Chris Green (Runestone) Interviews Medwyn Goodall.
Chris Green (black)
Medwyn Goodall (blue)
Congratulations on your new website. What other exciting changes can we expect to see in the world of MG Music over the next couple of years?
Better car parking, and a deli counter
Our on-going quest to constantly improve upon everything we create from the website through to music, artwork, and studio production will always be what drives us forward the most. There will be some new artists arriving on the scene. Our biggest focus of the moment though is the website and really making it the best we have ever built.
My personal goals are to create some really wonderfully crafted albums next. My studio has reached new levels of technology which I only just scratched the surface of whilst making CLAN III. So I am very excited about making new music.
There will be new projects, but also I intend to sequel the Sorcerers Daughter. In time there will be a Medicine Woman V and possibly a Clan IV. They seem to be two themes that everyone continues to want more of.
What do you think it is about the Medicine Woman and Clan series that has captured the public imagination so much?
In Medicine Woman’s case I believe it has various levels of appeal. It’s very catchy, uplifting and energetic, so they are very positive feel good albums. They also all have this female ENYA like element mixed in. I also think the Mayan element is attractive as their culture is so full of mystery, they were the Egyptians of the Rainforest. They are very organic albums really containing many acoustic warm sounds, like Spanish Guitar, Marimba, Conga.
The Clan series has an entirely different style and appeal, and I construct the albums in an entirely unique way. I approach Clan albums as if they were movies and so I create a film soundtrack to draw the listener in. They are stories with a great sense of atmosphere that transports you back in time. I don’t really know of many new age CD’s that do that.
Each time I think this will be the last Medicine Woman or Clan, and then I realise there’s still more to be expressed. I think the best Medicine Woman is yet to come, and at this point I am not ruling another Clan album out.
You are arguably the world’s biggest and most respected name in New Age music. Your music and reputation must have opened a lot of doors for you into places, meetings and situations that you would not have encountered otherwise. What has been the most surprising, unexpected or unusual?
I’ll say! I’ve had women crying down my answer phone, others offering to post their knickers to me, to being asked for an autograph whilst using a men’s room and would I open a shopping mall.
I’ve met some of the most wonderful people on the planet and I’ve met a considerable amount of very dark people only interested in manipulation and ripping me off. My reputation over the years has helped open doors but one can also run into a lot of envy and jealousy and people wanting to be friends for all the wrong reasons and so like anything problems come with any advantages.
Essentially I haven’t changed, I still enjoy a private life, with a handful of close friends with my main motivation being to be the best I can be and have a positive effect on the world whilst I am here. I really don’t take any sense of fame seriously.
You must have had a lot of interviews. What is the daftest or most annoying question you have ever been asked?
An interviewer once remarked that I only played on the white notes of a keyboard. I found that so mind bogglingly insane that I was dumbstruck for an answer. I’ve had plenty of odd ones like “oh we thought you were a girl”. To this day I still get some fans confusing me as a woman. I don’t mind particularly but it’s an odd notion when most of my CD’s have this picture of someone sporting a hairy mush holding a Guitar. Besides the tights do pinch these days so I wear trousers.
(Suddenly concerned, Chris glances through his interview notes and crosses off Question No. 12 – “How have you managed to become the most successful female composer of new-age music when you only play the white notes?”).
Before the advent of PC technology, you were a leading light in the whole home recording phenomenom and development of the New Age music genre. How do you think the industry has changed between those early days and the present?
Technically recording has changed completely. It used to be just me, some instruments and recording live to tape. That whole process forced you to be very patient and a hands on musician. There were no short cuts. Now there is so much technology that you can achieve pretty well anything, only your mind and budget will limit you. I believe however that this has created a push button generation of musicians that have forgotten how to write. The technology is running them rather than the composer using the tools available.
My old school beginnings have served me well in that I am personally about the writing first. If I can write something well, the rest is just about production. I think it was Paul McCartney who said the most flattering thing is to hear the postman whistling something you wrote. No matter how far technology goes, a computer will never replace the writer. So whilst technical advances have liberated my studio and allowed me to store more crisps and chocolate in the room, I still start an album the way I always have done with a pen and pad.
You have produced more than 120 (?) albums, an enviable catalogue of different writing styles ranging from upbeat to meditational, South American, Pagan, Celtic, Mystical and electronic. Do you have any warm-up routines or rituals to create the right mood before you start writing?
I let an idea sit with me for a long time, up to 2 years sometimes. I research the concept and find out about it. I consider how a project might flow, what the choice of instruments would be and do I have such sounds available. If I don’t then I have to go on a search for the right sounds. When I feel everything is in place and the timing simply feels right, an album usually happens instinctively. On some albums I have had an overwhelming sense of having lived the subject I am writing about and can have a visual sense in my mind whilst performing and recording. When that happens I believe I am tuning into past lives. I’ve often experienced this with Celtic, Mayan, Native American and Ocean styles and have a very deep affinity with such subjects. Part of me steps aside to allow another reality flow in.
How would you describe your spirituality and its influence on your music?
I don’t see myself as being religious. Religion to me is a set of rules that one follows. To me being spiritual is the direct opposite of that. There shouldn’t be a leader nor rules to follow or anyone informing or imposing upon you how you should live and think. Your heart knows what is right, wrong and just. Spirituality to me is about compassion, intuition, respect for of life, the earth, and a mind that searches for the answers it wishes to seek without imposing any of its own beliefs on another and not being prejudiced against another’s beliefs.
