Murray Gold: The Man Behind the Music

Earlier this month, after many months of rumours, New Who composer Murray Gold confirmed that he won’t be returning for Series 11 of Doctor Who.

The club was lucky enough to interview Murray back in December 2012, when he came to Sydney for the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular. The interview was published in Data Extract #219, and is reproduced below for your reading pleasure.

We’re very happy to have you for what is now an extended run of the Symphonic Spectacular.

Is it? No one tells me anything. So I can’t leave tomorrow?

I hope not.

No, I want to stay. I like the fact that it’s summer and I don’t have to wear tons of sweaters.

Have you had much of a chance to see the sights?

I’ve seen Sydney Opera House in much more detail than I ever thought I would. I haven’t seen much else. I’ve seen my hotel, and the airport, and the Opera House. I did spend three weeks in Sydney last time, after Melbourne, and I didn’t see any of the sights then. I did go to the zoo. I met a koala. One of the greatest moments of my life, actually. I think that’s the picture they put in the programme, me and the koala. They asked me for a picture and I said, “I think this one might work”, ‘cos it’s taken in Sydney. I had to bustle past all these kids to get it. “Out of the way, it’s my turn!”

We’ve had half a series of Doctor Who since Melbourne, which has been included. Which season showcased in the Spectacular do you think came together the most?

I really liked the Asylum of the Daleks episode and the Angels episode, as a two-piece thing, in this season. I tend not to like whole seasons. It’s kind of impossible, because there are different types of Doctor Who episodes, an the kind of episodes that I like are not necessarily everyone else’s favourite. I liked the last two of Series 6. This season has been tough though, because there have been so many climaxes, and another mid-season climax, and a new companion, and then a Christmas special, so it’s got a really tough schedule now.

How do you work out what an episode should sound like?

A little bit is about place and about time. Usually it’s the emotional story, ‘cos I usually don’t care where something’s set. I might do a cue at the beginning because it’s over a skyline of something. The Angels episode had a tenor saxophone because it was in Manhattan. I don’t know. I’m very instinctive; I don’t like to think too much. I just like to see the episode and start writing.

Which Spectacular piece is your favourite?

I don’t have a favourite. I do love The Pandorica Opens, and that’s probably still my favourite story since Series 5. But I really like all the pieces we’re playing, and I love the way the orchestra plays it. I like that it has memories, and I like the fact that the audience will know where in the show it came from and be reminded of those moments.

How does it make you feel to know that your music has seen a lot of younger people seeking out other orchestral works?

I think that’s great. I hope they find something that they like in the world of music. There’s just so much available. I guess that if orchestras are thought of as unfashionable or uncool, it would be good to reverse that feeling. It’s the most incredible combination of skill and lack of egotism, and harmony and cooperation. Seeing orchestras play together, you’ve got 85 people who are way more talented than the people who usually get interviewed.

Where did your musical journey start?

I don’t know. Being exposed to music, I guess. It’s a hard question to answer, because when you realise that you love music, that’s it. You don’t ask to love it, you don’t seek out to love it – you just find that you do, and suddenly it’s important. If anyone asks you to explain why it’s important, you can’t really explain it.

So there wasn’t a moment where you went, “This is what I want to do”?

I never did that. I never actually said, “This is what I want to do”. I just enjoy doing it, and I keep doing it. I don’t know if it’s what I want to do. I don’t know what I want to do.

For those fans who have started seeking out other works, do you have any composers or pieces that you would recommend?

Oh God, there’s so many, it’s absurd. If you look at my iTunes box… The only thing I would say is that you’ve just got to try and listen to music in better quality. Companies like Apple and Google have completely obliterated the way we listen to music now, so that we listen to it in worse quality than you did 25 years ago. We’ve all got it in our pockets but it just sounds like mush in our heads. So try and listen to music at a high digital resolution. Just listen to everything. There’s so much great music – there’s rock ‘n’ roll, the blues, classical, film composers… There’s a jazz guy called Charlie Haden – when I wrote my first score, I’d been listening to a lot of his music. There is one track called Silence, on an album called The Ballad of the Fallen, and it’s a brilliant piece that shows you how nice two instruments sound together if you just write them in harmony together. It’s a really good composing piece to listen to, which teaches you a lot about harmony.

On top of composing music, you were also briefly featured in Voyage of the Damned. Was that an interesting experience?

That was a really fun experience, ‘cos Ben Foster and I both did it. I roped Ben into it, thinking it would be fun. And of course, we wanted to be treated just the same way as anyone else, ‘cos we were just background artists. So you get shepherded onto this bus, you have to be awake at five in the morning, then you go through make-up. There was one time when I was being made up, and Kylie was being made up next to me, and Babs the make-up lady said, “Oh Murray, do you know Kylie?” I turned around and said, “Not exactly, but I know who she is. Hello.” She’s really nice.

Nobody knew we’d worked on the show in any other capacity, so all these really nice people were talking to us and saying, “So do you have an agent? What are you doing next week? We’re doing Miss Marple next week. Do you want to get in on that?” I was like, “Well, I’m just concentrating on being a background artist on Doctor Who for the time being.” Then suddenly David Tennant came into the room, after us background artists had been waiting for four hours, in costume, under the burning lights. David comes in, and he looks up, and he says, “Murray!” He runs over to me and hugs me, and all these other background artists are like, “Why is David Tennant hugging that one?” They must have thought I’d paid him or something. So it was good fun, but I probably won’t do it again.

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