: why contacting brian eno may not be a good idea :

Are we to take it that you want to contact Brian Eno? Well [snigger] all we can say is [smirk] "Good Luck to you!" [guffaw]

Excuse our good humour. We regularly receive e-mail from people asking us how they can contact Eno, and can they have his e-mail address please. Alternatively, they assume that Brian runs this site and ask him direct questions.

Taking the last point first, whilst Eno is the focus of EnoWeb (What? You already guessed that?), this is an unofficial site. It is not supported or sanctioned by Brian Eno or Opal. They are aware of our presence, and Opal is sometimes kind enough to direct information-seekers here, but that's about it. We certainly haven't made any serious attempts to bring this project to Brian's attention. So if you send e-mail for Brian to this site, he won't get it.

What about his e-mail address, then? Sorry, but we don't know what it is. He definitely has one. He has been known to participate in some online forums for a number of years, but via a private BBS and in private invitation-only "think-tank" like forums, such as the Global Business Network mentioned in the "Unthinkable Futures" article cited elsewhere in EnoWeb, and The Well.

The thing is, though, even if you manage to get hold of Brian's e-mail address, why do you want to contact him? You may want to tell him something or ask him something... but the fact is, Eno is unlikely to want to hear from you.

I know, it's shocking. But it's a conclusion we've reached after extensive study of Eno's own comments on the matter. Take a look at the evidence and make up your own mind.

exhibit 1: count me out

During the last century, someone on the Eno mailing list [a fore-runner of the Nerve Net newsletter] contacted Brian Eno and asked him if he'd like to contribute to the mailing list. He wasn't sure if the reply was really from Brian Eno or not, but let's just say we aren't currently looking for any other suspects in this matter. The response offers some reasonable concerns explaining why Eno might not wish to participate very interactively with his many fans:

Hello Paul. Thanks for getting in touch. You might be surprised to know that I don't want to join your mailing list. Don't misunderstand me - I'm very happy that you're doing it, and pleased that there's enough interest in me and my work to (hopefully) sustain it, but I just don't personally want to be part of it.

You must wonder why this is. I think the reason I feel uncomfortable about such a thing is that it becomes a sort of weight on my shoulders. I start to feel an obligation to live up to something, instead of just following my nose wherever it wants to go at the moment. Of course success has many nice payoffs, but one of the disadvantages is that you start to be made to feel responsible for other people's feelings: what I'm always hearing are variations of "why don't you do more records like - (insert any album title) " or "why don't you do more work with - (insert any artist's name)?". I don't know why, these questions are un answerable, why is it so bloody important to you, leave me alone....these are a few of my responses. But the most important reason is "If I'd followed your advice in the first place I'd never have got anywhere".

I'm afraid to say that admirers can be a tremendous force for conservatism, for consolidation. Of course it's really wonderful to be acclaimed for things you've done - in fact it's the only serious reward, becasue it makes you think "it worked! I'm not isolated!" or something like that, and irt makes you feel gratefully connected to your own culture. But on the other hand, there's a tremendously strong pressure to repeat yourself, to do more of that thing we all liked so much. I can't do that - I don't have the enthusiasm to push through projects that seem familiar to me ( - this isn't so much a question of artistic nobility or high ideals: I just get too bloody bored), but at the same time I do feel guilt for 'deserting my audience' by not doing the things they apparently wanted. I'd rather not feel this guilt, actually, so I avoid finding out about situations that could cause it.

The problem is that people nearly always prefer what I was doing a few years earlier - this has always been true. The other problem is that so, often, do I! Discovering things is clumsy and sporadic, and the results don't at first compare well with the glossy and lauded works of the past. You have to keep reminding yourself that they went through that as well, otherwise they become frighteningly accomplished. That's another problem with being made to think about your own past - you forget its genesis and start to feel useless awe toward syour earlier self "How did I do it? Wherever did these ideas come from?". Now, the workaday everyday now, always looks relatively less glamorous than the rose-tinted then (except for those magic mhours when your finger is right on the pulse, and those times only happen when you've abandoned the lifeline of your own history).

So good luck with it, but I won't be taking part. If you need information, contact <SNIP SNIP SNIP SNIP SNIP SNIP>.

