Brian Cox And Adele’s Producer Paul Epworth Discuss Music And The Cosmos


Brian Cox And Adele’s Producer Paul Epworth Discuss Music And The Cosmos

Paul Epworth is behind some of the biggest pop records of the last 20 years, from Adele’s Rolling in the Deep to Florence and the Machine’s Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up).

Along the way he’s worked with Rihanna, Stormzy, Sir Paul McCartney, Coldplay and U2 – and he won an Oscar for co-writing the Bond theme Skyfall.

But now, after years behind the scenes, the producer is releasing his first solo album. Voyager, a journey into deep space, fuses influences from classic sci-fi movies with his love of musical explorers like David Bowie, George Clinton, Wendy Carlos and Jean-Michel Jarre.

“It’s a sort of ’70s space concept album, which is a bit of a cliché as a producer – to make something that ostentatious and overblown,” he told BBC News.

“But I’ve tried to frame it in a modern way, so I’ve got some great singers and rappers on it.”

The record sees guest vocals from the likes of Jay Electronica, Ty Dolla $ign, Vince Staples, Lianne La Havas and Kool Keith. But, more importantly, it allowed Epworth to indulge his passion for space travel and astrophysics – as well as a habit for collecting ancient, analogue synths at his studio in London’s Crouch End.

He traces his interest in science back to his father’s work in developing optical fibres. Yet he remains endlessly curious about life, the universe and everything.

To celebrate the record’s release, Epworth hooked up with Professor Brian Cox – the prominent physicist and former keyboard player for ’90s dance act D:Ream – to ask some of the questions that occurred to him while making the album.

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Paul Epworth: When I began working on a record about space, little did I think I would be sitting here with you. Obviously you started in music as well, so what prompted you to make that shift into this love of the cosmos and astrophysics?

Brian Cox: To be honest, my first interest was astronomy. As far back as I can remember. I just liked looking at the stars.

I’ve thought about it a lot – what was it that made a seven-year-old become interested in stars? And I suppose it goes all the way back to looking forward to Christmas when you’re six years old… and I think I began to associate it with the constellations. My dad once said to me ‘There’s Orion, it’s the easiest constellation to see.’ And I noticed that it was in the autumn and the winter when I’d start seeing Orion over our back garden.

But I also remember really vividly Star Wars and Star Trek in general. So I also liked science fiction for some reason and I conflated it all together. Space became this idea, which was part escapism, part Star Wars [and] part astronomy. Music was almost a distraction!

What is the connection for you between music and the cosmos? Is there a piece of music that brings the two together?

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Vangelis’s theme for Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. To this day, when that music starts, it’s a shiver. It takes me right back to being 11 years old and looking at the sky. It is really powerful.

I’ve actually been involved in the last few years with some attempts to match classical music to the ideas that are raised in astronomy and cosmology. We live in a potentially infinite universe which, to me, raises questions about our mortality about our fragility.

What does it mean to live these small, finite and in some sense insignificant lives in this potentially eternal and potentially infinite universe? Those are emotional questions, they’re deeply human questions, and they’re questions that have motivated a great deal of art and music.

Brian Cox And Adele’s Producer Paul Epworth Discuss Music And The Cosmos

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