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The radio interview with Vanessa-Mae
from Denis Millar ( South Africa )


Date: 12/02/98 2pm
Venue: The radio program, ‘Classical Hit Parade' - (Johannesburg - South Africa)
Interviewer: Rodney Trudgeon
R.T: Plays 'Entry of the guests' from Tännhauser - by Richard Wagner and then says "That is the perfect cue for my glamorous guest this afternoon"
Plays part of ‘Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto'...................
R.T: "We are welcoming Vanessa-Mae, the Singapore-born, British prodigy, who is in South Africa to promote a concert towards the end of March, displaying her musical genius from her Pop album "Storm" which has just been released by EMI. Vanessa-Mae, as you probably know, has massive appeal & presence as a "Live" concert artist in both classical and pop-rock arenas, from New York's Madison Square Gardens to St. Moritz, in every kind of venue - playing every kind of music. She has shown unparalleled abilities to cross boundaries, break down cultural and musical barriers and unite audiences across the world. And Vanessa it's really great to have you here in the "Classical Hit Parade" studio at SaFM and I hope you're enjoying being here in South Africa."
V-M: "It's great to be here in South Africa. It's my first time here, so it was wonderful to know that people had heard the album - seen it on TV, but I wanted to come here in person, before my tour, my live-tour in South Africa."
R.T: "Are you aware of the fact that you are hugely popular here in this country, right here at the tip of Africa?"
V-M: "Yes, I must thank everybody - everybody, all the fans out there and people who have embraced my music, because y'know "The Violin Payer" was a number one album and I deeply regretted not being able to come to South Africa on my first live, sort of ‘Red Hot - Violin Player World Tour', but on the second - "Storm" world-wide tour, I'm taking in Africa as well, in fact pretty much kicking-off the concert tour in Africa - South Africa ."
R.T: "Well, a lot of people I think envy me sitting here, chatting to you. What I want to do is to take advantage of it and ask you - where did it all begin - the famous question? How did you first get in first of all to like music and the violin?"
V-M: "Well there was always music around me in the house. My parents love music. Both of my parents, when I first started playing, were full-time lawyers, so I was just basically left to my own devices. I went to a very normal academic girls school, but all the kids there were expected to - not ‘play', but ‘try-out' an instrument, so at the age of five I started playing the violin, but before that, at three, I had started minor piano lessons at nursery-school in Singapore, but when I moved to London at the age of four, I picked up the violin for the first time at five. It was just a hobby - it was just for fun - it was nothing serious at all, at the very beginning, but teachers started getting more excited, which was nice and they started telephoning my parents and badgering them to ask them ‘Should she take more lessons and take it more seriously, because we think she's got some potential?' So it all rolled on from there really and when I was eight, that's when I decided that I really wanted to make the violin a big part of my life."
R.T: "So in those days were you studying classical music, or did you have this love of both sides of the musical spectrum from that early age?"
V-M: All through my life I have been trained as a classical violinist, but at the same time, as I was a five-year-old growing up in a very cosmopolitan world, I naturally had a lot of access to, not only being taken to operas and ballets and things like that with my parents, but musicals, going out to Michael Jackson and people like that - even my tapes were old for pop-stations in some ways, because I love Elvis Presley from the age of eight or nine, whereas at the same time I love Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson - all these different kinds of artists, so because I grew up with so much freedom in my musical life, I think that's why at the moment I have so much freedom in my musical career."
R.T: "And then when did the techno career start? I mean, or should I say - when did the image begin, ‘cos I mean your image is phenomenal and it's done a huge amount for both sides. When did that start formulating?"
V-M: "I don't really see myself as having an image. I think if you look at me when I was twelve, when I was playing with orchestras - Tchaikovsky violin concerto and Beethoven, I was clearly a different kind of child from the teenager at fifteen and the late-teenager at nineteen, because all the time, y'know, from eleven to nineteen, it doesn't seem that much of a gap, but for somebody who is growing, I think it's a big chunk of one's life and you're changing all the time. So, I think that I had no idea when I wanted to become a violinist at the age of eight, that I didn't have any idea what my taste in clothes would be, or how I'd look. I just had a love for the instrument and I don't really see myself as having an image that I project to an audience. I just dress my age - I am my age - a teenager."
R.T: "It's you in other words, that's Vanessa-Mae."
V-M: "Umm"
R.T: "And when did you first play the electric violin?"
V-M: "The electric - the first time I picked up an electric, I was fourteen years old. I had done three classical albums and I thought it would be fun - y'know, I had heard a bit about an electric violin and I thought ‘I want to... maybe be more creative and more adventurous in my musical tastes and take in other areas, other styles and music and fuse it into one new concept. And so when I was fourteen I took up first electric and, fourteen - fifteen, was the age when I made ‘The Violin Player' album."
R.T: "And how different is it from the violin that we know, the - shall we call it the ‘acoustic' violin."
