John Foxx

A man who needs no introduction round these parts, John Foxx faces the quick-fire machine

Photo: Mark Roland

Are you a fan of soundtracks in general?

Oh yes. They’ve always been a big influence, right up there with church music and rock ’n’ roll.
Any particular favourites?

Lots! ‘Forbidden Planet’, The Radiophonic Workshop, especially the ‘Doctor Who’ theme and the ‘The Shock Of The New’ intro. Marvellously radical in their time. The beautiful sequence in ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ with the feral cat by Saul Bass and music by Elmer Bernstein is a perfect meld of music and film, some parts of ‘West Side Story’, the soundtracks in David Lynch’s films, Clint Mansell’s work is marking out startling new territories at present… 

It’s a feat to make a soundtrack that lives and breathes on its own isn’t it?

Oh yes. And the best ones can even widen popular taste. The ‘Theme From Harry’s Game’ and ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ opened the door for Gregorian chants, the ‘Aguirre, The Wrath Of God’ music by Popol Vuh that fed into Eno’s ‘Music For Airports’, Elvis with ‘Jailhouse Rock’, ‘A Clockwork Orange’, the Strauss waltz and Ligeti’s choral piece in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, Nyman’s ‘The Draughtsman’s Contract’, they all gave a new dimensions to film and made influential and successful standalone music too.

You’ve just released your soundtrack to EM Forster’s ‘The Machine Stops’. It’s a story you know well, isn’t it?

Yes, I’d read it in the 1960s at school.

It was first published in 1909, which is a bit mad when you consider how prophetic it is…

Absolutely. I re-read it recently and it was startling how more relevant it had become. Forster had foreseen some of the central human problems of the web, especially that tendency to smuggle in isolation disguised as communication. Incredible at that time, when most houses in Britain didn’t even have electricity.

How does a soundtrack to a play differ from that of a film or TV show?

It needs to present something that feels almost like the presence of another character in the theatre. I think film and TV require something more discreet… except perhaps for the theme, its job is to announce the film, so that can have an identity of its own.

How much of a role did director Juliet Forster have in the creation of the soundtrack?

Juliet was very generous and her enthusiasm as a director was contagious. She trusted us to pursue our own vision of the story. We seemed to chime from the start and, of course, that was fortunate for everyone. No time or effort was wasted on pursuing anything that wasn’t going to work.

It must be nice to go and see something you’ve created as a punter?

It was all an interesting experience. Benge and I sat in on the final rehearsals and did some tailoring so it all fitted the action perfectly. We both learnt a lot from that. When you play live you can never see your own show, but in the theatre you have the luxury of being able to sit in the audience and watch the whole thing.

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