Brian Eno tells Apple Music about the brilliance of Fred again, why he’s excited about Spatial Audio, exploring unchartered territory, and more…

Music pioneer Brian Eno joins Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1 for a wide-ranging conversation following the release of his latest album ‘FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE’. He tells Apple Music about the brilliance of his mentee Fred again.. and how he changed how he listens to music, why he’s excited about the arrival of Spatial Audio and immersive sound, collaboration, his commitment to exploring unchartered territory, his optimism about the environmental movement, originality, artistic discipline, the creative process, and more.

Brian Eno Tells Apple Music About The Brilliance of His Mentee Fred again…

I have to say, and this is not modesty or false flattery or anything like that, I think of Fred as my mentor as well in that I learned so much about contemporary music from watching him work. When I first worked with Fred, I could see he was brilliant. It’s very clear, he’s a very, very sensitive and good artist and I was very impressed by that. But I didn’t really understand a lot of what he was doing. It took me quite a while to think, “Oh my gosh, this is really a new idea about how you can make music.” So I learned a lot from him. So it’s a two-way relationship. I mean I’m very flattered to be called a mentor of someone whose work I like a lot. But actually, it worked both ways around. I started listening to music differently when I watched how Fred was making it. He’s often recording on his phone and he’s often recording in quite noisy places, and he doesn’t clean everything off. So in every piece of recording, there’s a context that comes with it as well. The sound has a history built into it. He’s actually letting it pour through his art and through his spirit.

Brian Eno Tells Apple Music Why He’s Excited About Spatial Audio…

First of all, I should say that I’ve been making what I call three-dimensional sound installations for a long, long time. I started really in the ’70s of working with my light works and my sound installations, and I did it then by having lots of separate speakers with separate players, cassette players originally, then CD players, and so on and so on. So I had a lot of separately powered and driven sound units, and I loved this experience of being in the middle of a field of sound. But, of course, there was no way to capture that and put it onto a record unless somebody else had exactly the same bloody weird, complicated system that I happened to have in my studio or that I’d make in installations. Nobody really could hear those results. There’s a bigger difference between 3D and stereo than between stereo and mono, I think, then you really are in a landscape. When there are sounds coming from all sorts of different places and you are not sitting looking at a flat picture anymore, even though that’s not an unpleasant experience, there’s a limitation to it. Once you are in the middle of the world of sound, my God, there’s so much you can do. So exciting. But what I think is so lovely is just this feeling of being inside something and surrendering to it, just thinking, okay, it’s going to happen to me. It was more radical than I expected it to do and it sounds like it’s inside my brain. That’s an amazing thing. Once things are separated, they’re not all crammed into two speakers. Once you have them separated, your ears, it turns out, are much more capable of focusing and understanding where different things are in space. It’s very, very interesting that if I’m mixing something for Atmos, I can have much more stuff in the mix if I want to, but I can also have much more silence in it as well because absences, that’s to say spaces, they are much more dramatic.

Brian Eno Tells Apple Music About Originality…

It’s not a good aspiration to start out with. It sends you off in some pretty unfruitful directions I think. I mean I always follow feelings, so I’m really not interested in anything very much until I start to feel something from it. Then I get interested. I want to pursue it and expand it. Okay, it’s a little bit of feeling in the way that melody curves there. How do I get more of that?

Brian Eno Tells Apple Music About The Importance of Discipline For Artists…

I really reject the image that’s given of artists as having completely finished masterpieces in their head, and then they just have to somehow bring those into reality. I think it’s the process of working that helps you understand where you’re going. There’s that great quote from Picasso who said, “Inspiration does come, but it has to find you working.” There’s no use sitting in a chair and waiting, you just keep doing things. It’s like an athlete. The athlete doesn’t practice only on the day he’s going to do a race. All the rest of the time he’s staying in touch with the whole thing, staying toned up. In a sense, there are no days off for an artist, but of course, there’s no real work either.

Brian Eno Tells Apple Music About The Creative Process…

I always say beginnings are easy, endings are hard. Beginnings get easier and easier, actually. There’s so much technological assistance to beginning, so many ways of getting something started, like rhythm machines and cord pattern makers, and all that sort of thing. So there are lots of ways of getting something pretty respectable going quite early on. Again, to quote Picasso who said, “There’s nothing worse than a brilliant beginning.” But that feeling of terror you feel when you’ve done something and you know it’s good, and you just don’t know how not to ruin it. Everything you try on it makes it worse, and yet you know it’s not finished.

Brian Eno Tells Apple Music About Making Music He Thinks Ought To Exist…

What I’ve always wanted to do is to make the music that I thought ought to exist. I’m sure you’ve had this same feeling where you hear something and you think, “Wow, that’s really nice, but it could be better if they did this and this and this,” and you start remaking it in your mind. And then you realize you’ve actually come up with an idea, a new idea. A lot of what composers do is try to improve on what they already hear out there. This is great, but it would be better if they hadn’t done this if they left out that and if they did more of that.

