Murray Gold interview: Doctor Who, Russell T Davies, Batman, David Bowie & more...

Interview Cameron K McEwan 16 Jul 2013 - 07:00

More from Cameron's interview with Doctor Who composer, Murray Gold, feat. favourite stories and scores, Russell T Davies, Batman & more...

Read the first part of Cameron's interview with Murray Gold, here.

Let's go back to series one, how did that first year feel?

It kept on upping. In season one, I didn't know what it was. Russell obviously knew what it was but I hadn't really shared it. I had't read many manuscripts. I read Rose and Father's Day. What happened with it was that it just kept on upping the ante and the country kept on responding to it with more and more euphoria. 

I remember World War III and Aliens of London and I just discovered fans - I didn't know they existed - and they were really bummed off about those two episodes. They were annoyed about how light-hearted it was. There was, admittedly, a problem - we hadn't worked out the CGI versus prosthetics [on the Slitheen]. 

It was episode four [Aliens of London] and it made an impact on me when Charlie Brooker wrote that Doctor Who has finally attained the status of art. He said it was so joyous, so fun and so free and funny and sort of satirical, in its own way. I remember thinking, 'That's fantastic!'. 

That was the first, the very early point of when I was working on the show and the internet was relatively new. They'd just stopped having dial-up. I noticed [online fans]. I suppose it gave me a lifelong inoculation at an early stage. It was like being present at the first outbreak of smallpox and never catching it.

It has been hinted at there were some difficulties on production on series one, did any of this filter through?

I couldn't believe what I was watching. Somebody was in a massively good mood when they wrote those thirteen episode. No Doctor Who fan is probably going to understand this but I'd seen the first episode of Shameless and done that series two years prior and it was so full of its own exuberance. It was so joyous and I'd not seen anything like that on British TV before. But it was framed within a normal Northern working class environment. Like Queer as Folk, it just had this fucking exuberance.

 

Doctor Who came along, and that had the same thing. I thought, 'Oh my god, you're really going to town on this!' You're not just taking it and copying something American, you're taking a love of life, you're taking something beyond television shows and - I'm pretty sure it was all Russell - you're taking your love of life and you're using this television show to talk about that. You're taking your love of life, and using Doctor Who, hijacking Doctor Who to express it. That's what it felt like he was doing. It was just awesome. 

I'd done a lot of television shows but I couldn't believe how euphoric it was about existence, so happy. I don't think it came from Doctor Who. Honestly, as someone who watched Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker, I never saw that in Doctor Who. This exuberance, this love of life was latent but it wasn't there before in Doctor Who

Every television show has ups and downs. You can't keep up that intensity all the time. It ebbs and flows. The energy that was in Season One could never be sustained. 

So, pop quiz time. What's your favourite Doctor Who story?

The Seeds of Doom - with a really gigantic piece of snot! [Laughs] The Ark in Space. Planet of Evil. The Green Death. All that body horror - I love it. I don't really like monsters per se, I like madness. Madness themes/parasite - where you yourself become your enemy. One I always loved, never seen but I'd read the Target book was Carnival of Monsters. It was a bit Sapphire & Steel, to read as a book. Still never seen it. It's like The Hunger Games, a bunch of aliens enjoying the spectacle of toy things.

 

Favourite Doctor Who scores from the past? I love Terror of the Zygons and The Seeds of Doom.

You're going to get into trouble for saying that! [Laughs] They're not typical. They're not Radiophonic Workshop, they're acoustic instruments. They were both excellent scores. You know who never gets a look-in? Elizabeth Parker. She was credited on so many Doctor Who scores that I loved. Nobody ever asks about Elizabeth Parker. 

Tell us about Elizabeth Parker…

[Laughs] I liked The Claws of Axos with its weird synthesiser sound.That was a good score from Dudley [Simpson]. 

Would you like to bring the synth back in to Who?

I use a lot of synthesisers. 

I mean the 70s/80s style.

No. I don't want to do it like that! [Laughs] To be honest, I don't want to be cold to the episode. 

Do you have any favourite composers?

I like a lot really. I loved Hans Zimmer's Sherlock score. I loved James Newton Howard's score for The Hunger Games, it was really nice.

 

When it comes to films, can you turn off from the score?

It always sounds really good. They always sound really good. There's not many films I like, lately. I liked Looper! I used to love the Paul Verhoven movies, a real guilty pleasure. RoboCop, Total Recall and [laughs] Starship Troopers and Showgirls

I've never really cared particularly about sci-fi as a genre above other genres. If anything, the thing that's always got me is reality. I'm not talking about reality TV, I mean anything that resonates as having a sense of human truth. Whether it was Z Cars or Boys from the Blackstuff. The drama, for me, has to be real. 

I don't care for the Batman franchise under Christopher Nolan. I don't care for Superman, under David S Goyer, and all its ridiculous solemnity. It's ridiculous because the more serious you are about something that's ridiculous the more ridiculous it seems. It's that straightforward. We're living in a fucking world with Syria going on, for god's sake. You've got some bloke writing Superman like it was the Fourth Testament. It's idiocy. 

