INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
St Petersburg Times JUNE 3, 2005 - by Sergey Chernov
A new album by British music legend Brian Eno, to be released in Russia a week before the rest of the world on Monday, ends with a controversial new song written from the point of view of a Palestinian suicide bomber.
Eno, presenting his forthcoming solo album at the Russian Museum's Marble Palace last Saturday, said "Bone Bomb was inspired by a newspaper story about a Palestinian girl who becomes a suicide bomber. On the same page there was an article by a Israeli doctor who explained that wounds from the scenes of suicide bombs are often caused by tiny fragments of the bomber's bones, which embed themselves like shrapnel in the people around."
"These articles were on the same page, and I thought what a combination of tragedies these represent, so I wrote the song with words from the articles," Eno said.
Bone Bomb, sung by Aylie Cooke, is the last song on Another Day On Earth, which has an exclusive early release date in Russia.
Eno made the gesture for educational reasons, as he explained in a phone interview with The St. Petersburg Times prior to his visit.
He said he wanted to fly some British journalists to St. Petersburg for the event so they could see the city with their own eyes. Eno spent six months in St. Petersburg in 1997 and owns an appartment here.
During last week's visit to St. Petersburg, Eno also appeared with Algerian-French singer Rachid Taha in a rare stage performance for the noted producer and musician.
Eno's first solo album in years is a collection of eleven tracks in which he combines traditional pop song structures and instrumental soundscapes that one usually expects from the ambient pioneer.
Eno said he made Bone Bomb the final track on the album because it's emotionally brutal and he did not want to follow the style of television news where horrible news is often closed with a lighter, life-asserting story of a cat that was saved, for example, from up a tree.
"The main reason that I put it at the end of the album was because nothing can follow it," he said.
For the album's Marble Palace presentation Eno brought British novelist and cultural commentator Michael Bracewell, who started the event by leading a conversation with Eno in front of a fifty-strong audience of journalists and guests from the local music and art scenes.
Also present were several British journalists and photographers invited by Eno for the occasion. The journalists were invited to ask their questions after the conversation with Bracewell, who last year published Roxyism, a book about the art rock group Roxy Music that Eno was a member of in 1971-73.
The Marble Palace's imperial-style White Hall complete with gilt, moldings, double-headed eagles and chandeliers, is the same room where Eno had held his art installation Lightness in November 1997. At that time it was a semi-destroyed black-walled room in desperate need of renovation.
Bracewell started the conversation with a question about the influence of Russian art.
Eno, who studied to be a painter in Bristol in the 1960s before becoming a musician, said he was inspired by Russian revolutionary art of the early twentieth century, and that painters then believed that art could change and renew society.
"In fact the first painting I did was of Leon Trotsky, which was a copy of a painting by Lyubov Popova, which is actually in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow," he said. "It's one of her black, red and white compositions."
Eno's fascination with Russia is seen in his bold decision to release an important record here before it is available in the West. Usually the reverse is true.
Eno, fifty-seven, also explained why he chose to release an album of songs after having made many instrumental, ambient records.
"I suppose what started to happen [is that] I've lost interest in making only instrumental music because it started to seem too easy to do," he said. "Essentially you can buy a keyboard and hold down one key and have a whole career."
"I came up with that song one day. In one day, actually, I pretty much finished it," Eno said. "And I liked it so much, and I thought, how I am going release this song, and I thought, I have to write some others, and actually this record is built around this one song."
On the track Eno's voice was changed by a technician to sound sexless, and throughout the album he kept experimenting with the sound of the human voice.
Eno said he was conscious about bringing pop song structures and electronic music together on the album because for the past ten or fifteen years the British music scene has been divided into two different camps.
"There is a 'guitar-bands camp' that all sound like Talking Heads to me, and then there is a 'computer camp' which all sound as sort of derivatives of Kraftwerk. Or of me, actually," he said.
"And these two worlds are highly separate from each other. Guitar bands almost religiously don't use computers, and computer people almost religiously don't use performance."
The album has a melancholy sound that Eno attributed to his age. "The mood comes from realizing that your life is finite. You don't realize [this] when you're twenty-three, when it seems to be endless."
Eno, who was active in elections in the U.K. last month, admitted that the album's subject matter was political.
"When you're in your fifties as I am, what are you going to write about?" Eno said.
"You're not going to write about riding in open cars with teenage girls. If you want to have subject matter which is convincing, you have to sing about your life."