Es fand statt kurz vor der Veröffentlichung von „Wrong Way Up“, Enos Zusammenarbeit mit John Cale. Mal sang Eno, mal Cale einen Song. Hier die Passagen, die drei Songs dieses Albums betreffen, und ein paar Gedanken zur Songlyrik, die ganz interessant sind, im Hinblick auf sein in Kürze erscheinendes Werk „Drums Between The Bells – Brian Eno and the Words of Rick Holland“.
Apropos: wie freundlicherweise von ENO WEB (s. Blogroll) angekündigt, veröffentlichen wir hier ab kommenden Freitag die deutschen Übersetzungen der Rick Holland-Gedichte aus „Drums Between The Bells“ (pro Tag drei). Heute erschien ein längerer Artikel zu Brian Eno in der „FAZ am Sonntag“, der leider die Möglichkeit verschenkt, etwas tiefer die Räume dieses kleinen Meisterwerks zu öffnen, und in postmoderner Koketterie um das Phänomen „Eno“ herumtänzelt.
Und nebenbei klärt sich, spätestens in den Kommentaren, wieso ich ans Ende des Interviews eine Abbildung der DVD-Box „Northern Exposure“ platziert habe (in Deutschland hiess die Serie „Ausgerechnet Alaska“). Da kann man übrigens oft einem meiner Lieblingsradiomoderatoren bei der Arbeit zuschauen.
BE: Well, SPINNING AWAY is a very easy one for me to talk about, because it has a feature that I like a lot, and that I have used before as well. I like very much to have contrasts of speed. For instance I like to have very very fast staccato rhythms, chopped-up rhythms, which very liquid vocals running over the top of them. Maybe the best example of this is not on one of my records, but on the Donna Summer song „I Feel Love“ with Georgio Moroder playing. The synthesizer part on that is very very technological and mechanical, Kraftwerk almost, but her singing over it is just like a beautiful liquid feeling going on over the top. Anyway, I have that kind of feeling in Spinning Away, something of two very opposing qualities: a rhythm that is staccato, off-balance slightly. If you listen to the way the drums begin on that song, they have a strange, off-balance feeling. Their sound is crisp. The vocals on the other hand, and the violins are not played in the same mood, they’re in almost a different musical universe. They float on top of this sea of action, you know, this sea of activity. And the violins play in a different time signature: dam dam dam dam dada over taka tak taka taka taka tak taka taka… Well, actually I’m not very good at talking about that particular piece of music (laughs).
ME: Let’s come to the question of lyrics. I have the impression that, in your comments on rock songs generally, you underestimate the qualities of your lyrics, because they really enrich a song.
BE: Well, I agree with you. I mean, if I didn’t believe that, I would use nonsense, I would say any sounds. But what I’m always fighting against, is the tendency of lyrics to overbalance music, to outbalance the music in terms of the attention they draw. So I’m always downplaying lyrics, because I want people to be looking at other things, too. And especially I want writers to be looking at other things, you know. It’s very easy for writers to write about language, it’s there medium. Of course they can comment about that. And what happens very often, is that writers write reviews of records, where they never tell you, what the music is about. They never give you any idea, even. They might give you a couple of references like „It’s a bit like The Clash“ or it’s a bit like …, just comparisons. The feeling you have is that the persons has really only heard the words. This is not what I want either. I completely agree with you that lyrics can be as much an evocation and an inducement to enter into the music as any other element. And in fact lyrics have an advantage in that they can make you think, they mean something (laughs). They draw you into the game of interpretation. That’s a very interesting game and I like to stimulate that game.
ME: on WRONG WAY UP, you have written some kind of ironic ’self portrait‘ in LAY MY LOVE. And it’s a love song, too.
