INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Los Angeles Times FEBRUARY 13, 1988 - by Kristine McKenna
CREATIVE LIFE OF BRIAN: A BUZZ FOR ENOPHILES
British musician Brian Eno has had a zealously devoted cult following throughout his career, so it came as little surprise that the tickets for his lecture on Thursday at LACMA's six-hundred-seat Bing Theater sold out in short order.
The first in a series of twelve speakers presented in conjunction with the UK/LA Arts Festival, Eno was making his first L.A. appearance of any sort and the evening had the buzz of a major event.
An all-purpose creative person and theoretician who came into prominence in the early '70s as the resident techno-whiz in the seminal art rock band Roxy Music, Eno released four critically acclaimed solo LPs and came to be regarded as the thinking man's pop star, only to abandon the rat-infested ship called rock 'n' roll in 1978.
The subject of Thursday's talk was "The Genesis Of Creative Work" - a mouthful of words ripe with ponderous possibilities, but which Eno cleverly employed as a launching point for a whimsical stroll through his life as a creative person.
"When you ask artists how a piece of work was made, they usually tell you a pack of lies either because they can't remember, or because it was too tricky, or because the subject's quite boring once you're done with a piece," he commented, in explaining why the subject of creativity remains shrouded in mystery.
Though Eno has continued to function as a reliable bellwether of breaking trends in popular music and is a highly sought-after producer - he's currently up for a Grammy for his work as co-producer (with Daniel Lanois) of U2's commercial blockbuster The Joshua Tree - Eno's own work has moved in an increasingly avant-garde direction.
He's presently exploring the notions of video as a source of light (rather than an image-making machine) and music as a tool for evoking a sense of landscape rather than a vehicle for a narrative told in lyrics.
En route to San Francisco to work on an installation of music and video at the Exploratorium, Eno arrived at the Bing directly after a long flight from London and opened his talk with an apology for jet lag, but he could do no wrong as far as Thursday's crowd was concerned.
Central to his talk was the notion that artists repeatedly rediscover and rework a fixed set of creative ideas which, in most cases, the artist had arrived at while still a child. Using himself as the guinea pig, he illustrated this theory with the help of drawings, passages from both his rock albums and his post-rock "ambient" recordings (which the audience applauded wildly) and off-the-record confessions.
Eno delights in saying things artists aren't supposed to say and in giving away the tricks of the trade. Playing a segment of music by African musician Fela, for example, he recounted having played the same piece of music for the rock group Talking Heads when it was about to begin work on its 1980 album Remain In Light; the similarity between the two styles of music was readily apparent.
A knowledgeable student of genetics, pop culture, ethnic music, theories of chance and a myriad other things, Eno is above all a synthesizer of ideas and, like Carl Sagan, has a knack for making complex equations seem simple and fun. Indeed, Eno's charm as a speaker can be traced to the fact that he obviously takes such pleasure in the simple act of thinking.
He has no vested interest in any one particular idea, nor does he have a bill of goods to sell; it's the act of deductive logic itself, the leaps of imagination that he's after. And ultimately, his gift as an artist just may be his ability to convey the visceral pleasure afforded by an inquisitive mind.