When an artist from a popular group comes out with a solo album, it always seem to fuel rumors of the band’s demise. Reports of the Sugarcube’s breaking up started spreading even before Bjork released her aptly (though incorrectly) titled “Debut”, but according to the singer, that’s not the case. Although they were the darlings of the music press, the Sugarcubes were just a bunch of friends starting a “joke” band that got out of control. Now the members are finally getting to do what they really want again, though Bjork doesn’t see anything preventing the group from working together again sometime in the future.
“Debut” is actually Bjork’s third solo album (the first two being Iceland only releases, one recorded as a child). The LP is filled with an eclectic mixture of songs fusing together many styles, often sounding very different from Bjork’s work with the Sugarcubes. Most of the material on the LP is stuff Bjork has been collecting for the past decade, waiting to record. Some of the tracks were entirely written and arranged beforehand, while others simply brought together musical ideas that had been floating around.
“When I moved on and did my album, the biggest change for me was that for the first time I was working only on my songs, in the past it’s been co-writing stuff,” says Bjork. “So it was bascially a lot of fun.”
For the album, Bjork worked with Nellee Hooper of Soul II Soul fame as producer. Hooper did most of the beats, with Bjork playing about 90% of the music herself on keyboard and using session players to round out the sound. Bjork had not been a Soul II Soul fan and didn’t even know of Nellee until they met through friends in the London club scene.
The Sugarcubes had started in 1986 when Bjork and some friends had formed a company called Bad Taste. Started up mainly to put out books, the organization was a cooporateive effort where the members would work for free to help each other get projects off the ground. Whether it be for a book or a record, the members would do all the boring but essential day to day tasks.
“These people formed together a joke band called the Sugarcubes, where I was kind of the singer and we would throw out silly pop songs and get really drunk,” explains Bjork. “We just did this little record as a joke and a year later we’d forgotten about it almost and some Enlgish journalist found it and made it song of the week in Melody Maker and then everything went berserk in England.”
That record was “Birthday,” and the group tried to ignore what was going on for a whole year before signing a record deal (“We had a good thing going in Iceland and we weren’t too excited about suffering as rock stars!”). The Sugarcubes were immediate sensations, getting extensive airplay on alternative stations and landing the opening slot on a tour with New Order and Public Image Limited.
After three albums, the band has taken a break to allow the members to go back to what they had wanted to be doing all along. For Bjork, who comes from a background of doing all sorts of music for film, stage and other projects, that meant getting back to her own songs. The singer recently want out on her first solo tour, where she performed material from the album re-arranged for the live setting as well as some new songs. Bjork says that in the future there will probably be a remix album of material taken from “Debut”.
“I’m a big fan of a lot of the remixers, not the boring commercial ones, but a lot them are doing very creative, experimental things,” says Bjork. “Because a lot of people don’t buy white labels, I might get all the songs on the same record.”
NOTE: If you’re a Sugarcubes fan, be sure to also check out our interview with member Einar Örn about his project Ghostigital.