(Langeland, July 29, 1999. Recorded by Ste van Holm. Transcribed by Lise Andreasen. ... means: maybe I skipped something here, simply couldn't hear it. [ ... ? ] means: I know I skipped something here, and I can see, that I've lost some important words. Photo courtesy Jesper Hansen)
(Imagine children crying in the background, the microphones making loud noises and so on...)
(Stefan) Well, Mike...
(Stefan) ...could you tell us a bit about your Millenium Project and the concert at Jubilee Park this New Year's Eve?
(Mike) Guess it's in Jubilee Gardens. At the moment, we're thinking of doing it in the state of New Zealand, because New Zealand is the first place where the sun rises in the year 2000. We do it at dawn. We're talking about televising it on BBC ... And - it's a concert, right about one hour, involving about 100 people, a string orchestra, a black and white choir, if it's in New Zealand, a Maoui choir, and a rock band are being <howl>, various guest artists, there'll be an opera singer, there'll be a boy soprano, the Araka, the Nareta. You know, we have some interesting theory/thought from Nelson Mandela, making a statement for the next 1000 years, which is a nice thing.
And it takes slices of history for the last 2000 years beginning with the birth of Jesus, going through the time of the Incas in South America, we travel to Peru, to Macchu picchu, to lake Titicaca, get the experiences. In the time of king Arthur, Excalibur, the time of Columbus' discovery of the new world, the time of the slavery, the time of the Venezian Empire, the romantic period in the mid 1800s <howl> going through to gangsters in Chicago, 2nd World War, the emancipation of women, the birth of the media, the computer revolution, the moon landing, all building up to a dance sequence, which is just before the bell, and - the bell, which is being designed in Japan by Roland synthesizers. And then a hymn to the next 1000 years, which I've written. A hymn, which is called Amber Light. It starts off with a boy soprano, then a black singer - black girl joins in, and then an enormous choir.
And that's it! Big project! I'll start work immediately, when I get back to England in a few days. Though, I already finished my album. And we're talking to Richard Branson about being involved in it, and he was very interested in it, and it could be - exciting.
(Stefan) Okay, you have said that, you consider the Millenium Project to be the best that you have done.
(Mike) Oh, I don't know about the best, but it seems like such a natural thing, for my whole life to lead towards that one moment. You know, us human beings as a race, we really screwed things up badly. It's just... I mean, there are a few good people in the world with good intentions. I just think to start off from the year 2000 with a very positive message, learning from mistakes. At the concert we'll have filmed documentary projected onto a screen as well [ ... far away places? fire works? ... ] Just seems that I am the natural person to do - to do that concert. To provide the music for that moment. I don't know if it will be the best thing I ever do. We'll see.
(Stefan) Okay, you said that you were thinking about having some walls of water to project images on. What is that?
(Mike) Maybe you've seen, for example, you can get screens, it's like a floating barge, it sits in the water. If it's in London, it would sit in the Thames. And it projects a screen of water - water mist. Onto that we can project images, very large images, very clear. ...
(Stefan) If you should compare the Millenium Bell project to any other musical work you have done, what would it be?
(Mike) I've never done anything like that before ... a time documentary. I've usually worked with abstract ideas, which is the most [ fun ? ] We'll be ... It just seems like there's a jigsaw puzzle with a big hole in it, and I figure I'm the right person to fill it ...
(Stefan) When you started this - oh, sorry.
(Shithead) Can I ask a question? Sorry, I'm not interested in the Millenium Bell. I'm more interested in ... There's no doubt that you've been a pioneer within music, you know, the technical music. Have you got any ideas where the music is heading the next 10-20 years. I mean, you have done practically everything, but - where are we going? I mean, we've been through the renaissance of the 70s, the 80s and 90s. What's gonna happen in the next millenium?
(Mike) I think it's going to be something that will involve the internet. And at the same time virtual reality. I think music as we know it will continue for many years. And I have a new idea for a completely new form of music - virtual reality music. Because, I spent 1.5 years working on a project where you'll arrive in a virtual world, in my case I created a desert with a few cactuses in it - just a few crickets buzzing, you know. As you moved around, the computer created in real time all the landscapes. And they're getting better and better and faster and more and more real and you can... 3 dimensions ...
(Shithead) What does that have to do with...
(Mike) I'll tell you if you listen! <laughter> And then you start to look around this virtual world and you maybe hear a very distant piece of music, you start to travel towards it - music gets louder. The pitch changes as you climb up, looking from - down ... The speed of the music is controlled by the speed of the landscape ... the direction, cuts and chops to change ... different pieces of music. You could in my case be guided towards a range of mountains where there'll be a lake, a door way, a cave that go down into the earth. You could need people, faced with a lot of choices - kind of like a game. The message of it would be to take responsibility, and try to make the right desicions, that would out of this desert make a fertile landscape and a beautiful civilization. If you made the wrong decisions, you could destroy everything. This kind of thing. And I spent 1.5 years working on it. And it only worked on a very powerful Silicon Graphics computer. And now a days PCs are getting faster and faster. And I'll be working on that in the next 5 years again. That's one possibility. That's what I'm gonna be doing.
