INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
The Irish Times JUNE 29, 2015 - by Jim Carroll
THE LIFE OF BRIAN
It's not every day that the man who was a member of Roxy Music, pioneered ambient music, worked on seminal albums by David Bowie, Talking Heads, John Cale, Devo, James Blake, Paul Simon, Grace Jones, U2 and Coldplay and wrote one of the best books ever about music comes to Co Meath. But festivals like Hay Festival Kells are good at bringing stars to unlikely places and Brian Eno was at the Headfort Arms Hotel on Saturday afternoon for an interview with Sinead Gleeson.
The interview lasted for about an hour - it was recorded and will be broadcast on RTE Radio One later this year - and there's a lot of Eno to pack into sixty minutes. This one covered a lot of ground including his art school grounding, his work with Bowie, collaborations, Oblique Strategies, 77 Million Paintings, hospitals and much more. Here are some rough notes from the session, including some music mentioned by Eno during the course of the conversation.
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"I despise fans, people demean themselves when they're fans. People put themselves in this position where you're so great and they're so little. Irish people are not like that - they respond to the work, they like your work and they talk to you about that."
"I grew up near a US air-base and this meant access to doo-wop and r'n'b. It sounded like space music. I'd never heard anything like that on the radio. It was unmusical in a way, like transmissions from another planet, and I developed a taste for this with songs like The Silhouettes' Get A Job."
"When I was eight or nine, I wanted to get a tape-recorder as I began to wonder about what happened when you turned the sound backwards. My parents got me an acoustic guitar instead."
On the art college years: "I realised that all of the arts could be joined and bridged by using certain concepts and you could work with different media. I realised that pop and art were all the same."
"David Bowie had been listening a lot to Discreet Music and it was a sedative for him. Albums took a lot less to do in those days and we were pulling away from the circle that pop had become. With all art forms, you get this amazing period of experimentation at the beginning. You'd get amazing experiments with sitars and wah-wah pedals in the 1960s and 1970s and then it became either all about the heavy music with Led Zeppelin or the folkies with Dylan. Bowie was committed to breaking those forms."
"I always look for a sense of humour with collaborators. I'm useful in studios because I have very strong opinions. I don't like minor chords, for example. Minor chords lead to sloppy songs. And the middle eight is where people run out of ideas."
"My process is to work constantly, work a lot and work when I don't feel inspired. Inspiration only comes when it finds you working. You have to be in shape for when the moment is right. I record everything I do - even rough mixes - and I like to put these recordings on in random shuffle when I'm doing the washing-up or cleaning or vacuuming in the studio to see what stands out."
"Technology is the name we like to give to something which doesn't quite work yet."
"U2's studio problems don't involve direction as much as choice - this approach or that approach."
On his a capella group who meet every week at his studio: "I love singing not because I like the sound of my own voice but for what it does to you physically, especially when you sing as part of a group, you're trying to be part of an unit."
"Music is designed to make you lose control and be carried along. When it comes to surrender, you turn to sex, drugs, rock'n'roll and religion - I personally prefer the first three."
"However bored I am with music and that can happen, when I hear Peace Be Still by Reverend James Cleveland and the Angelic Choir, that reminds me what music can do."
Who he would like to collaborate with? Meshell Ndegeocello.