Arca Says Working With Björk Was Everything An Artistic Collaboration Should Be

The producer’s experience collaborating with Björk on her latest album, in his own words.

Photographer Daniel Shea
January 22, 2015

Back in the summer of 2014 when she was reporting FADER's cover story on Arca, Emilie Friedlander spoke with Alejandro Ghersi about his experiences collaborating with Björk on her just-released album Vulnicura. According to a note that she posted on Facebook on the day of the album's release, Arca co-produced 6 songs with Björk, and also shares writing credits on two songs. As he described it to FADER, their relationship was something of a musical match made in heaven, although his relationship to her music dates back to long before they ever met.

Arca: I loved Björk's music so much [as a teenager]. It changed the way I saw music. My dad would always drive me to school at 7 a.m., and I remember crying in the car a few times [while listening to her music]. I had a really emotional connection to her work.

A while ago, [Björk's manager] reached out to me, and very respectfully and gracefully expressed that she liked [2013's] &&&&&—in a very pure [way] and without any expectation. I couldn't have ever expected that, I was so happy. We wrote back and forth a few times, and she finished her tour here in London and asked me if I knew anyone who could DJ for a casual after-party. I volunteered, of course, and this weird electric thing happened. I felt so comfortable around her, and it developed from there. We met up one time to see if there was some kind of possible chemistry [between us] and sure enough, there was. I've learned a lot from every musical collaboration I've ever had, but there's something about my relationship with Björk that is special to me.

Making music can get so emotional that, if you don't set limits for yourself, it can push you or the person that you're making music with to a breaking point. It's a really deep and layered psychological situation—making music with someone—if they're trying to make something real and personal. It's almost like dating: you allow yourself to be consumed by the other—not in a bad way, but in a way that happens in nature. It was really beautiful for me to learn that, just like in dating, it's possible to make music with someone who can see you back. You both have the sensitivity to recognize that the connection is more important than the result—that the process is actually the fulfilling part.

The amount of trust that she placed in me, and the amount of trust I placed in her from the get-go, set the tone for our working together. It was weirdly enlightening, exciting, ecstatic, celebratory, interesting, and therapeutic—everything that an artistic collaboration should be.

If I hadn't spent time with her and learned from how she worked—gained courage from our mutual appreciation for each other's work—I wouldn't have had the courage to go the path I did [with 2014's Xen], to just not compromise. She's never really compromised. It's always been about reflecting how she sees something and externalizing something that's inside. After spending time with her, I understood that it's possible to not compromise and get away with it.

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Arca Says Working With Björk Was Everything An Artistic Collaboration Should Be