A CONVERSATION WITH BRIAN ENO - INTERNATIONAL ART ROCK ARTIST FOR THE 90S
by Tim Cain
© 1990 & 2002 Tim Cain
TC: Why have you chosen at this point in your career to go out on a tour and be as accessible as you are?
ENO: Im not that inaccessible most of the time, you know, Im just working most of the time. But I dont go out of my way to be inaccessible. And I like talking, and I dont like touring, so this is my solution to that.
TC: Well it seems to be going very well. You sold out Park West (in Chicago) with your conversations and lecture.
ENO: Theyve been very successful, yes. I think people are always surprised that it can be funny and interesting at the same time. These things tend to be fairly humorous, but at the same time I talk about the things that interest me the most.
TC: Are you surprised that those things that interest you most interest other people, as well?
ENO: Yes. (laughs) I was surprised when I first did it. I think its really fascinating that there are a lot of people who presumably arent active as composers or artists who are quite interested in the philosophical nuts and bolts of being an artist or composer.
TC: Could you be more specific about the treatments and tape credits youve received on your records?
ENO: You mean, as to what it means?
ENO: I suppose what I do is, I landscape sound. Thats what it means, really. One of the things I think has happened in the last thirty or forty years is that composers have been able to think about sound more than they ever could before because of electronics and synthesizers and processing of various kinds, and Ive sort of specialized in that. So, I think theres sort of a new language in music which is to do with sounds. Its not to do with harmonies, pitch, melodies, rhythms- that kind of thing. Its on top of all those, theres this new area which, umm, I would call soundscaping, if you like. So, treatments really are doing that to music. Starting to think about the texture of sound and the character of sound and what that means. So, thats what I do.
TC: How did you come up with the notion of doing that?
ENO: Couldnt do anything else. (laughs heartily)
TC: Tell me about the pop album, (Wrong Way Up). Why did you do a pop album at this stage in your career? I had read sometime in the last year that you were mainly interested in doing your video installations and things of that nature, and that you werent interested in doing another rock album. Is that the case?
ENO: That was the case.
TC: And so what happened?
ENO: Well, I changed my mind. (laughing)... If I feel like doing one thing Ill do it and when I feel like doing something else, I do that. Its pretty impulsive, really - what they describe as "a whim of iron".
TC: I think this new record is overall one of the happiest records Ive heard you put out.
ENO: See, I do too. I am quite happy at this moment, actually. A lot of things have come together in the last year, and I had a little girl this year, in January, whom... Im very delighted by. So, I just thought Ill give myself the license of being whatever I want to. Being flippant or serious, or both together, as actually I do in the lectures, a lot. So, this record, in fact, came out a lot more friendly and optimistic than either of us (John Cale and Eno) expected it to. We both started out thinking it would be quite stark and sort of, industrial... perhaps slightly "Eraserhead" in feeling. (laughs) And it didnt come out that way at all. I didnt stop it, see, from becoming what it wants to be.
TC: Tell me how you got into this project with John Cale.
ENO: Well Ive known him for quite a long time and Ive worked with him in a sort of less collaborative way - not doing whole records together. I worked on his record, "Fear" in 1974, then I worked on three other (of his); he worked on two albums of mine. So, weve sort of, kept in touch. Then last year we did a record of orchestral pieces of his called "Works For The Dying", that was a suite of pieces, settings of Dylan Thomas songs, beautiful settings, I think. We recorded it in Moscow, and we were a few minutes short of a full length album. So, we decided to try to write something to fill that space and we came up with a really beautiful, strange, little song called, "Carmen Miranda". I was very thrilled by how easily that came about, and how it was really different from anything either one of us would have come up with separately. So earlier this year I said to John, why dont we see if if we can make a record together, see what happens. He agreed and we went ahead. It was fairly rapidly done, actually.
TC: I couldnt believe how quickly you recorded this.
ENO: I am more and more convinced that there is a lot to be said for fast recording. Its like cooking - if you see a good chef at work, they dont keep food in the pan any longer than they have to. They just do it really quickly and it is in the plate suddenly. And it tastes fresh and crunchy and full of flavor, and thats sort of what I wanted on this record.
TC: Its fresh and crunchy and full of flavor?
TC: I would concur: I think it is.
ENO: I think I should be an advertising executive.
TC: I think you are.