INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
KCTV+ FEBRUARY 8, 2007 - by Gemma Winter
BRIAN ENO INTERVIEW
Entering the gallery space, I find myself confronted by kaleidoscopic plasma screens; that glow like stained glass adorned with Islamic-esque patterns backed by an ambient soundtrack. A group of journalists are treated to an audience with Brian Eno, whilst he talks us through his latest work Constellations, an artwork made up of light paintings with a possible permutation of seventy-seven million; made possible by using a developed computer programme. It was in fact inspired by Eno's observations walking past a house in Holland Park, in which a dinner party in progress. "On the wall was a great big plasma screen which was black and I thought, 'What a shame'. I saw it as a missed opportunity. I wondered if there was a way of making some kind of light painting people could have at home."
I ask him: "You once famously peed in Duchamp's urinal. Do you fear people may defecate on your work?" He responds "Heh heh, I could do with that urinal right now, actually." The other journos give me filthy looks as he runs off to the loo; on his return he exclaims, "It's really hard to piss in a hurry." Luckily the PR team from the gallery decide a change of tact is in order; and enable us to have individual time slots with Eno. He sits down beside me on the sofa facing the myriad of TV screens. I turn to him and say, "It's like the avant-garde version of the Royle family." He laughs and enthusiastically replies, "I used to live next door to Caroline Aherne and would swear at paparazzi on her behalf. These vile creatures used to come out with their long lenses and I would go out and say, "Why don't you get a fucking decent job!"
Gemma Winter: How would you define Brian Eno fans?
Brian Eno: A lot of my fans have beards. There are probably a higher proportion of beards in Brian Eno fans than in the general population. I've always been slightly disappointed that I didn't have more female fans. I trust a woman's judgement more than men's; funnily enough these installations have more female fans than male!... I've never seen anything like that one before.
GM: Do you think it's because women are more visual?
BE: I think it's because they are more comfortable sitting still for a while... I notice people's behaviour when they come into a gallery. Sometimes people will walk in and have a quick look, think oh that's nice and then they leave. They (women) like relationships whereas men are very interested in things. I notice it with my own little girls, how intrigued they are by what's in everyone's minds... God that's gorgeous too, I'm sorry to keep praising my own work. I don't often see it at this scale.
GM: I read an interview with you in Q magazine about seven years ago, and you were asked had you ever composed your own ringtone. You responded by saying you wouldn't be that sad! But you've just composed ringtones for Nokia - please explain.
BE: Heh heh! At that time they were asking you to compose a piece of music, but you could only use those sounds. They would compose ringtones out of these - beep boo boop, beepy noises. So I thought, 'That's hopeless - what can you do with that?' You know the sound I mean, neep neep neep; so people were composing neep-neep neep-neep nee-nee nee-nee. In the meantime things changed so they had polyphonic tones; so you could actually have more complicated sounds. It's not really a great medium for writing music.
GM: What's the weirdest request you've had work wise?
BE: Well, heh heh, I received a very funny letter once which said we want you to write a piece of music. The music should be active, young, inspirational, wise, stimulating, catchy, memorable, thoughtful, err glossy, futuristic, nostalgic - honestly a paragraph of adjectives. At the bottom it said the piece should not be more than three and a quarter seconds in length! Heh heh, I did that job - it was the signature for Windows 95.
GM: Oh yeah, the log on and log off themes.
BE: I've still got that letter. It's very funny.
GM: So what's the weirdest piece of music you ever heard?
BE: Ever heard... that's a good question! I went to a funeral in Thailand and they always hire an orchestra for the funeral. At that time, in the late '70s, western instruments were just starting to filter into Thailand. Now classical Thai music has a tuning system completely different than ours. I couldn't stop thinking about it: are they enjoying this or is it just a ritual, where you're not expecting to get pleasure from it? Chinese classical music is a bit like that - Peking Opera, I don't know whether people listen to it because they love it or because it's a ritualistic form. There's a lot of weird music here of course, but with those strange oriental musics, I think 'Is there any aspect of their listening mind that's like any aspect of mine?'
GM: Is there a song that your fans would be surprised that you like, something quite naff?
BE: I remember people were very surprised that I loved that song Never Ever. I was telling everyone what a great, brilliant song it was. I loved that song.
GM: Your fans may go off you because of that.
BE: I can afford to lose them if they are too snobbish to like that!
GM: I think you should introduce Coldplay to this oriental music, to make their next album something a bit different.
BE: They will be getting something different - they won't sound like Talking Heads... I'll tell you something interesting - See those monitors there? All those white lines are actually straight. But they are bent on two of the monitors; something's definitely gone wrong on those monitors.
GM: Or perhaps something's actually going right; it's taken on a life of its own.
BE: Yes, heh heh, you want generative! OK, sucker, here you are.
GM: Do you find people always ask you the same questions over and over again?
BE: None of the questions you've asked have been the same, so far so good.
GM: Somebody told me you're into eyebrows, whether that's true or not...
BE: I'm into everything really.
GM: Who do you think has the most interesting eyebrows?
BE: Julia Roberts has really nice eyebrows. I did see some beautiful eyebrows quite recently; oh I know who it was: a Mexican singer, La Lita. Not Lolita, La Lita. She had the most extraordinary points to her eyebrows, absolutely beautiful. They were drawn on but so unnaturally pointed. I like anything unnatural that people do to themselves, like when people decide they want to make themselves their own artwork.
GM: I like that don't you? Andrew Logan - he's like that.
BE: Yeah Sure.
GM: You used to get Carol McNicol to help design your costumes.
BE: Yeah, well Carol was my girlfriend. I lived with her for three years. In fact, funnily enough I was on a train with her only yesterday by sheer co-incidence; I bumped into her at Paddington, we were on the same train. Anthony (Price) never made me anything. They were all ideas Carol and I had together - the ostrich feather jacket came from Italian policemen; there's a type of military police that have that and I thought, 'Wow, that's great!'
GM: In a way you kind of overshadowed Bryan Ferry; because he was the focal point but then in the corner you were a visual distraction.
BE: There were a lot of things to look at, and a lot of things to listen to. We all agreed on a policy from the beginning: to not just be a singer and a band. So I think it was an act of humility on Bryan's behalf... [Motioning to the screens] I wish I had clothes that look like this.
GM: Where do you go for your clothes?
BE: Michelle Axel in Paris. For instance that big coat I was wearing is one of theirs. I really love their clothes. They use really unusual material and strange cuts. They are not very well known - in fact, even most of my French friends don't know about them.
GM: What about your suit you've got on now?
BE: This was made in Denmark.
GM: It's nice. Is it made to measure?
BE: No, it's really cheap. I got it in Munich - it was a hundred and forty pounds.
GM: You must have an expensive head!
BE: Heh heh, an expensive head.
GM: Some people can wear cheap things and it looks expensive.
BE: I know what you mean; well, I'm really pleased if I have that talent.