INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
The Stranger OCTOBER 16, 2014 - by Dave Segal
LINER NOTES WRITER PAT THOMAS DELVES DEEPER INTO JON HASSELL/BRIAN ENO'S FOURTH WORLD VOL.1
Following up on yesterday's post about Glitterbeat Records' reissue of Jon Hassell and Brian Eno's unique, influential 1980 album Fourth World Vol.1: Possible Musics, here's an interview with former Seattle musician/author/A&R rep Pat Thomas. He wrote the liner notes for this opus, at the request of Glitterbeat owner and former Seattleite Chris Eckman. Besides working freelance projects for Light In The Attic (including releases by Michael Chapman and Bobby Whitlock, and the I'm Just Like You: Sly's Stone Flower 1969-1970 comp), Thomas is the author of Listen, Whitey!: The Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975. He is currently working on a book about political activist Jerry Rubin, in addition to his music-business activities.
The Stranger: When did you first hear Fourth World Vol.1 and what were your initial impressions? Have your views about it changed at all since then?
Thomas: I first heard this album sometime in the early '80s, when I fascinated with all things related to Eno. I didn't know Jon Hassell from the man on the moon, I bought it for the Eno name - and quickly realised what Hassell was bringing something very special to the table. Over time, I not only checked out more Hassell albums (both with and without Eno), I realised that this particular album was very special; I've never really stopped listening to it. What makes it special is that it's both meditative and engaging, it straddles this unique line between ambient and tribal, engaging both the head and heart, if not quite "the ass."
What have you learned about the album since you started writing the liner notes for the Glitterbeat reissue?
In conversation with Hassell, I realised that this album was not the only the blueprint for Eno's "world music" with the Talking Heads, it was also the blueprint for Peter Gabriel's sonic "world" adventures, as well.
Did you interview both Hassell and Eno?
Eno wasn't up for an interview, but Hassell was very generous with his time and as he pointed out - Eno and Byrne squeezed him out of the My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts album, which followed this one. However, Hassell also agreed without Eno's name on the front cover, Fourth World may have sunk without a trace.
Do you think the world will be more receptive to Fourth World now than when it was originally released?
Sadly and surprisingly, journalists at places like the New York Times and NPR, who I thought would jump on the fact that this groundbreaking masterwork is back in the print for the first time in over twenty years, totally ignored me. Also, freelancers, who pitched this album to similar institutions of higher learning, have gone ignored. Currently, The Stranger is the only American outlet to recognise what's happened or happening here.
To me this album possesses a timeless sound, fluid and elusive with regard to its origin, and more than ever it seems to resonate with our increasingly global society.
This album was ahead of its time; this music was thinking globally when the rest of us couldn't even imagine what was happening in the next state.
This is the first time in twenty years that the CD has been available, and probably close to thirty years for the vinyl [the last vinyl reissue was in 1987, according to Discogs]. I'm particularly proud of my interview with Hassell (which runs pretty much unedited inside the CD and LP booklets) because he speaks candidly about his feelings about this work - detailing the good, the bad, and the ugly side of it all.