My own beliefs do naturally spill over into my music. My love of the natural world has often come through, as have my more esoteric thoughts on space, life after death, the future of humanity. My music is very autobiographical and so my albums contain my own emotions and thoughts, interests.
What do you feel are your six most significant albums to date and why?
I am not sure I can limit it to 6 so I am going to cheat.
Druid , as it was the first best seller I had and it put me on the map. At that time new age music was very gentle and all about relaxation, so to release heavy drums and druids chanting, was daring and a first at the time. Upon its release I had methodists praying for my soul, I think they misunderstood because I don’t recall inviting Satan to perform on it
Medicine Woman 1, as it was and still is a huge phenomenon, a milestone in new age music.
King Arthur- it was the first real Celtic music I’d achieved and was originally 2 years worth of work covering all the Arthurian legends over 5 CD’s. It was an achievement I was proud of.
Millennium – because it was the first time I allowed myself to use more rocky, commercial influences from my past.
Comet – was one of those albums I stood back from and wondered how on earth I’d written it. It was so classical, spacey, atmospheric and unlike anything I’d ever produced before or since.
Anam Cara – remains one of my personal favourites. I just loved the results, the blend of authentic Celtic words and vocals, with my music.
Sorcerers Daughter – it’s so beautifully written in a bitter-sweet way, it’s wonderfully emotional and I remain proud of the quality of writing behind it and hope to sequel it soon.
Medicine Woman 4 – whilst producing it I discovered new ways of constructing an album and so for me it was a technical breakthrough that I took further on Clan III and will improve upon in new albums that will follow into 2011.
Clan 3 – I personally feel it’s one of the best productions I’ve created thus far.
What feelings do you want people to experience when they hear your music?
A critic once said I had the “tingle factor”, meaning I create that ripple sensation down your spine. My music is full of my own energy and emotions, if I can connect emotionally with my audience I couldn’t ask for more. If they feel happy, energised, healed, uplifted, how wonderful. I’ve always been a writer that aims to uplift and energise, whilst giving a sense of wonder, relaxation or peace.
After 25 years in the business, you must have gained a lot of insight as an artist into the profound part music can play in people’s lives. How important do you feel your style of music is as an antidote to the modern way of life and in promoting alternative values?
I feel it is becoming more and more important. Sadly life is spinning off in a direction where there is increasing stress on everyone and in an atmosphere like that I pride myself on being there for people if only to offer them a bit of escapism, or basic relaxation. In some people I may motivate them to be artistic or search out spiritual paths of their own. It’s another reason why MG Music exists.
I don’t think many people would disagree with any of that. Can I pick up what you’ve just said about the motivational aspects of your music and ask you what inspires you to write now, and has this changed from when you first started?
The beginning spark of inspiration is always the same. It’s simply something that appeals to me. A mystery, a theme, a culture, anything that I feel connected enough to.
In 2003 you and Wendy decided to set up MG Music. What is the most fulfilling part of running your own record label?
Being totally independent. Seeing a project through from concept to artwork to release without interference.
What is the most difficult part of running your own record label?
A label is a practical business and there are times when for the good of the whole I can’t allow myself to be sentimental over a product or an artist and that includes deleting my own work. It’s the playing God factor I don’t like, but a leader has to lead, not follow and so it’s the having to make any form of decision that I know will upset someone is difficult to do. Then there is the dealing with all forms of business issues which are stressful, exhausting, irritating, like in any form of business, or work.
(Chris looks worried and makes a note to take some music lessons).
In the early days, the defining qualities of New Age music used to be pretty clear-cut. Since then we’ve seen a proliferation of record companies and a far broader availability of musical styles. What qualities do you feel music needs to have now in order to be defined as New Age?
New Age covers quite a few sub genres, essentially new age is about healing and creating inner harmony, balance of the self. Then it is about seeking wisdom either from the past, ancient knowledge, or understanding cultures known to have great insight and spirituality. It is, you could say, a simultaneous inner and outer journey and any music that explores and expresses those thoughts and avenues could be classed as new age.
Imagine you have to spend the rest of your life on a desert island, completely isolated from the rest of the world. You are allowed to take 10 items with you – what would you choose to take?
1. Sainsburys home food delivery.
2. A team of builders with a generator that works on coconuts
3. A small landing strip for Air Sea Rescue
4. A private cinema
5. A recording studio
6. A doctor
7. Sun tan cream
8. Shark repellent
9. A large yacht with an experienced crew
10. A torch
(laughs) That’s a great list. Those people over the years who only thought to take 6 gramophone records!
Your biography “No Strings” takes us as far as 2000. Much has happened since then. Have you any plans to update it?
Amazingly ten years has passed ! I have plans but it’s finding the time. It’s also because we went through some sad and very difficult times to get where we are today that I don’t really want to re-live in the process of writing. One day the rest of the story will come out.
I know I’m speaking for a lot of people by saying we’ll look forward to reading the next instalment and also to wish you and Wendy continued success with MG Music.
A final question – some of your work has incorporated the vocal talents of various artists. You might recall from a couple of years ago receiving a unique Runestone rendition of “Happy Birthday Medwyn”. You never told us what you thought of it. What are the chances of your asking Runestone to sing on one of your albums?
A bush rolls across the moors as the wind whistles a cold lament…..all that was found was one of Medwyn’s shoes pointing in the direction of a phone box and a number torn out of a pad reading “Samaritans”.