An interview with Murray Gold on 2020’s Doctor Who theme tune

There’s a piece on The Guardian today about Manchester honouring pioneering electronic music genius Delia Derbyshire. Her most famous work is the arrangement of the Doctor Who theme, where she crafted something genuinely otherworldly, using cutting-edge electronics well over a decade before the likes of Kraftwerk took to synths. Famously, her arrangement was so unique that the theme’s composer asked: “Did I really write this?” Derbyshire replied: “Most of it.”

Theme tunes are important. They set the tone. The original Doctor Who theme and at least some of the subsequent versions are spooky, chilling, ethereal compositions. They say to kids: prepare to be afraid. Compare that with the theme in the resurrected Doctor Who, which increasingly buries the beautiful electronics, piling on more strings and bombastic garbage. I’m not naive enough to think that the original theme could ever be used today as-is, but the new theme doesn’t say “this will scare you”—it just says “this will be noisy”.

The big problem is that current composer Murray Gold only appears to have one tactic when he’s asked to amend the Doctor Who theme for a new series: he just adds more stuff. There’s also a hint of subversion, in him adding orchestral elements that somehow make the theme ‘his’, with new melodies that distract from the original. Assuming the show survives, and Gold doesn’t move on, I’m half expecting an interview along these lines by 2020:

Interviewer: So, Murray, tell us the thinking behind the new Doctor Who theme.

Gold: Well, it needed more! It had to be louder! It just needed MORE!

Interviewer: But as far as we can tell, the new theme is now actually compressed white noise.


I’d love to see the reverse. Next time the Doctor Who theme needs reworking, they should strip it back. Make it something eerie again, and set the scene for a show that’ll have kids scuttling to hide behind the sofa, rather than making it yet another in a long line of dull, directionless cacophonies.

January 11, 2013. Read more in: Music, Television


My new album, Listen To Me, is now available

If you’ve been reading Revert to Saved over the past week or so, you’ll know I’ve been releasing music again, for the first time in a long while. Now, hot on the heels of singles Betrayed and Fever comes Listen To Me, my first new album in (gulp) seven years.

I’ve never been much cop at marketing—I’ve in my time written a lot of songs but never really known what to do with them, bar giving long-suffering friends yet more tapes/CDRs. Now, though, the web’s gotten to the point where it’s astonishingly easy to get music out there. I’ve been hugely impressed with Bandcamp when buying albums from the likes of 4mat and Chipzel, and so I figured I’d give that site a go myself.

On my new album, there are 15 tracks in all, and I’ve gone for a ‘couple of cheap pints’ as the price tag (four quid). Tracks can be downloaded in MP3, FLAC or “just about any other format you could possibly desire”, according to Bandcamp—and streaming is free.

Music’s for me one of those oddly personal things—probably more so than much of the writing I do—and it’s therefore quite odd after so much time to see it finally out there, away from the confines of my computer and my own ears. I am, however, really excited about the album and proud of it, and so I very much hope you enjoy Listen To Me.

(And regular readers, don’t worry—I’m sure I’ll be back to grumbling about all things tech next week!)

December 6, 2012. Read more in: Music

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Another free MP3 from my new album to download

Last week, I released my first new music in a number of years, and I’ve today followed this up with a second ‘single’, Fever. A journo chum of mine said:

I could easily have been dancing to that at a nightclub in Hull circa 1981. Catchy riff as well.

So make of that what you will. As with my previous release, this one’s currently using Bandcamp’s ‘pay what you want’ model, so you can grab it for free if you like. The Project Noise website has also had an overhaul, as has this one—what a pity none of this stuff is a paying gig!

Anyway, please enjoy the new music. More coming later this week, in the form of the 15-track album, Listen To Me.

December 4, 2012. Read more in: Music

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A new, free single to download, by me

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you might correctly surmise that I spend the bulk of my time immersed in technology, mostly writing about it (and, often, complaining about it). But time was I tended to be rather prolific when it came to music. Earlier this year, I realised it was 2005 when I released my last album, and I decided to ensure I got my new one (in progress for a long time) out the door by the end of the year.

It looks like I’m just going to squeak that deadline, and I’m very happy and proud to say the first fruits of said labour are now live, in the form of Betrayed, a free single you can download from my new Bandcamp page. There’s also a freebie remix of the track lurking.

