"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Select OCTOBER 2000 - by Steve Lowe
Brian Eno, Roxy Music synth player [1972-73] on dry-cleaning difficulties and gender confusion for the masses.
How do these Roxy Music songs sound to you now?
"Before the first album, we'd been rehearsing the songs for about a year and a half and hadn't had much feedback. So, eventually they started to sound quite normal. We were surprised people thought it was surprising. Now I see what people found so peculiar."
The costumes featured on the debut album's inner sleeve were quite special...
"One of the things we added was giving men a licence to tart themselves up. Hippies grew their hair but there wasn't any blurring of sexual boundaries. I, in particular, liked sitting on the fence, sexually speaking."
Did that ever cause problems?
"In America we once got chased - in a place called Bakersfield in California. After a show we went into a diner and sat down near these surly, vicious-looking creatures. Our road manager realised what was happening and said, 'When I give the signal we leave immediately.' They ran after us, jumping on their motorbikes to, I don't know... savage us!"
There must have been a disparity between your escapist image and the reality of touring Britain in 1972.
"Oh yes, and wearing the same stinking costumes every day. It was very hard to get them cleaned. They were made of strange fabrics - mine had hair and feathers. We couldn't just send them to the laundry, so through the tour they'd get progressively more rank and sweaty! Where are they now? There's a couple in the V&A. I've still got a few at home."
You, personally, were seen as ground-breaking in being a non-musical musician...
"I just thought, at last we had the technology, with studios and electronics, that enabled us to have this new way of making music. It was obvious to me that the abilities to be prized were like those of a painter, using the studio to layer sounds rather than how well you can play your instrument."
It seems like Roxy Music always had an R&B base...
"That was the strongest musical thread we had in common. When I was growing up in Suffolk, I didn't even know the music I liked was by black people. I'd get all these seven-inch singles, all this wonderful doo-wop and soul, that didn't have any pictures.
Doesn't a lot of Roxy Music sound like new wave and the new romantics five to ten years too early?
"I think it was the birth of the new wave in many ways. It gave people a licence to do what they wanted. And, of course, that whole idea of people using the studio to paint sounds is all you ever hear these days. I'm dying for people to actually play something now!"