I’ve been back home for a week now, but I’m still living out of a suitcase in my own apartment. I have lots of practice; over the past month, I lived out of suitcases in London, Utrecht, Amsterdam, Warsaw, Krakow, Vienna, and Berlin. There is plenty to write about all of these cities — especially London, where I spoke on a panel at the Frieze Art Fair and had a wonderful time. For now, I’ll write about randomly meeting Brian Eno in Poland, a surreal experience that makes for a good story, too.
My little book on Brian Eno, Another Green World, came out about a year ago. I didn’t interview Eno for the book when I started it in 2006; I really wanted to, but it seemed impossible. I know that Eno dislikes talking about the deep past; I probably could have talked to him about his current record, but it seemed dishonest to interview someone about a new project when I was really trying to find answers about something else.
And so I pressed on for the next two years, trying to find clues in the hundreds upon hundreds of pages of archival interviews (I was literally knee-deep in printouts at one point), and from interviews I did with Eno’s friends and collaborators. I read dozens of books; some of them had to do with Eno and many didn’t, or at least not directly. I didn’t write the book to meet Brian Eno; I wrote it to understand.
About six weeks ago, I got an email out of the blue from my old friend Heiko, the editor-in-chief of the German music magazine Groove. Heiko was going to London the next day to interview Eno about his new record, Small Craft on a Milk Sea. Heiko handed him a copy of my book during the interview. Eno said he had never heard of it, or the 33 1/3 series, but that he was interested in reading the book, and took the copy with him.
About three weeks later, I was in Krakow for the Unsound festival. On the final night of the festival, Ben Frost led an orchestral reinterpretation of the classic soundtrack to Tarkovsky’s Solaris, and Eno was credited for the slowly morphing visual backdrop. I didn’t think that meant that Eno was actually there. But then, at the end of the performance, Eno materialized on stage to give a brief bow, before disappearing again.
I went backstage after the performance. I’ve met plenty of famous people over the course of my career as a music critic — it just becomes part of the job — but this made me a bit nervous. I opened a door and Eno poured me a glass of red wine. I told him my name was Geeta, and offhandedly mentioned that I’d written a little book about him. He didn’t pay much attention to me at first, and went back to the small crowd of people he was with. Then, a few minutes later, he turned around and said, “Hang on, is your name Geeta Dayal?” I said yes. Eno told me that he had just read my book and loved it so much that he bought four copies. He kept talking about how much he loved it; his enthusiasm for it was palpable and real. We proceeded to have a very nice, and somewhat surreal, conversation. A few minutes later, I bumped into Adam Wiltzie of Stars of the Lid — a band whose music I like very much — and talked to him for a while about Belgium, and ambient music.
About a week later, when I was in Berlin, I got in touch with Eno and thanked him for his nice words. A few days later, when I got back to the United States, I saw a little note from him, which I pinned to a slanted wall in my 200-year-old apartment in Boston:
I was also pleased to meet you: I had intended to get in touch through
your publisher to say how much I’d enjoyed the book. I don’t
habitually look back – in fact I don’t much enjoy it when interviewers
ask me too – but i really enjoyed someone else doing the looking back
for me. There was so much well researched and described detail in the
book – it made that period very real to me again.
I’d forgotten, at a guess, about 80% of what was in the book! So i can
honestly say, in the words of the song: “Thanks for the memories”.
Right now, I’m writing a proposal for a second book about music. When I get frustrated — which is often — I look at the note, and I feel inspired again.