Interview with Murray Gold
Is the Doctor In?

Upon his return to a hot and humid New York City, (recanting the all too recent flight that was rather turbulent from London to NYC), Murray Gold settled in relaxed and comfortable. As he gazed out his loft window far above the city activity we began talking rather philosophically about life, music, patterns, fear, comfort and logic. Processing, and contemplative, he breathed easy as we spoke. 

As I watched Murray observe the people walking busily back and forth on the concrete city streets below and noticed beyond his back-lit form the hazy summer days across the way to the Empire State building, there was something I noticed. He appeared to me, to share a certain Doctor's demeanor. Conscious of such or not, Murray is instantly as likable as Matt Smith and all I wanted to do was spend a turn or two listening, and watching him create.

08/2015 Song River
(50th Edition of Vents Magazine)

Song River: You just got home?

Murray Gold: Yes, just did, and I would say it is a bit humid here. It's a bit of a gripe as the building I reside in has everything sealed, which makes the AC not work well. Back in March the owners decided they need to replace every single balcony. Which has left little to no air movement inside.

SR: How quiet is it here for you, living in the bustle of New York City?

MG: Well, I am living in the middle of it all. Right from here as I look out the window I can see the Chrysler Building and The Empire State Building, but I am also high up, so, there is very little noise. It's probably the quietest place I have ever lived in. (Laughed) Which is crazy, because you simultaneously look down at the streets below and see the noise.

SR: To me it almost seems like watching a silent film.

MG: Yes, it is. Sometimes it is even hard to tell if it is raining, and you have to look down to see how people are dressed. Then sometimes to watch the clouds just roll in from the northwest over the rooftops, it can just be really spooky. It's like looking at one of those paintings where you've the gigantic part of the sky that is the bright and sunny and then the other side is just black. (Laughed) Some had said that if they ever lived here they’d never get anything done, they’d just be staring out the window. (Paused) I am actually very claustrophobic. I must have views.

SR: I am going to take this opportunity Murray as you’re sitting in your place and gazing out the window... How much does location influence your writing?

MG: Um, I don't know. I mean there is something very “Philip Glass'ie” about this particular view. You just immediately think of something very modern and then there is the whole “Gershwin” thing, (laughed), literally staring at us. Its such an iconic view. It is almost too much of a package to write anything. Its like it's already done, go do something else. But, I would say I am like everyone else, as we are all animals who are more or less aware of what's going on inside of us.

You know my whole life is travel, I am a very restless person. Even as a young person I would disappear. You know in London, you're so close to so many places and I used to disappear on weekends with work, and just go work in hotels in Amsterdam or in Barcelona and come back done with my project. I just need to be where I am free when I write.

SR: And that can be anywhere in your own mind that you feel that?

MG: It is all in your mind, that’s for sure. Like as I was flying home and having my usual panic attack on the plane, as this plane was really turbulent, and here are these children just chatting away. Nothing was bothering them and I am thinking to myself, they are just chatting away and I thought it is in my own head. So, I just kept that in mind and if the children started freaking out, I'd worry about it then (laughed).

Fear and the Grim Reaper 

SR: Waxing a little philosophical, what is it you think transpires from childhood to adulthood, that has us build up these scenarios of panic, fear?

MG: An awareness of death.

SR: An awareness of death?

MG: Yes, I think we start this full horror of the inevitability and certainty of death. It's not something as a child you think of. Maybe at 18 you realize it and get angry over it, but it's still a long ways off. As we get older though and it comes closer you have this realization we only get this round once. I think the root of everything, plane, is the fear of mortality. It really makes us cowards.

SR: Wouldn’t you say that as artists when we are in the middle of something that is beautiful we want to hold onto it? We seem to become melancholy over everything being temporal and with that comes the realization that we are going to die.

MG: When you go out on a date with someone the best option is you end up 50 years later being separated from the dearest person in life and left alone on the planet to weep. (laughed) That’s the best! The worst is you just carry on and don’t date. The biggest design fault in the universe has always been the greatest.

SR: I do suppose as artists that is how life is dealt with. The thoughts and feelings are put into creating. You either create, or implode. You've chosen Murray to create music.

MG: Yes, because it is fun!

Music and the Meaning of Life

SR: What is your connection with your creativity?

MG: It has been with me for so long. Its like speaking English or breathing. It's very connected to me. There are all the pretty patterns found in music as well, the structure of it. To me, it's the subject of music not the words, even when the words are there. (Paused) What's the subject of a theater play? The subject isn’t in any of the sentences spoken, it's in the space between two people speaking. It's something that might be tragic or comic, a mirror of life and I think that’s true of music too. Some people don’t think about it all though really. I am sure I did as an adolescent, that foreknowledge of eventuality, I don’t know why I am so fixated about life. I love life. You have to fit everything in, and you don’t even know how much time you have. Example; my dad has always been very careful with his finances and lived in his means, when he retried it changed as he no longer knew what to plan for... 10 years, 20 years, 30 years? He just doesn't know, and it drives him completely nuts.

SR: You had mentioned your music, and looking at your background, as been a part of you for a long time. What age were you when you began gravitating towards music?