Brian did quote an address at the end of his note, but it's no longer valid -- so we thought it was better to remove it. The views expressed do go a long way to explaining Eno's need for remoteness from fans, we're sure you'll agree. Not convinced? Time for exhibit 2.

exhibit 2: the clogged mailbox syndrome

You know what it's like when you've been away for a couple of days, you log on to your Internet account, check your mailbox and discover you've got lots of e-mail? And then, when you look at the headers, most of the messages turn out to be junk along the lines of "MAKE $$$ WITH NO EFFORT WHATSOEVER!" (where the sender neglects to mention that you will be making the $$$ for them) or "Visit my XXX Website" (where the XXX turns out to stand for "total waste of time") or "Medical Breakthrough" (where the sender is selling something banned throughout the world [apart from one sleepy little village in Kwang-ju])?

Well, Brian Eno has a lot of days like that. The only thing is, the unsolicited messages clogging his mailbox are from fans. And whereas you have enough free time to read this, and I have a free lunch-break in which to write it, Brian has an extraordinarily busy lifestyle. His diary A Year with Swollen Appendices, published in 1996, outlines just how little "free" time he has at his disposal - and he isn't happy filling it by answering e-mail. In these brief snippets from the diary, he describes his joy at logging on after his many trips away:

7 June ... Tons of e-mail, mostly unsolicited (and me increasingly uninterested - why is it so hard to pay attention to anything on a screen?). I feel no difficulty whatsoever in ignoring most of it.

15 December E-mail link fixed. Seventy messages waiting to be answered. Groan.

What a grumpy old sod he can be, eh? Now, we aren't saying you won't get a reply. It might even be a courteous reply. But you can be sure you won't have made Eno's day by e-mailing him, to put it politely.

exhibit 3: the biter bit

In the previous version of this article, Malcolm mused, "Personally I always wonder why it is that many folks want to contact folks who inspire them. I've never been one for authograph seeking; I'd rather absorb and reflect on the ideas and what I get from someone who interests me. I'd rather try to engage them in some intelligent conversation but I can never really think of much interesting to say when actually given the opportunity."

It seems that Eno feels the same way. Here (again in the diary) he describes a typical reaction:

22 October ... she asked me if I'd ever read Edward T. Hall, and I said yes, I'd read Beyond Culture, and she said, 'Well, you two must talk. I'll call him right away. You'll get on really well.' Now this really frightened me, the prospect of a phone call beginning 'Hi - I read one of your books about fifteen years ago ...', and I discouraged her. A wrong assumption: I like your work, therefore you'll find me interesting.

exhibit 4: no newsgroup is good newsgroup

"Okay then," you may be thinking. "Eno thinks fans are too big a responsibility and they restrict creativity. He doesn't want to get my e-mail. And he doesn't go for that fan-adulation thang. But I bet he checks the alt.music.brian-eno newsgroup twice a day." Wrongo! Details magazine sought enlightenment on this matter in 1996:

Q: You get idolized a lot more than you get attacked. Do you ever read your Usenet discussion group?

A: I did once, and I never want to read it again. It produced a feeling of revulsion in me. I ought to appreciate that people are interested, but on the other hand, what the fuck does it matter?

Uh... perhaps he just caught it on a bad day. But then, that could've been any one of 365, after all :-)

exhibit 5: deaf as a post

Remember that postal address cited in Exhibit 1? Of course not, because we took it out in February 2000. But even if were to find out Brian's address and write to him, there's no guarantee that he would reply - even if you weren't sending fan mail. Even if you were writing to say you want to work with him, or you have some epoch-making Generative ideas to share.

We know this, because somebody did try. He told us:

I believe it's mentioned on the Eno page that it might be best to write to Eno @ Opal. Although I am not an autograph chaser and rarely see the logic in pursuing or searching out those who I admire, I felt the need to get in touch with Eno in 1993 ... My letter was one of actual questions (involvement w/Peter Murphy & Bauhaus and such.) I received back a courteous, but simple rejection letter from the staff saying that Eno didn't have much time for fan mail. You might mention this...not so much to discourage as to place things in perspective. -- Johnus Dorsey Thrush

Eno writes about Opal in his diary - the passage is too long to quote here, but you might consider buying the book. The company comes across as being run as a very tight ship, sometimes over-run with claims on its time; perhaps it's inevitable that some people who've written to Opal occasionally report not receiving replies to their enquiries.

