Mike Oldfield: MO
this is the 30th Anniversary of Tubular Bells.
RS: The first version of Tubular Bells came out 30 years ago on May
25, 1973. I cant wait to hear your new version of Tubular Bells,
called Tubular Bells 2003, which is coming out next month.
Warners Music in Spain is putting it out?
MO: Yes. It sort of nearly went to Virgin but at Virgin, theres
no Simon Draper, theres no Richard Branson. Theres all new
people, its part of EMI. And for some reason, Im very popular
in Spain and I like very much the Spanish people. The record company,
they seem very down to earth, you know theyre very respectful,
very nice people. They do a good job so I went directly with them. And
its been a great pleasure working with them. You know the whole
record business is in a bit of trouble at the moment because of things
like the internet. People come and go so quickly. You just start to
get to know somebody and then theyre gone six months later. I
like working with the Spanish and you know Europe is almost like one
country now so it doesnt really matter which part of it youre
from. And the English record business is sort of looked at with a little
bit of ridicule nowadays because of all these manufactured pop bands.
RS: You describe the making of Tubular Bells 2003 as the
least stressful project I've had for ages.
MO: Yeah, its true.
RS: And you say Im deliberately not hurrying as I
only have one chance to do it as perfectly as possible.
MO: Yeah, I didnt want to finish it! Im a bit depressed
now its gone. (laughter) Ive got post-album depression.
RS: I heard you were splitting your time between music and your hobby
of radio controlled electric model helicopters. Whats that like?
MO: Well I used to fly model airplanes with my father and I did some
flying on real helicopters. But its much too stressful, cause
I hate heights, you see. I was looking for a hobby. I wondered, what
can I have as a hobby? So I looked into radio controlled model
helicopters. Im building the worlds smallest jet engine,
a real jet engine. Its about the size of...a small dog (laughter).
Im building that at the moment. Theyre not toys really.
Theyre very sophisticated. They have little micro-computers, use
jet fuel, you have to wear hearing protection from them. Its about
two meters across. You cant sit in it but you can probably take
your dog up and fly with it or something. (laughter)
RS: John Cleese did the spoken word part on the Tubular Bells 2003
MO: Well yeah, we did it while I was speaking to him on the phone. He
was in Santa Barbara. Hes such a lovely man. Hes just the
nicest Englishman, you know, proper and polite and everything. Its
just lovely to work with him. And then we did all kinds of different
versions of all the words, the announcement of the instruments. And
then got them sent over and edited them together. It was great. I mean
theres very few people who could replace Vivian Stanshall, but
John Cleese was one.
RS: You say that, I knew that Tubular Bells was a record
perfectly suited to the breathtaking capabilities of today´s studio
MO: Yes, it is.
RS: In what way was the rerecording of the music influenced by these
great leaps in technology?
MO: Two things. One is the digital editing. I can do ten takes of one
guitar and easily cut and paste the best bits of them together. And
the other thing is with the mixing. Tubular Bells One was very
difficult to mix because there was no automation. Now you set everything
up and the computer remembers every little thing you do. This is especially
useful for the 5.1 mix which is coming out. Theres an AudioDVD
in a couple of months. Thats really something. Things move around.
Because its instrumental, you dont always have to have the
vocalist at the front, you know? At the beginning, all the instruments
slowly rotate around you like youre on a carousel and in the Hornpipe
at the end they all do this kind of Scottish square dance around your
head (laughter) thats really fabulous.
RS: And theres also a DVD video accompanying the CD and 5.1 mix
of the new Tubular Bells 2003.
MO: Yeah...that has selections of the 5.1 mix, little tastes of
it. Its got a video with a sort of single version of one of the
tracks. And its got information about the making of it written
by the assistant engineer. All this kind of stuff...
RS: And I hear theres a new four disc box set called The Complete
Tubular Bells Collections containing the new TB2003 version
and the Tubular Bells 2 & 3 versions as well.
MO: Thats right, yes.
RS: So it looks like its going to be a tubular 2003!
MO: A tubular year, yes (laughter).