(Shithead) What about the old fashioned instruments, I mean, are they...?
(Mike) I think - well, you know, the violin was invented 3-400 years ago, people still play the violin. I should imagine people will still play the guitar in 4-500 years.
(Shithead) Are you gonna use those instruments for this Millenium Project?
(Mike) Yeah, until I find a better one. But I don't think it's likely. I just happen to be a guitar player, and I love to play ... and it's very easy for me to express my feelings. It could have been a violin. It was just the first instrument that I really enjoyed playing.
(Jesper) The last time you played in a festival in Denmark was 17 years ago. What's the biggest difference ...
(Mike) Oh, Roskilde, yes.
(Jesper) What's the biggest difference between the guitarist of '82 and the composer of '82, and of '99?
(Mike) Not much. The only difference in a live performance is, it's much easier to recreate the albums now than it was before. Really with the advent of samplers, electronic drums, midi drums. So we can go back to an album like Ommadawn and take samples of all the African drums on it, and put them in a sampler and arrange for them to be played on electronic drums. So you're sitting with drum pans which are actually playing the original samples. It sounds like the album, which is fabulous. And the stage looks quite simple. And I don't need many musicians, because electronically you can reuse all these old pieces of music much easier than before.
(Stefan) Well, on Guitars you did use a midi guitar - your Paul Reed Smith guitar - and on stage you're going to play the first part of Ommadawn with a harp sound. How do you ... Wasn't it easier to play a real harp on stage or... How do you actually use this midi guitar, I know about midi synthesizers, but a midi guitar, how does that work?
(Mike) Well, it's a special pick up on a guitar, and it came out last year from Roland, a very high speed pitch to midi converter. So it takes a guitar string, and turns it into a midi note, so I can play a harp, a piano or whatever. This is different from older systems. And it, just with Guitars, it happened to come out, there were 2 machines in the country, and I've got 1, and I can suddenly play real time guitar and play anything through the MacIntosh, I can transpose or anything. Lovely. Just rolling a cigarette.
(He starts to roll a cigarette.)
(Jesper) Mike - funny question. You said something about the violin a few minutes ago. Isn't that the only instrument you can't play?
(Mike) I can play the violin, very badly. It's horrible.
(Shithead) Why do you never use saxophones in your...
(Mike) I hate saxophones.
(Stefan) But you did use Courtney Pine on Heaven's Open?
(Mike) Well, I mean, there are 2 players in the world, one is Courtney Pine, the other one is ... you know, who did ... that <sings>
(Stefan) Oh yeah.
(Mike) Now, what's his name? Don't remember his name now. 2 players. I don't like the sound of saxophones. It sounds like a fart. <laughter> To my ears. Unless one of these 2 people play it, they can really play it. And also, when I was working with Kevin Ayers, he had this saxophone player, which I didn't like much. And he [ ...? ] Can't play drums either.
(Shithead) There are no hard feelings between you and Richard Branson?
(Mike) Not anymore. There were. I spoke to him yesterday on the telephone, and I said: "If you really wanna clear up all the problems that we ever had, you get behind my Millenium Bell." And I think he will.
(Woman) How come it's taken 15 years for you to perform in Denmark again? What have we done?
(Mike) Denmark. I don't know. This has happened a lot, when ... Europe ...There were a series of events. At the end of my period with Virgin, there was a very unhappy situation. Normally I would make an album, and do a tour. But I didn't like the people there, I still had 2-3 albums to make, so I just made album-album-album. Just to be free of them. I think this is very stupid of them, 'cause, who wants to work with an unhappy artist? They should have let me go. I said: "Please let me go. I want to work with different people." They said: "NO NO NO! We want our album."
(Woman) What has that got to do with performing in Denmark?
(Mike) I'll tell you! <laughter> So, I got free from Virgin, and then I for the first time had a manager. And for some reason, the manager was - wanted to concentrate my career more in the UK and to try to make a big effort in the states. We did a very good job in the UK, I have a very powerful career now in the UK. But we didn't do it in the states. For that reason we didn't come to anywhere in the Scandinavia. I mean, we toured in Germany, Spain. Spain is now very popular. We lost France, and we lost a lot of interest in Scandinavia. But, coming back here - 2 days ago, we played in Stockholm, it was - we played a small theatre - WOW! So I know that I just have to come here and play and talk ... nothing that anybody did wrong, simply trying to concentrate my efforts in other places. I figured about that.
(Woman) Not any chance, it won't be another 15 years before we'll see you again?
(Mike) No, sure. ...
(Stefan) So. It has been 6 years since you last toured. How has the... Has the audience received you well on this tour?
