INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Kataweb Music JUNE 14, 2005 - by Alessandro Besselva Averame
BRIAN ENO RETURNS TO PLANET SONG
The inventor of ambient music rediscovers the pleasure of melodies on Another Day On Earth.
Inventor of ambient music, non-musician as an antonomasia, producer with a long curriculum (U2, David Bowie, Talking Heads), acute theorist of new approaches towards musical materials: Brian Eno is all this and much more. Now, for the first time since the '70s (except for his collaboration with John Cale, Wrong Way Up, in 1990), he returns to the song format with Another Day On Earth. It's a minimal and subtly melodic work in which a pop writer returns to the continual search for new solutions: so here's the interview.
What caused you to return to the song format after all this time?
Twenty-five years ago technology offered new ways of making music that seemed more interesting than being limited to writing songs. Music has changed but the process of writing songs has remained the same. Songs are still seen as an expression of the singer's personality and for this reason the voice continues to be treated with a conservative attitude. If, instead, you think of the electric guitar, you can see that the way in which it is used has evolved enormously. The voice represents the reality expressed by the song, but to me this idea is boring and obsolete. For me the voice is like a personage in a theatrical production, it doesn't represent myself but someone who I have placed into the middle of a world of my invention. In the last ten years technology has made it possible to change the pitch and gender of a voice or change it into an electronic sound. This is why I've returned to songs again.
Is the voice as an instrument more important than the contents over which it is painted?
Words tend to make a song smaller, they're like a cage, at least unless they're brilliant, in which case they make it more powerful. When I write lyrics I never think of a message that is already in the music. Initially I sing nonsense to get a feel for the way in which I want to utilise the voice. Sometimes it happens that starting with an interesting idea or phrase I manage to create the state-of-mind of a song. But the lyrics were never the starting-point for the composition of any of these songs. In my case the words usually come last.
There is no official version of your lyrics, as a result of which your fans have collected their interpretations on various web-sites.
I like this very much, the multiplicity of interpretations. This has always been a characteristic of every cultural form. The effect of art is always much bigger than the products of this or that artistic movement. As Arto Lindsay said, art remains the only place where it is still possible to believe in magic. I have never put the lyrics on my record sleeves because I don't want to lend them too much importance. The beauty of interpretations is that sometimes they are more interesting than the original.
How did you come to select the title?
I like ambiguity: maybe it's about a day like any other or maybe a particular day. I've always considered titles more important than lyrics, they're like little windows into what is being expressed.
And the cover photo?
In fact it was that photo, which I took in a Peking street, that convinced me of the choice for the title: it resembles a photographer's set with all the lights in the right place, but instead it was completely spontaneous. And there you come back to the two-fold meaning.
When you were doing your early records electronica was for the few, today it's at everyone's door. Has this changed your approach?
In the musical field computers were introduced to do boring things, for example to substitute the drummer. I have always tried to utilise new technologies in ways which the creators did not forsee. I continue to do so and it seems a good method to me.