BBC 2 Radio Interview with Steve Wright

December 22, 1999
Steve Wright
BBC Radio 2

[Moonlight Shadow/IDJ/TB opening medley]

Steve Wright (SW): Now without a doubt one of the biggest musical events of the millennium eve will be held in Berlin, when our next guest will play before an audience of 500,000 with an additional global TV audience of 200 hundred million. He's on of the musicians, who created the soundtrack to this century. It's the composer of Tubular Bells; it's Mike Oldfield.
(Sound of clapping and cheering in the studio)

SW: Mike Oldfield is here. How about that, Mike? That was a good intro for you wasn't it?

Mike Oldfield(MO): Yeah, loved it. Can you do it again?

SW: No! That's all I'm doing.

MO: Oh, alright.(chuckles)

SW: Now listen, people know you of course... You don't like doing this kinda thing, do you? Cause you're quite a shy guy.

MO: I suppose, but I've got more and more used to it. I see it as part of the job and erm... I especially enjoy radio and TV. In Spain you have to talk to twenty journalists one after another and you know, you kinda get a bit boggle - eyed.

SW: Ha! Ha. But you know you're safe with me, cause - you know...

MO: Yeah we've been...

SW: We've... we've hanged...

MO: quite a few things together

SW: ...we've hung out.

SW: I've actually seen Mike composing stuff...

MO: You've even met my DOG!

SW: Ha! Ha...

MO: Compact Dog.

SW: Ha Ha, yeah. Now it's great to watch you though... because you're very diligent in the studio and you're very demanding and all of that. Is it important to be that way? It must be right for you, mustn't it in the studio?

MO: Well, the thing is I hear the finished thing in my head and erm... I go to great lengths to reproduce it, you know, in reality. Whatever gets in my way is No, No, No, No. 'cause I can hear it finished and I'll... I'll just , you know... move mountains to realise my musical dream.

SW: It's strange defining you. I always think of you as having lots of girls with very long hair around... you and being a little slightly kind of... a little gothic. D'you know what I mean?... And also you know, one of my favourite all time records is Moonlight Shadow.

MO: Yes...

SW: ...that's perfect you, really.

MO: Is it?

SW: Yeah...

MO: We...Well I agree with the first bit, I love to have girls around me... but they don't have to have long hair... ha ha

SW: Those kinda hippy girls...

MO: Oh no! Oh no...

SW: Huh huh...

MO: ... and I don't know what you mean by gothic... Well I suppose I do have a kind of dark side when(?) I dress in black, but I very much bounce off whose company I'm with.

SW: You're in competition I suppose this year, with that Jean Michel Jarre. Now I was invited to that... This is a thing like in the middle of the desert Jean Michel Jarre...

Julia Bradbury (JB): Um... The pyramids isn't it?

SW: Yeah, near the pyramids there... and err...

Tim Smith(TS): Are you going?

SW: No I'm not gonna go... but this Berlin thing sounds really... interesting. 'cause it sounds like it's going to be edgy.

MO: As you know Berlin for some obvious reasons: being the centre of some of the worst things... and the best things... You know with the Berlin Wall, the Berlin Airlift... all this stuff and erm... I just come back from Paris and I'm speaking to a journalist, who's telling me the kind of logistical problems that they're having in Athens, I mean... What we've got in Berlin is a... nightmare just from my point of view, but there literally lighting up the whole city with these computerised Space Cannons... They're powerful lights which reach up sixty miles or something and they all gonna like rotate and move around and wriggle and writhe about throughout the whole of this city. And I've had to compose a piece of music to go with that. You know... The guy's absolutely specific that the music has got to be 'MONUMENTALLL, MONUMENTALLL' he keeps going; so I keep adding more fuzz guitars, a bit more Beethoven, you know?

SW: But you're going to do Tubular Bells aren't you?

MO: Yeah, in the hour before midnight, were going to do a set, which includes: Moonlight Shadow, Tubular Bells and a bit of The Millenium Bell. And first of all, they wanted to hoist me up on a crane, about 300 feet and I would count down for the millenium, for Berlin; but I said: "No way, mate! You go up there yourself!"

JB: You're not hoisting me anywhere...

MO: Ha ha... You go up there yourself.

SW: Just in case your watch is wrong.


MO: or I'll... I'll count down the British Millenium... which'll be an hour later...

SW: Oh, of course it will, yeah! Absolutely... Err, here's Tim Smith. Mike Oldfield is here.

TS: I wanted to ask you if you're constantly being asked to compose music for events like this? I mean obviously the millennium and millennium eve is special.

MO: No I'm not, but I'm actually secretly hoping that this'll be the beginning of a kind of a new career, because I really love these big event gigs; like we did Edinburgh Castle at the festival and we did Horse Guards Parade last year.

TS: Where would you like to perform?

MO: Red Square would be nice.

SW: Oh that would be perfect, wouldn't it?

MO: I suppose The Pyramids would be wonderful, but err... like The Acropolis. These kind of wonderful places... so it's like a real fun thing to do that you remember.

JB: Monumental.

MO: MONUMENTALLL! Exactly, yeah.

SW: So is the wheel out, or not?

MO: Do you know, that was the first place I was going to play in London, was in Jubilee Gardens and they built this bloody great wheel there! I can't play there. That's why I had to go to Berlin, in the first place.

SW: You didn't want to be across from the fair ground... Now you've given me this CD... it really gets going in the middle there. This is Berlin 2000, so this is the music that people will hear... you play live in Berlin on millenium night. On the BBC Radio, this is Mike Oldfield. We'll come right back...

