INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
L'Unita JUNE 15, 2005 - by Silvio Boschero
BRIAN ENO: ME? A ROCK-STAR? THAT'S AN INSULT!
He's the man who invented ambient music. But Brian Eno - theorist, critic, cultural agitator, political activist - a fifty-seven year-old of disarming intelligence, is also a musician who helped to create one of the most important rock bands of the '70s, Roxy Music, and is the producer behind U2, David Bowie, Talking Heads and other greats. After almost twenty-five years Eno returns to singing with his amazing new record, Another Day On Earth. And, maybe, he'll write the music for the opening ceremony of the next World Cup of football, Germany 2006.
Mr. Eno, do you know that the BBC's website has a page about you in which you're defined as a British rock-star?
The horror! To be called a rock-star is, for me, an insult. Rock doesn't interest me, it's not what I do and I don't want to be a star. I've spent most of my time avoiding being a rock-star because I believe the stars' message is: I'm light years away from you, I do things that you'll never be able to do, I'm special. For me the most important message in pop music is: everybody can do what I do.
According to Michael Nyman you're a great singer.
Nyman is crazy and funny. I'm disconcerted to learn that he considers me a great singer. I don't believe I am. I've worked with great singers, so I know the difference between me and them. If I listen to David Bowie or Bono in the studio, I immediately stop thinking that I'm a great singer. They have immense voices with an extraordinary range of colours and shades. My voice is like the subtle pencil of an engineer who makes precise creations. And so I can do things that Bono can't do: sing harmonies, put layers of vocals together. Bono's voice has too much personality. To use groups of harmonies you have to have discipline - control - you can't improvise. Somebody like Bono never stops improvising. So he is a better vocalist, but I'm a better back-up singer.
You are experimenting with a lyric-generating machine...
It's an idea which is still to be developed.
People often find innovations terrible until they feel the results... Most of the things that have happened in modern music have been received with horror, like the idea of imitating an orchestra with keyboards... When this happened people said it was distasteful. You'll put orchestras out of work and above all they won't be real orchestras!
But this is about generating words, so the thought...
This only happens because you want the voice and the personality of the singer to be the same thing. I don't. I want the voice to be non-personal. I want to design the personality. It can't be me, it's not essential that it be so.
Your record is full of beauty, calm, melody. Is it for you also a little escape from the brutality of the world?
That's a good analysis. One of the reasons for the title Another Day On Earth is this: to think that all of the intense sensations we experience in terms of the baseness or beauty of our world are not new, that this is just another day and that more will follow. One of the messages is: calm yourself, we can relate ourselves to what is happening. So there's a sort of optimism at the base of it. The other message is that every day is a new day, so you have to rethink your approach from scratch. This thought is probably a result of being over fifty years of age, I'm no longer a young man, I think about time, about the past and the future in various ways. I'm part of the generation that has grown old with pop music.
You speak of positivity but the song Bone Bomb is about a Palestinian suicide-bomber.
This song was based on two newspaper articles: one told the story of a female suicide-bomber, the other was about an Israeli doctor who was describing the scene after a suicide-bombing. One of the most terrible problems that he had to face was to remove thousands of bone splinters from the skin of the wounded. Little pieces of bone flying everywhere. So there is the imagine of this woman, the imagine (before she blew herself up) of a saint, of someone already dead who had found her peace, her joy, in killing someone else. It's a new modern tragedy.
You are the head of the Impeach Blair movement. What don't you like about your government?
England is no longer a democracy, and Italy is not so far removed from our case. Five to ten years ago our governments thought: it's hard to push ahead with this democracy, let's simplify it. And so today in England and in America we have the illusion of democracy but the people no longer have a say in the decisions of government. In our case it's even worse. The government no longer has any say given that Blair went ahead with the support of a small part of his party and he behaves like a president, not like a prime minister. People don't realise it.
The war in Iraq was the straw that broke the camel's back...
I have always been firmly against the war, a war based on totally dishonest reasons. America needed to more strongly assert its power in the Middle East. Now it has. I can understand Realpolitik, but what I can't accept is the number of victims this costs, the use of the media for pure propaganda and the creation of this terrible sense of paranoia in the people of the West. Paranoia towards others. What makes people civilised is the capacity to relate to diversity, to absorb it, to accept it.