Digital Music Pioneer

Jordi Planas
Digital Creative Arts magazine

Mike Oldfield, famous for his classic 1973 album, Tubular Bells, is back with a brand spanking new version of the famous instrumental. He's a man with more than one creative discipline, though, as Digital Creative arts found out.

What made you re-record Tubular Bells?

While it was alright for the seventies, it was really stretching the equipment back in those days, with sixteen track analog and a small mixing desk, but no computers, and no synthesizers. It was my first piece of music, I was 19 when I recorded it and I just wanted there to be a modern version. Basically for selfish reasons because I wanted to listen to it again. The original version was mostly recorded in a week, because that was all the studio time I had. Now I've got my own studio, so it seemed like a good way to celebrate the 30th anniversary.

It's an album that many people already own, so why should they buy the new version?

Curiosity, for a start. Memories. But also its just like a new album, especially if you've a really nice 5.1 cinema sound system. There are no mistakes on the new one. The original was so rushed that there were loads of mistakes - there are notes out of time, even guitars out of tune - so now its much better quality. My playing, while not technically better, is improved in terms of maturity, timing and so on.

What software and hardware do you use for music?

I use a Macintosh G4, protocols hardware and Logic Audio software. Its fairly standard in studios, engineers prefer Pro Tools, musicians prefer Logic Audio. That's the way it works.

What do you think about the increased usage of software like Pro Tools in modern music?

Well every studio has a Pro Tools system in it and even people in their bedrooms can use Pro Tools. In its simplest form it's very affordable and in one way its good. But on the other hand there are less and less people actually playing instruments really well because you don't need to be a musician to make an album. You can buy a CD of drum loops and cobble together a very respectable sounding track in a matter of minutes. Musicianship is becoming a lost art.

What do you think about people sharing music over the net, and services like Kazaa?

It's putting the record companies out of business, which means musicians, eventually, won't be able to make money out of making albums - they'll have to play live. Which I suppose is a good thing. The days of the rock star arriving in his Limo and private jet are over, that's for sure. I'm just happy I managed to make some money in the seventies and eighties! I like the idea that the record companies won't be in charge of what we listen to. The big executive who decides the fate of a musician on the golf course will have to go.

As well as being a musician, your web site demonstrates your interest in 3D and virtual reality, what you call Music VR. Where did the idea for that come from?

I don't know. It just seemed like a good idea. I don't like computer games but I do like flight simulators so I thought combining the music with a flight simulator would be really nice. The thing that makes Music VR unique is the way the music interacts with where you go and what you do. It's non-violent. You release things from captivity, and transform jet airplanes into albatrosses.

Do you create the 3D models yourself?

Some we've made ourselves, some we buy, some we download from 3D Café. Really it's myself and my wife Fanny who do the models, so it's a bit of a family affair. The models are made in various programs, mainly 3D Max. The music is made on the Mac of course, and edited into loopable sections, which then interconnect. The software for Music VR works on a PC and it's called New Look. It's not something you can buy because it was written by scratch, authored by me and the code was written by a man in Spain called Colin Dooley. Basically, music VR is a mixture of a flight simulator, music and a gameand it's all in 3D. It connects over the internet so people can see each other as avatars. They can type messages on the screen and so on. We're just working on athe second version called Tube world which should be available in a few months.

So do you see yourself primarily as a musician , or as a 3D artist?

I get inspired by things and I get visions of things, and I simply use whatever tools to make them into a reality, either a musical reality or a virtual reality. I love to make 3D models and it's wonderful to think of people communicating over the internet in Music VR but I don't label myself as anything, I'm just interested in things and love to do them.

Mike Oldfield
Mike Oldfield