Mike Oldfield - "Music doesn't mean anything if it has no soul, no heart."

August, 1998
Carlos Finaly

The pope of symphonic rock arrived two years ago to Ibiza, he changed his hair colour to blond and suffered a strong attack of "new age", that is, spirituality, magic. Everything is reflected on Tubular Bells III, his last work, which will be first performed 4th September in London. His music is part also of the soundtrack of the X-Files movie.

As many other famous people, Mike Oldfield choosed Ibiza as holiday place. It's two years now since then, a strange relationship with the island, some sentimental facts, and an album, Tubular Bells III, inspired directly from his stance on the island. A work that has magic, spirituality and a dance touch from Ibiza nights. 4th September the album will be presented in London, but the track Mike wrote for the X-Files soundtrack is being playing yet.

How did Tubular Bells III happen?

All happened when I was in Ibiza. I was thinking about a new project about Tubular Bells. I felt it was a very special moment to move to Ibiza and build a house with a beautiful studio with sea sights. I wanted to make a new project of Tubular Bells, and the first thing I did was to pick the first tune which is so familiar. I added very beautiful tunes with wilder and more agressive ones, such as the Caveman Beat. I tried to get inspiration with other elements and rythms, and that's why I started to visit the clubs. I heard the music, the tapes, and the CDs that DJs played there, and that's when I thought about including the tune from Tubular Bells with a techno-dance rythm.

Which secrets are you referring to in the album? There are two moments, in the beginning and at the end, where the word secrets appears.

Hum... I should think about it. I suppose mysteries is a more appropiate word. Despite of Ibiza is a holiday island where people go there for two weeks, if you live there the whole year it is rather mysterious. If you know the history of the place, you discover a lot of people and strange and magic ambients. It's more about mysteries than secrets. There are more mysterious places in Ibiza that I don't know, but I have experimented some of them.

The tracks start with a very strong wind that reminds to the figure of Father Francisco Palau...

My house in Ibiza is 5 minutes far from Es Vedra island, which was the one of the cover of Voyager. When he visited this island, he says that he climbed to a very strange place, like a little vulcano. You can still walk on a path that leads to the top, where Francisco Palau lived and medited there for 10 years. You can feel a very strong feeling to santity there, that there was something sacred and mysterious there, kind of X-Files (laughs). This feeling made me imagine that I was in a cave, completely alone, listening to the sound of the wind, and the wind created a tune. The beginning of this theme is inspired on the sounds and sensations that I experimented in that cave. Of course, it's still there, it is like 10 or 20 Km. far from the noisy night clubs. But the spirit of this man, Francisco Palau, still lives there though it must be able to travel since there to Pacha, Q or El Divino (Discos in Ibiza), and then go back to the mountains. It's like remembering the spiritual travel that this man did.

There are a lot of female voices in the album. One is Amar. Where did you met?

Warner introduced her to me, because I was looking for some vocalists. She had Indian roots but I am sure she was born in England. She is sij. I told her to sing something in Indian. It was a kind of Turkish dance. But there are more women on the album. I worked with an excelent female sound engineer. It's the first project of Tubular Bells that a woman is responsible of the sound, though she was helped by two men. Perphaps that's the reason that the album is so femenine... there were too many women around. In some way I did it for them, I listened to what they said, and I noticed what they liked most, in the sounds they were more attracted.

Serpent Dream has a nice Flamenco guitars and something similar to handclaps...

Sometimes, when I am out with somebody, I take my Spanish guitar and play to the guest. Once, the Spanish guest started handclapping in the typical form. So I sampled the handclaps and put it on the computer. They are Flamenco handclaps from the computer. To get the real sound is quite difficult, but if you do it on a computer you get very good results.

On Serpent Dream there's some kind of symbology, a history, different from the other Tubular Bells, that were more unitary...

I think it reflects my evolution during the two years I spent in Ibiza. I have good and bad moments. I think the worst one was a night when I was arrested, because I crashed my car. They took my driving license, I splitted with my girlfriend 5 times, and other girls entered in my life, and then they went out.. there were many rows. Ibiza is a very little island, a lot of gossiping. You can't do anything without everybody knows it. Strange things happen with people they denounce you if you don't get well on them. So this album is like a diary of all. It goes for very angry parts, but it ends with a kind re-birth. At the end, after the last bell, you can hear a bird singing. It has a positive ending, but it wasn't very easy.

Rosa Cedron also appears here, the cellist from Luar Na Lubre, singin on The Inner Child. How was the experience?

I listened their album, I heard her singing and playing cello at the same time, in the same note, and I liked very much that combination. When she came, I asked her to play cello, and then to sing. She did it so well, that I took away the cello, so I just leave her voice, which is superb, very beautiful, really special.

What do you think of orchestral instrumentations that 20 years ago were like rubbish, and now, in certain aspects, are taking some outstanding?

I don't know what you're talking about.

I am referring to "lounge" music, music for cocktails, people like Martin Demi...

You already know that I normally don't listen to other musicians.

What I mean is that in the rock world, that music were treated like rubbish and now...

Well, I think it's more a fashion thing. Personally, I think that we've gone as far as we can go with music like an artistic form, and that we're starting to look back. It's possible that this style was good before and now we can improve it. Music has evolutionated. Rap is a step ahead, dance music is a step ahead too, there's a science of rythm, the combinations of different rythms move your body, they touch a very primitive part of your brain. But at the end, music means nothing if it has no soul or heart. This album and my latest ones have a lot of me, a lot of emotions and personal feelings.

Man In The Rain has something to do with your personal life?

