INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Sydney University Radio Group MAY 19, 2009 - by Tom Harris-Brassil
INTERVIEW WITH BRIAN ENO
On the of May 18, 2009, SURG was delighted to interview and sit down with Brian Eno, curator of the then upcoming Luminous music festival, held at the Sydney Opera House as part of the Vivid Sydney festival of music and light.
An edited version of this interview went to air on the May 19, 2009, and the full transcript can be found below. He spoke with SURG resident Tom Harris-Brassil...
Tom Harris-Brassil: Hi Brian, thanks for joining us.
Brian Eno: Pleasure is mine, Tom.
Tom Harris-Brassil: Let's get straight to it. Why are you here?
Brian Eno: I was invited to a two week festival at the Sydney Opera House and that's a party invitation you can't turn down, seeing as it's one of the world's great buildings. And I've never been to Australia before and I've always wanted to go there, to always have a reason to go there.
Tom Harris-Brassil: What's going to be your approach with the festival? What are you thinking about for Luminous?
Brian Eno: What I like to do is a kind of chemical experiment, whereby I think "Hey, this is a promising ingredient and thats a good catalyst and this is a good context. Ooh, there's a nice base." And I like to put them together and see what happens.
Tom Harris-Brassil: So, Sydneysiders can look forward to the unexpected? Sounds like you don't even know what's going to happen... Any other insights into the genius mind behind Roxy Music?
Brian Eno: [Chuckles] Erm. I think I have a problem with the idea of a 'musical genius'... Indeed, one of the things I've been interested in for along time is replacing the idea of genius with the idea of 'scenius', which is a word I made up. 'Genius' is usually a word which is taken to mean the special intelligence of one person whereas what I think more often happens is that you get fertile scenes which is the cumulative intelligence of a number of people, which give rise to great new ideas. So, what Sydney offered was the change of creating a scene of some kind for two or three weeks. It would be a bunch of very interesting people from a lot of different areas of art and music... and thinking. And the possibility of putting those people together in one place and keeping them there and seeing how they reacted with one another was what really interested me. So it's an idea of planting a seed for a new way of thinking about culture I suppose.
Tom Harris-Brassil: Hrrrm. Sounds to me like a kind of humanistic alchemy. Is this the Brian Eno of the future?
Brian Eno: You could say it's the Brian Eno of the present, too. And past.
Tom Harris-Brassil: How do you mean?
Brian Eno: Well, it's not something I like to talk about, but as it ties in nicely with what you mentioned... what did you call it? Humanist...
Tom Harris-Brassil: Humanistic alchemy.
Brian Eno: Indeed. You see it's funny you should describe it like that, because what you're getting at with the festival in Sydney is very much a part of me. I had a skin graft after a nasty burn and they patched me up with, what at the time I thought was a rather gauche combination, my own skin and carbon fibre. So to that end, if you're going to use the term 'humanistic alchemy', you could also say that I'm a bit of a product of that process, too.
Tom Harris-Brassil: Wow, real carbon fibre? Like what they put in Ferraris?
Brian Eno: Apparently so. One arm is lighter than the other now... I think I need some ballast on my elbow.
Tom Harris-Brassil: [Chuckles] So um, how does that work then, skin and carbon fibre?
Brian Eno: My doctor said that we're all pretty much carbon based anyway. I wasn't convinced at first, but hey, I'm not a scientist, and neither are you by the looks of it, so who're we to know?
Tom Harris-Brassil: Good point. I'm doing a Bachelor of Attendance with a major in red wine at midday so I've got no idea. Anyway, look, I'm sure you've done a heap of press already on the festival, and as we're a radio station it's probably fitting that we ask you a few questions about your own music.
Brian Eno: Fair enough.
Tom Harris-Brassil: Your own music is often very experimental, yet you've worked closely with huge mainstream bands like U2 and Coldplay... would it be an unfair oversimplification to say they're simply buying themselves some Eno cred?
Brian Eno: Well, no.
Tom Harris-Brassil: That's impressively candid.
Brian Eno: Well, it's not completely wrongheaded. I'm sure like everybody they want to work with people they like and whose work they admire, and they like mine, they like the things I've been involved with, so yes: I'm sure part of it is them saying "I'd like a bit of that as well." And why not? That's what I would do if I were them [laughs]. So I don't think it's an unfair assessment, but I don't think it's a bad thing for them to do. They wouldn't be upset by somebody saying that to them. If you said "so, are you just trying to buy a bit of Brian Eno's credibility?" they'd say "well, yeah, maybe." But actually the real reason they're doing it is because, like everyone else who's smart, once you're successful it's very easy to get stuck
Tom Harris-Brassil: Got a favourite track we can take this out with Brian?
Brian Eno: Here's an idea, how about Ladytron's track Seventeen? I love that one, and it ties in with our old track from Roxy Music's early days.
Tom Harris-Brassil: Sounds like you're after a job writing segues for commercial radio, too, Brian....
Brian Eno: [laughs] God help me if I ever end up doing that...
Tom Harris-Brassil: Well look, thanks Brian for taking the time to come in today. It's been a pleasure!
Brian Eno: Thanks again Tom.