INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
New Musical Express MAY 18, 1974 - by Nick Kent
THE FREEWHEELIN' BRIAN ENO
Or, when in doubt, wear a beret
I think the word here might have to be "subdued". Not, mind you, that Brian Eno was ever exactly the wild-man of glam-rock, but those stories recounting the perverse yet exotic pursuits of the old fella did get a trifle out of control at one point, didn't they - leaving the mysterioso bloated not a little.
That stated, plus the little matter of a collapsed lung, a reflective sojourn in hospital and a touch or two of ill-fated hanky-panky which stopped a lucrative career far removed from the world of show-business dead in its tracks (not to mention the impending fear of rigorous aestheticism cruelly transformed into a mess of broken legs and rib-cages - but we'll let that one lie), one can only condone the sage-like decision of the Exquisite One to simply lay low awhile in the suburbs of Maida Vale engulfed in all manner of tape equipment, kissing off the glamour of old in favour of blessed anonymity - at least for now.
No more ersatz porn decorating the rooms of the homestead, the record player cranks out long, booming tape-loops of obscure electronic music, predominant amongst which is the Fripp-Eno effort fitting right in there alongside Philip Glass and Neu!, while Eno, loquacious as ever, rambles on entertainingly enough, about (what else?) Eno - the man, his ideas, his scepticism towards the music business and particularly the star system, his power with the ladies...
Well, not so much of the latter. "I'm very contented at the moment in that respect. I've got five or six relationships going at the moment. Very uncomplicated things - I have to more-or-less state exactly how far it has to go and no further."
So the nights of squalid perversion that made Brian Eno a legend in his own time have been forsaken.
"Well, I was never really into that, was I?"
"I'd much rather talk about art for a start... uhmm... it's much safer!"
O.K. then. So we talk about art or, more precisely, Eno's current artistic ventures which include acting as creative mediator alongside Phil Manzanera for the John Cale sessions down at Sound Techniques off the Kings Road.
Already most of the tracks, which include Sylvie Says (to which the maestro has added a particularly lilting synthesizer embellishment), Emily, How The West Was Won and the reportedly amazing Gun which lasts eleven minutes, evoking the true spirit of the old Velvet Underground as well as showcasing Manzanera's most paralysing guitar work to date, have been laid down for mixing to commence this week.
"I suppose I see my function there as being a mediator. I've played very little actual music throughout the sessions - there's hardly anywhere that you can say 'Ah, that's Eno' - it's really a case of bolstering up John's confidence.
"He's such an amazing musician but he doesn't believe it half the time. I mean, he'll be half way through playing his incredible piece on the piano, or a viola part and he'll just stop and say 'Ah, this is terrible'. Then it's up to Phil and I to say 'No, John, it was great,' which it was."
The Cale-Eno partnership has flowered further. "I was very elated when John told me how much he'd enjoyed several sections of my album, particularly when he reckoned that Driving Me Backwards was the best number, which is something I always believed."
"At the moment, rather compromising actually. I mean, my favourite music is the kind that I recorded on that Fripp-Eno album. I've been recording a lot here at home and I'm very pleased, but at the same time I know that if and when they come to be released, the critics will come up with the same old conclusions - like, Charles Shaar Murray will say that this is the biggest approximation for nothing ever put on record and..."
Brian is none too enamoured by the looming spectre of the Music Press these days.
"I just don't read it anymore. I mean, last week I was in the studio and I happened to just pick up a copy of a... uh rival weekly that happened to be lying around and as I was leafing through it, I started getting this feeling that I should get back in competition, and why wasn't I in there, etc. It was most frustrating and something that I just don't want to get involved in again.
"Like," he free-associates, "I was talking to John, saying that I'm resigned to never being a superstar again - that all that was in the past. And John made this great observation that sure, it was over for now but that it would probably come creeping up behind me sometime later when I least suspected it."
But, for now, Eno is free-wheeling merrily. No more malnutrition or excessively pallid complexions - his face still bares a tan picked up in Teneriffe while the thirty or so vitamin tablets keep him positively glowing with health and safely away from yesterday's stress which reached capitulation point around the time of the tour with The Winkies which was...
"Useful experience. Yes, it was my idea to use The Winkies. When I first saw them, I was impressed by the fact that they always took the simplest way around whatever they were doing. Most musicians, I find, are so locked inside their concept of music as a series of riffs that they can't look outside these incredible restrictions at the rest of the universe, as it were.
"You see, I think that there is a new breed of musicians which includes me and John Cale - Kevin Ayers is another - who act almost like human synthesizers picking up everything that's going down, sifting through it and sending it out again in a new formula.
"But The Winkies did impress me and I tried to further their simplicity on, for example, Baby's On Fire for which I worked out an arrangement whereby the guitarists play one note at different frequencies and overlay them to create a required effect.
"It ultimately worked out incredibly well and when I saw them down at the Marquee about three weeks ago they'd utilised that into one of their numbers which made me very pleased."
How invigorating, then, was the Exquisite One's foray on stage fronting les Winkies?
"Very strange, really. I felt totally disconnected from everything around me while I was performing. I'd think about the most ludicrous thing like... the shopping! Yeah, things like that or one night I just kept staring at the 'Exit' sign in a theatre. On another I was thinking throughout the whole show about this painting called White On White which ultimately leads one to question the advantages of the deed over the concept. Or vice-versa."
And what, may one ask, are the advantages?
"Well, one can make more money for a start doing one over the other!"
So where does the collapsed lung fit into all this?
"We-ell, it was half general pressure and half... oh, I don't want to tell you because I know it'll be splashed all over the headline."
No it won't, Brian. Cub's honour.
"Well, it was after a night of extreme activity. I don't think I've ever been that active in such pursuits... six girls in thirty hours, mate - and that's when it started, I suppose. After that, I would keep getting this sharp pain every time I stamped my foot on this side."
After another such command performance for the ladies, the tortured lung was about as lively as a dead sprat, the tour was off and a private room in hospital was set up for our hapless Romeo.
"It was strange because during my stay in hospital I could view everything in some sort of perspective and ultimately see what needed to be done."
After the stay, our hero set his heart on another occupation until his plans were totalled by one Mr. Fripp, a musician of some note but perhaps better known as "The World's Most Boring Man".
"I should have sued him for loss of employment."
But why this budding friendly sexual rivalry between the Delicious One and old "Owl-chops" Fripp?
"He's my only real competition. What a reformer."
Eno won't be touring again for quite a while, but does this also mean an end to London's finest poseur?
"Oh, I'm still basically a poseur, but it got to a point before where people would be quite put off by the fact that I was also an intelligent human-being with actual ideas. I mean, when I did a promotional tour of Europe after I came out of hospital, most journalists were either pleasantly surprised or else quite put off by the fact that I was intelligent.
"But I couldn't get involved in the whole twenty-four-hours-a-day posing thing where one's life is spent always trying to do the right thing, y'know. At the moment I appear to be back in favour with the fashion people who are all asking me to their parties, which are the last things I want to attend. All girls trying desperately to be feminine, which I hate, or else queens bitching about other queens.
"I don't even want to go down the Speakeasy. The last time I was there, Bryan (Ferry) was as well. I sat down at his table. He seemed so embarrassed..."