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Brian Eno, always interesting 2010 Jan 24

You can read selected quotes below or simply click through to: On gospel, Abba and the death of the record: an audience with Brian Eno:

On the intensity of ideas:
“If you grow up in a very strong religion like Catholicism you certainly cultivate in yourself a certain taste for the intensity of ideas. You expect to be engaged with ideas strongly whether you are for or against them. If you are part of a religion that very strongly insists that you believe then to decide not to do that is quite a big hurdle to jump over. You never forget the thought process you went through. It becomes part of your whole intellectual picture.”

On recording:
“As a listener who grew up listening to pop music I am interested in results. Pop is totally results-oriented and there is a very strong feedback loop. Did it work? No. We’ll do it differently then. Did it sell? No. We’ll do it differently then. So I wanted to bring the two sides together. I liked the processes and systems in the experimental world and the attitude to effect that there was in the pop, I wanted the ideas to be seductive but also the results.”

On singing:
“I belong to a gospel choir. They know I am an atheist but they are very tolerant. Ultimately, the message of gospel music is that everything’s going to be all right. If you listen to millions of gospel records – and I have – and try to distil what they all have in common it’s a sense that somehow we can triumph. There could be many thousands of things. But the message… well , there are two messages… one is a kind of optimism for the future rather than a pessimism. Gospel music is never pessimistic, it’s never ‘oh my god, its all going down the tubes’, like the blues often is. Gospel music is always about the possibility of transcendence, of things getting better. It’s also about the loss of ego, that you will win through or get over things by losing yourself, becoming part of something better. Both those messages are completely universal and are nothing to do with religion or a particular religion. They’re to do with basic human attitudes and you can have that attitude and therefore sing gospel even if you are not religious.”

On instrumentalists:
“Instrumentalists build a rapport with their instruments which is what you like and respond to. If you were sitting down now to design an instrument you would not dream of coming up with something as ridiculous as an acoustic guitar. It’s a strange instrument, it’s very limited and it doesn’t sound good. You would come up with something much better. But what we like about acoustic guitars is players who have had long relationships with them and know how to do something beautiful with them.”


“I’ve fought for years the idea that rock and popular art is only about passion and fashion and nothing to do with thinking and examining and if you do think there is something suspicious about you.”

On Abba:
“In the 70s, no one would admit that they liked Abba. Now it’s fine. It’s so kitsch. Kitsch is an excuse to defend the fact that they feel a common emotion. If it is kitsch. you put a sort of frame around something – to suggest you are being ironic. Actually, you aren’t. You are really enjoying it. I like Abba. I did then and I didn’t admit it. The snobbery of the time wouldn’t allow it. I did admit it when I heard ‘Fernando’; I could not bear to keep the secret to myself anymore and also because I think there is a difference between Swedish sentimentality and LA sentimentality because the Swedish are so restrained emotionally. When they get sentimental it’s rather sweet and charming. What we really got me with “Fernando” was what the lower singer was doing, I don’t know her name. I spent months trying to learn that. It’s so obscure what she’s doing and very hard to sing. And then from being a sceptic I went over the top in the other direction. I really fell for them.”

On Frank Zappa:
“Zappa was important to me because I realised I didn’t have to make music like he did. I might have made a lot of music like he did if he had not done it first and made me realise that I did not want to go there. I did not like his music but I am grateful that he did it. Sometimes you learn as much from the things you don’t like as from the things you do like. The rejection side is as important as the endorsement part. You define who you are and where you are by the things that you know you are not. Sometimes that’s all the information you have to go on. I’m not that kind of person. You don’t quite know where you are but you find yourself in the space left behind by the things you’ve rejected.”

On the end of an era
“I think records were just a little bubble through time and those who made a living from them for a while were lucky. There is no reason why anyone should have made so much money from selling records except that everything was right for this period of time. I always knew it would run out sooner or later. It couldn’t last, and now it’s running out. I don’t particularly care that it is and like the way things are going. The record age was just a blip. It was a bit like if you had a source of whale blubber in the 1840s and it could be used as fuel. Before gas came along, if you traded in whale blubber, you were the richest man on Earth. Then gas came along and you’d be stuck with your whale blubber. Sorry mate – history’s moving along. Recorded music equals whale blubber. Eventually, something else will replace it.”

via Bruce Sterling

Joe Crawford blogged this at 11:57am in 2010 in January. The 24th was a Sunday. You are reading this 10 years later. Comment. There are no comments Tweet. Send email. It has hashtags→ .

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