You can stuff your exhibits: I am the chosen one

Some people reading this page don't like EnoWeb's tone at all. They believe that EnoWeb has taken it upon itself to thwart their ambitions. They have their own personal agenda which goes along the lines: "I want to send my CD / tape / minidisc / music / art / cd-rom / project / hamster / book / etc to Brian Eno because I seek his approval / money / skills as producer. I am the chosen one. He does want to hear from me, he just doesn't know it yet. So get out of the way, EnoWeb, before I start breaking the furniture!"

For the record (oh, the good old days of vinyl), EnoWeb has no wish to stand in the way of these people's meteoric path to success, superstardom, notoriety, decline, dropping out of fashion, occasional appearances on daytime tv quizzes and obscurity. But EnoWeb simply doesn't understand why they want to start off by contacting Brian. We've researched what he has to say on the subject of unsolicited demos, and it is apparent that they are not exactly welcome.

Here he is at the Paris Virgin Megastore, 5th November 1998:

"Est-ce que j'écoute toutes les maquettes que je reçois ? Non. Par exemple rien que pour ce soir je sais que je vais recevoir au moins cinq démos. Je n'ai tout simplement pas le temps de les écouter."

Which can be roughly translated as:

"Do I listen to all the things I receive? No. For example, this evening I know I'm going to get given at least five demos. Quite simply, I don't have time to listen to them."

A coupla months earlier that year at a talk in Bonn, he held forth on the same subject:

"Usually when people give me CDs I hate it... I get so many CDs and tapes given to me."

Brian went on to say that out of all the demos he has received over the years, only on three occasions has he immediately wanted to act on what he's heard of the ones that did somehow slip through the net:

"It happened with Harold Budd, it happened with the band James, and it happened with this Slop Shop thing [Peter Schwalm], where I immediately saw this was something I would like to be involved in. So just for all of you who are about to give me tapes and CDs when this [event] finishes, I receive on average forty or fifty a week. For twenty years, that's about... what... twenty thousand or something like that? So three out of twenty thousand is the score so far. Just so you won't be discouraged if you don't get a reply."

Less arithmetically-challenged readers will have noticed that Brian is way out (yes, even more so than usual). Although Maths was one of his four 'O' Level grades (not to be confused with Mr O'Level O'Grady who runs the hostelry where Brian stays while working with U2 in the Emerald Isle), Brian has always maintained that this was a clerical error and he should have failed.

in conclusion (inconclusive)

Malcolm: Most artists of Eno's stature have probably already answered just about every question someone could think of asking - you might be better off reading old interviews and articles instead of asking the same questions everyone else has. About all I can think of really wanting to say to Brian is "thanks! you really pointed me to a lot of ideas to think about!" And this project is my way of trying to say that.

Of course, this is only my humble opinion and perspective.

While I've seen a few artists actively participate in internet groups and usenet forums most of the folks that interest me that I see on-line are participating anonymously, not publishing their email addresses because they apparently don't want to receive email. I respect that and hope others do also. I'd rather see folks like Robert Fripp contribute in a one-way fashion than not at all.

Tom: No artist should feel obliged to have contact with their fans. Being a fan can make one feel a kind of compulsion to express one's admiration to an artist. This can make both parties uncomfortable: the artist - "Don't put me on a pedestal!", "I'm not what you think!", "Is there a threat here?"; the fan - "What am I saying? Did I say that to him/her? What's he/she going to think of me now?", "Please like me", "I'm perilously close to becoming One Of Those Obsessed Fans Who Doesn't Have A Life").

It's gratifying when writers, artists and musicians take the time to listen to fans' comments and respond to them publicly -- people like Terry Pratchett, J. Michael Straczynski, Neil Gaiman spring to mind. But as fans, however much we've spent on what they've produced, we need to keep in mind that access to these people should be treated as a privilege, not a right. If an artist doesn't want to be involved, then that's probably because they need to keep a distance, and we should respect that.

On a personal basis, I attempted for a time to get a life, but without great success. I do plan to try again sometime soon, honest.

Original text by Malcolm Humes. Updated by Tom Boon, 7th February 2000.