Having been gifted with the rather over-generous moniker Brian Peter George St. Baptiste de la Salle Eno (b Suffolk 15 May 1958), it was pretty much pre-ordained that his was never going to be a mundane existence as his incredibly varied career from glam pop star, godfather of ambient music, lateral thinker, uber-producer, installation artist and writer has since proved. What is perhaps most surprising is the fact that this career was based on having no skill with a musical instrument whatsoever, despite his early love of John Cage and Cornelius Cardew, Andy Basire reveals more about this months Class Act.
Eno’s outlet for this love generally manifested itself in creating theoretical handbooks like Music For Non-Musicians – although he did show a marked early interest in fiddling around with multi track tape players and was also not averse to whacking things for early bands like The Black Aces or later outfits like Merchant Taylor's Simultaneous Cabinet and Maxwell Demon who created just the one song ‘Ellis B. Compton Blues’ recorded to 4-track, on Christmas day 1968. Taking his ‘non-musician’ status a stage further - after a stint in Cornelius Cardew's Scratch Orchestra - he then joined Roxy Music as a Technical Advisor, wrestling an impressive selection of beeps, squonks and wooshes from his early synth set-up – and integral part of the early Roxy sound - whilst managing to look impossibly glamorous in a series of over the top outfits, ruffling lead singer Brian Ferry’s feathers so much along the way he found himself band-less just two years later.
The general consensus after Eno’s departure from Roxy Music was, ‘that’s him for the ‘where are they now’ files then’, but nothing could have been further from the truth as he promptly began working with Robert Fripp on the cyclical No Pussyfooting and released his own Here Come The Warm Jets. Next up came collaborations with Television, John Cale, Robert Wyatt, Mike Oldfield and Nico and his second album song based album Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) which was promptly followed by ambient classics Another Green World and the first in ten strong series of experimental pieces, Discreet Music on his own Obscure Records. Eno had now put himself in such a position musically that he could more or less do whatever he chose and what followed illustrated how wide he intended to cast his net from collaborations with painter Peter Schmidt on a concept titled ‘Oblique Strategies’ (a series of cards designed to promote lateral thinking) to his trio of collaborations with David Bowie on Low, Heroes and Lodger his next solo album Before And After Science and work with Talking Heads on the groundbreaking Fear Of Music and Remain In Light. Soundtrack recordings, more ambient work (notably Music For Films and Music For Airports), a positive avalanche of production work and several installations followed before he picked up on the New York ‘no wave’ scene and produced the, now massively influential No New York album featuring avant garde artists the Contortions, DNA, Teenage Jesus And The Jerks, and Mars. Once again however as everyone else caught up he was off, this time to create another landmark album, with Talking Head David Byrne My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, fusing sampled voices with African rhythms, and a positive smorgasbord of musical styles both consonant and dissonant.
Collaborations being his stock in trade by now he then linked up with Canadian producer/engineer Daniel Lanois and produced his brother Roger, Harold Budd and of course the hugely successful U2 albums, The Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby and Zooropa. Clearly possessed of the midas touch acts began to line up to work with the music worlds most famous non musician, and he returned to more conventional song structures – albeit in a dizzying mixture of electronic dance music, eccentric pop, weird funk and spaced out jazz - on his next solo outing Nerve Net (having previously released and then withdrawn the set as My Squelchy Life). His output since then has continued to follow a hugely idiosyncratic path including an album conceived for Moscow painter Sergei Shutov, who was in the habit of working to the sound of Eno's music anyway, dabbling with mixing different fragrances (he has a collection of what he refers to as ‘evocative aromas’) more work with Bowie (Outside) a project with Jah Wobble (Spinner) and the Passengers: Original Soundtracks 1 album with Bono, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jnr. Hopefully the future will see him making some more time for his own work (he is remarkably profligate with his ideas on other peoples projects), there is without doubt far more to come from this clever, funny and enigmatic man.