It's madness. It's men in capes and pants. Come on guys, give us a joke. Give us a little bit of humour. Anybody who's actually lived a life knows that you have to fight bad things and the only way people get through it is with a sense of humour. These ridiculous movies that portray the world as a fight between good and evil, it really bothers me. 

What's your favourite track and score of your own?

I still love The Pandorica Opens double episode, that might be my favourite score. The Angels Take Manhattan, I really like that. Favourite track? Other than the one in the Prom [Song For Fifty, celebrating the show's golden anniversary], it's either I Am The Doctor, Vale Decem or Abigail's Song. I have to say it would be something with lyrics.

 

Midnight has a fascinating score. How did you feel when you first saw the ep?

It's great. I love anything that's stagey. I love Rope by Hitchcock. I love Quentin Tarantino for being stagey and for keeping actors in a sort of long shot. I really like stagey direction rather than filmy with masses of cuts. It was a really good episode. 

I loved the fact that Russell wrote that, it felt like, he was fighting back at that time. People were being negative, not that Russell cares about that. It seemed like people were very critical of the show and then that came out. And then Turn Left

Russell could always surprise people by temporarily getting angry and using that state to write - I don't know if he wrote it in an angry state. It was written in a hurry and I don't know if you can do anything in a hurry unless you're angry. It's a fantastic motivating emotion. It's very energising. It keeps you alive. It keeps you awake and it's a good thing for honesty. 

It was a cleanser. It was like somebody wanted to write something sharp and a little bit misanthropic for Russell - in a good way. But it had the energy of misanthropy. It's great. You had a group of ordinary people which, as a writer he characteristically would love, but instead he decides to turn into a seething mob a la Rwanda. You know, you hear enough shit about somebody and eventually you go after them in a mob. It had a good truth to it. 

You mentioned Turn Left, one of my favourite episodes with my favourite companion, Donna Noble.

She had a lovely trajectory, like The Taming of the Shrew. It was almost like she discovered, like I discovered in the course of writing music for Doctor Who musical places I could go to that I didn't know about before, it was like she [Catherine Tate] discovered places that she could go to as an actor that she hadn't discovered before. Very few characters in television really have such an interesting development.

 

And it had that amazing "Circle of Mirrors" scene with your beautiful track, A Dazzling End.

I love that piece too. It's funereal but at the same time it's about life. It's just so excited. I write really excitable music, like excited to be alive. 

That's what Doctor Who is all about!

Yeah! I think that too! Like Walt Whitman or Stevie Wonder. They communicate the excitement of being alive. It's nothing like that nonsense in America - dividing the world into good and evil. In the best possible way, it's about people who lose gracefully in some ways. Winning is so boring. You don't learn anything from winning. People who win all the time are arseholes! 

Any musicians or bands you'd like to work with on a song for Doctor Who?

I ran into Bowie once in an ice-cream store in Reinbeck and he started talking to me about Doctor Who. He had no idea who I was, I was just a fanboy freak. [Laughs] And I said, 'I would never bother a famous person in the world, I'm so courteous and mindful of other people's privacy - except it's you!' [Laughs] 

I said, 'I write music for Doctor Who,' and he said, 'I'm not doing it.' I said, 'What do you mean?' and he said, 'They want me to do it.' I don't know what it means, to this day, but that's what he said. I don't know in what capacity, as an actor or as a musician. I would like to see an episode of Doctor Who scored by David Bowie.

 

Is Doctor Who different to other shows you work on?

Yeah. I probably get away with a lot more. There's a lot more benevolence and generosity on behalf of the public towards Doctor Who. They give Doctor Who a chance.

Murray Gold, thank you very much!

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Is it me or does this guy come across as a bit up his own arse?

It's not just you. I got exactly that impression as well!

I'd love to see the Thin White Duke as the Doctor!

I agree with you.

Imagine him as a different Timelord, maybe the Master, playing opposite John Hurt. It would be too much to cope with.

Funny, I was impressed by him and thought him very insightful. Maybe it is me...

I too, would like to run into David Bowie someday.

He's a cocky prick with absolutely no clue!

I just want to punch him in the face; what a cocky moron. You can tell he's never really watched classic Who. He just rattles off answers that he's memorized. Who's your favourite composer? Elizabeth Parker?!?! God, you're a moron, Murray. Liz Parker worked for the radiophonic workshop for years, but she had next to no involvement with Doctor Who...she was credited with one story and that was Timelash, and it certainly doesn't rank anywhere near the best. She certainly did not play synth on Claws of Axos. Does he even know that, with the exception of Season 8, Dudley Simpson used mostly acoustic instruments mixed with electronics? Does he know that Dudley is 40 times the television composer that he will ever be. He should be on his hands and knees praising the man. He seems to think Doctor Who was all synth. Elizabeth Parker?! Murray, thank you for showing DOG readers and followers that you ARE the idiot I know you to be. And you wish David Bowie would score a Who ep? I love David Bowie too, but Who is not a rock opera, Murray. The sooner you realise that, the sooner you might actually get a clue about what incidental music actually is. Your favourite compositions of your own are ones with lyrics?! No-one cares about your lyrics; this is a television show, not a platform for your concept album. This man is complete twat of the highest order; I just can't stand him! Please, Moffat, get rid of this clown! Go on, Murray Gold sheep; let the attacks against me begin. Baaaa.