RS: TB2003 is a 17 part CD with 17 programmable tracks?
MO: Yeah, well this is only because of the advent of the CD because
its difficult for people to wind and rewind when you cant
pick up the needle so I worked on it in sections. And so I made the
individual sections into tracks...just a matter of putting a little
cut point on the mastering. I purposely didnt give them fancy
titles like on Tubular Bells 2...like Moonshine.
Theyre the working titles. Theyre the titles...that Id
say to the engineer, okay I want to work on the Russian
bit now. So wed flip to those set of files.
Its a simple convenience for people to be able to find the right
part. Theres no big mystery to it.
RS: Was that an idea you had in 1973 but couldn't do on the original
MO: No, I didnt want it to have tracks. It didnt have tracks.
This one myself...sometimes I feel like listening to the end of part
one. I can flip to it now on the CD. In the old days I would have picked
up the needle and dropped it on. (laughter)
RS: How much of the original 1973 state of mind returned while rerecording
the new Tubular Bells 2003?
MO: No...I was happy to do without that state of mind. (laughter)
I was in a really horrible state of mind at the time. Things are alot
RS: Is there going to be a premiere event or big party to launch
the release of Tubular Bells 2003?
MO: Yes, well were planning to do a series of them across
Europe. In England it looks like well do it at Abbey Road studios.
Theres nothing at the moment planned for the States although I
would love to come there. I dont know if you saw me...when was
it, 92 in New York?
RS: I did. I was at Carnegie Hall (in early March 1993).
MO: Oh it was great. That was one of my all-time favorite concerts that
was! I loved it.
RS: I remember it was completely sold out.
MO: It was fantastic. I would love to do something, but things have
been quite quiet in the States for me in the last few years.
RS: Its terrible...its a shame.
MO: I dont know why...
RS: I dont know. Its pretty scary here now. I keep thinking
of that King Crimson song 21st Century Schizoid Man.
MO: Yes, its nearly come true, hasnt it?
RS: It would be great to see you come to New York to do some shows!
MO: I did have one good supporter there. Ive forgotten his name.
He was a DJ on one of the New York radio stations. He was an older gentleman.
Very nice. Is he still active?
RS: Scott Muni?
MO: Thats him, yeah!
RS: He must be 70 years old!
RS: He was the first FM radio DJ. I remember him from way back in 1968.
MO: Is he still active or is he retired?
RS: To be honest, I dont listen to the radio much.
MO: Yeah, Scott Muni...thats the guy. He was nice.
RS: So youre going to unveil Tubular Bells 2003, in Europe?
MO: Yes but its just presentation. Well hire the best sound
systems with 5.1 sound system and have playback, just say hello and
do a few interviews. That kind of thing.
RS: The Millennium Bell concert which is finally coming out in
the U.S. on DVD on the L.A.-based Image Entertainment is totally
MO: That was quite an event, I can tell you.
RS: I was completely bowled over by the sheer magnitude of it. We dont
have those sort of things here in New York anymore.
MO: Well you had Central Park not too long ago, didnt you? Wasnt
RS: Yeah, sometimes good things happen here but there doesnt seem
to be much lately...Youve described the Millennium Bell CD
as your penultimate album but I think the live in concert DVD is superior,
and I consider it to be the definitive version of the work, fireworks
MO: And all the Russians!
RS: So the orchestra and choir were Russians?
MO: Yeah! I couldnt believe it when I met them. All these women
with these strange sort of cone-like dresses. Best thing I liked about
the Russians is they called me maestro! That was very respectful.
I like that.
RS: Youve said you were commissioned by the Germans to do the
live concert in Berlin?
MO: No. They tried to get David Bowie to do the concert and I have the
same concert agent as David Bowie. He didnt want to do anything
on the Millennium so he suggested me. And I nearly finished the Millennium
Bell (CD) so I agreed to do it. We sort of worked together
to make the show because I was making a piece of music about the Millennium
anyway. And they came along, these Art In Heaven people.
Very talented, very interesting people. They all dressed in black leather,
with dark sunglasses and white faces. Looked like The Adams Family!
