The Hiawatha Pierre Moerlen Interview

July 7, 1991
Peter Funnell
Hiawatha Fanzine

On Sunday, 7th July 1991, Ralph Weiss arranged a telephone interview with Pierre Moerlen. Pierre presented the assembled audience at Ralph's home with answers to questions that were asked in English by Peter Funnell.

Pierre Funnell: Thomas would like to know how and when did you first meet Mike?

Pierre Moerlen: I meet a small concert hall, for the press, in London where I played with Gong, in May 1973 I think. It was a press and record company concert. He was there with Richard Branson, looking for percussionists...because I told Mike that I was able to play classical percussion.

Sheba also has a question. Do Tribute still exist? and if so, will they tour again?

I believe they have reformed recently. I don't know exactly who is in the band - some of them are studying in various places - music school, academies etc....I haven't got any fresh news. I don't think we will be touring again, as... er... I'm sorry! I'm not quite awake! I played last night and I drank to get my soul together!

The next question is from Ekke. Do you remember... Mike protested about the quality of music in the charts?

Did he?

He did yes.

I didn't know that! When did that happen? It happened at about the release of Amarok, last year, and he was complaining about the quality of Kylie Minogue records! I was going to ask you this question ... which of the following is better... 'Innocent' by Mike Oldfield, or 'I should be so lucky' by Kylie Minogue?

I don't know either of them!

Ralph would like to know - what is the style of music you are concentrating on at the moment?

I have a drum quartet, which I am writing music for... It will extend itself and include more instruments eventually. Style of music? I always have difficulty with that one... I don't know how to answer that question. It's not New Age, it's not really Jazz Rock, it's not really Jazz, it's not really Rock...very hard to answer that!

Stefan wanted to know about 'Islands'. On what track(s) did you play and what instruments did you play? ...remember 'The Wind Chimes'... did you play on that?

Oh, 'Islands', that's the record Mike did in France, in the Alps... that's right, in May 1988..?


I played the vibes with my brother, Benoit... it was recorded in Montbeliard, near the skiing station.

This is in France?

Yes. Near Switzerland, but on the French side... I played some vibraphone with Benoit - just a little bit. We didn't do much. We stayed there a day or two...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe you feature momentarily on the video. Do you remember being videoed?

No! I don't remember.

I have a number of questions now... I know you're unhappy with the present state of the charts...

Oh well... Ha ha!

...are there any musicians that you admire... that you would like to work with... in the charts at the moment.

There are some certainly. Now and then I go out and when I hear a song I like, I bring it back home and play it a lot. I sometimes find songs which are in the charts which I like - I'm not racist... Generally I find it quite low quality. What bothers me is that the door closed for anything creative. The charts have always existed and I've always been what they are. Maybe it's getting a bit worse.

Can you name anybody you would like to work with still?

In the charts in Great Britain or in France?


I don't know who is in the charts in Britain now... my mind's a bit blank... in France there is a band called Niagara... with electric guitar, bass, drums - quite a big band, and they are in the charts. I saw them once on Frankfurt. I like this band - I could play with a band like that, without compromising my own integrity... there are artists I could work with certainly, but I believe those artists don't contact me, because they think... I would never stop soloing, I don't know why!

Do you think that people will realise the error of their ways, with the over dominance of computers in music and go back to the use of 'natural' insruments in the studio?

This is already happening. I see more live musicians coming back to the screen.

You must be happy with this change.

Oh sure... The '80s... that was the bad era, now it can only get better!

Do you see your work prospects increasing if the climate changes?

Well, it is already increasing, since the beginning of this year... things are getting better. I started by working in the classical field - which is not really my thing... And I'm now playing in a great big band with a singer... we go on tour... and I have my quartet and I intend to write demos, do some new stuff with the idea to get a proper record deal with a good record company willing to support a project - not just release a couple of records and goodbye! and never pay anything. I have serious hopes to find this again.

Which instrument do you prefer playing the most - would it be vibes?

No it's drums. Writing-wise I play vibes... but I'm a better drummer than a vibe player. If you compare me to a vibe player, I have my own style, o.k., but I don't have much technique. I like it for writing... I'm very inspired by the sound of the instrument and the sustain of the metallic notes and so on... but on drums - this is my territory, this is where I am strong.

Which is your favourite Mike Oldfield piece on which you have played?

I automatically think about 'Incantations', - the vibes on side four.

That is my favourite piece also!

I love that piece, the whole album actually. I know Mike doesn't like it very much, because it's for him a bad... period. I don't think it has much to do with the music itself, it is this period of time - he wants to erase it! It's too late!

Incidentally, are there any pieces that you would like to disregard - that you are unhappy with now?

Of Mike?

Of your own work.

Oh, sure!! Many! ...Like on the album 'Breakthrough', I made a mistake trying to sing.

You consider not to have a good voice?

Exactly! That was a real flop, a real failure. A silly attempt to do... well, I felt like doing it, certainly. Sometimes I come up with backing tracks on my demo equipment and I feel like singing. ...I hear a voice, but doing it is another thing. Naturally I do not have the voice of a singer, I don't have the ability. I'm working with singers at the moment. I see how easy it is for them - they have a wide pitch, a big range, that can go higher or lower, and so on. It is very difficult for me... I would love to sing but I don't think I have the style.

What do you think of Mike's singing ability on 'Heavens Open'?

'Heavens Open' is what...?

It is his latest album.

I haven't it yet. I have heard 'Amarok'... that is the last album...

What do you think? ...we think it is brillant!

I heard it once and it sounded good... but I need to listen to it more, more carefully. When I heard it, it sounded like 'background music', so I couldn't really get into it.

Have you any unfulfilled ambitions in the music business?

Oh sure. I would just like to... be where I belong, to do the music I like, without having to all the time play a style of music which I don't have an affinity for, in order to survive.

You don't want to compromise.

Yes, but I have to all the time... since 10 years, since the day I broke up with my manager and since the day I got the sack from Arista/Ariola. Since that day I have been compromising and compromising and it made me ill, really ill. Now, at this point, I take it more philosophically... I've learned to take it, but still, I would very much like the situation to change...

Also, another question I have - this is going to be a difficult one, I think! Which concert, out of all the concerts in which you have performed, was the most fulfilling... (which one) did you enjoy most?

There was a great one in Hyde Park... in '73, or '74. It was the old Gong line-up. I have an extraordinary memory of it.

Was it a big occasion?

Yes, it was very big. There were many people there...

Was it a nice day?

Oh yes, great day, sun... we came on stage and started playing - it was just magic, fantastic. Everybody played really well, the public were really with us. This one and Knebworth, but Knebworth... I don't know. I think I would say Hyde Park - that's the one which came to me straight away.

Mike Oldfield
Mike Oldfield