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Brian Eno biography

Brian Eno (photo by Nic Paget-Clarke)
Brian Eno at a reception after the Imagination Conference in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Nic Paget-Clarke

The following biography was written by Mark Edwards, provided by Opal, Ltd, and made available to In Motion Magazine by Capretta Communications in connection with the Imagination Conference in San Francisco, June 8, 1996.
  • Born Woodbridge, Suffolk, England, May 1948

Brian Eno was a founder member of Roxy Music, manipulating sounds on their debut album and the legendary For Your Pleasure. Leaving Roxy Music in 1973, he began his solo career with the album Here Come The Warm Jets. Eno has released a string of critically acclaimed records, and over the years his work has been compiled on two Best Ofs and three Boxed Sets. As well as Eno's own albums, he has collaborated with the likes of John Cale, Nico, Robert Fripp and the band James. His co-writing and playing on David Bowie's Low, Heroes and Lodger helped define the sound of this classic trilogy. After having produced U2's The Joshua Tree, Unforgettable Fire, Zooropa and Achtung Baby, he formed a loose collective with members of the band and other artists (including Luciano Pavarotti and Howie B.) to write and record Passengers: Original Soundtracks 1" released on Island Records (Oct 95).

Brian Eno is also one of the most significant record producers of our age. His ability to steer artists into radical new areas was first made obvious on the three albums he made with Talking Heads, culminating in Remain in Light in 1980. By this time he had also produced the seminal compilation of New York's New Wave, No New York, and Devo's Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo. In the 1980s he applied his gear-changing skills to U2, helping an already great stadium rock band turn into the most original and creatively-challenging mega-band since the Beatles. Other production credits range from Real World artist Geoffrey Oreyema to the band James as well as singer Jane Siberry and performance artist Laurie Anderson. In 94/ 95 he returned to one of his most famous collaborators, producing Bowie's Outside.

A pioneer in tape-looping and other early forms of sonic manipulation, Eno's work with Robert Fripp in the early 1970s (No Pussyfooting' and Evening 5tar), signalled a determination to look beyond the conventional song format. His unusual, strategic approach to music-making (more likely to involve drawing a diagram than writing down chord changes) was made clear with the 1975 publication of Oblique Strategies" - a set of problem-solving cards for artists. Also in 1975, Eno released Discreet Music, naming the new genre he had discovered 'ambient'. Bringing the ideas of John Cage to a pop audience, the true significance of Eno's landmark ambient release (including Music for Airports and Thursday Afternoon only became apparent in the early 199Os when ambient exploded into the charts and into a range of new hybrid musical forms. Eno also pioneered sampling and the use of found sounds on My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, a collaboration with David Byrne released in 1981; again it would be some years before the rest of the world fully cottoned on to these ideas. Eno's instrumental works continue, with The Shutov Assembly' released in 1992 and the minimal masterpiece Neroli in 1993. His composition for Derek Jarman's Glitterbug soundtrack was reapproached by Jah Wobble and released as Spinner in October '95.

Like all good rock musicians, Eno went to art school. Unlike most of the rest of his peers, he continues to work in the visual medium as well as in sound. His video installations have been exhibited at galleries around the world, including the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Venice Biennale; the Pompidou Centre in Paris as well as a permanent exhibition opened October 1995 in Austria's Swarovski Museum. Combining sound and vision, Eno's works create an alternative environment for the gallery-goer, just as his ambient albums create a sense of space for the listener. Now visiting professor at the Royal College of Art, Eno collaborated with Laurie Anderson and some of his students earlier in '95 for the Self-Storage installation in Wembley, London.

1996 saw Brian Eno's Generative Music come into fruition. His long- time interest in self evolving compositions has resulted in the creation of a PC floppy disc using Sseyo Koan software. Eno sees this as the most exciting of his musical outputs: it is never heard the same way twice.

Year (With Swollen Appendices) Brian Eno's diary and essays is published by Faber and Faber, May 1996. This book gives a rare insight into the daily life works and musings of the artist.

What Eno brings to all his work is an ability to take ideas from one area of life and apply them to another. Thus, his ambient music resulted from applying ideas that were floating around the classical world and applying them to new instruments and recording technology.

Similarly his production technique is more akin to the way a management consultant works than the way a conventional record producer works; that is, rather than sit behind a mixing desk for months on end, Eno likes to pop in regularly, but only occasionally, enough to steer the project, but not so much that he can't hear the music with a fresh pair of ears.

Brian Eno is not, as most people seem to believe, some kind of a boffin. He has very little interest in new technology for its own sake, preferring technology that you can get a result out of now, this minute, without studying the manual.

Brian Eno is a patron of War Child. In addition to hosting several fund-raising events in which he cajoled his famous collaborators into creating art and fashion to auction for charity (Little Pieces from Big Stars and Pagan Fun Wear), he performed on and executive produced the Help benefit album and sang with Bono, The Edge and Pavarotti at 1995's Modena Festival to benefit War Child.

-- Mark Edwards, 1996

Published in In Motion Magazine - July 7, 1996

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