The English musician introduces his album "Light + Shade".
A beardless lonely boy. A room in Totenham. Some borrowed equipment. Also a guitar. The instrument had six strings, and the kid was sixteen. Mike Oldfield (Reading, England, 1953) chewing the cud of a timeless album, one of those rare objects the NASA would send into space, in search of a universal brotherhood to make extraterrestrials know about what this all is about. The result of that confinement was Tubular Bells: sixteen million albums sold all over the world. After 25 years of career and 22 albums on his own, this visionary of the electronical music introduces Light + Shade, a double album which reflects two sides of this multi faceted genius. Relaxed and dark. Light and shade.
Quico Balay: You’ve had new gear in order to record this album, a computer and software specially developed in FL Studio. What's the difference regarding the equipment you used in the recording of Tubular Bells?
Mike Oldfield: I used to work a lot with track machines. Now we do the same but with new technologies, so the recording process has varied a bit. For instance, the new mixers make everything easier. Pardon me, I've got a flu and problems in my throat, that's why I'm speaking so quietly. By the way, are you from Galicia?
Yes, like Luar na lubre.
Now they've got a new singer, don't they?
Yes, Rosa Cedrón is gone and the singer is Sara Vidal. Speak about your first meeting with Luar na lubre.
I was travelling... What's the name of the city? Yes, I was in Santiago and my promoter arranged a meeting with the band in the club, where they did a small special gig. Actually, Luar na lubre was playing to let me listen and know them.
Why did you decide to perform "O son do ar"?
Because it was the song they were promoting.
How were the concerts to introduce "Tubular Bells III"?
We played together during the 1999 tour and I can tell you they are very good people.
Does "Light + Shade" reflect both of your sides: bright and dark?
Well, I believe I've got many more sides, but these are two of them.
Should this album be listened depending on the listener's moods?
Yes, something like that.
Do you compose songs when you are dreaming? Have you ever waken up telling yourself "I got the melody"?
Yes sometimes. It has happened to me, but not so often, four or five times in my life.
Which are the worst enemies of the inspiration? What are your muses afraid of?
(Mike Oldfield keeps silence during some long seconds and answers like talking to himself)
Good question. No one had asked me that before. If something terrible happened, it could affect inspiration, but sometimes when something bad happens, it can encourage it. Some things can stop me feeling like making music, but they don't achieve restraining my inspiration. For instance, if I'm angry or ill, I don't feel like composing, but that doesn't mean that the inspiration disappears. Uhm, good question, I don't know..
How do you realize a song isn't good?
I've got an instinct that lets me know, but it's been long years until I've reached this conclusion. It's a matter of experience. Sometimes, I've got ideas in my mind. They can be very simple, but then I already know they can become good songs by developing them.
Why first had you chosen the title of one of the songs, Quicksilver, as the album's title?
I liked that title. In the beginning, I had thought of a title like Breakfast in Bed, but then I preferred Quicksilver. Eventually, I named it Light + Shade.
You are currently working on virtual reality. Do u think u were a visionary? Did u move forward the reality of your time?
I'd like to think I am. When I make something new and special, I get excited. The best in the world is the feeling that I'm creating something that no one has ever made before.
Could you explain to me what your work on virtual reality has consisted on?
I've worked on it along these years, but I’ve had to pause and focus on the creation and recording of my new album. Besides, I never stop remixing my previous albums. It's something that never ends.
Where is that mysterious place source of your music?
Maybe there isn't a particular place. My mind is connected to some spirituality and energy present everywhere. That place is the world.
What do you usually think of when you go to bed at night?
Do you think of the day just left behind, or tomorrow, do you compile what has happened to you in the last hours?
No, I just want to sleep. I usually read for a while before closing my eyes and let my mind travel.
What are the differences between this album and the previous? What's new for the audience in Light + Shade?
This album is more functional. It's more extraterrestrial than the previous I made. In order to get into it you don't need to sit and listen. You can pulse play and do other things. Technically, there's a great difference regarding the previous, which was a more intense album. This is more chill out.
You have signed a three albums contract with Mercury (Universal), your current record company. What has this implied? Is there any change in how you work?
I knew everyone working in Virgin. Now the company is in London, farther from where I live. The difference is that then I had friends in the record company and now I don't because I'm a newcomer. When I worked with Warner, the same happened at the beginning. You get to know people and then, after three or four years in the company, people change, some come and some go because those are places where there's movement. But I feel myself well represented by the current company, so I'm glad.
