Tim Grundy interviews Mike Oldfield

Tim Grundy
Picadilly Radio, Manchester, UK

[Long extract from Tubular Bells fades into....]

Tim Grundy: Just a section from 'Tubular Bells', one of the most successful albums of all time. Before we play his new single, lets have a chat to the lad himself, he's on the line now. Hi Mike.

Mike Oldfield: Hello, how are you?

Very well thank you. Does that still do anything, for you hearing 'Tubular Bells'?

Well, yes...erm, its a very good piece of music and even after the last 15 years, or however long it is, I still find it difficult to better it so it is quite a challenge to repeat that success, musical success as well.

Would you ever listen to it?

I do actually because its a very good sounding album for those days. You've got to remember there wasn't even a synthesiser around in those days and so everything was done on organs, electric organs instead of synthesisers. Nowadays of course studios are computerised and synthesised and I listen to it just for the sound. If I'm trying to set up my studio speakers to sound good I'll put that on because that's like a reference point.

Maybe it couldn't be done again with the new equipment these days. Maybe you'd have to get the old equipment to get something that sounds as striking?

Part of its charm is that its all played by hand as it were. Whereas most music these days is played by machines and so its got a very human feel to it rather than a mechanical feel.

One of the things that struck me the other day, I was listening to Mr Branson talking about his success with Virgin and I thought, well really, and I don't want to embarrass you, but he wouldn't have been able to do half of the things that he has done without the success of 'Tubular Bells'. That must make you feel very proud.

Well it does make me feel proud and I think he's a positive force, a positive influence in the country so I'm pleased to have been able to contribute.

Was he one of the few takers, if not the only taker to take you up originally?

Oh yes, I got booted out of all the other record companies but the scruff of the neck saying "Clear off, take this rubbish away".

Well you have of course done many things since then, I don't want to harp on that too long and we had the greatest hits which was a fine album and a beautiful cover. And I believe you collect the covers?

Yes, I've got most of the covers hanging on my wall, the original artwork, because I think the cover's very important, it represents the whole album.

Yes, with a fine picture of the swallow.

Well, what I've been doing recently is writing songs which is obviously a quite a far cry from 'Tubular Bells' and its a different discipline and I've had reasonable success with my songs. And that album was a collection of the singles.

What would you like to do? You've dabbled in both the types of music now, its a bit like Jean-Michel Jarre who did the two albums were of that particular kind then tried to dabble a little bit with speech and with the word which is sung and now he's gone back into his original style. which do you prefer and which would you like to work on in the future?

Well the future albums will be a mixture of both. I love working on the instrumentals and I think possibly 'Crises' was the best I've done since 'Tubular Bells' but I also enjoy the songs. But now there's a new dimension to what I do which is to make pictures to go with the music. I have a video facility at home alongside the recording studio and a camera and everything and I try when I'm making the music to think of pictures that are going to go with it and this all should culminate in a video album that's to be released early next year.

That sounds like an interesting project.


Is the video from 'Shine' something that you've done?

That's right and the single before that with Aled Jones, 'Pictures In The Dark' were done at home with a friend of mine who is very good at computer animation so we do a mixture of live performance and computer animation. Its just something that I personally like very much.

The graphics within the 'Shine' video are of the highest standard.

Thank you very much

Why did you choose Jon Anderson?

Well, we've worked together a couple of times before, we get on well together and I love his voice and he's very easy to work with. We in fact wrote the lyrics over the phone. He lives in Barbados so it was a very expensive phone call. So I said "Right, the tune goes 'da da da da da da da da da da'" and he said "Oh right, can I think of some words for that" and then we finally put the song together in my studio in London.

Some people will be smiling at the idea of song writing being that easy but is it sometimes that easy seriously?

Well I have to own up to a secret. I've got these few books. One is a rhyming dictionary. One is a Roget's Thesaurus and a dictionary of synonyms. I find if you know what you want the song to be about you just pick any old phrase as a starting point and a title and its not that difficult. Maybe takes 3 or 4 days to get the lyrics for a song.

Does that mean that some of the lines that people will spend hours trying to work out what you actually mean by that is actually something that you cobbled together and it sounded nice and looked nice on paper?

Well that's right and its very important for lyrics to sound good when they're sung. You can have wonderful lyrics that read beautifully but you can sing them and they sound awful. So another discipline is to be able to make them sound good in music.

Well, we'll hear the single now. Its an excellent single and I see its just started to show in the charts which is good.

Oh that's great. Oh, maybe everybody keep a watch out for me and Jon at the cup final tomorrow because we're going to be going.

Oh are you? Who are you going to be supporting?

Liverpool I think.

When you say I think, there's no particular loyalty either side then?

No really. I was brought up in Reading so I support Reading but obviously they're not in the cup final.

No, but they've had a great season.


Mike Oldfield Tubular.net
Mike Oldfield Tubular.net