BBC Radio London with Lisa I'Anson

August 8, 2002
Lisa I'Anson
BBC Radio London

Welcome to BBC London, 94.9. Mike Oldfield...

That was your new single...

"To Be Free"...

I like that, it's quite nice!

And we'll talk about the new album, but going way back, they say you're a "veteran musician..."
Mmm hmm.

Is that how you see yourself?
Well I started when I was a baby really. I was playing music professionally, earning peanuts, when I was fifteen, as soon as I left school, and I've been at it ever since. But you know, I suppose "veteran"? Well I suppose that's quite true. But in my mind, I'm still the youngest, I'm still the baby. I can't believe anyone's older than me!.

Does it feel like 30 years since Tubular Bells?
It doesn't, actually! I still hear that - you've probably heard it on the adverts on the TV. I hear it all the time, and in fact, I'm right in the middle of re-recording it for its 30th anniversary. It should come out exactly 30 years to the date, which is the 25th of May, 2003.

Why re-record it? Are you going to change it?
No, because I was only given a week by Mr. B. from Virgin...

As in Branson?
He gave me a week and said "if we don't like what you've done in that week, well, here's the door". So I worked like a ... well ... I won't say what ... for that week, and I had eighteen-hundred overdubs to do. I didn't even have time to tune the guitar. I never even went for a second take. It was just work, work, work, like a huge long marathon. Every time I listen to it, I think "if only I had more time ... if only I'd done that little bit better". Now I've got a wonderful studio, all digital technology, editing systems, everything. I'm working on it as a real labour of love.

So it's a new opportunity as you?
I'm not changing it, I'm not adding fashionable drum loops and all that stuff. It's a real, authentic re-recording, but really in tune, in time, beautifully played, and also with thirty years of experience of being a musican and a human being inbetween.

It'll be interesting to compare it with the original when it's finished.
It is! The original sounds horrible!

To you ...
To me, yes.

To you, but massively popular to everyone else. The album was in the British charts for five years!
It's incredible, isn't it?

That's superb. What do you put the sucess down to?
A combination of things. Obviously, there was The Exorcist film, which came out shortly after its release. That really propelled it into the 'super album' status. It was already doing very well. It's a thing you can listen to many, many times and not get bored, because there's so many part to it. In effect, it's like a hundred-track album because there's hundreds of little parts that fit together. It's not all the same, repetitive. There's tremendous variety of styles; there's things that could be described as "ambient". There's also very heavy rock-and-roll things. There's jazzy things, there's celtic stuff. A big mixture of styles on a one-hour album.

How did The Exorcist come about?
It wasn't anything to to with me. I just got a phonecall from Richard - he said "there's a film coming out, it's supposed to be the scariest movie ever made. They really want to use your music. I've said 'yes'". So I didn't get a chance to say no! And in fact, I never saw it for ten years, and when I finally saw it, I went in there shaking. I went in there preparing to be really scared. And then when the little girl's head started going round and round, I fell on the floor laughing! She looked like a sort of ventriloquist's puppet and I fell on the floor laughing. I thought it's the world's greatest comedy. Sorry, if I found it different!

You're in the minority though. I found it really scary, but fair enough! And that, in a way, was the start of your work on film tracks, because you went on to contribute music for The Killing Fields...
Yes, well, that's the only film I've ever done.

So it's just those two, The Exorcist and The Killing Fields, your music's featured in?
Yes, but for The Exorcist, they took the album, whereas for The Killing Fields, I had all the rushes in the studio on a video machine, and I kind of wrote the music to the film. A man would come out with a clapper board and these hundred Vietnamese people would burst into action. It was really weird because it was a very realistic film. In fact, I had trouble realising it was a film because it's such an upsetting story. It affected me psychologically. I got really worried and depressed, I had bad dreams and things like that. But it is a powerful movie, a very, very good movie.

Returning to Tubular Bells, it was an album that actually set Virgin Records on its way. How did you meet Richard Branson?
Errrrrrm, how did I meet him? He's a great practical joker, and I think the first time I met him, I heard the sound of a window smashing and saw this man with long hair and big teeth coming though, and it looked like he was covered in blood. And he was screaming, going "argggghh!", like that. And we were all going "call an ambulance, emergency, emergency!". And suddenly his face lit up. Under his arm, he had a bottle of iodine. So he'd smashed the window and poured iodine all over his head, and come out screaming just to frighten everybody.

