Le Figaro JUNE 20, 2011 - by Olivier Nuc


The legendary British musician continues to innovate. He has made an album with a poet.

Brian Eno is one of the most influential popular musicians of the last forty years. Now aged sixty-three, the Englishman came to prominence in the band Roxy Music, along with Bryan Ferry in 1972. Allergic to the scene and stage, he preferred to explore a solo pop avant-garde course, sometimes on the edge of experimental music, initially sung and then completely instrumental. Theorist of punk and electronic pioneer, he developed ambient music. On his album Music For Airports, released in 1978, the former art student applied concepts inherited from the visual arts with great success. Great intellectual, he continues to break new territories with a healthy appetite.

Le Figaro: Your new album, Drums Between The Bells, is being released less than a year after the previous one. Why?

Brian Eno: If I didn't have to promote each album, I'd release much more. I've been very productive in recent years. If music is exciting me again it's largely due to the possibilities offered by digital recording. Current technology completely reinvigorated me. For a long time I wasn't interested in the voice. The singer is supposed to be the person at the center, talking about himself. I always hated this autobiographical approach. I prefer to think of a songwriter as a playwright.

Why did you work with the poet Rick Holland?

I'd wanted to do a whole album with poems for a while. Then I met Rick at a reading. It was exactly what I wanted: short texts. Poetry is usually read too fast. I wanted it to be said very slowly, without it being necessarily by me. I am fascinated by how foreigners speak English, they bring their own melody to the language. So I recruited strangers in my neighborhood. I gave them each a poem without necessarily making them listen to the music, asking them to read very slowly, emphasizing each word to allow me to edit. I wanted to treat the words as sounds.

Do you feel that you've discovered a new direction for music?

Once I finished this project, I was ready to start another right away. I made so many discoveries! It was also a way for me to reintroduce texts into music. I'm not a great lyricist, and I'm happy to leave it to people for whom it's a specialty. I remembered the years 1930 and 1940, the time of teams like Rodgers and Hammerstein or the Gershwin brothers: one was the music, the other wrote the words. It was a very productive period, which ended with The Beatles and Bob Dylan. Since then, everyone has said we should do everything ourselves. I find it good to return to this collective work: it allows me to bring what I do best to each project.

Your previous album was hailed as one of your best. Are you still sensitive to criticism?

My antenna is only my personal taste. I never think about what critics will think when I'm working on something. Once it comes out, I hear nice things and nasty things that can irritate me. If that hurts me it's because that the person has put his finger on a nerve. So I pay attention. What people write about me may be very useful. I particularly remember a column about my album Another Green World, in 1976, that changed my own perception of what I was doing. Others helped me realise some of my weaknesses as well.