V-M: "I think actually the ‘acoustic classical'. Well, I think that for me technically to play, the electric is just a lot heavier. Realistically it is just a lot heavier to play. It is made of solid wood. It's not hollow like our known acoustic violin, but at the same time, because it is so solid, it doesn't have any inner reverberation - so that you can't play in a room and hear the sound echo off a wall in that way. With my acoustic violin which was made in 1761 by Guadagnini, I have a real personal relationship with it. I can imagine its had so many owners, or rather - musical partners - before me, that I have to get to know its soul. But with the electric, it's almost as if, like playing a guitar an electric guitar - you take control of the instrument and you form its own sound and inject your own personality into it. So it's a different kind of relationship I have with both, but apart from the fact that the electric is heavy, also in a way you have to be more accurate when playing it live, because its like playing always on a recording live - because everything goes through amplified sound, and very often I don't disguise the sound with distortion and a lot of effects. Sometimes I do that for ‘fun numbers', but most of the time I play with a quite pure sound, so you can hear every scratch, every bombder, every agatino! So you have to be extra accurate."
R.T: "Okay..... we have just played - here on this programme and over the weekend ‘The Butterfly Lovers Concerto' which has just been released - your latest EMI classical release ‘China Girl'. Just tell me a little bit about that, because it's created a tremendous amount of interest - people absolutely love it."
V-M: "That makes me so happy because I think the music on the album is very powerful. It's very romantic and very epic and film-like at times. The ‘Butterfly Lovers' is based on an old Chinese traditional love story - a sort of Chinese ‘Romeo and Juliet', and a lot of the drama in the story is echoed and reflected in the music. But I think people always assume that Chinese emotions and Chinese music will be very staid and maybe stilted and shy and timid, but in fact it's a very powerful country, very romantic, and to tell you the truth, I hadn't really discovered enough about Chinese music until I recorded this album. All the time I'm discovering and learning more about music, but until the age of fifteen I've always felt a slight nagging-guilt that I didn't know enough about my Chinese roots, because at the end of the day I'm half Chinese. An when my grandfather died, my only grandfather who was my one link to mainland China died, I felt as if that link had been severed forever, and my only way to retrieve it was through music and be inspired by music which he loved. So I started investigating the ‘Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto', which I had played when I was eleven. I always wanted to record it and of course there is ‘Happy Valley' - The Re-unification Overture, which I played on the same record, which I played actually at midnight on the night of handover when China re-united with Hongkong."
R.T: "What an experience that must have been!"
V-M: "It was amazing! It was an historic event and it was great to be able to use such an historic event in my music. Of course on the album is ‘Turandot' - by Puccini, for which I did an arrangement for violin and orchestra."
R.T: "Which we have also played right here - on this programme."
V-M: "Y'have? That's fantastic - excellent! So I think this whole album is like working - or walking into a Bertolucci movie like ‘The Last Emperor of China'."
R.T: "But now Vanessa, just as a last thought, because I know your schedule is very tough and you've got all sorts of people to talk and interviews to do. This sounds like a typical question - what about the future, is your career going to continue in this duel-career of techno music as well as classical music - what's going to happen next?"
V-M: "I think I've had so much fun and liberty, and I think I really stretch myself in both worlds when I've returned from one, having been in the other and vice versa, that I can't really envisage giving up on for the other, because the two worlds are not mutually exclusive. It's true though that the first time an artist, a violinist had done basically Paganini one day and switched over to rock ‘n roll and pop the next and vice versa, but that's what I really enjoy. Variety is the spice of life. As long as I feel genuinely that I want to do both, I'll be doing both forever. I mean the last three years it's been fantastic to see how many people out there enjoy my pop concerts and my classical concerts and vice versa the same with recording."
R.T: "So you've done a lot for classical music and I think that's what is most important. And like Nigel Kennedy, do you have a favourite football team?"
V-M: "Ah-ha football. Well, yes - I mean, I always look forward to football, but mainly once a year - I mean not once a year, but every four years - when it's a World Cup and it's a World Cup this year, and it's coming up soon. So I'm going to be watching, glued to my TV set, wherever I am, and whatever I'm doing, but my main sport that I love is snow-skiing and water-skiing — maybe I'll go on my tour of South Africa."
R.T: "Well, yes - you're here during a heatwave, so I hope you're not wilting too much?"
VM: No, It's fine, it's fantastic weather and the people are gorgeous.
R.T: "Thanks - Vanessa-Mae, thank you so much for your time - and the very best of luck - and we hope to see you again in South Africa, after your March visit. Apart from all those concerts it's going to be wonderful to see you, but do come back and see us again."
VM: "Thank you very much."
Fade in to VM's‘Turandot' Fantasy...........................
R.T: "Vanessa-Mae - playing there, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the violin fantasy on Puccini's ‘Turandot', the last little section. Vanessa-Mae herself arranged that and it's on her CD called ‘Vanessa-Mae - The Classical Album 2 - China Girl' the same CD as the ‘The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto'. Before that, Vanessa was my guest here in the studio, with quite an entourage I must say - her managers, representatives of EMI and Vodacom and also two bodyguards, so it was a bit like a railway station in here. However, they've now vanished in to the thunderstorm outside and Vanessa was certainly saying that the heat was exhilarating rather than wilting. So there you are! Nineteen years old! I actually thought of playing you a cut from her album ‘Storm', but we'll leave that to the pop stations - but what a charming lady!"



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