Brian Eno on The Primary Job of Artists…

…the primary job of artists is to create places in which you can have feelings. I more and more think that the job of art is to present you with other worlds, and they can be novels or they can be films or they can be pieces of music or paintings, but essentially they’re worlds of some kind. The process of engaging with them is saying, “Okay, I’m going to live in that world for a little bit. I’m going to exist in that and see what it feels like to be in that world.” That to me is the most important thing that we do really as humans, where we probe the possibilities for the future and for alternative locations and so on by living them in a model, in a simulated form.

Brian Eno Tells Apple Music About His Latest Album ‘FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE’…

It was like a chemical experiment that suddenly exploded in a way I didn’t expect. So the experiment was to say, okay, I’ve been doing what you might call landscape music, if you like, for quite a few years. Of making atmospheres and moods and places, really, rather than narratives. They’re not stories, they’re places you can go to. Musical places. You can go to, musical places. And dropping a voice into that didn’t sound that revolutionary to me. I wanted to try it. There was a sudden chemistry to that which I didn’t expect. For a start, it was very easy to do. I didn’t expect that to be the case. I’m working over landscapes that miss a lot of the things that normally happen in ordinary songs like no beat. No metronome, no structure, no chord patterns. It came much more naturally than I expected. So I would work on the soundscapes for quite a long time. Some of them were things I returned to, dropped them for a few months and came back to them. Some of those soundscapes are quite old now, at least they started a long time ago. And then finally when I picked up a microphone to see well what person exists in this space? And what is that person feeling? The voice is really there as almost a narrator, not so much as a personality, but as somebody to represent a human having feelings, if you like, that sounds a little bit abstract. But what I want to say is that it isn’t necessarily me. It’s not autobiographical in a certain way. It’s just meant to be anonymous, anonymous is what they call them.

Brian Eno Tells Apple Music About His Primary Characteristics As A Collaborator…

I suppose one of my characteristics as a collaborator is that I’m shamelessly enthusiastic. I get very excited about seeing something coming into being. I really love watching something being born. When an idea starts to take shape, it’s the most thrilling thing. I have no hesitation in doing that undisguised, even if it’s quite crude and clunky, and so on. If I see the gleam of something new in it, I want to help it along.

Brian Eno Tells Apple Music About Exploring Unchartered Territory and Not Retracing His Steps…

…if you have a history, I know I have quite a lot of history, it has a certain weight to it. And it’s kind of inertia. There’s a tendency in the world for people if you’ve done something and it’s been successful, for people to want you to always be doing that same thing again and again. I can completely understand it, I’m not blaming anyone for it, but it creates a sort of anchorage that I don’t really particularly enjoy. I always say that people are always congratulating me for the album I made 20 years ago. Seems to happen a lot. Whatever date I’m in, it’s the 20 years ago album that people are congratulating me more. It introduces two thoughts to you. You think, was it better? Have I actually deteriorated since then? Which is not a helpful thought anyway. But also it makes you think, did I have any better idea then about what I was doing than I do now? I didn’t. I always work at the edge of, like I’m sure you do as well, you work at the edge of what you understand. You don’t generally sit comfortably in the middle of what you know can do and just do it all over again. The thrill is to go to an edge and look over into a land you’ve never seen before, and then go there. That’s actually the whole thrill of working, for me. If I feel that anchorage too strongly, that sense of always looking backwards, it just holds me back I think.

Brian Eno Tells Apple Music About His Optimism About The Environmental Movement…

I feel I have a kind of optimism because I see the biggest movement in human history going on right now, which is, let’s call it the environmental movement. Millions and millions and millions of people all thinking about the same thing. Millions of scientists working on new technological solutions that are very interesting, many of them, millions of people who think about governance, working on new political systems like Citizens Assembly and Global Assemblies, different ways of choosing leaders and organizing government structures, new forms of economics, being born, everybody’s working on this problem. The only problem is we don’t know about each other. This new movement is so strong and so powerful, and every day coming into being and strengthening and knitting together more strongly. And at some point soon it will become self-aware and will suddenly realize, “Oh my God, we’re all on the same side.”In fact, I want to make this t-shirt saying, “We’re on the same side.” Because there’s only one fight and we’re all on the same side of it, actually.

Listen back to this show and others HERE.



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About the Author

Director and DJ, Ian French (Naif) is passionate about many genres of music from Breakbeat and Drum & Bass to Techno and Electronica. A man that lives in a world of bass and beats, Ian is an obsessive collector of music and a true geek at heart, with many years spent in application design.