We were headed out to
lunch when this news just got slipped over the BLURT transom, so in the
interest of expediency, serving our readership AND dealing with our grumbling
tummies, we offer it to you verbatim. Enjoy!
By Blurt Staff
David Byrne and Brian Eno have paired up for their first
record together as co-writers since the highly influential and critically
acclaimed 1981 release My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Due out August 18,
Everything That Happens Will Happen Today is the culmination of a year’s
worth of writing, recording, and travel between New York
and London. The
album will be self-released and made available as a stream and digital download
for purchase exclusively through everythingthathappens.com.
Beginning August 4, http://www.EverythingThatHappens.com will offer listeners a free download to preview the album. On August 18 the
entire record will be made available for sale and streaming. Other formats will
follow including enhanced CD with download and deluxe package CD with download
featuring artwork by Stefan Sagmeister.
Everything That Happens… was conceptualized during a visit to Brian
Eno’s studio after the two reconnected upon Nonesuch Records’ re-release of Bush
of Ghosts. Byrne explains, “I recall Brian mentioning that he had a lot of
largely instrumental tracks he’d accumulated, and since, in his words, he
‘hates writing words,’ I suggested I have a go at writing some words, and tunes
over a few of them, and we see what happens.” Thus the two began exchanging
vocal and instrumental tracks, and the transatlantic collaboration began.
Everything That Happens… is less a collage than the duo’s previous
effort of some 27 years ago and more a collection of songs. Whereas Bush
of Ghosts incorporated the contributions of 11 additional musicians along
with a variety of “found” voices—ranging from radio talk-show hosts to Lebanese
mountain singers—this latest recording almost exclusively features Byrne’s
lyrics and voice alongside Eno’s various electronic tracks.
“When we started this work, we started to think we were
making something like electronic gospel: a music where singing was the central
event, but whose sonic landscapes were not the type normally associated with
that way of singing,” says Eno. “This thought tapped into my long love affair
with gospel music, which, curiously, was inadvertently initiated by David and
the Talking Heads.”
With a Byrne tour “David Byrne, Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno” scheduled
in support of the release of Everything That Happens from the fall of
`08 through early `09 in the U.S. Australasia in early 09 and Europe in March
09, the focus will be on these new songs as well as Byrne’s previous collaborations
with Eno including some Talking Heads albums (many of which were produced by
Eno). “The live shows will maybe try to draw a line linking this new material
with what we did 30 years ago,” explains Byrne, “a little bit anyway.”
2. My Big Nurse
3. I Feel My Stuff
4. Everything That Happens
5. Life Is Long
6. The River
7. Strange Overtones
8. Wanted For Life
9. One Fine Day
10. Poor Boy
11. The Lighthouse
David Byrne and Brian
Eno’s Notes on the making of Everything That Happens…
This record started life as a dinner conversation: I was in New York, having dinner with David and some
other friends, and happened to mention that I had a lot of music which I had
intended to make into songs but never succeeded with. David volunteered to give
them a try. By and large, though, we stuck to our separate territories: I
generally did music, he generally did lyrics and vocals. That arrangement
seemed to work.
When we started this work, we started to think we were making something like
electronic gospel: a music where singing was the central event, but whose sonic
landscapes were not the type normally associated with that way of singing. This
thought tapped into my long love affair with gospel music, which, curiously,
was inadvertently initiated by David and the Talking Heads.
The first gospel song I ever really responded to (‘Surrender to his will’ by
Reverend Maceo Woods and The Christian Tabernacle Choir) was one I heard on a
distant Southern American radio station whilst in Compass Point, Nassau – working with
Talking Heads on the album ‘More Songs
about Buildings and Food’. Being with them and becoming aware of their
musical interests had opened my ears to some kinds of music I hadn’t really
been noticing up to that point – including gospel. So it was fitting that the
circle was closed on this record.
