INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
The Toronto Star FEBRUARY 24, 1997 - by Nick Krewen
TORONTO NATIVE A PLAYER ON THE WORLD MUSIC STAGE
Grammy Bid Defies Years Of Obscurity
He's played in volcanic caves on The Canary Islands and recorded one of his four solo albums during a press conference at The London Zoo's Aquarium, but Michael Brook says a gig he performed in the late '80s with visionary keyboardist Brian Eno topped them all.
We performed at the opening of a Shinto temple in Japan, Brook states over the phone from San Francisco. It was all made of out softwood, which lasts five hundred years before they have to rebuild it and reconsecrate the grounds. This concert was part of the ceremony.
The stage was made of either spruce or soft pine. I remember the show being a strange mixture of a festival vibe coupled with a sacred religious vibe. It was an unexpected and unusual combination of those two things: a very serious church ceremony and pop band paraphernalia.
If the name Michael Brook still isn't ringing any bells, don't be alarmed. The Toronto-born musician, recording artist, engineer, producer and inventor has spent most of the last two decades of his 45 years toiling outside Canada, exploring the exotic world of ethnic music.
Although he's recorded with Brian Eno and Bryan Ferry, collaborated with U2's Edge and David Sylvian, and produced Canadian artists Jane Siberry and Mary Margaret O'Hara, Brook has carved his niche away from mainstream attention. Not one to shy away from new frontiers, Brook's stellar reputation in world music circles comes from working with such musicians as Qawwali superstar Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Indian electric mandolinist U Srinivas.
In fact, Brook and Khan are nominated in this year's Grammy category of Best World Music Album for Night Song, released in 1996 on Peter Gabriel's Real World label.
I really like ornamentation and passion, which are a big part of Eastern music, says Brook, who will attend the Grammy ceremony at Madison Square Garden on February 26.
I like the way they bend their notes, and I like drones. I don't have a strong harmonic sense. I'm one of those people who can't figure out jazz.
There's also a lot of attention paid on how you go from one note to the next. There's a lot of introspection, a meditative feeling. There's a visceral passion that's not as present in Western Music, he concludes.
Although he's hopeful of a victory, he's not sure winning a Grammy will bring mass acceptance.
It's kind of a music taste, Brook admits, The Whitney Houston crowd is never going to like it. A lot of people are fussing about it, so that's nice. There's another event threatening to raise Brook's profile: the theatrical release of the hostage drama, Albino Alligator, actor Kevin Spacey's directorial debut, on January 31.
Brook wrote the film's score, save for an updated version of the Koehler & Arlen jazz standard Ill Wind, a duet between R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe and blues singer Jimmy Scott.
The album is scheduled for release on February 25.
Although Brook previously worked with Edge on the soundtrack to Captive, the film that introduced Sinead O'Connor back in 1986 - and scored the IMAX documentary Fires Of Kuwait, and licensed some of the tracks off his 1992 ambient album Cobalt Blue to filmmaker Michael Mann for use in the movie Heat - Albino Alligator marks his first solo score, an experience he tags fantastic.
There's a lot of pressure, admits Brook, who recently finished producing Julia Fordham's upcoming album, East West.
The time schedules they work on are quite surreal. You only have a few weeks, but it's the first time I've only had to please an audience of one, which is the director. You take your own ego out of the loop, and you don't agonize over whether something is right.
It's interesting to work with people who rely exclusively on emotional impact. All other considerations are irrelevant. They don't care whether it's in time or in tune. It's all based on whether or not it's right for the scene.
Brook had an inkling exotic atmospheric soundscapes might be in his future when he relocated to Chinatown after growing up in the Beaches.
In my very first band, we used to do this thing based on Indian music. I always liked drums and bottleneck guitar.
Future Brook endeavors included stints in new wave band Flivva, The Hummer Sisters and toured with Martha & The Muffins. In the '70s, he studied music at York University, and engineered visiting composer and trumpeter Jon Hassell's Vernal Equinox album.
In the '80s, while administering the A Space video lab, he toured with Hassell, met Eno and in 1983 accidentally invented The Infinite Guitar, used by U2 during the introduction of their mammoth hit fromThe Joshua Tree, With Or Without You.
There's a similar device called an E-Bow, which stands for electronic bow, Brook recalls. I had started to record my first solo album, and I sent away for an E-Bow. The company lost my order, so I began fooling around and came up with it. Then the E-Bow arrived, and I found it inferior to the Infinite Guitar.
The Infinite Guitar gives a guitar an infinite sustain. It's as though you were standing beside a very loud amplifier. When you play the guitar, it sounds like a very high violin or a horn when you fret the string.
Only three such guitars exist in the world, owned by Brook, producer Daniel Lanois and Dave Evans, better known as U2's Edge.
With Or Without You may be the closest he's come to mainstream success, but Michael Brook says he makes a comfortable living reaping his own rewards.
A friend of mine once said you get paid in three different ways: One is money, two is the recognition of your peers, and the third is what you learn and the enjoyment of doing it.