(laughter) I remember they all had these tiny little mobiles. They were
always talking in German into them. I remember the lighting director
kept saying, the music has to be Monumental!, Monumental!
He kept saying, waving his arms around. Then I made him a special piece
of music for his light show which had a bit of the Beethoven in it and
all this stuff.
RS: Thats the Art In Heaven instrumental track thats
also featured on the Millennium Bell DVD?
MO: Yeah, thats right...
RS: What an incredible job you did on that! That freaked me out watching
you play that Beethovania thing at the end. Wow!
MO: (laughter) That was the last concert I did. Im not sure I
could do a bigger one, more impressive than that. That one was really...fantastic.
Ill tell you the thing that I remember most about that was, we
had to wait because we needed to time the music to the midnight. So
we had the whole band and orchestra on the stage waiting and I was sort
of walking around waiting for the cameras, waiting for the guard. I
sat down and I roll my own cigarettes, yknow its just tobacco.
And I sat down on my stool in the middle of the stage and I rolled up
a cigarette and about a hundred thousand people started cheering (says
loudly) and shouting! I think they thought I was rolling some kind of
joint or something! (laughter) But its just my normal tobacco.
So I thought if I can get a standing ovation for rolling a cigarette
whats the concert gonna be like!
RS: The Millennium Bell DVD also turned me onto Miriam Stockley
whos a great singer.
MO: Yes. There was a very good Moonlight Shadow that night
if I remember.
RS: Yes I love her new album on Narada.
RS: The Tres Lunas album actually came out in 2002 in
Spain on Warner Music and it was never released here.
MO: Didnt it? Well I hope that the Tubular Bells 2003 will
come out there. Do you know if its scheduled for release in the
States? (ed. - the last word was that Warner Bros. in Spain had secured
a release for Tubular Bells 2003 in August 2003 with Rhino Records
in the U.S.)
RS: Just tell me who to call and Ill make sure they get my opinion!
MO: Well, Warner music.
RS: The guys in L.A. I guess. I just know the publicity people. I know
Bill Bentley out there. The original guys like Lenny Waronker, Mo Ostin...theyre
all gone now.
MO: Whos the guy who did the publicity in LA, hes a little
chap, he always wore a bow-tie? Do you know who that is?
RS: Bob Merlis?
MO: Oh, it must be him, yes. Is he still there?
RS: No, hes got his own record company going. Hes involved
with a blues kind of label.
MO: (laughter) Okay, I remember him as well. He was nice.
RS: About Tres Lunas, you mentioned that you heard some of your
music samples on some chill out tapes on Ibiza and that was more motivation
to make your own chill out album which resulted in making Tres Lunas.
MO: Yeah, theres been a alot of samples of Tubular Bells. This
guy called Ice-T used it, Janet Jackson used it. It fits very well for
rap music cos it goes round and round and they can rap on the
top of it...that kind of thing. Do you know theyre going to use
Tubular Bells on the trailer for the new Exorcist? You
know, theyre making Exorcist - The Prequel?
RS: Oh, my god, youre kidding?
MO: No, thats coming out in June, and theyre using Tubular
Bells on certainly, the trailer for it.
RS: That movie still scares the crap out of me. I cant see it
and think Im going to sleep good that night.
RS: The Tres Lunas track Thou Art In Heaven almost
sounds like it belongs on The Millennium Bell CD or DVD.
MO: I was making that track around the time I got into the Art In Heaven
project. I started it off and I dented it and that became the music
for the light show which took place after midnight, you know that big,
sort of spectacular thing. That track was sort of written for that.
The album version doesnt have the Beethoven at the end.
RS: Do you have any plans for the period after the release of Tubular
MO: I dont know really what kind of album to make next yet.
Ill try to make a Tubular Bells kind of album. For me,
I learned a lot remaking ityou know how to combine this sort of
progressive kind of composition and structure with modern technology.