As a foreigner in New York – which was where I ended up living shortly after
‘More Songs’ – I was surprised by how little attention Americans paid to their
own great indigenous musical invention: gospel. It was even slightly uncool –
as though the endorsement of the music entailed endorsing all the religious
framework associated with it. To me (thanks to Reverend Woods) gospel was a
music of surrender, and the surrendering rather than the worshipping was the
part that interested me. This idea has informed my music ever since: I guess
it’s the reason I use modes and chords which are easy to follow and easy to
harmonise with. I want the music to be inviting, to offer you a place inside
it. I think David responded to this with sensitivity and skill, and his natural
edginess made those familiar progressions sound new to me.
A couple of years ago I passed through London and, having reconnected with
Brian Eno when our Bush of Ghosts CD
was re-released We had dinner one night and then the next afternoon I popped
round his office/studio to hear what he’d been up to.
Just before we parted I recall Brian mentioning that he had a lot of largely
instrumental tracks he’d accumulated and since, in his words, he “hates writing
words” I suggesting I have a go at writing some words and tunes over a few of
them and we see what happens. I suggested that if he didn’t like the result
that would be that.
Brian send me CD w some instrumental tracks- stereo rough mixes- a bit later
and I listened to them on and off, trying to get a sense of what kind of story
this music was trying to tell. It wasn’t ambient, and I sensed that a song
structure might emerge from these very evocative seeds. Emergence is a popular
word these days, but it does almost perfectly evoke the way I think musicians
and songwriters “allow” what lies latent in a basic musical kernel to grow into
something only hinted at in the humble beginnings. Of course, without the vague
and fuzzy humble beginnings there would be no final song, so writers and
musicians often are quoted as saying they feel only partially responsible for
the creation of the plants they’ve grown and nurtured.
I eventually wrote back to Brian, after living with some of his music for
almost a year, and said I got a sort of folk-electronic-gospel feeling from his
tracks, and suggested that my lyrics and melodies might reflect that, and did
that direction seem OK?
I attacked the first one, which I think was called And Suddenly on Brian’s
track list. I’d just finished reading Dave Eggers book “What is the What?”, about Valentine and his hallucinatory and
horrific journey as a very young man that took him from his destroyed village
in Darfur to Atlanta Georgia and beyond. Valentine’s
story was harrowing but also beautiful, uplifting (in a non corny way) and at
times even funny. I think I might have still been under the influence of his
story when I sat down in front of my microphone.
The result became “One Fine Day”. I sang a few harmonies in the choruses to
make it sound better and send it off to Brian. We were both thrilled- here was
the gospel-folk-electronic aspect I at least had heard hints of had come to
life- articulated. The words had some Biblical allusions, but nothing too
overt. We agreed to continue, for now.
In the coming months I did an event at Town Hall about bicycles and invited the
Young at Heart choir to participate singing the Queen song “Bicycle Race”- as
an encore we did “One Fine Day”, which had an added resonance when performed by
a choir whose average age is around 80.
I wrote and recorded some more- My Big Nurse and Life Is Long may have been the
next couple I finished writing. It soon became apparent that we were not only
happy with the results but we had found our road, and would go down it further.
We agreed on a fairly clear division of labor- music Brian, vocals and lyrics
These harmonic foundations of some of these songs are often like those of
traditional folk songs, country songs or gospel before some of those styles got
harmonically sophisticated. Brian’s chord structures were like nothing I would
have chosen by myself, so I was pushed in a new direction, challenged. This, of
course, was good- as the challenge wasn’t so much technical as emotional- a
challenge to write simple but not corny, basic but heartfelt. The results, in
many cases, were uplifting, hopeful and positive- even though there were lyrics
about cars exploding, war and similarly dark scenarios.
These songs have elements of work we’ve both done previously, no surprise
there, but maybe something new has emerged as well. The tone and uplifting
emotional feeling of a lot of the stuff- where does that come from? In these
“troubled times” especially? The Bush era was not a particularly hopeful time
for many of us, so where did all this exhuberance and hope come from? Some of
it, some of the lyrics and melodies, as I hinted at earlier, were an emergent
quality of the music- so my writing was a response to what I sensed lay buried
in the music. My work was to sing and speak what was originally non verbal. In
the end we have made something that neither of us could have made ourselves.
Hells’ Kitchen NYC July 08