To grab the single, click/tap ‘Buy now’, name your price (from zero, but if any rich eccentrics are out there and want to fund the next album, feel free!), and you’ll get lovely 320 kbps MP3s fired across the internet to your downloads folder. Next week, another single and a new 15-track album. And with a following wind, especially if I manage to sell the odd album or two, more music should follow rather more quickly next time round!

(Also, there’s currently an additional ‘preview’ track, Up For Hire, available for free via the Project Noise website. Grab that soon, though, because the site will be updated when the album goes live.)

November 30, 2012. Read more in: Music

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Apple’s iTunes is a ‘digital vampire’, living on musicians

You’ve got to love old rockers. Pete Townshend comes across a bit like today’s Mr Bonkers, blaming iTunes for not offering everything a record label does, and instead acting like an uncaring shop. That’s probably because iTunes is, in fact, an uncaring shop and not a record label.

The interview is summarised on Mac Observer (hat tip: Adam Banks, and full transcript on MusicWeek) and it’s quite illuminating:

Mr. Townshend, the leader of iconic rock ban The Who, argued that once upon a time, the music industry as a whole (including publishing and record labels) used to offer eight different forms of support to artists, including editorial guidance, financial support, creative nurture, manufacturing, publishing, marketing, distribution, and payment of royalties.

He said that if you look at artists who distribute through iTunes, they get only the last two forms of support, distribution and payment of royalties.

Because iTunes isn’t a record label.

“Now is there really any good reason why,” he asked, “just because iTunes exists in the wild west internet land of Facebook and Twitter, it can’t provide some aspect of these services to the artists whose work it bleeds like a digital vampire [UK bank] Northern Rock for its enormous commission?”

Because iTunes isn’t a record label. As for it bleeding artists’ work like a digital vampire, iTunes is one of the main reasons why anyone pays for digital music at all. It wasn’t the first of its kind, but it rapidly embedded itself in the collective consciousness of device and Mac/PC owners, and it made it natural to spend a few quid on a digital album download, rather than go hunting for a torrent, which would be much closer to Townshend’s digital vampire.

Townshend goes on to say Apple should employ A&R people to guide artists, and so perhaps he isn’t misunderstanding what the iTunes Store is, but is instead arguing that Apple should be assisting artists due to the label ecosystem crashing and burning in slow motion. I suspect he suggests Apple because of its clout, since he doesn’t make the same demands of Amazon, WalMart or Tesco.

The thing is, Apple’s never really had much truck with creating media—it just provides the platforms on which people can create and sell—and so there’s no proof it’d even be any good at being a record label. In iOS gaming, Apple’s made a single game—Texas Hold’em—and it simply lets devs get on with it, rather than interfering. To that end, I can’t see Apple going all ‘record label’ in the music space, nor really why it should. It’s providing an outlet—an easy way for people to buy. And you can bet if Apple did pump resources into helping music artists, it’d alienate people working in other fields, lacking such support, and probably also piss off remaining record labels, too, potentially making things worse for many musicians.

Townshend continues to offer suggestions:

He would also like to see Apple choose 500 worthy artists a year and provide them with free Macs and the training to use them when creating music. Those artists could be identified by the above-mentioned A&R folks, who should then follow the progress of those artists throughout the year.

So, Apple should not only provide advice, but also free hardware. What about their own radio station?

“Yes Apple, give artists some streaming bandwidth,” he said. “It will sting, but do it. You will get even more aluminum solid state LURVE for doing so.”

How about groupies and drugs?

OK, so there is some kind of line.

Still, Townshend does come up with at least one nugget of solid-gold sense:

The biggest change that he advocated during his speech was that Apple stop requiring independent bands to go through third party aggregators to be in the iTunes Store. He believes Apple should pay these artists directly so that more of the money from their music downloads gets to them. He acknowledged that some of the third party aggregators offer some label-like services, but argued that most are just middlemen sitting between the artists and iTunes.

This is the one thing that’s always surprised me a little about the iTunes Store. You can make and upload your own game, and, unless I’m mistaken, you can self-publish a book. But music? Too bad. You have to pay a third-party service a buck or more per track, for each store you want a presence on. And that isn’t a particularly modern, ‘Apple’ way of thinking.

November 1, 2011. Read more in: Apple, Music, Opinions, Technology


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