1985 - Hybrid (with Brian Eno & Daniel Lanois)
1987 - Captive (with Edge, introducing Sinead O'Connor)
1987 - Sleeps With The Fishes (with Pieter Nooten)
1992 - Cobalt Blue
1993 - Live At The Aquarium
1995 - Shona
1995 - Dream (with U Srinivas)
1996 - Night Song (with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan)
1997 - Albino Alligator
AS A COLLABORATOR
1977 - Flivva, Flivva: The Name Is Schreibman
1978 - Various Artists, The Last Pogo (with The Everglades)
1992 - Various Artists, Lilliput
1995 - Various Artists, Real World Presents
1996 - Various Artists, A Delicious Dependency: Music For Vampires (with Pieter Nooten)
1996 - Various Artists, Real World Sampler
1997 - Various Artists, To Predict The Future...It's Best To Invent It (promo only)
1997 - Various Artists, Roots & Wings: From The Hemispheres To The Real World
AS A CONTRIBUTOR
1976 - Jon Hassell, Vernal Equinox
1980 - Brian Eno & Jon Hassell, Possible Musics
1981 - Jon Hassell, Fourth World Vol.2: Dream Theory In Malaya
1982 - Brian Eno, Ambient 4: On Land
1983 - Jon Hassell, Magic Realism
1985 - Brian Eno, Thursday Afternoon
1986 - Jon Hassell, Power Spot
1987 - Jon Hassell, The Surgeon Of The Nightsky Restores Dead Things By The Power Of Sound
1988 - Roger Eno, Between Tides
1988 - Various Artists, Music For Films III
1988 - Various Artists, Opal: Assembly
1989 - Various Artists, Angels In The Architecture
1991 - Various Artists, A Door In The Air: The Echoes Living Room Concerts
1992 - Various Artists, ...And Dog Bones, Too
1993 - Peter Matthiessen, No Boundaries
1993 - Peter Gabriel, Xplora 1, Peter Gabriel's Secret World [CD-ROM]
1993 - Various Artists, The 13-Year Itch
1993 - This Mortal Coil, Original Versions
1993 - Bryan Ferry, Taxi
AS A PRODUCER
1987 - Mary Margaret O'Hara, Miss America
1990 - Youssou N'Dour, Set
1991 - Xymox, Phoenix
1991 - Balloon, Gravity
1992 - Cheb Khelad, Khelad
1993 - Rain Tree Crow, Rain Tree Crow
1993 - Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Mustt Mustt
1993 - Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Shahbaaz
1993 - Jane Siberry, When I Was A Boy
1993 - Jane Siberry, Temple
1993 - Laraaji, Flow Goes The Universe
1993 - Djivan Gasparayan, Moon Shines At Night
1993 - The Pogues, Waiting For Herb
1993 - David Sylvian & Robert Fripp, The Road To Graceland
1993 - Robert Fripp & David Sylvian, A New Dream
1993 - Robert Fripp & David Sylvian, Tokyo 1993
1993 - David Sylvian & Robert Fripp, Kings: Second Chapter
1994 - Baaba Maal, Firin' In Fouta
1994 - David Sylvian & Robert Fripp, Damage
1994 - Alain Bashung, Chatterton
1994 - Various Artists, A Brief History of Ambient Volume 1: 152 Minutes 33 Seconds
1994 - Brian Eno, Box I: Instrumental
1994 - John Cale / Bob Neuwirth, Last Day On Earth
1994 - Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, The Last Prophet
1994 - Various Artists, A Brief History Of Ambient Volume 2: Imaginary Landscapes
1994 - U Srinivas, Rama Sreerama
1994 - Various Artists, All Virgos Are Mad
1995 - Jon Hassell, Sulla Strada
1995 - David Sylvian & Robert Fripp, Live In Japan
1995 - The Wolfgang Press, Remixes Number Two
1995 - The Wolfgang Press, Going South
1995 - The Wolfgang Press, Funky Little Demons
1995 - Various Artists, A Brief History of Ambient Volume 3: The Music Of Changes
1995 - Peter Murphy, Cascade
1995 - Roger Eno, Lost In Translation
1995 - Jane Siberry, Maria
1995 - Various Artists, Spiritual High
1995 - Various Artists, Heat
1996 - Various Artists, Dead Man Walking
1996 - Various Artists, Real World Notes 2
1996 - Tenores Di Bitti, S'Amore E'Mama
1996 - Purna Das Baul, Songs Of Love & Ecstasy
1996 - Various Artists, Real World Notes 3
1997 - Various Artists, Ambient Journeys
1997 - Ziskakan, Soley Glase
1997 - Various Artists, Shoe Pie
1997 - Julia Fordham, East West
1997 - Iarla O'Lionaird, The Seven Steps To Mercy
1997 - Paban Das Baul, Inner Knowledge
1997 - Various Artists, Celtic Moods
1997 - Sinead O'Connor, So Far...The Best Of Sinead O'Connor
1997 - Various Artists, Joyride
1997 - Various Artists, Real World Notes 5
The Infinite Guitar