[Plays excerpt of Berlin 2000.]

SW: That's very erm... strident, isn't it?

MO: Yes... monumental.

SW: Berlin 2000. Mike Oldfield is our special guest, very shy guy... and so shy that I saw you featured Hello magazine this week. Is it true when it says that your sister Sally, Sally Oldfield, placed a lonely hearts ad on your behalf?

MO: Yeah.

SW: You know, why?

MO: I don't know why people think this is unusual, a lot of people do that.

SW: Well, because you're a very famous person, for starters.

MO: Yeah well, I mean... I just thought I'd cast a, a wider net, you know and my sister suggested that and I thought: "Oh, umm yeah, that should be interesting, lets see what we catch with that." Unfortunately we caught some very strange people, so it actually didn't work out very well.

SW: Perhaps it was the way the ad was worded, I mean what did it say?

MO: I don't know how she worded it to be honest, but you know, she's a sister, she was doing her best for me. I was looking for a new relationship and she did like all good sisters do, help me think of new ways of looking. I'm not embarrassed I'm not don't think there's anything wrong with it. And since then, nearly every day in newspapers like The Daily Mail there's like 'how to write your own ad' and 'what to do', so it's opened up a bit of a debate, which I'm quite pleased about.

SW: So may be this'll start a whole thing: very well known people putting lonely hearts ads in the papers.

MO: I don't think very well known people, but I do think... in the old days you used to have a matchmaker, who'd go and try and find somebody with the same interest, that you'd get on with. Nowadays, there's so many broken relationships, unhappy children, broken marriages, divorces. People don't think and take enough care about who they're gonna be with and find somebody they can really live with. If I've helped that in any tiny way, I'm very pleased.

SW: So did it say: 'Well known composer..."

JB: Successful musician.

MO: Did it? Oh... Oh, you read it, did you?

SW: I'm just thinking you know, when somebody replies, they say: 'Well who is it?' And then say we go: 'Let me just give you a clue: "Dun da dun, dun dun da dun..."'

JB: It's that, that man from The Exorcist. Urrr.

SW: So did you find somebody from this ad to share your life with?

MO: No I didn't actually...

SW: Ahhh

JB: Ahhh damn, after all that...

MO: I mean there were very strange people and one of them actually went to The Daily Mirror and sold her story, you know... I just actually... didn't really like her, but luckily enough, I already knew somebody, who I'd known for about three and a half years and err... we're together now. In fact she's in the room next door.

SW: There she is: long, dark hair. Is she called Beth?

MO: No, she's called Fanny.

SW: I'm sorry?

MO: She's called Fannee.

SW: You can never really lose Tubular Bells, can you? So I mean, I suppose now every album that you do, you have to kind of make reference to Tubular Bells, don't you?

MO: Naaa, not any more. This is like, the fourth one, which refers to the bell and that's the last, as far as I'm concerned.

SW: Right.

MO: It's a four - sided box and that's it.

SW: And what about movie music, because I mean that's an obvious place for you to be isn't it?

MO: Well, to be honest, you know I love movies, but I go on a Sunday, like everybody else, I get my hot dog and Coca Cola and I sit there watch the movie. I'm entertained and I leave it and I never remember the music and... you know, it takes a lot of work to make a movie soundtrack and for me to think like experience it for two hours.

SW: Now, Mike. Let me ask you this question: Have you ever seen a movie called: The Exorcist?

MO: Yes! It's the biggest...

SW: You remember the music of that?

MO: Well they only used about twenty seconds of Tubular Bells. I finally saw it about fifteen years after it came out and I must say I laughed my head way through the whole thing.

SW: You laughed you head round!

MO: Ha ha...

JB: Spinning in his chair!

SW: Spinning around it was!

MO: I thought it was the best comedy I've ever seen, you know...

SW: Is your music, would you say, of the past or of the future?

MO: I would say it's of the future. Not to sound big - headed, but it still sounds very modern; even though it was made twenty - five years ago. When I try and make music that's current, it's... it doesn't succeed very well. If I stick to my roots, which... I don't know where the hell they come from... Outer space, I suppose.

SW: It transcends time, doesn't it?

MO: Does seem to, which is fantastic.

SW: See I've really enjoyed Hergest Ridge. I've liked a lot of your albums and a lot of your singles. But I even like the Blue Peter one.

MO: HA! HA! HA!...

JB: Now THAT'S dedication.

SW: I thought Mike's version of the Blue Peter theme was fantastic!

MO: Ohhh! Did you?

SW: Yeah. Did they give you a badge for that, or not?

MO: I did. I had a badge, yes...

JB: Gold one...

MO: It finally fell off about a year ago, but I wore it on my leather jacket for twenty years.

SW: Listen err... Thanks very much for telling us about this Berlin thing. I really wish you well with it and if we come to Berlin, we'll be able to find you, will we? You're in the street...

UW: Yeah, you'll be hoisted up...

MO: I think you'll find me, yes. If you can get through the crowds. I'll be the one in the green suit... you know, on the middle of the stage... FREEZING COLD.

JB: Dangling.

SW: Yeah... And wish you have a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year. And Thank you for that Berlin 2000 and lets ah... Under my voice now is something from your new album, as well. Bless you and we'll see you next time: Mike Oldfield.

MO: Thank you.


[The Doges Palace fades in]

Mike Oldfield
Mike Oldfield