Your last album offers the interactive program U-Myx, which allows the user mix the songs in their computers. Do you think a new Mike Oldfield could come up out of those home-made mixes?
I hope there are some children in front of the computer screen who can achieve that. It seems interesting to me that people can remix my songs and create new music.
When you recorded "Tubular Bells", worldwide successful, you were very young, just seventeen. How did you get through that situation?
I couldn't assimilate it. I run away to the mountains, to a far place inhabited by lambs. I stupidly drank much alcohol there. It was an escape.
The one of a genius leaving the world behind?
I don't know how to answer that...
Who's the best contemporary classical music? For example, what do you think of Yann Tiersen?
If I tell you he's the author of Amelie's soundtrack, maybe you know...
Is he Dutch?
No, he's French.
I may have listened to some of his music, but I don't know. The best composer nowadays? Uhm, it isn't easy to answer. There are many.
Do you prefer Wim Mertens or Philip Glass?
Oh, I love Philip Glass. His ideas are very simple, but he's got plenty. I'd like there were more people making interesting music. There are people who make special music, but in the contemporary music industry there's no room for them, because nowadays the music published is very commercial.
Why do you prefer female voices in your songs?
The voice is one more instrument for me. But I like female voices because they've got a different kind of rhythm.
Which instrument are you not able to play?
Is the Galician bagpipe difficult?
No, I can play some music with it. I can't play trumpet quite well and I play violin awfully.
How's your remote controlled helicopter? Do you still play with it?
Yes, sometimes. But I've got a new hobby: motorbikes.
A more dangerous hobby, isn't it?
I don't think so.
Cooking roast meat with potatoes for Sunday dinner was one of your favourite things to do. Do you still think the same?
Yes, it's something that I love to do.
More than sex?
No, no, no (laughing)
Although it would later become a fashion, you were a pioneer in mixing African and Celtic sounds with your own music. How was the process of exploring the music all around the world?
I love the sound of bagpipes. The bag makes the sounds more interesting: pum, pum, pum... The funniest is that the bagpipe always sounds: its sound never ends. But its technique can also be used with the guitar.
You composed the soundtrack for "The Exorcist". Do you consider this kind of composition lesser works?
Now there are lots of feature films and they all need a soundtrack, but after having seen a good bunch of movies, it's hard to remember their soundtracks.
You have visited La Coruña several times. What's your current relationship with the town?
Yes, I've been there many times. Last time I was there was to attend a concert on the beach. I recall it was 1999.
You had a girlfriend there, didn't you?
Yes, but now I don't. It was long ago.
Is the future always better than past?
If you look behind, you think "everything was so good". The problem with the past is that you see the nice things and you remember that you didn't appreciate it when you were there. Life is full of decisions and questions, and every little thing u do is important. You can't live your life and, at the same time, be worrying about what may happen later. When you are living something, you know later that can hurt, destroy you.. But in that moment you can't think about. It's a difficult matter, but there's a moment, when everything goes ok, that is something perfect.
Is your music for connoisseurs or can it be appreciated by everyone?
Uhm... There are a lot of people who don't understand my music. Sometimes I read on the newspapers saying good things about my work and that makes me feel good. But that's not so often. Others insist I should do this or that and they have hard opinions about what i make. Only a ten per cent of the people who speak about my music reach the spirit that i try to transmit in my songs. I would like they leave me along when i have to make my work / it comes to my work.
But in your career you have also made pop songs which have reached and been understood by everyone.
Yes, but it's difficult to get that... I've just made a couple of good pop songs, but it was fun.
Is your best work still to be done or you think you have already done it?
Nowadays I don't work as intensely as I used to. There are some other things in life, not related to music, which are motivating me and I want to explore them. I don't know whether I'll do something musically incredible in the next years. That's something I can't control. I'm awaiting instructions from the spirits.
Your music has changed along your career. Has your personality changed parallel as well?
I don't think my music has changed so much. Spiritually, my music is now stronger and more powerful. But yes, regarding my personality I can say I've grown up and become old.
You have worked on many different styles: electronical, pop, instrumental, contemporary, soundtracks, new age... Which one do you feel more comfortable in?
I can't answer that question because I like them all. By the way, could you give my regards and best wishes to Luar na lubre?
Written it is.
Mike Oldfield Tubular.net