Did you find that amusing?
Well, no, my heart was beating like ... well, that's Richard, or was. I suppose it still is. Must be.

Are you in touch, these days?
Occasionally. We did talk to each other about perhaps his new company having the re-recording of Tubular Bells.

I think you were just winding him up though, I read...
Well, I wasn't really, you know. It just turned out that I've got a good relationship with my record company at the moment, which is, in fact, Warner Music, but the Spanish side of it because for some reason, Spanish people just adore my music.

They certainly do, don't they? They do love it, you're absolutely right! And in fact, I know that you adore Spain, because for a number of years, you lived in Ibiza. Why did you choose that island?
Well, that was another surprise. I only chose it because it's been my life ambition to design and build a house. I looked for plots of land and found a perfect plot of land in Ibiza. Once I bought the plot of land, I realised that I'd ended up in the party centre of the whole of Europe.

Come on, you must have known!
Well not really! I knew there were some clubs, but there are clubs everywhere. When you're in there at the height of the season, you realise that there's really something special there.

It's said to be quite a spiritual place. Did you get any sense of that?
Well it's not known for its spiritual side...

I thought it had lay lines and stuff. I found it very powerful when I went.
When you live there, there certainly is. There's legends that go back to the time of the Carthaginians. They considered it a very holy, sacred island. They wanted to be buried there, and people all over the Carthaginian Empire carried little vials of Ibizan soil around. There was also a cult of a godess called Tanit there, which if you go up to the north of the island, you can find the original temple, which is buried in this sort of cave. People still put offerings there. It's got a very special atmosphere to it. I've had some weird dreams! I know what you mean about it being a very spiritual place. It really becomes apparent in the winter time, that kind of thing. Of course, in the summer, it's overrun by crazy wild nutters.

Nutters, yes. Usually of the English persuasion?
Yeah, but you end up getting turned into one of them! That's the wonderful thing. It's a bit like vampires or zombies, you get drawn in and you become a nutter too!

Well you kind of want to escape from Ibiza once you do get there, as I found to my cost...
I survived two years and then I had to get out of there.

Did you visit the clubs during the season?
No! Yeah, occasionally I had a really good time there, but there's a difference between a two week holiday and living there.

Of course. I believe that some of the clubs out there often played your music - you used to hear it?
It was more in the "chill out" cafÈs, places like the CafÈ Del Mar, rather than the clubs like Pacha and Privilege.

So it seems in a way that you are the original "king of chill out music", with all your early ambient sounds...
It's very nice of you to say so. Nice when I get that kind of compliment. I used to be called the "father of new age", which was a little bit kind of boring. What did you say I was now?

The king of chill out!
That sounds much cooler, doesn't it?

Rather than "the father of new age". I imagine you as a druid with a long beard for that kind of look.
A lot of people do, and are surprised to see me.

Actually, you know why people are so surprised that you're so young? It's because you did start so early. Are you ready for all the fuss again, because you strike me as quite a reluctant star...
Well no, I was shy when I was nineteen. It's thirty years past since then, and I enjoy talking about my music. It's great, and to have a career that's lasted this long and I'm still here; people are still interested in what I do. I still get the chance to experiment and make new things. Cue to talk about the new album!

The flavour of the new album, how would you describe it?
What's special about this, is it's a two disc set. One disc is a "chill out" album, the other disc includes a free demo of a three-dimensional, interactive PC game. Basically, you put your disc in your PC, install it, double-click it, and you open up into this three-dimensional virtual world, where you're on this very strange planet with strange creatures, things made of air, there are birds, there are musical instruments flying around. You interact with them. It's not like with the old fashioned CDROM where you click and watch a movie, it's a totally immersive, three-dimensional, real-time adventure. I call it a "game", but it's not a game because it doesn't really have a purpose. You don't have to do anything.

So how does it work? You just move through it, then?
You move though it and the music changes depending on where you go, what you do. You can, by doing good deeds like giving something away, improve your desert and make it start growing plants. If you do anything bad, like shoot anybody, you get punished. I make a joke that ten-thousand volts of electricity comes up your computer mouse. It's not actually as bad as that.