So I learnt alot...or Ive this idea a long time to do something
quite experimental using lots of quarter tones. Alot of pitch bend,
instead of using just the 13 notes in music you use all those notes
in between, which would probably sound out of tune but Id like
to experiment with that. Im also working on my virtual reality
project, called MusicVR. Im working on TubeWorld now which is
a kind of computer game, kind of flight sequencer which uses music and
has real-time 3-D graphics. Also people can play with each other over
the internet in the same game in the same virtual world. You can see
all of it on mikeoldfield.com
You can even download a demo of it. So theres those things plus
Ive got to finish off my helicopter! (laughter) That should keep
me busy for some time, I dont know how long.
RS: Could you say something about how George Harrison influenced you
and your guitar playing?
MO: The thing I remember most about him was the song actually, All
Things Must Pass. I was having a particularly bad time around
about the time of Tubular Bells and that song gave me a lot of
support you know, sort of saying this will get better. Also the classic
guitar solos like on Something. Its a loss...a great
loss. He seemed a very genuine person.
RS: Speaking of George Harrison, I hear they're planning a George Harrison
tribute concert next November 29th in L.A. Mike Pinder from The Moody
Blues is also interested in playing there. It would be amazing to hook
you up with them!
MO: I gave up working with other people a long time ago. I was never
any good at collaborations. I think the last collaboration I did was
Pekka Pohjola. (laughter)
RS: Well never say never...
MO: Yeah, never say never.
RS: Also Im interested to know if you have a live archive with
BBC stuff or unreleased concert material in the vault?
MO: Well, its funny you should say that because the very original
Tubular Bells concert from 1973, somebodys found that.
It was recorded by the BBC TV. There was talk about releasing some of
it on the audio DVD thats coming out. Theres obviously some
space on it for some images. And it will have some parts of concerts
I did...one at Edinburgh castle and one in the center of London for
Tubular Bells 3, which was in the Prime Ministers back
garden almost. So theres the possibility that some of that might
come out and I still have the Tubular Bells demos and Im
thinking of putting them out somewhere, somehow but I dont know
RS: That would be great. Like with Todd Rundgren, theyre starting
to put out his live archive series. Youve gone through so many
musical styles and phases. I saw you play in Stockholm in 1981.
MO: Did you?
RS: Yeah it was an outdoor concert just after QE2 came out.
MO: Oh! In the Tivoli Garden?...
RS: Not Copenhagen, in Stockholm...
MO: It was, that was in the...I dont know what they call it...it
was this fun fair outside. That was another good one. I remember that,
RS: I also
saw you play in Manhattan in 1982 after Five Miles Out.
MO: Oh, that was called The Ritz wasnt it?
RS: It was a stand up place.
MO: We played somewhere called My Fathers House.
RS: My Fathers Place.
MO: My Fathers Place. And we played at The Ritz.
RS: The Ritz is no more.
MO: Is it gone?
RS: Is it possible to draw a line of comparison between the great classical
masterpieces of the past and the music youve recorded over the
years? If someone hears your music in fifty or a hundred years theyll
probably consider you a 20th Century Mozart or Beethoven.
MO: Thats nice of you to say so. You know what my biggest wish
is? That alot more individuals come along and say, make music
thats really different rather than sort of trying to follow the
crowd and be hip and cool. To really stand up and want to stand out
as making something different but, using musical talent rather than
relying on technology and image, looks, hairdos, makeup and all this
kind of stuff..hopefully. The most individual music that happens now...theres
a lot of people working in the dance scene. I know they use lots of
little music from other people and then they add bits on their own but
I think we need lots more individuals saying, Im going to
do what the hell I like, I dont care if anybody likes it or not
because this is the music I want to make. That kind of attitude
would be great.
RS: Which guitars are most prominent on the new TB2003 album?
MO: Theres a full list of them on the album cover with the make
and the model and the date.
RS: I know you told me about the blond Telecaster from 66 that
used to belong to Marc Bolan.
MO: Yeah and the pink Strat from 1962. I use Paul Reed Smith guitars
alot for complicated stuff. And Spanish guitars, Ive got two Ramirez,
from Madrid. Theyre the top classical guitars. A Flamenco and
a normal classical. I use Wall basses. Ive got a four string and
a five string. Ive got my favorite old Martinan ancient
old thing from the 50s, Martin D something or other.
