Ambient music pioneer and all-round healer Brian Eno gave a lengthy interview last week at the Red Bull Music Academy, and it’s more than worth a watch. Touching on everything from the concepts behind and impact of his latest installations (including the ambient artwork “77 Million Paintings” and the room he designed for a hospital in Buckinghamshire), the conversation ranges from nervous systems to cups of tea to what makes music “cool”.
One of the highlights includes Eno listening back to tracks he’s collaborated on or produced for other artists recently (including James Blake’s phenomenal Digital Lion and his work ont he soundtrack for Channel 4 drama Top Boy) and picking out his own influence on the sound and thoughts about the artist or project. Of Blake, he says: “what’s interesting about him as an artist is that he works mostly by subtraction, he takes lots of stuff out and ends up with very skeletal pieces.” He also takes Coldplay as a jumping point to talk about “sheen” and “finish” in popular music, and why many people are turned off by it and prefer to hear more niche but less “perfect” tracks. “The reason we like the Velvet Underground is not for their gloss, it’s for their roughness,” he says. “When something is new, you don’t know how you could make it better…the newness is such a big thrill that you don’t care about cleaning up the edges.” It’s a simple point but a vital one, and this hour and 20 minutes is absolutely full of them.