ENO: That time was really confused. It was much
harder working on Heroes than Low. The whole thing, except Sons
of the Silent Age, which was written beforehand, was evolved on
the spot in the studio. Not only that, everything on the album is
a first take! I mean, we did the second takes but they weren't
nearly as good. It was all done in a very casual kind of way.'
ENO: I never really listen to lyrics. I just hear
bits and pieces. Like in Joe the Lion where he says, 'It's
Monday'. That's a real stunner.'
ENO: He gets into a very peculiar state when he's
working. He doesn't eat. It used to strike me as very paradoxical
that two comparatively well-known people would be staggering home
at six in the morning, and he'd break a raw egg into his mouth
and that was his food for the day, virtually.
It was really slummy. We'd sit around the kitchen
table at dawn feeling a bit tired and a bit fed up - me with a bowl
of crummy German cereal and him with albumen from the egg running
down his shirt.'
ENO: We used oblique strategies a lot. Sense of Doubt
was done almost entirely using the cards, and we did talk about
work methods. But no, I don't think we have that much in common.
But that's fine, so long as there's give and take.'
Oblique Strategies subtitled Over One Hundred Worthwhile
Dilemmas is a deck of oracle cards which Eno developed and published
with his painter friend Peter Schmidt. It is modelled philosophically
on the ancient Chinese I Ching or Book of Changes. Eno had taken
to formulating aphorisms as aids to the creative process.
Each terse proverb was designed to frame a work-in-progress
in a fresh perspective when the artist got bogged down in details,
unable to maintain a sense of creative options.
The short messages on the cards are varied, evocative
and often intentionally cryptic. Some examples, randomly chosen
from the deck: 'Would anybody want it?' 'Go slowly all the way round
the outside.' 'Don't be afraid of things because they're easy to
do.' 'Only a part, not the whole.' 'Retrace your steps.' 'Disconnect
from desire.' 'You are an engineer.' 'Turn it upside down.' 'Do
we need holes?' 'Is it finished?' 'Don't break the silence.' 'What
are you really thinking about just now?'
Eno wrote down his aphorisms on cards and placed
them in various locations around the recording studio. Random selection
of a card and reflection on its message often provided fresh and
unexpected resolution of a musical quandary.
Working on Sense Of Doubt, Bowie and Eno each pulled
out an Oblique Strategy card and kept it a secret from the other.
As Eno described it:
It was like a game. We took turns working on it;
he'd do one overdub and I'd do the next. The idea was that each
was to observe his Oblique Strategy as closely as he could. And
as it turned out they were entirely opposed to one another. Effectively
mine said, 'Try to make everything as similar as possible.' … and his said, 'Emphasize differences.'