Q JANUARY 1995 - by David Bowie and Brian Eno


OCTOBER 26, 1994

BRIAN: This human is becoming rapidly out of condition, to find that he is having to write the articles for journalists. It used to be that we would just talk for two hours and then they would claim they'd interviewed us, but now they send a fax saying: Could we have fifteen-hundred words on the future, Brian? And then THEY collect the cheque. Is this a step forward? For them, yes.

DAVID: This gives me an idea, IRA old bean. How about arbitrarily selecting fifteen-hundred words and submitting them on a typewritten sheet? Words like soul, tribalisation, disfranchised, reinforcing etc. And they may string them together in any order they wish.

BRIAN: Very good idea. They didn't say which words. In fact, we could use your lyric writing program (combined with my patent lyric-extender) to make wonderfully meaningful webs of exotic and futuristic terms, which would then qualify us for a jointly held seat (I always like a seat to be jointly held) at the Sorbonne, where we could hang out with Derrida and other people I can't pronounce, let alone understand.

DAVID: Oh hallowed exotic synchronicity! Andy and I are feeding your questions and my answers, in part anyway, into the Verbasiser. Within an hour after this session I will be sending you the fragmented version of our interview. Please extend any viable parts you so wish. This exercise may well be illustrative of much of that which you have been gabbing on about in your year-end future round-up.

BRIAN: This is a very promising direction, and much better than answering questions such as, What are your thoughts on Q magazine? (which name is now fed into the system.) Meanwhile, there is one question which this man asketh which may be worth answering. Which is the least useful thing in you studio?

DAVID: Bert Weedon's Big Book Of Skiffle Chords.

BRIAN: I find that hard to understand, since this is a well known classic of modern musical thought, ranked alongside such worthy epistles as Derrida's Writing And Difference. I had to mention that so that we got the word 'difference' into the sausage-making machine.

DAVID: This reminds me of a conversation I had with Keith Richards at the 1972 Weedon convention. Keith said to me, "What's the difference between a Lonnie Donegan B-side and a Derrida deconstruction?" (Please supply punch-line).

BRIAN: (Lengthy pause for thought). There must be a great punch-line to this question. Perhaps this is what the journalist could supply. The first joke linking skiffle and post-structuralist philosophy.

DAVID: I would like to mention that Ron Athey the performance artist will commit an act of scarification on a friend and fellow artist in public on Thursday night here in NYC. What are we to make of this current move towards ritualisation? It resembles in some aspects the body part art of the late '60s and early '70s. Could this be God-pleasing in some way to appease and to ask for corrective measures to be applied to our fast fragmenting society?

BRIAN: I wonder if they use anaesthetics, or is the pain a big part of it? If it is, why is it? This is not dissimilar from the now well entrenched popular movement towards tattooing and body art in general but I have a queer feeling about it. I think part of its message is, "Look - Art in general is that it doesn't - that it's a place where you can do things without life-threatening consequences" - a simulator if you like.

DAVID: Tell that to Chris Burdon.

BRIAN: Burdon and others like him are definitely interesting artists, but as anecdotes (or almost popular urban myths). I wonder if you actually have to do it? Why not just say that you did it? Wouldn't it have the same effect on the rest of the world? If this isn't satisfactory, then it must be because the effect you wanted is the effect on yourself, not on the world at large. I favour the clever con artist who remains intact to the committed Fine Artist who ends up with his arms shot off or even worse (in the case of that Austrian blockhead - he would be Austrian, wouldn't he?) with his dick cut off. I mean this is so romantic, it's ridiculous... "The artist must suffer for his art."

DAVID: I suppose that would have been Hermann Nitsch or Rudolf Schwarzkogler or one of those guys. It's called the cutting edge, Brian. Enough of your "queer feelings". Do you think Abba can ever be replaced?

BRIAN: Sorry, I'm having to do something else at the same time. What would we replace them with? A large plastic gnome? Something from a DIY store? In fact, I like them more and more, which indicates that I am moving further and further from the dick-cutting-off consciousness of Viennese art towards the anodyne world of sweet universal harmony as espoused by the Scandinavians.

DAVID: I hate to sour your world-view, Brian, but you are not taking into consideration the Gothenburg castrationists. Every cloud has its silver stomach lining; this is a known fact. Read your Kant.

