Caro Meets Music Interview

Aidan Roberts: Tubular Bells For Two

By | Published on Thursday 10 September 2015

This month you have two chances to take in highly acclaimed music show ‘Tubular Bells For Two’, courtesy of Australian pairing Aidan Roberts and Danny Holdsworth. We first became aware of the duo up at the Edinburgh Festival in 2012, and that year, and on two occasions since, published a glowing review.


When I heard that they would be headed to London Wonderground following this year’s expedition to the Scottish capital, I thought it was about time we talked to them. I sent some questions over to Aidan Roberts (he’s the one the one with the beard).

CM: Tell us what to expect from the show. It all sounds… well, a bit crazy…
AR: Well, it’s as the name implies – two young men from Australia, attempting to recreate Mike Oldfield’s original 1973 album with just the two of them and a plethora of instruments. All the details, both sides of the album, no stopping!

CM: How many different instruments do you use, and what are they?
AR: We have all of the instruments used in the album – the procession including grand piano, reed & pipe organ, glockenspiel, bass guitar, double-speed guitar, two slightly distorted guitars, mandolin, Spanish guitar, acoustic guitar, plus tubular bells. And two drum kits, two loop stations, “girlie chorus” etc etc.

CM: It seems like quite an undertaking. Do you find the performances exhausting?
AR: It is extremely taxing to perform the music ‘properly’ – which involves not just running about from instrument to instrument and trying to get all the notes in there (which indeed is the core task!) but to perform it with dynamics and emotional expression. It’s sweaty work.

CM: You describe it as ‘music theatre’ rather than just music – is that because it’s visually as well as aurally entertaining…?
AR: The music by its nature is quite dramatic and always shifting and changing… And the very undertaking of the two of us trying to play it is by its nature, well, ridiculous. So for the audience it’s very good fun (and at times, stressful) to watch.

CM: What gave you the idea to do this? Are you big fans of the original album?
AR: We were literally just hanging out at my place one winter’s night, had ‘Tubular Bells’ on the record player. We thought at that time, wouldn’t it be cool to try and learn how to play it, just as an exercise on two guitars. Then we got carried away with the idea.

CM: You’ve been performing the show for a few years now. Do you never get tired of performing it? Can you see yourselves continuing to do this?
AR: It’s funny, I never get tired of playing the piece itself – even now we’re both still getting inspiration each night, a new idea for how to get more details in there… Although touring is tough sometimes, it’s always a journey, every night is different in its own way, and the music always feels alive and fresh.

CM: What do you each get up to when you are not performing ‘Tubular Bells for Two’?
AR: We’re both songwriters and composers, we make our own records, both solo and in other groups. I have a band called The Maple Trail, and have done a lot of live scores for theatre. I’m also an illustrator, and am working on a couple of graphic novel-type projects!

CM: What’s next, for this show?
AR: We’ll keep playing it as long as people want to keep seeing it! We’re also hoping to make a new film version, played in some wild location like Pink Floyd at Pompeii. If we can get some money together!

CM: What’s next in terms of your other projects?
AR: We’ve spent the last 12 months composing a new work called ‘Red Earth’, which will be a live music and multimedia adventure. It tells a story set in a future Australia. It’s part concept album, part graphic novel. Think ‘Mad Max’ meets Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of the Worlds’.

‘Tubular Bells For Two’ is on at London Wonderground at South Bank Centre on 12 and 15 Sep. See this page here for details and tickets. 

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Photo: Joanne Kee