Yes, I wrote it 10 years ago, when I was on a bad moment. I just splited with my family, which it has been the correct decision.

And your kids?

In some way, my kids have been better this way, I've been a better father being slightly far from them. They are very happy, they are intelligent and are successful, which is really a miracle ! (laughs) But it was very hard too. I tried to record Man In The Rain a lot of times, like 4 or 5 times, with different musicians. In some way, this time, it was easier. I picked up that percussion track, editted it on the computer and converted it in a very strong track.

Do you remember any detail of the recording of Secrets, the first single in Spain?

I didn't know it was going to be the first single, I thought it would be The Source Of Secrets. I recorded it as a balance. I started with The Source Of Secrets, and after that, to get a good balance, I used the same sequence but developed in something bigger. I wanted to be sure that it could be something that you can dance, that I could carry it to one of those clubs and play it and people sais: "I can dance this". But it's something special too, it's not only a synth work, there's something special on it.

Amar is on this track too?

Yes, she makes a little reprise of what she sings at the beginning. And since we're talking about sampling my own work, I have sample the African drums from Ommadawn, a work that took me a long time. I have achieved one of the best bell sounds of my life.

Using the computer?

Computer is tiring. It's not very interesting, but the final result is excellent. The bell designed with the computer sounds like the hell bell. A good title would be The Dark Side Of The Bell. It's not a very happy bell, but it's powerful and a bit demoniacal.

What have you done with your house in Ibiza?

It's for sale. For me, this period is closed. I have a car there, and a boat too, but that part of mylife is over. It's possible that I change my mind and that I am back there the next year if I can't sell the house.

It seems that it hasn't been a very happy time for you...

It has been a powerful experience, in fact I have written 4 words at the end of the album: terrible, wonderful, crazy and perfect. I think that they summarize the whole story, a story that it's over. But who knows, sometime I don't even recognize myself, I could wake up tomorrow and say: "Yes, let's go to Ibiza!" (laughs) I could start all again.

And present the album in Ibiza.

It was very expensive, though it's expensive in London too. If I made a concert in Ibiza, people would have to travel by plain and reside in the hotel, and all the structure should be done from Barcelona. We studied it with one of the most important promotors in Spain, and said it would be wonderfull, but who would pay? It was very expensive, and we're going to lose a lot of money, that was the reason.

4th September will be the world premerie of Tubular Bells III. How it will be?

It must be spectacular. We must have on both sides of the stage 2 big systems of computers, with their own incorporated lights. We will get an effect similar to big columns of water with red and yellow light, that are similar to flames. Besides, we're having some big globes, where we can put some inner lights. We'll use techno lights, and we'll connect the music to the lights, something never made before so that lights can react at the same time than music. We'll have a lot of percussion. It will be filmed and people will can buy the concert. This is all very exciting, and it will be in the center of London, so the Queen will listen to it since her palace. It's just in front of the Nelson Column, on the back door of 10 Downing St., the residence of the Prime Minister, Tony Blair which is likely to be in the concert. It couldn't be more centric. It's also the first concert that will take place there, so in that aspect, it's also a premiere.

It will be the beginning of a tour?

Yes, I am planning a tour. My idea is to be on the road in March, April, May and perphaps until summer. I am very keen on playing in places like Barcelona, where I played once in the 80s, and it was amazing, there were like 200.000 people. I love open air shows, instead of sports palaces and that places, that had a horrible acoustic. So, any promotor that will read this, please, make contact with my manager to bring the show to his city.

By the way, what about Sally? I've never heard anything from here since some time now...

Sally lives on the other side of the street. She has her own career and it's working on a new version of her hit Mirrors. She keeps on working, singing and she is doing very well.

I guess that you're interested in the X-Files. In Europe we're already listening to your version, which is on the soundtrack of the movie. How did you get to this project?

It was through the company in USA. They were looking for artist to colaborate in the soundtrack of the film, and they thought about me. In some way, X Files and The Exorcist, sound similar. They asked me to make a vesion and I made it very pleased. I mixed the theme for the X-Files with Tubular Bells and I think that they called it Tubular X or some like this. It was something funny to do.

Do you like science-fiction?

Oh, yes ! I love science-fiction, I am a trekky. I can spend the whole weekend watching Star Treck, even the old episodes. What's funny for me, to be honest, I've never been a fan of the X-Files. It's a bit depressing, nobody laughs, there's always something horrible around.

Are you planning any other soundtrack? When we talked about The Songs Of Distant Earth, you were interested in the visual aspect of the music, CD-ROM. I think tech has not gone so far...

Well, I showed that the concept was viable. It's growing very quickly. I wouldn't like to make it now, because the domestic market hasn't reached that level, but it will do in the future. I guess that after this one, I will make one or two more albums, which will take me like 3 years. I will re-take it again, I enjoy a lot working on it. Technology hasn't advanced enough, only in very powerful computers, which are very expensive and that people cannot buy. I have sell almost the whole system I've got, but I've got it all in hard disks, so in 4 or 5 years I can re-take it and work on it again, when domestic machines are more powerful than now.

The final tune of Tubular Bells III, is one of the best moments of the album, which is equivalent to The Bell of the first Tubular Bells?

I tried to mix all the moments of climax. It was a hard work of edition, cut here, paste there, try this, and then mix and remix it once and again. But when I listen to it I think it has been worth while the effort. It's a long time since I haven't received a so positive answer from the people, from friends, from the company. It seems that they really like it, what means that all the time in Ibiza, the last 2 years, have been worth while.

Mike Oldfield Tubular.net
Mike Oldfield Tubular.net