Listen to KPFA’s “Brian Eno Day” : The 12-Hour Radio Show With Eno Recorded In 1988

On February 12, 1988, KPFA dedicated an entire day to take a closer look at the music and career of Brian Eno, one of the most influential composer, performer, producer, and visual artist of our times. Eno joins Charles Amirkhanian in the studios of KPFA to assist in hosting a day of his music. In a number of far ranging interviews, some previously recorded and some live in the studio, Eno discusses his English adolescence and early musical influences, as well as sharing stories about his work as a producer of famous rock bands such as U2, Devo, and the Talking Heads, and his own musical collaborations with Harold Budd, David Byrne, and others. A relatively complete review of his work as composer, performer and producer is included, including selections from his early rock albums and ambient recordings, along with a discussion of his series of video installations which have been presented at art exhibitions throughout the world. Topics touched upon in over 10 hours of programming include his outreach efforts with Soviet artists, the band dynamics of U2, his interest in architecture and genetic evolution, and the various techniques he uses in the studio. When talking about his own musical interests and tastes, Eno reveals such tasty tidbits as his dislike for computer keyboards; an admission that even he does not know what his lyrics mean; a preference for the music of Stockhausen’s students rather than that of Stockhausen himself; and the differences between New Age, Minimal, and Ambient music. Eno also takes several hours to answer question from the listeners, including the last half hour of this extended extravagance where a clearly exhausted Eno lightens the mood by declaring that all his responses will be lies, something he then accomplishes with respectful and proper English aplomb and much ensuing hilarity. Throughout it all Eno proves to be not only a great creative artist, but also a remarkably intelligent, curious, humble, and extremely kind individual.

Part 1:
In an interview recorded in 1980, Charles Amirkhanian and Brian Eno discuss phonetic poetry, how Brian writes his lyrics, and the spirit of inquisitiveness at KPFA Radio. The two also listen to some of Brian Eno’s pieces, including “After the Heat”, “Everything Merges With the Night”, “Another Green World”, “Spirits Drifting” and sections of other works. Brian Eno also discusses artist Peter Schmidt and their work on the Oblique Strategies Cards, being a record producer, process vs. product, and looping. Part I ends with some thoughts on Steve Reich and his music.

Part 2:
The rebroadcast of the 1980 interview continues with a discussion of “the history of the recording studio as a compositional tool;” and Eno’s collaboration with David Byrne on the then yet-to-be-released album, “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.” Eno also talks about, and listens to, songs by Elvis Presley, The Supremes, Sly Stone, Lee “Scratch” Perry, and Jimi Hendrix. Eno then offers some unfinished pieces from the album with David Byrne. Brian Eno Day then continues with the start of a lengthy in-studio interview with Eno in which the composer discusses his newly formed record company Opel, and his recent collaborations with artists from the Soviet Union, and U2, as well as his admiration for British musician and singer, Robert Wyatt.

Part 3:
Eno describes his installation “Latest Flames” which was just then having its opening at the San Francisco Exploratorium. The exhibit featured video and light projection pieces that used various configuration of TVs and spotlights as muted ever-changing colored light sources accompanied by ambient music. Eno discusses his preference to work with simple and cheap technologies as opposed to expensive computers and synthesizers. The phone lines are then opened and listeners call in with an assortment of questions, comments, and heartfelt thanks. Eno reveals his opinions about Karlheinz Stockhausen, the artistic process, and the differences in distribution between the visual and musical arts.

Part 4:
The day’s festivities continue with Eno taking calls from an appreciative audience, during which he discusses some of his phonetic poetry like lyrics, offers his opinions on UK art schools, and his philosophy about the existence of right and wrong. Amirkhanian then plays a selection of Eno’s mostly ambient works, interspersed with appeals for KPFA’s fundraising marathon, while also briefly interviewing composer Peter Gena.

Part 5:
Includes the playing of Eno’s one hour long ambient work “Thursday Afternoon,” as well as numerous selections from Eno’s earlier, and very popular, rock albums.

Part 6:
The music continues with excerpts from a combination of Eno’s rock and ambient albums. The composer then returns to the KPFA microphone (recorded in November of 1987), voicing his admiration for the San Francisco Exploratorium, before commenting on his work with video installations, advances in Light Art, and his general philosophy about art, particularly its spiritual dimensions. Also discussed is government patronage of art in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The work of Robert Wyatt, and the theremin mastery of Clara Rockmore are also touched upon.

Part 7:
Stephen Hill, an expert on ambient and New Age music and host of the “Hearts of Space” radio program, joins Charles Amirkhanian for a discussion of Eno’s foray into environmental electronic music and how his efforts differs from Muzak and other forms of background music. This discussion is accompanied by selections of Eno’s ambient music including his half-hour long piece, “Discreet Music.” Towards the end of this part Eno returns to the KPFA studio and joins the conversation about ambient music.

Part 8:
Stephen Hill, Brian Eno, Peter Gena, and Charles Amirkhanian have a fascinating and lengthy discussion about the rise in popularity of ambient music and the role of music in environmental design. Eno tries to delineate his music from the more commercial New Age music, as well as commenting on the fact that this current trend has less to do with what composers are producing than how the audience is listening to music. The music then continues with a nearly 20 minute excerpt from Jon Hassell’s “Charm: Over Burundi Cloud.”

Part 9:
Brian Eno Day concludes with Eno reminiscing about working with the Talking Heads, as well as engaging in a impromptu improvisation using prepared microphone stands. After over 10 hours of music and extended interviews, the participants are clearly a little punch drunk, and once the phone lines are opened yet again, Eno ends this extraordinary day by declaring that all his remaining comments will be lies. A pledge that he fulfills with hilarious results, thus serving as a fitting end for this marvelously informative and entertaining program.