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Progressive Rock Interviews

Jeff Wayne

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Jeff Wayne from 2006
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 1 at

While The War of the Worlds is not the only thing you've ever done musically it certainly seems to be the one that has endeared itself to the fans more than any thing else.
First, why do you think that is?
I guess when you have a success that is disproportionate to anything else one has done, whether you're a musician, an actor, author, etc., inevitably you get remembered for that more than anything else. In my case, most of my other commercial successes have been where I've served as a Producer/arranger/MD/musician rather than as the artist.
With TWOTW it is me as the main artist (hence the logo of JW's Musical Version of TWOTW) so the focus of attention in this instance falls onto me.

MSJ: And secondly, how does that feel - is there frustration, pride, some combination, something else?
Only pride - to have had the opportunity to conceive, compose, orchestrate, conduct, play keyboards and produce a major work of this kind doesn't come along that often, and coupled with all the fantastic collaborations between the guest artists, musicians, technicians, painters of the artwork, etc. that I had, I only have the fondest of memories creating TWOTW.
MSJ: What was it that drove you to do a rock opera on that book, anyway. Was it a favorite of yours?
Firstly, I never at the point of reading HG Wells original book, nor at any time since believed I was creating a rock opera. Nor is it a concept album that it has also been referred to over the years. While others have every right to call it what they like, both categories to me are a bit too grand and pompous.
To me it was exactly what I called it - a musical version of... The reason to me was clear - I was interpreting a piece of literature containing many elements - story-telling, thematic compositions, songs with acting, blending prog rock with symphonic string orchestrations plus quite a bit of electronic sounds - both musical and effects. And all were linked together as a continuous work.

MSJ: When you went back in and re-mastered the album, what was that process like? What did you change, what did you leave alone?
All the new production work released last June 2005 came about from two friends at Sony. Sony hadn't yet merged with BMG. They rang me in late 2002 asking me to come in to discuss the possibility of creating a 25th Anniversary campaign for TWOTW which would be 25 years old in June 2003. I met up with them and at first it was simply to be a bit of repackaging, and a new club re-mix for a single/bonus track.
By the time we exchanged ideas, we decided to go back to the original multi-track tapes, transfer them into the digital domain and start again from scratch, start all over again. So, a brand new stereo version was mixed plus a 5.1 SACD surround version as well. Then we agreed that the artwork should be expanded as we now had not only the original paintings but other material we hadn't originally used, or other images that were borne out of the original stuff for other projects based on my musical version over recent years.

It didn't stop there - a Collectors Edition, the size of a black vinyl disc was then agreed. It was to have 6 CDs - the first two containing the new stereo and 5.1 mixes, plus 4 CDs of out-takes and rarity items, things that went wrong, or right but were never used, plus an album of some of the best or most successful club remixes, of the approximate 300+ that have been created from 1978 up until 2005.

There was also a 92 minute DVD contained within the CE that shows me revisiting some of the original places I visited when researching TWOTW originally, studio interviews with various members of our team, me at the piano showing how I came to compose a few of the compositions, and all linked together by some of the CGI footage from our animated feature film that we've been working on.

All of the CE was to be housed in a hardback cover with 80 pages of visuals and text. Quite a production that took over a year alone.

The end result was a range of projects far greater than the original idea first mooted to me, and as a result we missed the 25th anniversary by a mere two years! The upside though is we created the first 27th anniversary edition in the history of the record industry!

MSJ: I remember reading a couple of years ago that you were going to do a few shows of The War of The Worlds with Hawkwind serving as your backing band. Did that ever materialize and if so, how did it go?
This was false advertising from a company that wanted to put a firework/multi-media show on of TWOTW. In their over-enthusiasm they also advertised Hawkwind as a starting act. The company never secured a license from our company because they couldn't convince us of the creative execution, and somehow some of the media picked up incorrectly that Hawkwind were to be my backing band. Totally wrong overall.
MSJ: I know that you've been doing a series of shows now in the UK. Are there any plans to take that on the road to other countries? I'd love to see you here in the US.
Our first tour starts this April in the UK. It's all the major arenas over 14 dates and includes the Royal Albert Hall and the new Wembley Arena. The entire tour is virtually a sell-out already and we're quite excited about it.
MSJ: From what I've read about it the show seems to be a huge production with Martian fighting machines and all kinds of other stage work. What can you tell us about it?
The main ingredients are: the 10 piece band Black Smoke Band, the 48 ULLAdubULLA strings and conducted by me. There is also going to be a very large 3D head of Richard Burton performing exactly what is heard on the original recording. There will also be approximately 100-foot wide screens projecting original CGI animation, live footage and still images. The lights and special effects will link all the technologies and guest artists will be playing all the parts that were created for the album.
MSJ: What do you think of the various movie productions that the book has spawned?
Not a lot.
Not because there wasn't integrity and high quality people involved, but neither the 1953 or more recent Steven Spielberg movie were set in the period HG Wells wrote it. As a result neither film kept very accurately to the story-line or characters, so ultimately I ask myself, "why make a movie called The War of The Worlds?"

I also found it more terrifying to consider an invasion of planet Earth in the 1890's when mankind only had rifles and cannons to defend itself with against a superior intelligence with incredible machines and weaponry. Today I think it's far more believable that humanity can defend itself with its defense systems and therefore far less one sided. Just my view though!

MSJ: You've had the opportunity to work with a lot of interesting musicians over the years. Are there any that you haven't gotten the chance to, but would like to work with?
Too many too list and always changing. I would have liked to work with Ray Charles, Nat King Cole and Duke Ellington though.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
I buy music regularly of many different genres. I do like albums from Cafe Del Mar, Buddah Bar because the compositions and productions are varied and packed with emotion.

But there are a number of artists and groups that can make you dance, make you chill and anything in the middle. The Gorillaz most recent album I think is packed with tremendous originality in their music, arrangements and production, so I'd pick that as a recent purchase where my money, I felt, was very well spent.
MSJ: What was the last concert you attended for your own enjoyment?
Jamie Cullum at Ronnie Scotts around early Sept. 2005
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
I think I'd rather answer this question AFTER our UK tour is over!
MSJ: Is there anything else you'd like to say to the readers at this time?
Eat healthy food.
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