MG: Well, it was always in school. It was always in religious things. My family was part of a very small Jewish community in a small town in the south coast of England and we also had all the Christian stuff school assembly. Singing is always a huge part of religion and it's where people will hear music for the first time, and if you’re trying to catch God's attention you'd probably be better off with a good tune. You know people have written some great stuff trying to catch His attention. Both my grandmas played piano as well. All I know is I just remember things really being nice in music. The world is difficult to track down, and unpredictable, but in the world of music everything feels right, it has a real sense, and that makes it nice for children.

SR: Do you think then that music is a form of security for both children and adults?

MG: Definitely! There is a real logic to music. Its has form. If you see two people debating using logic, it's reassuring, liking the proceeding of the argument. Then you see people debating who are mad and emotional, but everything has its own place doesn’t it? I mean when a woman is pregnant people will say play classical music, Mozart, has a pattern, relentlessly logical, its good for the brain.

SR: Well we've witnessed mom's singing a familiar lullaby to quiet their child when they are upset.

MG: Exactly, I know. It resembles speech as well. There is that pattern, melody everywhere in the world used...there's that thing, you know, “da-da-da,” that pattern, specifically mothers will use.

SR: It's like a sing-song, when a mother calls out to her child who might be upset, “Mur-ray.” You hear it, within the love of a parents voice.

MG: You can hear the question, “Where are you?” with words, you can hear that same question in music without the words. It's a bit 'chicken and eggy' that one.

SR: The whole package of music makes the world a better place.

MG: Most definitely and we are all in favor of that one aren’t we?

SR: Making the world better through music. You recently finished up the Bristol Proms at the Old Victoria Theatre, how was that?

MG: It was just great. The guy who runs it, Tom Morris, he's promoted theatre, he loves movement theatre and he ended up producing “War Horse,” a multi mega hit all around the world. He decided he wanted to bring in a musical festival into Bristol. For this lovely theatre he commissioned a bunch of new pieces, a real connection, kind of like what we have talked about, mathematical and reaching out to God. A song of hope. All done in one evening, choir, formulations, different variations of each piece. The theatre was completely packed and then some. They just loved it.

SR: You finished that one, then the next one coming will be on August 30th, “Life Story,” BBC One series from Sir David Attenborough. Do you find over in Europe that there is an embracing of a huge hall of classical music, in comparison to the states?

MG: Britain has always had a brilliant music scene, rock n roll and otherwise. But over here where I am now you have Carnegie Hall, New York Philharmonic, these fantastic venues here. However, very expensive though, which can deter young people from affording to go. I don’t know, the Prom recently had a good mash-up of styles. I would say New York though still has a lot of European influences.

SR: Would you say the U.K. is more diverse musically in taste?

MG: I know growing up during the '80's it always seemed like America had all these charts, Billboard, College Charts, etc... categorizing music. Which I think can limit music. Then during my time of growing up when all the SKA, Reggae music came in and white guys were playing and a mix of white and blacks were playing music, I don’t know it seems to me the diversity was always more open in the UK. Whether it has been soul music, which was massive in the North of England, we don’t have that issue with identity, like is this music for me? We just throw everything together and it gets all mashed together.

SR: When you create your sound, your music. Are you methodical in your creations or more open and free?

MG: I don’t like improvising too much, because I feel responsible for what is going on. When I want something to be recorded I put my time and attention into it That way the musicians can see I came with something to work with, and if it doesn’t work then go from there. When I write, I do it fast. You often feel if you had more time you’d do it again and it would be better. The real art of it though is to get what you just dreamed up and bring it down to earth as fast as you can. So that same excitement  is still contained. If you focus just on that 10% of it all, you lose its original. To say it succinctly, speed is your friend. You just got to have that motivation, that moment, get it down. Catching something.

Doctor Who?

SR: You have the Doctor Who Symphonic coming up in October this year, which is fantastic! However, I want to know if you could play one character in the Doctor Who series who would it be?

MG: (Laughed) The Doctor of course!              

SR: Which Doctor though?

MG: Danger! You are getting me in danger here, I can't choose just one (laughed). I suppose Matt though, fits, but I am too old for that one now! This question is really hard! I wouldn’t want to be any in the old series, they were scary, not as fun! (laughed)

SR: Since you’ve been composing the music for Doctor Who since 2005, I wanted to know if you do actual character studies on each one of the Doctors prior to writing for the episodes?

MG: Um, I sort of did for Matt. I mean it's, (paused) you take in quite a bit of information. Steven was taking over, so I read over the lines, and I wanted to see how Steven likes to do things. I wrote that thing, “I am the Doctor,” for Matt. I tried several different beat things, I wanted something that was odd and gangly, Matt to me as an actor was eccentric and awkward, and knowing that before about him, helped. When they heard it they just latched onto it immediately.

SR: Each one composed has been absolutely lovely. How exciting it is to bring the Doctor Who Symphonic to America.

MG: Its going to be awesome! It is the first Doctor Who gig done like this in the Americas.

SR: If Moffat called you tomorrow and asked you to do a walk on for Doctor Who, would you?

MG: Hell yeah! (laughed) If you could do that for me... I know I am a behind the scenes type of person, but if you could do that I would be very, very happy!

SR: It certainly would be the cherry on top of the Tardis Sundae!

MG: Indeed, and thank you so much I am happy to talk about the Doctor Music, but it has been a pleasure talking about so many other parts of music and the philosophical aspects of it all.

SR: We will chat some more later, I am sure. And without question Murray you need to write a book!

PS: Steven Moffat... Murray Gold remember needs to be written in to an episode or two.

After all... I am the Doctor....