Villa Of The Week

January 23, 1999
Chris Campling
The Times

Clubbed to death in Ibiza - Mike Oldfield has had enough of rave culture. His £2m home is for sale. By Chris Campling.

For sale : state-of-the-art air conditioning systems. Also reliable telephone and fax lines, as well as items of clothing suitable for a rock star. All this for a mere £2.2 million.

Of course, the attraction of the offer does depend on how highly you rate efficient temperature control and communications facilities. And it should be mentioned that the above come packaged in a three-bedroom villa with swimming pool, gymnasium and recording studio. But when it comes to the bottom line, the vendor knows it is the little things that mean the most when potential clients are umm-ing and ah-ing over whether to reach for their cheque book.

For this house is on the Balearic island of Ibiza, where temperatures reach 110F during the summer and where attempting to make a telephone call can be a matter of hope triumphing over experience. Whoever buys the villa, called Atlantis, can be assured of mod cons without having to go through the hell of installing them himself. Nor will he be stuck for transport: a Mercedes Benz and Wrnagler jeep will stay in the four-car garage when the vendor moves out, as will two Jet-skis and a Tomahawk 43 powerboat.

"Anyone who has lived in Spain knows how tricky getting hold of these things can be," says the owner. "So I thought I'd just leave them."

This is no ordinary attitude to fixtures and fittings, but then this is no ordinary house - or, indeed, vendor. For he is Mike Oldfield, the man who wrote the piece of music upon which Richard Branson built his Virgin Records label, and who has spent the past 25 years striking his own perfectionist path through pop. Only 20 when he wrote the music to his masterpiece, Tubular Bells, he worked then as he does now - largely alone.

"I had always wanted to design and build my dream house," he says. "It started out as a virtual house, a 3-D model on my computer. Then, when I had it the way I wanted, I went looking for a piece of land to build it on."

Hawaii and the South of France were checked out and rejected, and only on Ibiza did Oldfield find the perfect piece of land for his perfect house. Even the name of the nearby town had the ring of serendipity to it - Es Cubells.

As with his music and the house, though, it required a feat of imagination to see the potential in the 5-acre site. "Most of it was a 45-degree cliff leading down to the bay," he says. "We had to scoop out a level piece of land to build the house on."

An architect had been given a tape of Oldfield's "virtual" house and told to make it a reality. When he had, a garden was laid out - palm trees were brought in and lowered into place - appliances ordered, delivered and installed and, by 1996, Oldfield could sit in his sun-lounger, gaze out across the bay to the island of Formentera in the distance and relax.

Not that he did, of course. What, after all, is the point of having a fully-equipped recording studio - with silent-ducted air conditioning - if all you are going to do is look at it and smile?

No, a working musician needs to work, and Ibiza is the centre of the dance music universe. A new musical world was available 15 minutes' drive away, and Oldfield would have been negligent in his calling if he had not perused it. So Mr Tubular Bells became Mr Clubber.

He says : "Six months later I wanted to leave the island, the house, everything. Some of the clubs were like Sodom and Gomorrah, everyone there was off their heads and I was being sucked into the centre of it. It was horrible."

Everything Oldfield needed to know about the robotic appeal of dance music, Ibiza-style, he gleaned from a tape a friend lent him. "It took about two minutes to learn what it had to teach me."

Back in the silent chill of his cliffside recording studio, Oldfield turned the crumbs of musical influence into part of his 1998 album, Tubular Bells III, but it was neither a critical nor a commercial hit.

So Atlantis is on the market. Its price is no more than Oldfield spent on its construction. The recording studio, denuded of the equipment needed to produce a master tape, awaits its next incarnation : Oldfield suggests it would make a nice dance studio or office.

Not all signs of Oldfield's tenure have been removed : the rock star clothing, for example, the uniform of the clubber he was and now has no wish to be. They might fit whoever moves in next.

Oldfield is back at his home in Buckinghamshire and back in the studio. He is finishing off an album called Guitars. It is called that because Oldfield has had enough of dance music's electronica for a lifetime, thanks.

Any regrets about that lost weekend in the heart of danceland? Not really, especially when he harks back to the time he spent in his cliffside recording studio, making music while he looked across the Med. "It was astonishing," he says. "The mood of the water changed by the hour. In August and September there would be enormous storms that blew up and battered the coast. One wave picked up one of the Jet-skis and then, just when it seemed it was going to smash it to pieces, laid it gently on the beach. Amazing. I could have watched the sea for ever."

Agents - Hamptons International, 0171-493 8787

Mike Oldfield
Mike Oldfield