Mojo MARCH 2009 - by Danny Eccleston


Coldplay's Chris Martin explains why their producer Brian Eno is a sonic professor in a class of his own.

"The main reason I wanted to work with Brian Eno was because he made me laugh. Obviously I'd also seen his name on the back of many of my favourite albums, so I knew he was talented. Our paths crossed in odd ways. Will [Champion, Coldplay drummer] goes to the same gym as him. Then I met him through a thing I did with Bono, [2001 Artists Against AIDS single] What's Going On. Then I'd keep on bumping into him at concerts and happenings, and he would always make me giggle. Then we went to see some of his installations, some of his light works and 77 Million Paintings.

"When we were gearing up to start Viva La Vida - the fourth Coldplay album - we asked him to come in to recommend a great producer to help us get better. And he said, 'I have one great idea: me!' We hadn't really wanted to ask him straight out; we thought he'd be offended that we thought he might do it.

"He really takes things back to basics. First of all, you can't take any ego into the studio, because whatever you can do he's already done, and ten times better. Also, he reminds you that bands are just groups of people who stand in a room together and rely on chemistry more than technical ability.

"He doesn't care about anything except making something that excites him. He wants music to sound alive and full of colour. He doesn't care about the right tempo or whether you could have sung it better. He cares about the chemistry of the moment.

"It was a revelation to us in 2007 that we could just stand in a room and play something together and enjoy it, that we didn't have to sit here painstakingly editing the bass notes.

"We regard him as the headmaster, except at lunchtime: he'll sit and eat with you and tell you stories about David Bowie. You're constantly learning from him. There's a temptation to feel that, when you've left school or finished college that you've finished learning. With him it's like having a professor around and what he's teaching you is to be interested in everything. The danger we faced was thinking, "We're Coldplay; we have to sound like Coldplay and act like Coldplay. It helped to have someone come in and say, 'You've got a long way to go yet fellas...' He wrote me a long letter the other day, saying, 'This album's OK, but you can get better, and this is how we'll do it.'

"Every track on Viva La Vida has something of him in there. The idea of starting with an instrumental. The idea of having no drums on the title track. All the little sounds all over the place. Half of the record is live takes, which is all down to him. He's like a Swiss army knife; hang out with him for long enough and you'll believe he can do anything.

"I hope we'll work with him again [but] he's kind of the boss - the alpha male of the relationship - so it's his call. He's talked about banning me from the studio for the first week of sessions next time. He says that sometimes the singer just gets in the way."