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Progressive Rock Interviews

Jeff Wayne

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Jeff Wayne from 2007
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

The last time we spoke, we hinted a bit about other projects that you had done in the past. Let’s just get the history out of the way first in this interview and kind of catch people up on some of what you did before The War of the Worlds.
Jeff Wayne: Wow, that's a big opening question - OK, let's see if I can harness a reasonable answer for you!

Although my musical career began in California, when I played keyboards in various bands, plus some song-writing and arranging for various one-off projects, my musical career truly began when my father Jerry offered me the opportunity to compose the score for his then upcoming West End musical "Two Cities" based on Charles Dickens' "A Tale Of Two Cities." It ran at London's Palace Theatre winning for Edward Woodward the Evening Standard Award (now the Olivier’s) for Best Male Performance in a Musical. Since then I've composed, arranged, conducted and produced music for just about every medium – film, television, records, advertising and interactive projects.

Some of the artists I've produced and/or written for are fairly diverse including – The Who, David Essex (including the US #1 "Rock On"), Human League, Acker Bilk, Tony Christie, Anthony Hopkins, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Catherine Zeta Jones, and The London Symphony Orchestra and Choir. My music has also been performed to by gymnasts, jugglers, dancers, ice skaters, magicians, fire-eaters and animals!
MSJ: It seems that the phenomenon of Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds has no end in sight. What new additions have been made (beyond the animated version and the news with Richard Burton – which I’ll address further on here)?
Jeff Wayne: I consider TWOTW a "living" work - in that as a live piece, as it is now, it has the ability to never stop evolving - either because technology moves faster than one can keep up with, or simply the desire to continually keep challenging ourselves as producers as to what we can do with a new tour that tops the previous one.

So our recent Down Under tour (Australia and New Zealand) and the soon to be seen second UK tour is most certainly a true Mark 2 version of last year's production. Even if the new Richard Burton performance - all 77 clips of this world "first" 11 foot high floating 3D hologram was the only new ingredient, I'd be saying we've really taken TWOTW to a new level. But it doesn't end there for sure, but I'd be giving it all away if I went into too much further detail!
MSJ: What about that animated film that was in the works – can we still expect that?
Jeff Wayne: Absolutely - but in truth, our audiences for the live shows are already seeing segments from it! On stage - just above and behind our 10 piece band and 46 string orchestra, is a 100 foot wide screen - it projects for the full two-hour show what is essentially an animated film, with some new live action and Victorian footage integrated within it. It runs in perfect sync with the live performance.

The animated feature film will be an outgrowth of that - our desire, once again, to keep all our productions connected.
MSJ: Any word on the DVD release for the US?
Jeff Wayne: Not yet - the reason being is that Universal Pictures are wanting to coordinate its release with either a TV showing or our live show coming to the US, something that is now bubbling under, and which we hope to be able to announce after we complete our UK the end of December.

That is how they treated the release, for example, in Australia and New Zealand - they waited for our tour - and then released it, with huge success.
MSJ: I understand that you’ve put together a new technological advance in terms of allowing the late Richard Burton to share the stage on your show. How was this accomplished and is it a similar concept that was used with Elvis Presley on American Idol?
Jeff Wayne: As briefly mentioned above, RB returns this year as an 11 foot high, floating hologram. I don't believe it's anything like the Elvis concept you've mentioned. What I do know is that ours consists of a combination of the most exciting and current cutting-edge motion capture technology - created by the UK's Image Metrics (although produced in their Santa Monica studios) with their amazing team of animators, and the holography of (also) California-based DVE.

What our audiences are seeing is a world first in live entertainment, and if the Down Under audiences and critics that we just played to were anything to go by, we have produced something rather special.
MSJ: What are the chances you’ll do something like this with Phil Lynott?
Jeff Wayne: As that old saying goes, "never say never!"
MSJ: You’ve taken the show on the road to two continents now – when do you expect you might hit the States? Are there plans for other countries?
Jeff Wayne: When we toured the UK last year, we had no agent - that tour with Live Nation just grew sort of organically and quickly. And their belief in TWOTW was rewarded with such success that our second UK tour is again being promoted by them, and we're returning far sooner than most acts/shows having played to the size of audiences we just did 18 months ago.

The tour we just completed Down Under was also secured without any representation - just the hard and imaginative work of my fellow producer Damian Collier who made direct contact with Chugg Entertainment to make that happen. Chugg also believed in TWOTW and brought us to Australia and New Zealand for which we were very grateful.

However, as of the last few months we have a terrific agent - Neil Warnock of The Agency (who have represented some of the finest acts in the world - including The Stones, Pink Floyd to name just two). Neil and his team have already secured promoter interest from the US, Europe and the Far East, all of who are coming to see our UK tour and develop further bringing TWOTW to their respective territories.

There is no doubt, that by any measurement, TWOTW is an absolutely huge show - some of our production team who have worked in big scale live entertainment throughout their careers have said they have never worked on anything so big or so complicated, yet from the audiences point of view, it flows easily as a coherent "whole" - a credit to the dedication of the large team we have working on our production. So watch this space - hopefully we'll be coming to a town near you soon!
MSJ: When I interviewed you last I asked about whether you had a Spinal Tap moment to relate. You said to wait until after the UK shows to ask. Well, it’s after the UK shows – so do any moments come to mind?
Jeff Wayne: Not yet! But never stop asking me, it's bound to happen! And when it does, it won't be some minor little incident - with the size and scale of TWOTW - it will make the sinking of the Titantic look like a toy boat in your bath.
MSJ: What have been some of the standout experiences with the live shows?
Jeff Wayne: The audience and critics' reactions without doubt. While I knew over the years my musical version had found a place in the hearts of so many people, I had no history of touring any production of TWOTW. So to have launched our show as a major arena tour in the UK, as we did last year, and sell them out then hear and see the most amazing reaction from audiences of ALL ages - remains the absolute standout experience. To entertain and move people with your work is the goal - so to have achieved that in the way we did, and see new tours growing from that - bingo!
MSJ: Is there anything you’d like to add?
Jeff Wayne: Don't smoke and eat healthy foods!
 
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