I believe the game came first, rather than the music...
Yes, it did. The best thing about it is that it networks, so you can go on the Internet, you playing your game, and your friend who can be anywhere ... in Australia ... you can play together. You can see each other flying as different objects and animals. Sometimes I go on, and I take over this beautiful blue moth. I have a whole gang of other avatars, all around the world, following me around, and that's just fanstatic. I think this the kind of entertainment we should be looking towards for the future, you know. Non-violent, just things that bring out the child in you, that bring back that feeling when you used to go out in the garden, exploring, when you were three, before you went to school. It's just wonderful. I want to bring back that childish innocence to computer games and music.

And hopefully this will embrace a whole audience to your music as well, in terms of, kids will get into it mainly because of the game and actually start listening to the music as well...
I hope so.

But why a computer game though? I'm still intrigued...
I've always felt that I wanted to do something visual. When I was ten or eleven, I used to try to paint and draw, and then in the eighties I tried making videos. I wasn't much good at any of those. Then I discovered flight simulators. I love flight simulators, and the flight simulator technology... I've spent the last two years adapting the software in order to make it interactive and to make it musical. That in itself, has been a great challenge, and a hell of a lot of fun...

You haven't got a flight simulator at your house, have you?
Well, MusicVR is a flight simulator, of sorts. It's a musical flight simulator. It's a bit like piloting a jet fighter, but it plays music to you. You can go very, very fast, if you want, but you can also go incredibly slowly. You can stop and look behind rocks, where you'll find little rings and crabs, and you can find this childish fascination that I was talking about.

Why did you call the album Tres Lunas? "Three moons", right?
Well, it's "TRES LUNAS!", it's Spanish, you see. It's partly because of Ibiza. I'm sure you know, there's an extremely well-known series of 'chill out' albums called the "CafÈ del Mar". I wanted a Spanish title. "Tres Lunas" is also the name of a restaurant which is half way inbetween Ibiza town and...

They must love you!...
It's actually "Dos Lunas", and yes, they do love me. We thought "why don't we make it 'Tres Lunas'?". And, in the interactive game, your desert, your realise after a while, you're actually on a moon. You look up into the sky and there's another moon, a huge one with rings, and you look up and see there's another little one. So there are three moons as well. It's just a bit of fun, really.

Plus it's a 3D, interactive PC game as well as the album...

So, you've been on loads of albums with "chill out" artists. Any that you rate, musician-wise?
Oh, the compilation albums, you mean? They're incredible, these albums, because they're quite often artists you've never heard of. One of the things I learned in Ibiza is that there are artists living in little houses near the beach, and they've got their computers, and they're making really wonderful music! It's the same the world over. You don't have to be a big superstar to make good music; there's all kinds of excellent artists out there, and hopefully, in a few years when the Internet matures, we'll be able to get a community of these people. I think there's a lot of good music being made that never comes to the public eye.

Very true. We here at BBC London do our bit to help it get through, as and when we can
Jolly good.

Any chance of seeing you live in the near future?
Well, if you see here, I've just had this from my agent, which we're looking at. I won't say anything, but yes, we're looking at concerts next year...

Good. Big venues, we hope, like the Albert Hall, again?
I'd love to play at the Albert Hall, but it's one of those kind of halls that if I say we're definitely going to do it, and don't, people will be disappointed. It's all being planned at the moment.

We've had a quick call from someone wanting to know if the game works on Macintosh as well as PC...
No it doesn't work on Macintosh, sorry about that. We would have had to make it twice because the operating systems and the code needed is so different. So we decided to go for PCs. So, I'm sorry about that.

I noticed that there's Tubular Bells two and three, so is this going to carry on? Will there be further installments?
No, no.

That's it? It stops at three?
No, it stops at one! Because I'm remaking the first one...

Sure, but you've made two and three, and that's it? The buck stops here?
Yes, that's enough.

Mr Mike Oldfield, thankyou. Why you left Ibiza for Kent, I've no idea
Well, I missed the rain, I missed my local pub, I missed all the little things about England.

Well we missed you too, and welcome back. And with that in mind, I'm going to play a Mike Oldfield classic, this is 'Moonlight Shadow'. Mike Oldfield, once again, thankyou.
My pleasure. Thanks.

Mike Oldfield
Mike Oldfield