Music.co.uk like to serve up a few delicious music related treats for all our loyal readers, and I think we’ve surpassed ourselves this time. So sit back, relax, and read all about Jeff Wayne, the creator of the musical ‘ The War Of The Worlds: Alive On Stage’. This is something of an education!
1.For those who don’t know the story, what is The War of The Worlds all about, and why do you think its proved to be such a popular story?
HG Wells didn’t actually write The War Of The Worlds as a novel. It was first written as an episodic adventure for Pearsons Magazine and was first published in 1897. Each chapter was written as a cliffhanger, with the idea being to leave the reader wanting more, so they would then go out and buy the next edition of the magazine. It worked! TWOTW became so popular that HG’s publisher then asked him to novelise the story.
Wells had an intense interest in science from an early age and when he created his Martian invaders, they were created with knowledge of the laws of biology and physics. His Martians were not super beings, but bodiless heads, barely able to move because the atmosphere of Earth is so much thicker than that of their own planet. Still, their advanced intelligence gave them the power to create incredible machines – Fighting, Handling and Flying machines that the Martians would reside in to ‘complete’ their bodies. The Martians also brought amazing weapons, like Heat Rays that could level entire villages along with their population.
They also brought a vegetation of death – The Red Weed – a beautiful but deadly plant transported from Mars as seeds, but once planted on Earth and allowed to flourish, The Red Weed would choke and suffocate all in its path.There was also the smothering blanket of death – the Black Dust – a forerunner of what in today’s world we’d know as chemical warfare. All in all, HG was quite a visionary writer and TWOTW is an epoch story where science and fantasy collide, big time!
TWOTW has never been out of print, and I believe its popularity is due to its main themes of invasion, faith, and homelessness, wrapped up in one incredible story. Those themes are as relevant today in the world we live in as they were when HG created his Victorian tale.
2. Do you think your stage show would’ve worked as well, back when you first released the music, or has it needed the advents of technology to bring the idea to life?
Originally my father and I were partners in the making of my musical version of TWOTW, and we always felt that if we enjoyed success with the album, it was a natural for live entertainment. There’s no doubt had we produced TWOTW as a live show when it was first released in the late 1970’s, the type of production would probably have been more suited for the West End stage rather than the major arenas of the world that we now play. Technology has changed so much over the years that today we’re only really limited by our imagination, and our pocket books!
3. How has the stage production developed since it was first toured? And is it a challenge to find new ways to attract an audience?
When we started touring in 2006, TWOTW –Alive on Stage! was already a fairly ambitious production, combining the live performances of performers and musicians (with me conducting!) while all above and around us were various forms of major technological ingredients, all running in perfect synchronisation to split second timings. By the time we completed that first tour we were very proud to learn that we had pulled off something, where critics and audiences alike commented that live entertainment’s ‘bar’ had been raised. But every tour since then has grown. We never just take the last production ‘out of the box’ and repeat it for the next. While it would be a lot easier (and cheaper) to do, it’s fun to challenge ourselves, to see what new ingredients can be added in to take the next production to greater heights. As a production team, we’re forever on the lookout for new technologies, special effects or replacing something existing that has been overtaken by a newer and better way to achieve that given item.
This coming tour will be no different, and for sure will be our most adventurous yet. Aside from an overhaul of our 100 minutes of CGI animation, and a new lighting design, we have a range of new ingredients that will give the production a new level of interactivity with the audience which fits seamlessly into the unfolding of the story.
4. Are there any other stories you’d like to bring to the stage?
I’ve been approached to bring to arenas my musical version of ‘Spartacus’ – it’s a most visual story, and I’m hoping to put in some quality time after our next tour, reviewing my score from the double album, and as with TWOTW – Alive on Stage!, start with a storyboard to present to our production team with ideas of how it might work as a live entertainment.
‘Spartacus’ is a true story – it took me nearly 3 years just to research before I started composing and producing the recording. But the story of Roman Masters over slaves and the conquest of other nations, is a most passionate one and remains relevant in the world we live in. I’ve also started working on composing a musical version of Jack London’s ‘The Call of The Wild’. Set in Alaska, this epic story evokes the harsh and frozen Yukon during the Gold Rush of the late 19th century. It’s told through the eyes of Buck, an estate dog who is kidnapped from his pampered surroundings and sold and shipped to Alaska to be a sled dog. His primitive, wolf-like nature begins to emerge, and savage struggles and timeless bonds between man, dog, and wilderness are the central themes. By the stories end, Buck has undertaken a mystic journey that transforms him into the legendary “Ghost Dog” of the Klondike. Coincidentally, TCOTW was first published within months of TWOTW in 1898, and both Jack London and HG Wells knew of each other’s works and influences.
