Brian Eno Reveals His Favorite Film Soundtracks

Think of “inter­view­ing Bri­an Eno” (lis­ten to it here) like a piece of his gen­er­a­tive music. Yes, the man has no prob­lems talk­ing and actu­al­ly encour­ages it. But input the same old ques­tions about those same four albums (you know them, right?) and you get the same old answers as out­put. Feed in a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent subject–like his favorite film soundtracks–and lo and behold, a very intrigu­ing 80 min­utes fol­lows.

That’s what hap­pened when Hugh Corn­well (lead vocal­ist of The Stran­glers) inter­viewed Mr. Peter George St John le Bap­tiste de la Salle Eno–that’s Bri­an to you–in 2013 for his short-lived inter­net radio show on film.

Eno has always had an inter­est in film. As he men­tions in the sec­ond half of the show, he pro­duced his 1976/78 album Music for Films not for any spe­cif­ic film, but in the hopes that they would be used for sound­tracks in the future. Also, he hoped that the descrip­tive titles–“Alternative 3,” “Patrolling Wire Borders”–and the evoca­tive music would lead lis­ten­ers to cre­ate films in their heads. Since then every track has been used at least once, and doc­u­men­tar­i­ans like Adam Cur­tis have used Eno to great effect.

The only track, he reveals, on that album to be writ­ten for a film was clos­er “Final Sun­set” put to great, tran­scen­dent use in Derek Jarman’s 1976 film Sebas­tiane.

But if you think Eno might choose sim­i­lar ambi­ent tracks or instru­men­tals dur­ing the rest of the inter­view, you’re in for a sur­prise.

As he grew up, Eno had no expo­sure to what was “cool” and what was not. And that led to an ear that heard things stripped of cul­tur­al con­text. When he plays a track from the musi­cal Okla­homa called “The Farmer and the Cow­boy,” we might just be able to put aside our mem­o­ries of high school pro­duc­tions and hear the weird, humor­ous and very excit­ing vocal arrange­ment under­neath. Sim­i­lar­ly, despite not being the biggest fan of Elvis Pres­ley at the time (“I was a snob,” Eno says), he selects this jaun­ty pop num­ber “Did­ja Ever” from G.I. Blues. “One of the wit­ti­est, clever­est bits of writ­ing,” as he calls it, writ­ten by Sid Wayne and Sher­man Edwards, who wrote at least one song in every sub­se­quent Pres­ley movie.

Eno also has space for the jazz of Miles Davis and the evoca­tive score for Louis Malle’s 1961 film Ele­va­tor to the Gal­lows, in par­tic­u­lar how it was record­ed: impro­vised live while watch­ing the screen. (Not men­tioned: its huge influ­ence on Ange­lo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks sound­track.)

There’s much more in the inter­view to check out, includ­ing the source of a sam­ple used in My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and one of David Bowie’s best but most under­rat­ed songs. Lis­ten here.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Bri­an Eno’s Advice for Those Who Want to Do Their Best Cre­ative Work: Don’t Get a Job

The “True” Sto­ry Of How Bri­an Eno Invent­ed Ambi­ent Music

Bri­an Eno Lists 20 Books for Rebuild­ing Civ­i­liza­tion & 59 Books For Build­ing Your Intel­lec­tu­al World

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

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