(Mike) Unbelievable, yes. I mean it's strange though, but apart from ... We haven't been doing quite so well in Germany, in the Western part of Germany, 'cause I used to work always in the Western Germany. Now Germany's united. You know, something has happened to the country, the economy, the feeling in the people. We played in East, former East-Germany, Leipzig you know, all the former Eastern German towns, I think, fantastic! Then we travel 300 km and play somewhere near Frankfurt, which was :-( Mysterious. And we played for the first time in the East part of Europe, that was amazing. In Budapest, beautiful city, and Prague, wonderful city, huge audience, 15-18,000, this is a humbling experience.
(Stefan) Last time I saw you, that was in Hamburg, a month ago...
(Mike) Oh really?
(Stefan) Yeah, lovely concert, and I saw you in Berlin too. And you did promise Dark Star, that you might include the Mastermind from the Millenium Bell album. Have you done that on the tour?
(Mike) No. It's just a practical problem, somebody would need to go into my studio, start up all the machines and get the samples off it, so I haven't had time to do that. But that can wait until December.
(Shithead) Personal question. Why did you do the Moonlight Shadow rip off on Tubular Bells 3?
(Mike) Why did I do what?
(Shithead) Why did you do the Moonlight Shadow rip off on Tubular Bells 3?
(Mike) Rip off? I wouldn't call it a rip off.
(Shithead) ... sounds a bit like it...
(Mike) Well, it's supposed to sound like it.
(Shithead) Is it on purpose?
I actually wrote that right after I wrote Moonlight Shadow. But when I tried to do it over the last 15 years with different bands, different producers, it always sounded, you know, it just didn't sound right. And suddenly - well, really for Tubular Bells 3, I needed to have a single on it, that was the Big Thing. The record company said: "Great album, we need a single, give us a single." "Well, maybe I'll have a look at my old song 'Man in the Rain', and I'll try and do it again, you know." I've got no problems being commercial. What's the point? Making music for nobody - and I wanted to be heard, played on the radio. So I dug out my old song: "Oh, I'll try this again." And I found a good vocalist, I found the original drum track from Moonlight Shadow, same tempo. But it's for that reason, because we do Moonlight Shadow in the set, I don't do 'Man in the Rain' from TB3, 'cause they're too similar.
(Woman) About old songs. Your fans seem to believe Earth Moving is an absolutely terrible album. How do you feel about it?
(Mike) Do they? <surprise> <laughter>
(Stefan) Well, Amarok is better.
(Mike) You see I don't listen to my old albums. I'm too afraid. I'm always thinking about the next album. There comes a point when I finish an album, and I say: "That's that." I'm trying to remember Earth Moving you know, I guess, I've made 19 albums. And I can't remember all of them.
(Woman) But you did listen a lot to Tubular Bells before you made no.2, didn't you?
(Mike) I listened a lot to Tubular Bells 1 when I did no.2, and I didn't listen to either of them when I made no.3.
(Woman) I have a question from some of your fans waiting for you outside. About this Millenium Bell Project. You'll be using a lot of computer equipment and other electronic things, won't you?
(Mike) Not really, no. I mean, we did a string session, live strings, 56 piece string orchestra in Abbey Road, London. I wrote a piece specially for the strings. Just sounds beautiful, there's me playing piano with the strings, I described this water for you before and...
(Woman) They were wondering if, considering you'll play this on New Year's Eve just around midnight, you've considered what will happen, when the world breaks down, as people predict, and all the electronic things...
(Mike) Oh, my computer systems might fall apart. Well, it's not very computer based, this piece of music. There's a lot of live musicians, 100 people. Even if the computer does - freak out, you can still carry on. But I'll remember that. <laughter> It's a good point.
(Woman) That's what they thought.
(Shithead) What do you think about, how can I say, the commercialiazation in music? What do you think about that? I feel that now all the music...
(Mike) I know that you have a problem with that, but I don't!
(Shithead) What do you think about it? Does the music have to be commercial?
(Mike) Yeah, of course it does.
(Shithead) ... true musician ...
I mean, a true musician, well, ah, I can play in a new city tonight, there's 20,000 people and one guitar, and I can play on one guitar. That's enough for me. And I want to be successfull and enjoy - if I wasn't commercially successfull, I wouldn't be able to play a place like this. So - from time to time I think of something which is gonna - keep me current, you know, so that I get media attention, and I continue my success. Otherwise I would be an old dinosaur who nobody would listen to. So, I don't have a problem with that.
(Shithead) You often see that musicians ... not very good at playing instruments and make great music, but ... never able to get out ...
(During the shithead's questions Mike looks a bit annoyed. He opens a bear mistaking it for a cream soda. He doesn't seem to pay Mr. Shithead much attention, and suddenly he discovers that it was a bear, leans over and gives it to Jesper.)
(Mike) Have a beer!
(Stefan) They're good. You should have them. Try it. It's good.
(Mike) Not before. After the show I will.
(Shithead) ... earn money ... not very good ... commercial minded ... blah, blah, blah... know what I mean?
(Mike) No, I don't know what you mean.
(Shithead) I mean, it's just...
(Mike) Why don't you come here and do the press conference? Bye.
And then he left.
Mike Oldfield Tubular.net