BE: Well, it’s quite interesting, that you are the first person that noticed that it’s a self portrait (laughs), which was so obvious to me. But I never said it to anyone, because I don’t like to tell people things like that. Nobody else ever mentioned it. And I mean, it says: every line begins „I am“, „I“, „I“, „I“, „I“, „I“. So that song was kind of a joke on myself. I’ve always said in the past, I don’t like to write songs in the first person singular. There are so many rock songs with „I do this“, „I want“, „I need“, „I woke up this morning“, „I gotta get next to you, girl“ – that kind of thing, „I gotta feel your body“. And I’ve always said, I don’t want to write songs like that, ‚relationship songs‘ I call them. So I had this idea, I didn’t want to write songs that started with „I“. I didn’t want to write songs that ended with „you“ – that was the other thing I didn’t want. And I didn’t want „love“ in between. So I didn’t want „I love you“ as a message, how ever it was filled out and disguised. I didn’t want that as a message. And so, partly through John Cale’s influence, he said „Oh, come on. Just do it!“ And so I thought „Well, maybe I break my own rules for a change. And not only will I use the word „I“, I use it at the beginning of every single sentence!“ (laughs) So I realized this was going to be some kind of a love song. But I thought „How could you do something with the love song form that is maybe original?“ The first part of the song that I had written was „I’m gonna lay my love around you“, which in English has a nice feeling: it’s like someone laying a bouquet of flowers around somebody else, or laying a cloak over the shoulders, or something like that – this notion of surrounding someone. But I thought „That’s nice, but it’s too sweet alone, it‘ too simply romantic“. So these other images starting coming up, and they were kind of nice, because they undermine the romantic quality. You start thinking „Would I really like to have this person laying his love around me, this person who is ‚the termite of temptation‘ and ‚the crow of desperation?“‚.And then, of course, I should say, there are all the autobiographical parts of it. The way that the song is written is described within the song: „I spin relentless combinations“, „I multiply and fly my population“, because within the song I’m spinning, I’m shuffling the same cards over and over again. So it’s not only an autobiographical song, it’s a – what do they call it – a self-referential song.
ME: There is another wonderful song: EMPTY FRAME. I think this is one of the songs you can enjoy on very different levels. I have seen people start to dance and to whistle to this song. And on the other hand, if you listen to the lyrics, there is this very strange story about a ship turning around and around, a motive in many of your songs.
BE: Well, the sea image is always really interesting to me, because it has two factors, the idea of being out in a ship at sea: It’s first of all the idea of being separated off from the rest of the world, so suddenly finding yourself alone. That’s an important part of it. The second part is that you are not in control of the situation. You can influence the situation, you know, you have sails and you have a rudder and you can row. You can change your direction, but there’s a huge current as well. So I like very much this feeling of being separated off and suddenly being surrendering to a powerful force of some kind. So you might want to go in that direction, but because this force is pushing you, you moved diagonally instead of in a straight line. That’s a strong image for me, because it seems to me, it’s what is happening to you all the time in your life, you know. You keep finding yourself separated off from the community that you feel you’re a part of. You don’t want to be, maybe, you would like to be part of everything, but you find that you don’t quite fit in there. So, and then you notice that you don’t have independent total control over what you are doing. You are actually subject to a lot of forces that are very strong, and you really are not even able to describe them. They are so strong that they are your environment: you don’t notice them most of the time. You keep rowing in what you think is a straight line, but actually you are being moved in a circle or off into a diagonal, and you keep finding yourself in the same point again and again. And you think „Why did that happen? I thought I was going in a straight line, yet I’m back here, where I was last year and the year before“, you know. So, all of those images of power beyond your own conciousness, beyond your own will, and of separation, are to do with the sea image for me. The other thing that’s in there, is about a little ship that is always falling apart, that they always are trying to fix up again. It says in there „the broken sails“. This is also a very poignant image to me of the notion of people constantly trying to repair their sails. What do you have a sail for? To catch wind, to catch the other forces that are around, the controllable forces. The wind is the force that you can do something about. The sea is not, you know. But of course, the wind also keeps breaking your sails, so you always have to sow them back together again. It’s an endless struggle to try to keep going in any kind of a line. Because the other implication in this kind of song is „Why don’t you surrender? Why don’t you surrender to the tide and see where you go?“ And in one of my old songs „Julie with…“, that’s what happened in that song, the people have surrendered. They’ve stopped, they’ve stopped rowing the boat and they suddenly have allowed themselves to become completely, not victims exactly, but to have fallen under the control of this powerful force.
ME: So this is a point where the ambient music and the rock music have strong links?
BE: Very strongly, I think, yeah. I guess, it’s what I realized in the late seventies, that I was making a music which was not about the traditional subjects of rock music, which are actually controlled, control, and focus, and assault, and directionality of some kind. My stuff was getting more and more lost (laughs), I was drifting further and further out, and I liked the feeling as well – playing with those kinds of feeling, seeing what is the relationship I want between control and surrender. That’s a question for everyone, you know. It’s actually one of the biggest questions we ask. How much do I try to take things in my hands and force a particular type of life? What kind of balance do I make between ambition and surrender? That’s the big question, I think. And it’s a question that is not explicitly asked in a lot of music. Most of it is ambitious. „Girl, I want to feel your body“, „I will do this“, „I want that“. It’s about will, most of it. Well, this is a kind of music about the failure of will, or the necessity to recognize that will doesn’t control everything. It’s not the strongest force in the universe.