Unearthed 1982 Brian Eno interview: “I generally don’t like electronic sounds”

The ambient pioneer says he prefers the richness of acoustic sounds but appreciates how easy electronic sounds are to manipulate.

Brian Eno performs with the Baltic Sea Philharmonic, conducted by Kristjan Järvi, at The Royal Festival Hall on October 30, 2023 in London, England.

Credit: Getty / Jim Dyson

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A recently unearthed 1982 interview with ambient pioneer Brian Eno has revealed that he “doesn’t generally like electronic sounds that much”.

The interview, recovered by BBC Archive and conducted by Mike Andrews for a BBC show called Riverside: The Synthesizer, People and Performance, originally broadcast on 1 November 1982, sees Eno discuss the relationship between acoustic instruments and electronic gear.

“I generally don’t like electronic sounds that much, which you might find surprising,” he says. “I find natural sound, or sound produced from non-electronic sources, to be so rich and so interesting. And yet, the interesting thing about electronic sound is that it’s very easy to manipulate.

“The synthesizer seems, to me, to present you with a position where you could turn natural sound into electronic sound and use some of the freedoms that the synthesizer then allowed you.

“Instead of just using the synthesizer, I use the whole studio as an appendage to the instrument in that way.

“The illusion with the big synthesizers is that somewhere among all those wires is the thing that’s gonna save the day for you – and it’s never true.”

42 years on from this BBC interview, Eno is still making music: he released a collaborative album with Fred again.. in May 2023 alongside works with his brother Roger Eno, and has created the soundtrack for the BAFTA-nominated series Top Boy. He’s also touring, having recently performed several shows with the Baltic Sea Philharmonic orchestra.

Alongside this, Brian Eno is also still providing brilliant quotes in interviews. In a chat posted to YouTube with collaborator James Blake in 2023, for example, he refers to the “arsehole chord”, which Blake ashamedly played in one of their sessions.

In 2022, Eno said he “still gets butterflies” when he walks into the studio, and he recently wrote in the Financial Times about how he likes to push the boundaries of what music gear can do.

“Most equipment is invented to do an existing job faster, or cheaper, more cleanly, or more easily,” he writes in the op-ed. “What I like to do is to discover what you can do with it that isn’t historical – something that it wasn’t designed for, something new (I’m sure the inventors of early microphones didn’t anticipate that their tools would lead to totally new ways of singing, just as the inventors of multitrack recording probably didn’t imagine Bohemian Rhapsody).”

Read more Brian Eno news via MusicTech.

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