In ‘Lost’ 1982 Interview, Brian Eno Explains Why He Doesn’t Like Electronic Sounds

In this ‘lost’ BBC interview from 1982, synthesist and producer Brian Eno explains why he generally doesn’t like electronic sound.

“I find natural sound, or sound produced from non-electronic sources, to be so rich and so interesting. And yet, the interesting thing about electronic sound is that it’s very easy to manipulate.”

“The illusion with the big synthesizers,” he adds, “is that somewhere among all those wires is the thing that’s gonna save the day for you – and it’s never true.”

From an interview with Mike Andrews from Riverside: The Synthesizer, People and Performance, originally broadcast 1 November, 1982.

30 thoughts on “In ‘Lost’ 1982 Interview, Brian Eno Explains Why He Doesn’t Like Electronic Sounds

    1. I don’t like his music but he got some good remarks there, more interesting than most of the comments here.
      The “use the studio as an instrument” Instead of trying to capture the best recordings part was interesting, and he seems to be right about the future… just think how many times you heard people talking about knob per parameter (simple) and MPE, Poly-AT.
      And his last remark about “Big synth” was very true and to the point.

        1. I always thought this remark was weird coming from him. I wonder if he would say that today. I think it is one of these remarks that might have been of the time, electronic sounds have got much more rich and complex since then.

  1. lol
    Goofy cork sniffer sound snob BS. Everything I can hear with my ears is acoustic waves.
    Sound is sound. Do with it or do without it whatever you want.

    1. Totally agree. My sentiment exactly…except for the corl sniffer part as I an not sure what it means haha. Eno normally says some deep stuff but this remark is weird. I could never get the people that only listen to acoustic instruments. It always struck me as snobby – every sound has it’s place and one sound is not better than another. it’s all air vibrations as Vangelis would say when faced with the same question.

        1. The point of moderation at Synthtopia is to encourage discussion and minimize the amount of spam and personal attacks that appear on the site.

          So you aren’t seeing the comment “you are truly one sad pathetic jealous idiot” from ‘eat me’.

          Or the comment “Are there days your ass is jealous of your mouth for the amount of crap coming out of it?!?’ from ‘The grinch’.

          Or the hundreds of posts/day that are spam.

          We reviewed the “Goofy cork sniffer sound snob BS.” comment and did not consider it a personal attack, because it’s directly criticizing Eno’s comment, rather than Eno as a person, ie. “Eno is a Goofy cork sniffer”.

  2. All sound heard through speakers is electronic sound (vibration of the cone paper due to changes in the electric current flowing through the electromagnetic coils). More specifically, electrons have existed since the birth of the universe and are completely natural elementary particles.

  3. He never talked with Jean Michel Jarre or Vangelis , or he was the bear who poked the nest. Anyway, I was never a big fan of his sh**ty music .

  4. I think the comments should be viewed in the context of the time. Certainly hardware and software has moved on and the advent of MPE partly addresses one of his criticisms. Regarding the richness of electronic sound compared to natural, I think that distinction has been blurred if not eradicated in recent years with much more capable synths. My own experience of creating patches with Arturia Pigments often feels like the electronic sound often surpasses the natural in terms of richness and complexity. I can create sounds for instruments or natural events that could never exist in reality.

  5. This reminds me of that early 80s Rick James interview where he explains how and why doesn’t like cocaine.

  6. I totally agree with Brian Eno.

    He has certainly his two important points to take both seriously in consideration.

    (1) : imagine a synthesizer with just only one sound that you can articulate in the same way as you are playing a violin, so your entire focus is absorbed by just that one virtual instrument.
    Brian Eno mentionned this kind of argument somewhere by supposing synthesizers with only twenty sounds.

    I would go further. Just makes synthesizers with only one sound that doesn’t exist in nature or which cannot be produced in a pure acoustic instrument way. But make that synthesizer with plenty of articulation possibilities (as it was an acoustic instrument). The real challenge will become to play this completely new instrument as a virtuoze. That’s the challenge AND the spirit!

    (2) The second point is the individualisation of the synthesizer. And as a synth builder you can fintune it based on one specific individual person with her/his own manner(ism)s, his/her own way to move, walk and “artikulate” him/herself. As an synthesizer instrument builder this would be possible. Progress needs to be made on that specific domain.

    I see a future with 100ths of new orchestral magnificent one sound-synth-instruments that will enriched the orchestral podium in that way.

    In the fullfillment of this two important points there is huge work to do which involves also an entire new needed focus for synthesizer (brand) makers.

    Who of them will bring on the marked an high individualised synth with only one synth-sound AND also presented in a totally new package/presentation form as a highly remarkable and completely new instrument design on it’s own with acoustic instrument look alike articulation possibilities?

    That will revolutionize the synthesizer market and will bring it to a new level. This will become the new wave.

    Nowadays every possible sound can be produces by a magnitude of combinations of all kinds of soundsynthesis methods/techniques (additive, subtractive, fm, wavetable, grain, physical modelling and so much more). That’s not the problem anymore.

    Nowadays making polyphonic aftertouch for more than just one synthesizer (Yamaha CS-80) seems to become the actual new challenge for synthesizer builders.

    I would suggest : go much further than this!

    The real challenge is to play with one single sound synth with a totally new instrument-design that is totally individualised and what you can play in a high virtuoze way by only be focused on that one sound and it’s gamma of limited but every moment very well choosen articulations.

    That’s the real future of the synthesizer world.


    Yes, I agree totally with Brian Eno.

  7. I’m in the Eno-respect crowd. I enjoy his ambient works, but I also recall his Roxy Music doings and his production touches on the Genesis epic “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.” You need not love all of someone’s views or approaches to credit them where its justified. His takes on his Minimoog and DX7 are excellent lessons in synthesis. I’m one who’d like to hear his views on MPE, which Larry mentioned. That would seem like a natural for Eno.

  8. Eno gets high marks for me, at the worst he might be guilty of producing for a paycheck. At his best he invented new genres which are still contemporary, was an active participant in the glam rock era, and he even made U2 sound half decent (which says alot)

  9. The amount of people here who aren’t understanding what he’s saying, in the time that he’s saying it, is astounding…

    Electrons lol… christ.

    Nice find synthhead, even though your readers seem perpetually unsatisfied no matter what.

    Turn your synths (youtube videos of others making music) off and go listen to some birds for a while, people. It’s like touching grass, but for those who favor hearing over their other senses.

  10. Eno as usual makes a great deal of sense. He’s always been an innovator and a great communicator. Maybe the haters should go away and make some more boring IDM on their TD3s which fortunately few people will ever heat apart from their unfortunate spouses 😉

  11. Eno has been an influence on my sound manipulation journeys…esp his work w Fripp. I have some outtake soundscapes of Eno that are very inspuring.Before I had synths and eurorack gear I would record a bowl vibrating..record a small loop and run it through an equalizer to give it body…olde school stuff…so I kinda get where he’s coming from.Snob attitudes have no place in music synthesis…create…have fun!!!

  12. I, for one, really appreciate this post, since I never had the chance to see this clip back in the day. What he says works for me, his ideas get me thinking (as they always have) and I feel ever-so-slightly enriched for having watched this, so thank you BBC and Synthtopia. I can’t understand the folks who feel compelled to slag on the clip, the ideas or the artist, but I suppose this is now the nature of the internet.

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