz and all the music you listen to but you get to hear it fifty years later it’s a privilege to be like a fly on the wall observing a scene now. I asked Dillinja (British remixer) who is my favorite of this era to work on this. I think he’s kind of what like Public Enemy were doing during the “Bum Rush The Show” era, getting this emotional impact, this straight in your face—sort of fat—Dillinja has got that. It’s like the duet thing again. It’s so nice when somebody with a completely different musical style then you remixes your song, there’s a certain honesty in that, because you write a song and you write it perfect like the way you want it to be and then somehow you become material on somebody’s mixing desk. But I like that. Because when someone goes to a store and buys a 12 inch and it says “Björk remixed by Dillinja,” it’s very honest, because you know “OK she wrote the song, she did everything but then she becomes material on his desk and he did whatever the fuck he wanted.” That’s so honest.

Army of Me : I wrote this with Graham Massey (longtime collaborator with Björk) like four years ago. I thought he could take it further in a remix, you know, kind of let him remix a song he had co-written himself. I was very intrigued by that idea and pleased with how it came out.

Headphones : I’m a massive fan of a techno band from Finland called Metri on a label called Sänko, I just think they’re so brilliant, their doing fresh techno which is completely creative but completely simple almost innocent. And I actually asked them to do “Headphones” I thought it would really suit them and they sent it to me and it has become one of my favorites on the album.

publié dans Telegram