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Brian Eno & J Peter Schwalm Return to Ambient

Author: Skruff
Monday, April 30, 2001
Electronic superstar producer Brian Eno recently teamed up with 20-something German DJ and producer J Peter Schwalm to record his first album in over 4 years. "Drawn From Life", the fruit of the new collaboration, marks a return to Eno's downtempo ambient explorations, for which he justifiably remains hugely rated. Mezz hooked up with them both at a meet& greet inside Eno's West London mews house last week (located just yards from the armed police on 24 hour guard outside sacked Brit politician Peter Mandelson's flat.) While Eno, whose producer credits include Roxy Music, U2, Devo and David Bowie's best albums (Low and Heroes) circulated amongst the hacks, Mezz grabbed J Peter inside the loft apartment's studio. Bearded and smartly dressed (in a Daniel Day Lewis plays Mozart kind of style) he was both friendly and polite.

Mezz: How did you connect with Brian Eno in the first place-
J Peter Schwalm: "The contact came through a friend of mine who was working for a company doing some work on Brian's art installations in Germany. He happened to step into their office, my friend gave him my CD, and he called me weeks later and said, 'Hey, let's meet and do some things'. That was really how it happened. We didn't decide immediately to make a record because we didn't know how it would develop but everything went well and after a couple of months we found the right direction to progress in."

Mezz: So did you literally arrive in his studio and play each other tracks-
J Peter Schwalm: "Yes. It was all based around jamming. We didn't talk much when we made this record, we did when we were having lunch or dinner, but not when we were making the music. We'd come in each day, and usually record on the 16 track machine with everything separated. Then I transferred those tracks to my (Macintosh) G4 computer, took it all home to my studio and worked on the music there. I then sent him a CD with a proposal, he worked on it with his equipment here, treated my stuff and sent it back to me on CD. I then put my arrangements on it and that how it works between us."

Mezz: Critics have already described the record as a return for Brian to his earlier ambient works, did the two of you discuss a specific direction-
J Peter Schwalm: "No, not at all, but we're both interested in space in music, to keep space and to make it interesting not boring. We don't talk about style actually, style doesn't make any sense to us when we make music, we didn't have categories when we started. I'm very jazz infuenced and he always liked the feeling of jazz but, he was always annoyed by too many jazz soloists playing over the music. Like Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, for example; it's a great record but there's too much jazz on it. It's a great record and I love it, Miles Davis is my biggest inspiration but I prefer the feeling and the ideas behind it rather than the jazz jamming."

Mezz: Do you feel a particular connection with club music-
J Peter Schwalm: "Sure, I feel a connection, I've made house tracks and was also a drum & bass DJ for two years. My first release was also a drum & bass track almost in a Photek style. I know what's going on but I must say when I'm in the studio and I hear a good beat I do want to dance, but musically I'm bored. Because it's not changing and it's destroying the space. Because fast beats have less space between the kick drum for example. The rhythms on our records are slow with more space between the bass drum and the snare, so we can fit more harmonic or space stuff into it. We wanted to make an album that we could both listen to."

Mezz: You've stressed how important space is, why is it so important to you-
J Peter Schwalm: "I just need to live with space. In my personal life, in my relationship, in my bed, everywhere I always need space. I always live in flats with high ceilings, too. When I think about this record it's really a projection of (my) life."

Mezz: Brian