An Interview with Danny Holdsworth

download (1).jpgHello Danny, so where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?

Hi! I’m currently at home in the Blue Mountains, just outside of Sydney in Australia.


When did you first realise you were musical?

I can’t remember not having music in my life. I grew up in a house full of instruments. Both of my parents play a bit, and I have always been intrigued by anything that makes a sound.


Can you give us a brief resume of your musical career thus far?


In the UK, the thing I’m probably best known for is the show, Tubular Bells for Two, where two blokes attempt to play Mike Oldfield’s classic album, Tubular Bells. We juggle 20 instruments between us in a highly theatrical event, as you could imagine. Apart from that, I’ve played in many bands in Australia, and also compose music for theatre, TV and film.

Can you tell us about the ‘Darks Common Underground’ collective?

Darks Common Underground is a fairly recent project I’ve been working on. We are a group of musicians from the Blue Mountains, and I’m the main songwriter. Our music is has a bit of a folk undertone, and we’ve just released our debut single, Meteorites and Other Things.


What does Danny Holdsworth like to do when he’s not being musical?

When I’m not playing music, I suppose my not-so-secret passions are cricket and Nintendo. I’m a bit of a cricket tragic. I play for a local team. I stay up all night watching matches from all over the world. And I also love Nintendo, especially the Zelda series. At the moment I’m absolutely hooked on Breath of the Wild on the Nintendo Switch!

Next month you will be touring your ‘Tubular Bells For Two.’ Can you tell us about the project?

Tubular Bells for Two is a show where two blokes attempt to play all of Mike Oldfield’s classic album, Tubular Bells, live. We try to replicate the album as close as we possible can, juggling 20 instruments between us. It is a tense, theatrical and thoroughly entertaining performance that lives on a knife edge. The task at hand is so mammoth, it really can fall apart at any moment. I developed the show with my good friend and long time collaborator, Aidan Roberts. It started as a silly idea, jamming on a bunch of instruments in our living room. We never thought it would become an actual show, let alone one that would go on to tour the world! We’re both big record collectors, and one day we just happened to have a night listening to a bunch of albums of the seventies. We put on Tubular Bells, the first time either of us had heard it in a long time, and we were just mesmerised by it. So we decided to learn bits of it just for a bit of fun. On the album, at the end of side one, there’s this moment where a bass guitar plays a riff over and over, and then a procession of instruments are announced one-by-one, and each plays the main theme. So we thought, wouldn’t it be great to be on a stage, announce these instruments, then run around and play them all. And so Tubular Bells for Two was born.

We did a a one off performance in 2009 in a small venue to a bunch of family and friends, and we honestly thought that would be the end of it. But word got around about the show and people started inviting us to play it. We did the Sydney Fringe Festival in 2010, then got invited to tour Australia, then we got invited to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012. Since then we haven’t looked back. It just keeps going, and we’ve now taken the show all over the world. The big news this time around is that, due to family commitments, Aidan has decided to stop touring the show overseas for a while. So we decided to get someone new to fill his shoes. So this tour will be the first time our new member, Tom Bamford, will be joining us. As you can imagine, its been a huge undertaking for Tom. He’s spent many months in rehearsals, and his first ever performance will be in Glasgow next month.

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You have toured the show in both the UK & Australia. What differences, if any, have you found from the audiences?

People in the UK seem to have a strong sense of ownership of Tubular Bells. I get the sense its viewed as a quintessential British achievement. Not only was it a massive hit over there, the music was ground breaking, going against all pop traditions. It was a defining moment for an entire generation, as well as launching Richard Branson’s Virgin empire. So when we first performed the show at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012, we were unsure how it would be received. Here’s two barefoot Aussie larrikins in a crazy performance that, on the surface, seems like some kind of piss-take. But it really isn’t. We take the music very seriously. The humour and theatricality come from the ridiculous situation we have placed ourselves in. But, whilst its an entertaining and tense show, at the heart of it is our deepest respect for this classic work. And I think the audiences really got it and were willing to come on the ride with us. Every night we have the same challenge in trying to pull of a near impossible performance. Sometimes things go terribly wrong, but the audience is always there willing us to get to the end. This isn’t just a musical performance, it’s a tense journey where the music becomes a beautifully structured soundtrack to an epic task. We were absolutely taken by surprise when we received several highly esteemed awards at the Fringe. And I can’t believe that five years on we’re still being invited to perform.

Can you describe the musical partnership between yourself & Tom Bamford?

Tom and I have known each other for many years. We’re both from the Blue Mountains. We’ve played in bands together. We’ve been involved in each others different recording projects, so it just made sense that he be the person to come on board with the show.


What is it about Tubular Bells that has compelled you to recreate it to such a high standard?

It is a piece of music that, I think, stands the test of time. It doesn’t take the audience for granted. It invites you in to go on a journey. It’s beautifully structured, with an arc that is synonymous with a great classical work, or a great film. And even after all these years of performing it, I still discover small details hidden within it. If you’re going to take on performing a piece such as this, you need to do it with the utmost respect.

What will you be doing after the tour?

I’ll be heading back to Australia, preparing to launch the debut album of Darks Common Underground. Plus there’s a few theatre projects I’m really excited about. I love the idea of performing music in a way that gives an all-encompassing experience for the audience. Something more than just a band standing on a stage. Musical performance needs to be engaging, and I have a couple of new projects brewing that will, hopefully, offer some unique live experiences.


You can catch Tubular Bells for Two in the UK right now

30/09/2017 Glasgow : Lomond Auditorium, SEC
01/10/2017 Edinburgh : Queens Hall
02/10/2017 Manchester : RNMC
04/10/2017 Guildford : GLive
05/10/2017 London : Union Chapel
07/10/2017 Birmingham : Birmingham Town Hall

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