Bahahaha. Amen, Brother Zaphod!! Amazing. Thanks for the laugh! Baaa. lol. You Murray fans can hate on Zaphod all you want, but he's absolutely right: Murray IS a twat. You're bang on about Elizabeth Parker too. I was wondering who the hell he was talking about. He doesn't seem to have the remotest clue about Doctor Who at all. Even when this guy has a normal conversation, the conceit seems to just ooze out of him.

Yeah, he comes across very much that way. Doesn't mean I don't enjoy his work on Doctor Who, though. Sorry, Zaphod! :p

Yeah, it's just you.

Whether Zaphod is correct or not on the factual points, it still doesn't mean that Gold's music is bad. I'm not saying it's good either (I think it is, but that's not the point I'm making), but whether he knows anything about classic Who or what involvement Liz Parker had or whatever, that doesn't make his scores automatically bad.

Yes, he comes off as a pretentious idiot, his lyrics aren't great and David Bowie probably wouldn't be the best person to write a Who score, but the fact remains that none of this necessarily makes his music bad. Whether you think it is or not is entirely subjective, and to suggest that anybody who has a positive opinion of Gold's work (or the man himself, in fact - there may be some people out there who liked what he had to say) is a sheep and not expressing their own opinion is patronising.

By all means, express your opinion and I will happily read it, but your rant, coupled with the implied criticism of anybody who doesn't share your opinion, shows just the sort of arrogance that you hate Gold so much for.

He still had dial-up Internet in 2005?!

Also, did the story about bumping into David Bowie remind anybody else of the lyrics to Bowie's song Five Years - "I think I saw you in an ice-cream parlour"? Almost has the whiff of a made-up story, but I'm probably reading too much into it.

Well said. I actually really like his Doctor Who music but Ive just noticed in interviews ive seen and read that he just comes across as a bit of a plonker really.

Zaphod never said his music was bad. Have you ever read Zaphod's posts before. He says Murray's music is inappropriate for the show. He has said many times that Murray is a talented musician...just not for this.

Let's put it in perspective. Mozart is amazing. I believe him to be one of the most talented composers of all time. His music is complicated and busy and wonderful...and if it was the soundtrack to Doctor Who it wouldn't work at all. Are you starting to understand what Zaphod means? It's all about being appropriate. Like I said, you can disagree all you want, but I think he's right: it's not all that appropriate for a TV show.

Yes, exactly. You get me exactly right. Thanks, Crayford. I couldn't have put it better myself. Why doesn't anyone else seem to grasp the simple concept that there is a difference between good music to listen to and good music for a tv show.

Yeah, I forgot about his comment on the internet. Haha. Apparently the internet, which has been around since at least 1992 as we know it, was still new in 2005. What a tool!

It's you for sure.

I see. It's definitely me...

see,told you hes a plonker!

I totally understand the point and even agree to an extent. But overall I like his music, even as incidental music for Doctor Who. Sorry if it upsets you that I don't agree with you!

It doesn't upset me at all, my friend. At least you're able to see someone else's point of view.

Great interview. He's pushing all the right buttons for me. I too can't take American super hero films seriously. Give me Judge Dredd any day. Loved the Blackstuff and Z Cars mention. My father was buried to the Z Cars theme. Really emotional piece of music.

From what Bowie said, it sounds like he was approached by the BBC but declined and we just never found out. Which is kinda exciting but also disappointing...

How... how can you care about the composer of Doctor Who that much?!!?!?!?! I mean, fair enough to have an opinion, but to stalk articles for days to attack him.... da fuq?
It's gonna be sunny outside for a while... give it a try.

Aww, thanks for the your concern for my well-being, Malcolm; that really touches my heart. Most of the time when I leave comments it's from my phone on a patio, so I've already taken care of that. As for Murray, I've hated him since 2005, so if DOG feels the need to publish multiple articles on this idiot within days of each other, darn right I'm gonna comment. He's a cocky ass who couldn't have any less reason to be cocky.

I sold broadband at the time and even by 2006 there were many people without it. So what he says is true.

Well that doesn't really take away from the fact that he's a gigantic turd squeezed out of the arse of humanity, does it? And how come no-one has commented on the fact that this ass said Nolan's Batman films aren't good. Who fans, why can't you see what a total tool this guy is?...it's just been laid out for you. This guy is a total fool. Please get your heads out of his butt.

Most viewers seem to disagree, but then again, as they say, one man's trash is another man's treasure.

You know all this about him by reading a few interviews? You really think that gives you a massive insight to his life, along with the fact that you aren't a big fan of the way he scores Dr Who?

A massive amount of private internet users in 2005 had dial-up, and a decent amount had no internet, and hardly anybody had phone internet with a browser.

I thought he was pretty insightful too. *whispers*

Wow, I see how that comment was relevant.

Are you trolling my old comments, Corrine? I'm totally flattered. Genuinely. Thanks.

You're welcome. I'm a bit slow to this interview, but it's nice to know you're still here.

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