Murray Gold (‘Doctor Who’) interview

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Murray Gold’s score for Series 3 of Doctor Who is released this week by Silva Screen Records.

> Buy the album on Amazon.

CultBox caught with Murray to find out what it’s like composing music for the show…


Apparently you’re working on a slightly new rendition of the Doctor Who theme tune. Will we be hearing it in the ‘Voyage Of The Damned’ special at Christmas or will we have to wait until Series 4?

“Oh, now that would be telling! Interviews aren’t for telling. They’re for hinting. That’s the hint.”

Out of all the classic series theme tunes, which era is your favourite?

“Tom Baker era without the middle eight. So stone me.”

Are there any plans to release soundtrack albums for Torchwood or Casanova?

“There might be a Torchwood release one day. We’ll take a view at the end of the second run. It seems unlikely that Casanova will be released on CD – I doubt there’d be a market for it.”

Which other soundtrack composers do you admire?

“Ennio Morricone, Bernard Herrmann, Danny Elfman, Thomas Newman, Rolfe Kent, Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams. Lots of others. I can find things to admire in all good music.”

Are there any other current TV shows that you enjoy the scores of?

“I live in New York and I don’t have a television. I thought the score to Green Wing was superb. That’s been my favourite television score for ages. The score for The Apprentice also caught my attention. It’s extremely well done. There’s nothing I wish I’d done. I’ve been lucky enough to work on quality shows the past decade.”

How did you first get into writing TV/film scores?

“I don’t think I thought much about scores until I heard Ennio Morricone. Once Upon A Time In The West is my favourite ever film score. It’s sublime. Oh, I remember staying up late to watch The Summer Of 42 thinking it might get naughty because it had a triangle at the top of the screen to ‘warn’ people there was explicit content. Turned out it had a wonderful Michel Legrand score which stuck with me. Beautifully nostalgic.

“The television series Twin Peaks was very influential on people my age. Everybody loved the music for that, by Angelo Badalamenti. Danny Elfman’s first score to Batman was also influential. And Blade Runner, loved that. I was also very aware of TV themes when I was a kid: Top Cat, The Muppet Show, Hawaii-Five-O, Grandstand, Match Of The Day, The A Team, The Tomorrow People, The Flintstones, Sapphire & Steel – and of course Doctor Who

“I liked all of those. I never had any sense that as an adult you could make your living doing something that was fun. I always thought adulthood was like a sentence that condemned you to a life of tiresome repetitive chores. Well, I guess it is for many people. I have my share of repetitive and tiresome tasks, but I’m relieved I got out of the whole office work situation. My dad went to the same office every day for 40 years.”

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into your line of work?

“Be optimistic and energetic. Love what you do. Copy the best. Care about drama as much as music. Be persistent (in an optimistic and energetic way), but not pushy. Appreciate other people’s work. Have something to say. Let your music do the talking. Always always always leave it to other people to say – I think you’re better than so-and-so. Don’t go bragging and slagging. People notice and think you’re a jerk.”

You’ve worked on quite a few Russell T Davies productions now – how did you first start working together? How would you describe your working relationship?

“I met Russell in December 1998 I think, I’d just scored Vanity Fair. Their composer had dropped out of Queer As Folk. They needed a replacement fast. I was staying in a hotel because of building work. Russell rang – I had no idea who he was but he just started talking about Queer As Folk and how proud he was of it. He was very bubbly and enthusiastic and modest. I find Russell really quite shy. He doesn’t give me notes, we don’t talk that often. We email now and again. Our working relationship is always mediated by the director. The director will be the one to give me notes.

“I would say that Russell and I have a very trusting relationship that goes quite deep. I have a very high opinion of his work. I wrote in my liner notes for the first CD that he is the Walt Whitman of television. He celebrates the feeling of being alive. He embraces the highs and the lows. He also dares to write about faith from the point of view of an atheist. People seem confused about this because we are so used to accepting that without religion, we have no place speaking of faith. He is a marvellous writer.”

What did it feel like to be given your own stage show in Cardiff last year?

“Like having a bath in hot milk. I like applause – I’m weak like that. It was a great day for lots of people. I wish I’d remembered to invite my friends. I honestly didn’t. I thought they wouldn’t be interested. I got one car load down off the back of a last minute call (“you’re doing WHAT?!”).”

Has there been a particular episode or scene from the new series for which you’ve had difficulty deciding what sort of music would work best?

“Well, yes I suppose so. The Master’s death comes to mind. It’s quite interesting. It’s one of those moments where drama conflicts with morality. I couldn’t bring myself to score it in a ‘sad’ way, after all, the scene was the death of a man who had tortured and terrorized and acted out of pure malice. You’d expect the hero to stand over him saying: ‘and so ends the beastly life of a man who brought nothing but misery to the universe.’ Of course the writer of that episode, a certain Mr Davies, was more interesting than that. It took me a while to be convinced that anyone would be moved by The Master’s demise.

“I sent in a cue and then had a long conversation with Julie Gardner which rambled circuitously through morality, modern history, ethnic bonding, the nature of brotherhood… every damned aspect of that situation. I eventually went back to my desk and wrote something that worked. The perspective was shifted. I was wrong. We weren’t moved by The Master dying, we were moved by the Doctor caring, rightly or wrongly. Should he have cared? I don’t know. The fact is, he acted like he did care, and we, as an audience, can understand that, even if he was wrong to care. Julie was right. It was a complex episode and a complex scene.”

One particular piece of yours that fans loved is ‘Doomsday’, which accompanied Rose’s departure at the end of Series 22. Did you realise how special it was when you wrote and recorded it? There wasn’t a dry eye in the house at the Children In Need concert!

“I knew it sounded good, I really did. I like the track, and the moment was right. It was a question of where to start it and whether Graeme would run with it. If he hadn’t liked it, I don’t know what I would have done. Locked him away in an old broom cupboard like happened to Syd Barrett maybe. It wasn’t what he expected. I think he’d been expecting strings. Luckily, the sequence had space for the track to grow. Luckily Graeme liked it.”

Will you be working with ‘Doomsday’ vocalist Melanie Pappenheim again on Series 4?

“I honestly don’t know yet. We’ll see. She’s not very Donna!”

What is your personal favourite piece you’ve done for Doctor Who so far?

“Hmm… the ‘Drowning Dry’ cue on the album from ‘The Shakespeare Code’ was one of my favourites. Obviously ‘Doomsday’. I liked the first cue in ‘Rose’ too. People went barbershop ragga about that cue. It was funny how much some people hated it. Welcome to Doctor Who fandom, I thought, whilst disconnecting myself from the forums forever (or was it).”

How long do you envisage working on Doctor Who for?

“Till I go to bed. Oh, right. Well, I think possibly for all of time… or till I die. Or get bored. Or sacked. Or stop thinking I’m improving. Or get tied to a CS80 by some synthdamentalist and told to play until I sound like Dudley or Tristram. Or whichever of the preceding is sooner.”

You recently did the score for the movie Death At A Funeral – how does writing for film differ from writing for TV?

“Film is much smaller than Doctor Who. And not as good. Except for some of that Swedish stuff. Is that it? Is there anyone still in here?”

> Buy the album on Amazon.