RS: I heard you have an L6S, an Abbey Road guitar?
MO: L6S? Whats that? Oh, the Gibson! That tends to be one of the
things that sort of stays on the wall. You know, since I got the PRSs,
I love the action so much that I tend to use those now. Also, one of
then has got a computer interface so it connects directly to this Roland
guitar system, VG8. And with that I can generate MIDI and control other
RS: Your guitar sound has got to up with there with all the great...
MO: Thank you.
RS: Youre also playing Fender Guitars again.
MO: Fenders? Ive got the original two of those guitars. This Telecaster,
like I told you and I use that most of the time on the rerecording.
But I have a beautiful old pink Stratocaster which has this very special
sound, theres no other guitar like it. It goes through this system
of electronics which I rescued from the original Manor studios and Ive
got it boxed up. Its got this various editions, noise gates and
stuff. Its just got this lovely clarity with a little bit of throatiness,
a little bit of character and I used that alot on the rerecording.
RS: What kind of strings are you using. Do you have a special selection
MO: I used to. But I have to have a look in the string box! (laughter)
I used to be very fussy about strings, yknow? I always used to
use Fender. Yeah, I use Fender with a 9 on the top and a 15 on the third.
Just to be honest, I used to be a bit of, obviously, a guitar fanatic,
but as the years go, I dont really play very much in my spare
time. I dont sit and practice. When I need to play because Im
making a track, I pick it up and just play it. Its still there.
I do love my guitars. Ive got some beautiful ones. But Im
not so fanatical about them as I used to be. I have a guitar technician.
When I start a project he comes up and spends the whole day setting
up the frets and restringing them, making sure theyre all beautiful
and then thatll last me that album, the whole setting up of them.
RS: So you dont consider yourself a guitar collector?
MO: Well, Im not really a collector but I suppose if you look
at my guitars youd say I have a collection. But I use every one
of them. Theyre tools. Just like a craftsman has a workshop full
of the best tools he can find to do his job. And theyre my tools.
I love them all and theyre beautiful ones but theyre not
there because I like that make or model. Its just that Ive
tried things and this is the only instrument that gives me that sound
that allows me to express things in a certain way and they all have
their own character and theyre all good at one thing and not so
good at another.
RS: One last thing. Youve said "I love the philosophy that
everything that happens to you is the perfect thing to happen to you
- even if you can't see it at the time. And if you can accept that,
instead of struggling to be something else, you're well on the path
to having a peaceful life." Any other words of wisdom you can impart
to the readers?
MO: I suppose I agree with that. It must have been quite a while ago
I said that. Thank you for reminding me! (laughter) I like that! Did
I really say that? I would just say that again really. Im sort
of trying to learn how to chill out a bit, not be so intense about things.
Ive always been working on some huge project my whole life and
I want to try and not have to do that. Just to enjoy, I dont know,
going for nice walks, sitting on the beach, taking my dog out. You know,
the simple things. I suppose you call it semi-retirement if you like.
I want to be content with what Ive done and what Ive got
and I how I am and not have to struggle so much anymore. Its a
dream...Im working on it.
RS: Sounds like youre well on the way. Youve made so such
great music over the years and its just a fantastic legacy. 49
MO: Thats fantastic, thank you.
Thanks to Mike Oldfield @ www.mikeoldfield.com,
Spencer Savage at www.Image-Entertainment.com,
Beatriz Perez and Adriana Pereira at Warner Music Spain - www.warnermusic.com,
Ashley Warren and Alison Tarnofsky @ www.astralwerks.com
and Caroline Records - Larry, Jimmy, Liz and Ray @ 20th Century Guitar
magazine @ www.tcguitar.com,
a super Kiitos over to Timo and Sini at Love Records in Helsinki - www.lovemusic.fi
- Paul Harris @ www.mikeoldfield.org
& Olivier Lebra @ www.tubular.net