INTERVIEW :: Björk’s Homogenic 20th Anniversary Book :: Emily Mackay
August 7th, 2017 | News
As keen Icelandic music lovers will be aware of by now, our queen Björk has announced that she is releasing a brand new album very soon! When? Nobody knows? But what we do know is this, according to the magnificent Dazed & Confused interview is her ‘Tinder album’ after her breakup album. We are expecting her at her finest, flirtiest and freest self.
Whilst we look forward with anticipation, author Emily Mackay has been looking decidedly backwards, in the best possible sense. Did you know that Björk´s Homegenic album will be celebrating it’s 20th anniversary in September? It is indeed true, so Emily wrote a book about it. Simply and beautifully called ‘Björk’s Homogenic‘
Some words about the book which will be published in October to coincide with the anniversary:
In recent years, Björk’s artistry has become ever more ambitious and ever more respected. With the release of her conceptual app-album Biophilia in 2011, and a huge retrospective exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art coinciding with her most recent album, Vulnicura, in 2015, her status as artpop auteur has been secured. The album that made all this possible, though is 1997’s Homogenic, a turning point in Björk’s career and still among her finest musical achievements. Produced under great strain, it moves beyond the stylistic magpie rush of Debut and the urbanophile future- pop of Post, to something darker, stronger and braver, full of dramatic assertions of independence, sharp, stuttering beats, rich strings and raw outbursts of noise. It created, as the Alexander McQueen designed sleeve clearly asserted, a new Björk, one who would never stop hunting.
Emily Mackay is a freelance writer and editor. In her career, she has been to a party at Prince’s house, ordered out of a car at gunpoint by the LAPD and helped Thurston Moore steal a sofa. Her favourite though, was being driven around Reykjavík by Björk in her Landrover.
We tracked Emily down, and even though she was suffering some serious post root canal realness she kindly spoke about her debut book:
IMX: What made you decide to write a book about Homogenic?
Emily: Writing a book in the 33 1/3 series is a dream for most music writers, I think – getting to wax lyrical about your favourite album for thousands of words, presenting your pet theories and indulging your obsessions. My choice was always going to be Björk, and though I ummed and aahed about perhaps focusing on a different album – maybe Biophilia, which was so ambitious, or Medúlla, which is so rich and underrated – it was really always going to be Homogenic. It’s my favourite album, and one that I never find dated, or feel that I’ve grown past. It’s never exhausted for me.
IMX: Did you have any direct assistance from the great woman herself?
Emily: Not this time, though I have interviewed her before. Björk’s not keen on nostalgia at the best of times, and she’s been very busy with the Björk Digital virtual reality exhibition and the tour for her last album, Vulnicura, not to mention working on her new album. I did however interview many of the other people involved, from studio whiz Markus Dravs, to her old friend and occasional lyric co-writer Sjón to her sleeve designers Paul White and Alastair Beattie. If all goes to plan I will be interviewing Björk about the new album when it comes out, and I will have to resist asking any Homogenic questions…
IMX: What does the album mean to you?
Emily: I grew up listening to Björk’s music – I was 12 when Debut came out, and though I hadn’t yet graduated to reading the music press, Björk was such a big mainstream sensation at the time she was featured in teen magazines. By the time Homogenic came out, I was 16, and I don’t think I’ve ever connected with an album harder. I grew up in the north of Scotland, but by that stage my family had moved to Yorkshire. I was a fish out of water there just as Björk was in London, often mocked for where I came from, and I identified very strongly with the album’s unflinching self-assertion, owning the wildness of where Björk came from, demanding to be taken seriously. Homogenic is also a powerful, graceful melding of the dance music that was so rich and inventive in the late 90s with a more traditional, vocally led songwriting… the best of all worlds.
IMX: What should readers expect to learn from the book?
Emily: They will learn about the dramatic context of the album’s creation, at the height of Björk’s tabloid fame. Homogenic was begun shortly before Ricardo López, a disturbed fan, posted her a mail bomb designed to spray acid at her face and then killed himself on camera. It’s an album in which Björk the artist embraces rock bottom and builds herself up stronger from scratch. After detailing the context of the times, I go deep into all the ways it does that, from the way it folds sheer noise into a pop embrace to the way it redefines the politics of love.
IMX: How long has it taken you to write this book?
Emily: A year and a half, all told. It passed both incredibly, agonisingly slowly and far too fast, in that strange way that time has.
IMX: Any more music/Björk related books up your sleeve?
Emily: This was my first book, but I very much hope it won’t be my last. Nothing definite confirmed yet, but I can feel I’ve definitely been bitten by the bug.