Interviewed by Michael Engelbrecht, Eno explained:
“Well, the sea image is always really interesting to me, because it has two factors, the idea of being out in a ship at sea: It’s first of all the idea of being separated off from the rest of the world, so suddenly finding yourself alone. That’s an important part of it. The second part is that you are not in control of the situation. You can influence the situation, you know, you have sails and you have a rudder and you can row. You can change your direction, but there’s a huge current as well. So I like very much this feeling of being separated off and suddenly surrendering to a powerful force of some kind. So you might want to go in that direction, but because this force is pushing you, you moved diagonally instead of in a straight line.
That’s a strong image for me, because it seems to me, it’s what is happening to you all the time in your life, you know. You keep finding yourself separated off from the community that you feel you’re a part of. You don’t want to be, maybe, you would like to be part of everything, but you find that you don’t quite fit in there. So, and then you notice that you don’t have independent total control over what you are doing. You are actually subject to a lot of forces that are very strong, and you really are not even able to describe them. They are so strong that they are your environment: you don’t notice them most of the time. You keep rowing in what you think is a straight line, but actually you are being moved in a circle or off into a diagonal, and you keep finding yourself in the same point again and again. And you think ‘Why did that happen? I thought I was going in a straight line, yet I’m back here, where I was last year and the year before’, you know.
“So, all of those images of power beyond your own conciousness, beyond your own will, and of separation, are to do with the sea image for me. The other thing that’s in there ['Empty Frame'], is about a little ship that is always falling apart, that they always are trying to fix up again. It says in there ‘the broken sails’. This is also a very poignant image to me of the notion of people constantly trying to repair their sails. What do you have a sail for? To catch wind, to catch the other forces that are around, the controllable forces. The wind is the force that you can do something about. The sea is not, you know. But of course, the wind also keeps breaking your sails, so you always have to sew them back together again. It’s an endless struggle to try to keep going in any kind of a line. Because the other implication in this kind of song is ‘Why don’t you surrender? Why don’t you surrender to the tide and see where you go?’ And in one of my old songs ‘Julie with…’, that’s what happened in that song, the people have surrendered. They’ve stopped, they’ve stopped rowing the boat and they suddenly have allowed themselves to become completely, not victims exactly, but to have fallen under the control of this powerful force.”