5. How do you contrast and compare the different mediums you work in; and does being involved with so many different areas (film/tv/advertising) keep things fresh and inspiring?
Without a doubt. I love finishing one project, or working with an artist or band, and then looking for something as opposite as possible for the next. I’ve never specialised in any one area, and I’ve never been one for working on a range of projects at the same time.
6. With such a creative family, have you any more plans to work together in the future?
My father Jerry and I worked together on a range of different projects, including him taking a huge gamble at the start of my career, in giving me the opportunity to compose the music for a West End musical he was producing (as well as writing the lyrics to my music). It was called ‘Two Cities’ and based on Charles Dickens ‘A Tale of Two Cities’. It ran at London’s Palace Theatre, and won for its star, the late Edward Woodward, the Evening Standard Award for the Best Male Performance in a musical. (Those awards are now known as Oliviers).
My father and I really enjoyed working together, and when we partnered on TWOTW, his second wife Doreen (an author in her own right from Manchester) adapted the HG Wells novel and created the script for my musical version, while my wife, Geraldine helped produce the sound effects.Through the years, and including TWOTW – Alive on Stage! our family have participated in a number of ways.
I couldn’t have produced our arena tours, (or any of the many off-shoot projects from it) without Damian Collier – formerly trained and practiced as a lawyer, he has great creative and business flair, and came into our ‘family business’ a few years before our tours became a reality. Damian is also my son-in-law, married to our daughter Anna-Marie, which made me scrutinize him twice over – first as a potential husband to my daughter, and then years later in our working relationship. Both, I’m happy to say, have worked brilliantly!
Anna-Marie has been acting since the age of 13 and has worked in film, tv and plays as well as the voice for a number of characters in US computer games. She is seen playing Carrie, the fiancé of our Journalist (Richard Burton) in a filmed cameo role during the course of the show.
Our other daughter, Jemma, not only appears in our film that’s seen on our 100-foot wide screen in many of the crowd scenes, she is an established author and journalist. On our website (thewaroftheworlds.com) is an e-book – ‘The War of The Worlds – The First 30 Years’, which Jemma wrote, and most recently she has written new sections of the script for our next live production.
My eldest son Zeb is a very successful DJ in London, with residencies currently at Chinawhite, Boujis, Maya and many others. He’s also a composer and producer and last summer Zeb produced a new artist (Isaac Rose) for his just launched label, and he asked me to write the string orchestrations for a number of the tracks. We worked great together, but this time it was the son producing the father! Zeb has also done some great remixes from TWOTW as well as all the play-out music for our productions. He’s currently working on a new mix that will be our play-out music for the 2010-2011 tour. He can also be seen on our big screen as one of the ‘masses’.
My youngest son Joab, was on the tennis circuit for a few years as a top Junior, but he decided last summer to complete his A-Levels back at his former school and is off to university this coming September. When we were filming our crowd scenes that appear within our CGI animated film, Joab was out of the country in a tennis tournament, so unfortunately he couldn’t appear along with his sisters and brother! Joab’s a very gifted person in a number of sports as well as in different areas of the arts. I hope one day he’ll get involved with a project we’re all participating in, as it does seem as a family, there are a range of things we work on together from time-to-time. Great fun.
7. If you were to put together a music based celebrity tennis team for a tournament, who would you like to be in it?
Me and Robert Plant
Black Eyed Peas and Timbaland
Rhianna and Diana Vickers
8. What would be your dream
a) Project to score music for?
Any movie that Clint Eastwood is directing.
b) Opponent in a tennis match?
Rafael Nadal, Rod Laver, Roger Federer and Pete Sampras.
9. Do you have any current or future projects coming up you can share with us?
I think I’ve covered that in Point 4 above!
10. And finally, what would you call a biography of your life so far?
A patchwork quilt! I’ve always moved around in musical genres, worked in most mediums and even moved into television production (The Book of Tennis Chronicles) and devised, edited and published a book (The Book of Tennis).
Over the last 4-5 years it’s all been about adapting my musical version of TWOTW into TWOTW – Alive on Stage! and the future, I hope, will give me opportunities to keep moving in new and different directions.
Jeff Waynes Musical Verision Of The War Of The Worlds: Alive On Stage will be touring from November 2010, visiting Holland, Belgium, and Ireland, before arriving in the UK in December. For more information on the musical, new additions to the cast, and to buy tickets please visit www.thewaroftheworlds.com.