Uncut AUGUST 2005 - by Jon Wilde


UNCUT: When did you first realise you were strange?

ENO: I had an uncle called Carl, who from an early age, made me realise that being strange could be fun. He was the town gardener, a very exotic character. Through him, I learnt that I'm a lot happier in situations that are both similar and strange. Also, that anyone who describes themselves as 'eccentric' has a far greater ease of movement in life. They're expected to be odd. I like it that way.

What was your first-ever recording?

I was at Ipswich School Of Art and recorded myself hitting an enamelled lampshade with a pen. I considered it a great success because I managed to create different notes by slowing the tape down. It was even possible to dance to, if you happened to dance very slowly.

Didn't you once invent your own dance?

It was called The Static. It consisted of sudden, violent movements followed by periods of stillness. You'd perform it as if you were an inert creature animated by sudden bolts of electricity. Oddly, it never caught on.

What happened when Roxy Music met Salvador Dali?

We met in a Paris hotel in 1973. Nothing much happened, nothing much was said. It was very much a pose-fest. Salvador had arranged for all these photographers to be there and all he did was make faces for the cameras. The meeting was not embarrassing but it wasn't incandescent either.

Is it true you decided to leave Roxy when you found yourself onstage thinking about your laundry?

Well, that contributed. At that instant, I concluded that I shouldn't be there if I wasn't there. I was also having disagreements with Bryan Ferry. Basically, I was ready to do something else.

Who's the most famous person you've seen naked?

In my health club, I've seen Jeremy Paxman, Peter Mandelson and Dom Joly naked, all at the same time.

How long should sex last?

I don't have theories about how long things should last. Some things can be very intense and very short. Other things can be very intense and very long. And some things can be very boring whether they're short or long. It depends on everything that's going on at the time. I've had sexual encounters that have lasted for hours. Thirty hours - that was a long one.

Has Rolf Harris' influence been underestimated?

I see Rolf not so much as the missing link in the history of electronic music, more as the weak link. I think, if Rolf is going to be remembered, it won't be for his stylophone but for Sun Arise. That's one of the great records. I recorded a cover of that which I've never released. It's very good, actually. But I'm not convinced that Rolf was more of an influence on the development of electronic music than, say, Kraftwerk.

What's the most stupid idea you've ever had?

I've had a lot of fairly stupid ideas but I can't think of one that rises to the top in terms of stupidity. I've often thought I might be wrong about things, including the idea that ambient music was going to be big. It took fifteen years for ambient to become mainstream. It turned out that I wasn't wrong. It just happened late. Then it gave rise to some truly awful music, for which I take absolute responsibility, and I intend to commit suicide as soon as this interview is over.

Didn't you once claim to have seen a flying saucer?

When I was I thought I had seen one, shaped like a cigar. I now doubt that. When you're young, it's very easy to make yourself believe things. For example, I believed for years that I used to jump down a fourteen-step staircase in my home. It was only when I was in my thirties that I realised I'd have broken every bone in my body if I'd tried. I must have dreamt it.

Give an example of randomness in your home life.

Sometimes I think it's interesting to employ someone to do a job they're not qualified to do. For instance, I once needed my garden wall painted and hired people who knew nothing about painting. The great thing about working with painters who are not very good is it gives you an opportunity to exaggerate the fact that they're not very good. You get a lovely effect. But I'm not sure I'd apply the same method to building a wall.

Would it bother you if you were only remembered for your cameo in the last ever Father Ted?

I think I'd settle for that. I didn't do much in it. I simply stood in line and was introduced as Father Eno. I was wearing all the priest's gear. During a break in filming, I took a walk along the South Bank and received the most lecherous looks from two women sitting in a car. I gave them a lecherous look back and they shrieked. That's what I remember most about that experience.

Does it bother you that one of the things you are famous for is producing Bowie's "Heroes", when...

...It's a record that was actually produced by Tony Visconti, even though I had quite a lot to do with it. No, it doesn't bother me as such, but I would like Tony to get the credit. Visconti's genius as a producer is that he makes a lot of things audible within a piece of music. He calls himself The Man Who Takes The Mystery Out Of The Mix. And he does. He's very good.

How much credit would you take for U2's shift from sincerity to irony?

I certainly helped. In fact, I was undergoing the same shift myself at the time. I think those two poles are always pulling one back and forth. Sometimes sincerity seems a good idea, other times irony does. For instance, irony did not seem like such a good idea after 9/11. Only geniuses were able to practise it. Chris Morris springs immediately to mind.

If you hadn't gone into music, would you have made a good criminal?

I think I'd have made an excellent con-man. In a way, I have made a career out of it. I'm very good at telling lies. My uncle taught me to lie when I was very young. He was an excellent liar.

Tell me a fact about Brian Eno that few people know about.

I'm a very good snooker player.

Has all your best work come out of not knowing what the hell you are doing?

It's come more from trying to understand what I did last time and then starting something entirely new. When I try to find a new direction to face, I never know what's at the end of that. But I start walking that way. So, yes, a lot of it comes out of not knowing what the fuck I'm doing.

You once admitted to drinking your own urine. Tasty or not tasty?

I only did it once. I was watching the Olympics on television and needed a piss but I couldn't be bothered to get up. So I urinated into an empty bottle. Then I suddenly thought, Hmm, I've never tasted my own piss, so I drank a little. It looked just like Orvieto Classico and tasted of nearly nothing.

Final thought?

I'm often accused of being ahead of my time but that's simply not true. The truth is that everybody else is behind.