I think there’s a lot of similarity between what people try to do with religion with what they want from art. In fact, I very specifically think that they are same thing. Not that religion and art are the same, but that they both tap into the same need we have for surrender. That’s what happens when we take drugs. That’s what happens when we have sex. We stop being ‘just me’ and we become part of something else.
I think when you make something you are always offering some choices and denying others. That’s in the nature of anything that you make as an artist—you’re trying to make a thing, not everything.
Wired UK, 2012
I suppose that probably three-quarters of my working life has been in collaboration. I spend time in the evenings in this room on my own, and really what I am doing then is building up sets of tools for sometimes my own work but actually very often for working with other people. So I have a huge backlist of things that might come in handy at some time, instruments that do particular things or noises. For instance, I came up with one this afternoon that sounded like bass pit staccato you know on an upright bass where just that sound I thought, ah, that’s bass pit staccato. I don’t have any use for that at the moment but I now know that I have a very interesting version of that sound. So sometime in the next few years I’ll think, what I need now is bass pit staccato, and I’ll know I have it.
I keep a lot of things like that in the toolkit and when I am working with people I tend to pull them out. Very often a situation can be set on fire, set to light by an ingredient being thrown into the mix. Something that nobody has ever heard before, and suddenly everyone is excited about it and suddenly it comes to life. Because I work with producing quiet a lot I am often working with musicians who have been months in the studio and who are getting bored rigid with everything. Sometimes it really helps to throw something that changes the perspective on everything.
Collaboration I like for myself as well because it means that I do things that I wouldn’t have tried otherwise. Because when you are working with somebody else they are pulling you in another direction and you sort of reluctantly have to change your habits to follow them and that’s very useful. I must have made 50 collaborative albums, far more than solo.
DM: If you could email your 20-year-old self about what was ahead, what would you tell him? Or would you tell him nothing and just let him get on with it?
BE: I think I’d say, “Put out as much as you can. It doesn’t do anything sitting on a shelf.” My feeling is that a work has little value until you “release” it, until you liberate it from yourself and your excuses for it — “It’s not quite finished yet,” ”The mix will make all the difference,” etc. Until you see it out there in the world along with everything else, you don’t really know what it is or what to think of it, so it’s of no use to you.
David Mitchell, Salon, 2011
Instead of shooting arrows at someone else’s target, which I’ve never been very good at, I make my own target around wherever my arrow happens to have landed. You shoot your arrow and then you paint your bulls eye around it, and therefore you have hit the target dead centre.
Paul Morley, The Guardian, 2010
It appears, in fact, that the great and true love of his creative life is the tape recorder, and all of the things it can do. He is neither superstitious nor by-the-book about his little electronic implements, but instead regards them with a certain bemusement. “I’m very good with technology, I always have been, and machines in general. They seem to me not threatening like other people find them but a source of great fun and amusement, like grown up toys really. You can either take the attitude that it has a function and you can learn how to do it, or you can take the attitude that it’s just a black box that you can manipulate any way you want. And that’s always been the attitude I’ve taken, which is why I had a lot of trouble with engineers, because their whole background is learning it from a functional point of view, and then learning how to perform that function. So I made a rule very early on, which I’ve kept to, which was that I would never write down any setting that I got on the synthesizer, no matter how fabulous a sound I got. And the reason for that is that I know myself well enough that if I had a stock of fabulous sounds I would just always use them. I wouldn’t bother to find new ones. So it was a way of trying to keep the instrument fresh. Also I let it decay, it keeps breaking down and changes all the time. There are a lot of things I’ve done before that I couldn’t even do again if I wanted to.”
Lester Bangs, 1979
I think that probably if you put lyrics or have any kind of narrative content at all, then it says to people that you either have to stop and listen or that you have to ignore it. You really have to make a decision in relation to narrative, don’t you? You have to say, “I’m gonna go with the story,” or “I’m not.” Whereas I think with music, you can sort of settle into it slightly differently and with a little bit more of a soft entry and a soft exit.
Interview Magazine, November 2013