"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Sounds JULY 28, 1973 - by Steve Peacock
HYSTERICAL HYBRIDS AND MUSICAL MUTANTS
Eno talks to Steve Peacock about his reasons for quitting Roxy Music.
"Louana's eyes are like butterfly wings on a clear white face. She wears a surgeon's mask."
"One of the Lizard Girls is bound, naked and gagged, face down on the operating table. One of the rhythm guitarists is stretching her arms. Louana the surgeon lifts the whip (the bamboo whip). The first six blows occur at regular school intervals. The pace quickens for the final eleven. The dream is subtitled 'The Punishment Of The Lizard Girls'. The rest of the Lizard Girls wail at each blow."
Eno has been dreaming; he woke to find a girl knocking on the door of his flat, and still half-conscious he told her to come in and write down the dream as he told it to her. Later he copied it into one of his notebooks.
While I was with him, Alphonse, a film maker, came to his flat off the Portobello Road and took away a stack of notebooks in which Eno has been recording his hopes, ideas, projects and dreams for years. There may be a film based around them.
Apropos nothing in particular, Eno said later that afternoon, "I work sometimes all night, and I accept that the first four or five hours of what I do are probably going to be of no interest, and it is very rare that anything interesting happens in that tie. It's when I get really tired and bored and I'm not trying to do anything in particular any more that the interesting things start happening. I don't know what it is... it reminds me of those Zen conditions that one is supposed to achieve of 'no mind' and things like that.
"What it is I suppose is when the will has completely relaxed. I find that if you're exercising will when you're working it's always working on the basis of known values and known reliable constants. The will is always trying to succeed whereas the intuition isn't - it's trying to experiment.
"That's why I enjoy dreams so much because the will disappears at that point as well. And when the will is so bored with the situation that it doesn't bother any more and just gives up hope, that's when the interesting things start to happen. I suppose that's why a lot of people use drugs, but it doesn't do that for me. If I use drugs it makes me focus so hard and want to be specific that it completely defeats me."
You can imagine that a man who thinks and works like that could find himself rather limited in the loosest of rock bands, pop groups, showbands - whatever term you'd like to use. And Roxy Music, for various reasons, was becoming a less-than-congenial environment for Eno. There were personality clashes and restricting formalities... There were many reasons for the split, most of them fairly obvious if you've followed the progress of Roxy Music for any length of time, and mostly the kind that are better left unaired in the papers. Suffice to say that I wasn't surprised to hear he'd left, and that I was pleased. Unfettered Eno is likely to be something of an exciting experience.
What is relevant is the point that partly because it was Roxy in particular, and partly because it was any rock band caught up in the system of tour-album-rehearse-tour, Eno had found he had less ability to create and less outlet for his projects than he considered ideal. The two are connected.
"What happened was that I quite subconsciously atrophied myself, because it's quite difficult and quite painful to be thinking about things and to have ideas when you have no way of developing them any further. You'll just get a crowd of ideas which all stop at a certain point because they can go no further to have any physical being." He accepted that Roxy, or any band really, would limit his scope and he was quite happy to accept those limitations. But his feelings changed.
"I used to think that you could work through an idea in your mind, get to the end, and almost avoid doing the music or whatever it was. But in fact what you find is that the first noise you make, even just switching on the equipment, will modify the idea. And so actually working with the material is the most important part in a way, because you really work in response to that."
Two days after he left Roxy Music (after a series of will-he/won't-he numbers which turned out to be when-will-he numbers, the announcement was made at lunchtime on Tuesday) Eno said he was brimming with ideas and energy for the future. Obviously, nothing's too decided yet, and he does feel at the moment that he'll keep things fairly loose - he'd like to have a regular band, but on the other hand he's got a lot of other things he wants to do, and he can't yet see a way of reconciling both sides of the new Eno masterplan.
Definite plans include the completion of the Fripp/Eno album: one side is already recorded, and you'll have heard it if you saw the last King Crimson tour, when it was played over the PA before the band came on. That piece was recorded in forty-four minutes, lasts twenty-two, and includes thirty-three guitar parts. Fripp played, and Eno manipulated the tapes. They have yet to record the second side of the albu, which will be based on a series of guitar phrases repeated on variable speed tape loops. And also on the boil is a single that Eno and Roxy's Andy Mackay have been working on, together with Boz, Ian, and Mel, ex-Crimsons all, Lloyd Watson, and Phil Manzanera from Roxy.
Among projected schemes are lots more singles, and an album called Hysterical Hybrids And Musical Mutants, an album from the Plastic Eno Band, on an album of Enoised guitar pieces and, of course, Louana And The Lizard Girls - or Louana And The Little Girls, Banana And The Blizzard Pearls, Nana And The Nigger Girls... misprints and Eno's fervent love of confusion combine to make the situation slightly unsure.
Hysterical Hybrids will be a collection of interesting oddities which probably wouldn't otherwise get on record - stuff like a steel band which imitates all orchestral sounds, and the Majorca Orchestra, an offshoot of The Portsmouth Sinfonia, with whom he is also doing an album. The Plastic Eno Band - he has more than a hundred plastic instruments, and he wants to make a record using them, but which sounds like a real rock record.
Singles - they could be anything, but he says: "I've recently decided that the single is the heart of rock music, and that the major changes in rock music have been on singles. I'm really excited by the limitations of a single." A kind of Jonathon King career in reverse then? He feels that instead of creating successful singles by combining the lowest common elements of a number of styles, he'd like to try succeeding by a combination of the most advanced elements.
And so to Louana. This project is vast, expensive (with much custom-built equipment), spectacular, probably a once or twice only experience, and a long way off.
"I've interviewed two or three people about joining this already, and they are crazy people. I feel harmless compared to them."