Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno, RDI (/ˈiːnoʊ/; born 15 May 1948 and originally christened Brian Peter George Eno) is an English musician, composer, record producer, singer, writer, and visual artist. He is best known for his pioneering work in ambient and electronic music as well as his contributions to rock, worldbeat, chance, and generative music styles. A self-described “non-musician”, Eno has advocated a methodology of “theory over practice” throughout his career, and has helped to introduce a variety of unique recording techniques and conceptual approaches into contemporary music. He has been described as one of popular music’s most influential and innovative figures.
Born in Suffolk, Eno studied painting and experimental music at art school in the late 1960s before joining glam rock group Roxy Music as synthesizer player in 1971. After recording two albums with the band, he departed in 1973 to record a number of solo albums, ultimately helping to develop ambient music with works such as Another Green World (1975), Discreet Music (1975), and Music for Airports (1978). He took part in frequent collaborations with artists such as Robert Fripp, Cluster, David Bowie on his “Berlin Trilogy”, and David Byrne on 1981’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. During the 1970s, Eno would also begin a parallel career as a producer, which included work on albums by Talking Heads and Devo, the no wave compilation No New York (1978), and works by avant-garde artists such as John Cale, Jon Hassell, Laraaji, and Harold Budd, among others.
In subsequent decades, Eno continued to record solo albums, collaborate, and produce for other artists, including U2, Coldplay, Laurie Anderson, James, Grace Jones, Slowdive, and James Blake. Dating back to his time as a student, he has also pursued a variety of multimedia projects in parallel with his music career, including sound installations and his mid-70s co-development of Oblique Strategies, a deck of cards featuring cryptic aphorisms intended to break creative blocks and encourage lateral thinking. He continues to release music, produce, and write, and maintains a regular column in Prospect Magazine.
From the beginning of his solo career in 1973, Eno was in demand as a producer – though his management now describe him as a “sonic landscaper” rather than a producer. The first album with Eno credited as producer was Lucky Leif and the Longships by Robert Calvert. Eno’s lengthy string of producer credits includes albums for Talking Heads, U2, Devo, Ultravox and James. He also produced part of the 1993 album When I Was a Boy by Jane Siberry. He won the best producer award at the 1994 and 1996 BRIT Awards.
Eno describes himself as a “non-musician” and used the term “treatments” to describe his modification of the sound of musical instruments, and to separate his role from that of the traditional instrumentalist. His skill at using “The Studio as a Compositional Tool” (the title of an essay by Eno) led in part to his career as a producer. His methods were recognised at the time (mid-1970s) as unique, so much so that on Genesis’s The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, he is credited with ‘Enossification’; on Robert Wyatt’s Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard with a Direct inject anti-jazz raygun and on John Cale’s Island albums as simply being “Eno”.
Eno has contributed to recordings by artists as varied as Nico, Robert Calvert, Genesis, David Bowie, and Zvuki Mu, in various capacities such as use of his studio/synthesiser/electronic treatments, vocals, guitar, bass guitar, and as just being ‘Eno’. In 1984, he (along with several other authors) composed and performed the “Prophecy Theme” for the David Lynch film Dune; the rest of the soundtrack was composed and performed by the group Toto. Eno produced performance artist Laurie Anderson’s Bright Red album, and also composed for it. The work is avant-garde spoken word with haunting and magnifying sounds. Eno played on David Byrne’s musical score for The Catherine Wheel, a project commissioned by Twyla Tharp to accompany her Broadway dance project of the same name.
He worked with Bowie as a writer and musician on Bowie’s influential 1977–79 ‘Berlin Trilogy’ of albums, Low, “Heroes” and Lodger, on Bowie’s later album Outside, and on the song “I’m Afraid of Americans”. In 1980 Eno developed an interest in altered guitar tunings, which led to Guitarchitecture discussions with Chuck Hammer, former Lou Reed guitarist. Recorded in France and Germany, the spacey effects on Low were largely created by Eno, who played a portable EMS Synthi A synthesizer. Producer Tony Visconti used an Eventide Harmonizer to alter the sound of the drums, claiming that the audio processor “f–s with the fabric of time.
Eno co-produced The Unforgettable Fire (1984), The Joshua Tree (1987), Achtung Baby (1991), and All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000) for U2 with his frequent collaborator Daniel Lanois, and produced 1993’s Zooropa with Mark “Flood” Ellis. In 1995, U2 and Eno joined forces to create the album Original Soundtracks 1 under the group name Passengers; songs from which included “Your Blue Room” and “Miss Sarajevo”. When the album was released, the US charts were dominated by movie soundtrack albums and singles. Even though films are listed for each song, all but three are bogus. Once Eno pointed out that it was not a real ploy for radio airplay, but a spoof of one, U2 agreed to the concept. Eno also produced Laid (1993), Wah Wah (1994) Millionaires (1999) and Pleased to Meet You (2001) for James, performing as an extra musician on all four. He is credited for “frequent interference and occasional co-production” on their 1997 album Whiplash.
Eno played on the 1986 album Measure for Measure by Australian band Icehouse. He remixed two tracks for Depeche Mode, “I Feel You” and “In Your Room”, both single releases from the album Songs of Faith and Devotion in 1993. In 1995, Eno provided one of several remixes of “Protection” by Massive Attack (originally from their Protection album) for release as a single.
In 2007, he produced the fourth studio album by Coldplay entitled Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, which was released in 2008. Also in 2008, he worked with Grace Jones on her album Hurricane, credited for “production consultation” and as a member of the band, playing keyboards, treatments and background vocals. He worked on the twelfth studio album by U2, again with Lanois, titled No Line on the Horizon. It was recorded in Morocco, south France and Dublin and released in Europe on 27 February 2009.
In 2011, Eno and Coldplay reunited and Eno contributed “enoxification” and additional composition on Coldplay’s fifth studio album Mylo Xyloto, released on 24 October of that year.