BRIAN: You leave my Kant out of this. But now you mention it, weren't Abba the founding members of the Gothenburg castrationists? And isn't this how they acquired those sweet tunes to begin with?

DAVID: You are quite right, Brian. In fact, they were initially known as Abattoir.

BRIAN: Very good. A joke at last! People might think we're flippant reading this, so we should go on to some more serious subjects. I'd hate people to think that we talked about abattoirs most of the time. Though I am fascinated by current abattoir throughput figures which have reduced considerably since all those animal rights people insisted that the animals had to be properly dead before being eaten. But anyway, let's look at this man's questions again. He asks me what does the future hold? How would I know? Uncertainty is the answer, but the interesting possibility is that we all become comfortable with it.

DAVID: Our expectations of an ending of conclusion, Brian, learned from repeated story-film-narrative culture, gives us a completely unjustified set of expectations for life, Brian. Read my Kant.

BRIAN: For me, the big breakthrough is accepting that fade-outs happen at both ends of whatever you are doing. I always liked records that faded up as well as down, so you felt that what you were hearing was part of a bigger and unknowable thing that existed somewhere out in the ether, but to which you couldn't have access... as though this piece of music was like a comet that had just entered your atmosphere for a while but then spun off again into its own orbit.

DAVID: Sort of like a Rock God, Brian?

BRIAN: Sort of like that.

DAVID: Could we possibly ponder the probability that popular music is, in fact, the most divisive form of music, contrary to the popular belief that if helps teach the world to sing with one voice?

BRIAN: Yes. Popular music is as much of a badge of allegiance AGAINST certain things as FOR them. There's no point in thinking that an appreciation of a culture automatically qualifies you to empathise with its members, or will lead to your acceptance by them. But then, I think that what artists hope to do is to at least show you what other pictures of the world might be like. You, as listener or viewer, can then decide whether or not you want to inhabit those worlds. For instance, when you see a Rambo movie, you see a theory about how the world is constructed (with, for example, clear patterns of good and evil, and unambiguous allegiances). Then you see a man, a real man, Rambo, dealing with that simple picture. It's a kind of diagram and if it fails because the diagram doesn't include enough detail. But at least you can then find out what level of detail other people are working on... (By the way, I must say that I find this a very hard way to discuss ideas. Perhaps I'm too used to my normal E-mail system, where you get longer to respond. Perhaps also I'm not usually in such a bloody hurry. I have to go to Innsbruck, land of chopped-off willies, tomorrow, first thing).

DAVID: I'm seriously hoping that we will finish before tomorrow, Brian. Tomorrow being the first day of the rest of your life (Nietzsche), a few thoughts on Rambo, poor dunce: he's less than within us, the brains talk, but the will to live is dead, and prayer can't travel so far these days.

BRIAN: I forgot to tell you that I did a new beginning to that song which I like very much. It's an atmospheric piece about ninety seconds long using your "poor soul" phrase played very slowly and forming long drifting overlays. In the background is a sound like motors or machines or transmissions of some kind. I think it's lovely and you should get the tape soon.

DAVID: I must tell you I'm overjoyed with the new mixes you sent. I really feel we are in an extremely exciting and uninvestigated area. Same goose bumps as 1977 and a Tuesday in late 1984.

BRIAN: I think so too. But what happened that Tuesday? All right, don't go into details. But have you heard this band called Towering Inferno? They are doing something amazing, working with projectors and film and all the best new musical ideas. They did a record called Kaddish which I have sent you. And they can't find anyone to sign them - though I just heard that Radio Three is ahead of the record companies. Shouldn't the music biz be hanging its head in shame and what about the high/low divide when the so-called snobs start signing rock bands? They really are good, though, and right on that cusp which we hadn't previously known to exist.

DAVID: High/low. Sounds like a sort of Gilbert and George Michael kind of thing. I think we have given Q magazine its requisite several thousand words. Send them over in a box, well shuffled, and indicate to them that they may put them into some pleasurable order. Please go to Innsbruck. I'm going to the Met with Coco to see de Kooning (bet he doesn't turn up). Wave bye bye.

BRIAN: As my uncle said, never trust a concept that you can spell. Best of luck, scramble these things for us and I'll do the same here. Say hi to Co.