"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Rock Scene MARCH 1975 - by Lenny Kaye
WHAT'S NEXT FOR ENO?
Eno is tucked into a corner of a small club in the wine-soaked depths of the Bowery, watching the group called Television run through test patterns and banging his hand on the table to the incipient clatter of a jukebox.
He's been on American tour, or something faintly akin to it, but not in the accepted mode of choosing venues and storming them. Instead, guided by press officer Simon Puxley, he's been roving the United States talking to the media, hoping it will interpret his words in such a way that his first solo album, Here Come The Warm Jets, will find a comfortable niche in the nation's charts.
Why this unorthodox mode of communication? "I think this is a much better way of touring," he says, carefully. "The way I do interviews I regard it as a performance. It's much more a creative performance for me than playing on a stage. I work much harder at it and I'm better at it."
Part of the reason is that Eno is interested in theories at this moment, and the extended interview process lends itself well to thoughtful examination. "I've been here about twelve days, and I've done an average of five solid hours of talking a day... specifically about ideas. If there is going to be a new era in rock, I think I'd probably be the theorist of it. In fact, just from doing all this talking, I've become very clear about a lot of my own methods.
"At the stage of making something, my intuition can usually function better than my reason. But at the stage of analysing, one works with reason, and I use it to go back and hear exactly what I was doing. Of course, what I've been asked in these interviews is to analyse again and again the same things. I've just been trying out different ideas, and sometimes they're wrong and I don't use them anymore, and sometimes they sound right and I build from there."
In the midst of such self-analyse, Eno is reticent to confine these changes into neat headings, but admits that some of the thoughts he's been having might radically change the face of his art.
"I'm feeling limited by only having an outlet in music. I think some of these interviews are so good, I know they're of interest to somebody, even if it's only me. I'm making statements about rock music that haven't been made before, and I feel it's a shame it's all going to be dissipated. There's an enormous amount of energy expended in these things, the same amount of energy you'd spend making an album.
"I'm actually at the point where I don't have a clue what my next album will sound like. I really don't. And that... fills me with panic, to a certain extent, because one of the things I've done in all this talking is argued myself out of a lot of positions. I've clarified a whole lot of things I'm not going to do, but I haven't really clarified the things I am going to do.
"That doesn't mean I've just been negative, but I've understood a lot of the mistakes in thinking, and so now I have to act on the basis of that.
"The other thing is that I've talked at a level that is far more advanced than my album. However good the album is, it certainly isn't worthy of the kind of ideas I've been throwing about. It's just another record.
"I can see a lot of people - and I'm quite worried about this, because it hurts my pride - I can see a lot of people saying he's all words and no action. And I think they're right as well. There are far more theories than there are results."
He shrugs. "But at the moment, the theories are as important to me as the results. And if I could be seen in that capacity, as someone who produces theories, I should feel very happy. Because then I wouldn't think there had to be a connection.
"I'd rather give lectures than do performances, really. I've got my agent in London working on that as a serious possibility. I'd like to have as much choice and freedom in my work as does a painter. The thing about working in rock music is that there are essentially two ways of releasing things. An album or a single, and I'd like to find means to go beyond that."
At least, with considerable European success behind him, Eno has financial freedom to explore his potentials.
"I must say that pure survival panic having disappeared is a great liberation. What I've always wanted - and have had it as well, since I usually insist on it - is not to have a job, and not to have my time structured in any way except how I would like to structure it.
"Still, it's quite feasible that I could fade out of existence in two years' time. It's just a knife edge, you know. I'm not terribly comfortable and I'm not terribly rich. I'm still prodded. Here Come The Warm Jets hasn't sold so incredibly well that I could afford to just lie around and not do anything for another year. It now needs to be confirmed or consolidated by another album. There's just the right amount of pressure, the feeling I must do something."
And what, pray tell, might this be?
"I'm getting interested in colouring, oddly enough..."