Interview: Brian Eno

PRODUCER, artist, music theorist, writer and anagram fan Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno first came to prominence in the early Seventies as a member of Roxy Music.

Using an early VCS3 synth and a Revox reel-to-reel, Eno warped Roxy’s already novel sound into even more unfamiliar, inventive and futuristic shapes, while providing an anarchic, androgynous and slightly unnerving visual counterpoint to Bryan Ferry’s studied, movie-star cool. His friend and future collaborator David Bowie described him at the time as “a very glamorous young man”.

Embarking on a solo career with Here Come The Warm Jets, the self-confessed non-musician quickly became an in-demand producer, and in an enormously influential subsequent career has worked with everyone from Michael Nyman, Suede and the Yellow Magic Orchestra to Nico, Depeche Mode and Bob Calvert from Hawkwind, as well as producing such seminal albums as Low, Heroes and Lodger by Bowie and Remain in Light and Fear Of Music by Talking Heads.

He’s also worked with U2 but nobody’s perfect.

Along the way, he inadvertently invented chill-out music with ‘ambient’ albums like Discreet Music and Music For Airports, popularised the use of sampling and found music with his 1981 collaboration with David Byrne, My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, and created the start up sound for Microsoft’s Windows 95 operating system.

The very definition of the modern renaissance man, Eno has never limited himself to music.

A prolific painter and writer, as early as 1975 he produced, with Peter Schmidt, Oblique Strategies (100 Worthwhile Dilemmas), a set of cards with strategies for breaking deadlock in artistic situations. He began to work with videotape in the late Seventies, producing work which, like his earlier paintings and music production, was based around “mixing colours and layers of colours”.

In 1996, Eno established the Long Now Foundation in order to provide a counterpoint to the “faster/cheaper” mindset, instead promoting “slower/better” thinking. Its main project is the 10,000 Year Clock, “a mechanism and a myth” to allow people to take the long view (part of a mountain in Nevada was purchased in 1999 as a site for the enormous final iconic timepiece). A library project is also underway to archive content for the context provided by the clock.

Eno’s interest in generative music – that is, self-generating musical systems where algorithms dictate the progression from one note to the next – finds him increasingly applying the same notions to his art in the form of visual music, combining his various interests and ideas as in his installation, Constellations.

I did an email interview with Eno ahead of the opening of Constellations at BALTIC in Gateshead for Flux magazine towards the end of 2006 ..

Read the rest of this piece at the new home of Expletive Undeleted here.

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