Kataweb Music APRIL 30, 2002 - by Alfredo d'Agnese


The genial musician made his first concert appearance with Peter Schwalm in Cagliari, opening a tour that will take him to Italy's main cities. In these shows Eno and Schwalm will present a preview of the new pieces they wrote together for the ex-Roxy Music member's next album.

Brian Eno and J. Peter Schwalm have the aspect of militiamen. No compromise with the music industry's minions, no promotional strategy. The two are motivated by other interests. The music and its development, for example. Last night at Cagliari, they started the tour that will take them to the Teatro del Verme in Milan on May 23 and the Auditorium della Musica in Rome on May 25.

But the two are also working on the soundtrack of the film Fear X by the Danish director Nicolas Winding and have plans to release a live album, the fruits of concerts over the past two years. Kataweb Music has interviewed Brian Eno, father of ambient music and architect of a project that seeks to wed electronica, jazz and that selfsame ambient music.

Eno and Schwalm: what is the connection that has put you together?

We have the same sense of humour, which I think is the most important consideration at the base of a working relationship. Musically we have a shared vision while each of us has different talents with which to realise that vision.

After twenty years you've returned to live performances. What brought you back on stage?

I returned because now I play a type of music that suits a live performance. Can you imagine me performing my ambient albums in a theatre? It wouldn't have made sense; that music is not suited to spectacle or performance, in contrast to these compositions. We perform them differently each time and when we play them we also develop new material.

What type of approach do you have to the stage?

These Italian concerts are also a pretext to try new things. When you experiment in front of the public you quickly realise which pieces make sense and which ones are only musical self-indulgences. You comprehend the parts in which you have total confidence and which points are unresolved. It can take you a long time to discover these things when you're making an album because the recording studio always offers new electronic 'herbs and spices' that you can spread on an uninspired 'plate' to convince yourself that it's tasty, when in fact it's not. I suppose that what we're doing with these concerts is to try-out and evolve a new type of music. Each show is being recorded and these tapes will be the basis of our next album.

These concerts don't conform to the traditional format. Why not?

Our rules are as follows: we only play places whose name ends in a vowel (like Oporto, Fuji, Barcelona, Cagliari, Roma, etc.). We rarely play so that each concert is an event unto itself, with some new pieces. The other reason that I don't play live much is that I have a life, another existence apart from what you see on the stage.

You say that you don't watch television, preferring the radio. Why?

Radio is different, it still has a connection with what's happening in the world in the sense that things that you hear on the radio are less 'pasteurized' and treated than on TV. Television is too costly to produce and too many people are involved, too much self-censuring; there's almost nothing courageous or spontaneous. I consider it to be in large part a 'dead' medium.

How has the music industry changed in the past thirty years?

In part it has become like the film business, like Hollywood. There's always more money being invested in fewer projects, produced and sold like Titanic or Jurassic Park. The results are sometimes good but the effect is to channel most of the official industry's money away from risky and original music. The other side of the coin is that it is probably easier to make and release an album. The industry has extended in both directions. On one side are the blockbusters and on the other are small-scale producers who successfully work in niche markets.

Has this effected the quality of the products?

The way in which music is used has also changed. Instead of getting one or two records to listen to a lot of times, people are buying more records and listening to them less often. The result of this process is what many young people are doing today with Napster and similar software; essentially, they are sending each other their chosen selections of music like a personalised radio program. Often these collections are listened to once and then never again. It's an interesting new use of music, like a passing cultural event, more similar to a magazine or newspaper than a novel.