"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno

Record Mirror AUGUST 4, 1973 - by Rick Sanders


You can get anything you want, probably even Alice, down the Portobello. Bring out your dead, old, redundant, china, furniture, fruit and goldfish - the colourful street cries fill the air, the trinkets clink, the cauliflowers buzz contentedly, it's almost lunchtime and Brian Eno is fast asleep in his garret.

Chateau Eno occupies the first floor of a pretty seedy place up a back alley. There's a pile of rotting garbage on the pavement outside his door - of which the door has been broken and replaced with hardboard. "Greenacres" says the wooden nameplate; sometimes it's called Mon Repos. Eno has several alternative nameplates for different days.

Eno shares his two small rooms with two huge speakers, two medium-sized speakers, a clutch of tape-recordery, synthesiser, wires, mattress, comics, saucy postcards, ancient Vox guitar with at least twenty controls on it and a bunch of flowers.

Eno's not awake yet, he says, and prepares himself at the sink for another day. Can we go for a walk down the Portobello, he says, and get some breakfast. "Morning Eno!" yells Bernie the greengrocer as this delicate-looking city flower, eyebrows painted in red and green, edges out into the daylight.

Off we go for a tour of the stalls.

Breakfast time, says Eno, and disappears into an exotic boutique; you walk through the clothes and there you suddenly find yourself in a health-food restaurant.

Over a nut roast and a mug of tea, the interview begins.

Why did he call it a day with Roxy? Well, obviously enough, there was a bit of conflict between Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno, and it was to do with control. "Ferry wanted to be in command," says Eno. It would have been fair enough, but "he took certain measures to make sure that he was." And while Roxy had always worked to a certain well-defined style - that weird blend of camp, nostalgia, melodrama and new horizons in sound - and it had never been a wholly democratic group, Eno was getting edged out.

Was there less and less that he could do in the band? I ask. "No, more a case of a lot of things that I wanted to do but couldn't," replies Eno, who, free of group ties, is now bubbling with ideas and doesn't want to analyse what went wrong with Roxy. He wants to talk about what he will be doing.

Top of the list is the much-rumoured Luana And The Lizard Girls. Or Loane And The Little Girls. Or Banana And The Blizzard People. Or whatever you like - certainly Eno's fertile imagination has dreamed up a concept - and within a few days may have exhausted it - that will startle and amaze should it ever take the stage.

Maybe not even a stage. "We have ideas of unusual places to play," he says.

Venues such as supermarkets, laundromats, massage parlours, dolphinariums and take-away counters have been rumoured, but Eno is unwilling to elucidate. You see, there are certain people involved, and he doesn't want to blow it too soon.

"We'll probably only perform once," he reveals. "No, make that sporadically. When we do our first gig we'll film it and record it so we won't need to do many shows. Just run the film." Like Alice Cooper's intended 3-D hologram idea - run the hologram and sit in the audience and watch himself performing. After all, pop's narcissistic anyway.

Who's going to play in this wonder group? Eno has arranged for certain people, but, again, he isn't at liberty to name names. All that he says is that they'll be "non-musicians. People who aren't into seeing how well they play, and displaying their skill but who can play the same thing time after time without getting sick of it."

Possibly Andy Mackay, with whom Eno's just made a couple of super-pop singles, of which he says: "We want to do a lot of singles, which are the highest expression of rock 'n' roll music. You need such a density of ideas within the two and a half minutes to be successful, and success is always the key factor of a single. If it isn't successful there's no point in releasing it. The only reason I have albums is because you don't have to get bup and change the record so often."

"There are two ways you can make a single - you can do it like The Beatles who took the best out nof everything that had been going on and put it together in an original way or you can do it like Jonathan King, which is taking the worst." And you know that Eno's tastes revolve around the best of the worst by the little objects that decorate his studio.

Eno's flow of ideas continues over a second cup of tea. He carries with him a notebook of sketches, ideas and formulae, one page of which has a diagram of his new idea for sound reproduction. It could well render all existing forms of hi-fi and low-fi obsolete, and depends on using a laser to read signals from a printed card. There'd be no moving parts, the "record" could be printed in black and white at very low cost, you could have quadraphonic, octophonic, as many channels as you like. All so beautifully clean and simple. The only problem being the somewhat expensive nature of a laser generator.

"Oh, I've had lots of worse ideas than that," he says. "I used to invent all sorts of things, like cheap dustbins. But unless you have polypropylene works that sort of thing's not very practical.

"I'd like to patent an idea I've had for making an echo chamber," he says, "which wouldn't be too expensive and would be much better than the ones you get now.

And he's working on an idea for a sort of collar with microphones in it. Connected through a synthesiser, it would make it possible for the least musical of humans to make a satisfyingly musical noise. "After all," he says, "Anybody can hum, can't they?" (Bear in mind that the B. Eno has published a book, he says, called Music For The Non-Musician).

"All you have to do to be an inventor," he says "is to get into the habit of asking yourself: how could this be done better?"

Eno the fashionably loony mastermind spectre of the flea-market isn't the whole story, however. His more serious side doesn't emerge too quickly - he gets bored with ponderous talk, embarrassed by taking himself too seriously - but just before I left he played a tape of Bob Fripp playing guitar through tape-loops, synthesiser, delays and various other devices. Out of the one guitar he's created a symphony of rich, rolling textures and moods that has overcome the common problem of electronic sound - heartlessness - and will surely stand for a lot longer than Roxy or the latest campy dilletante posturings of Berlin-London.

Wait till you hear it; with or without Luana And The Lizard Girls, Brian Eno's going to do all right. "Can you print a sexy photo?" he asks as I leave. "Not one of the intelligent ones."