Interview: Roger Limb of The Radiophonic Workshop

Attribution/author:Article by: Henry Northmore

The iconic BBC music ensemble behind the Doctor Who theme is back on tour

The BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop was an early pioneer of electronic music. Originally set up by Desmond Briscoe and Daphne Oram in 1958 to produce music and sound effects for radio, it soon became a hub for musical experimentation, producing hundreds of theme tunes and soundtracks for television.

'We were certainly at the vanguard pushing at the frontiers,' explains Roger Limb who joined the Workshop in 1972. 'We led the way as far as techniques were concerned.' Of course their most iconic composition is Delia Derbyshire and Ron Grainer's pulsing Doctor Who theme but they also wrote for The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Timewatch, Newsround, Quatermass and many more.

'During the 90s economics became more important than the programmes and it was discovered that although we had a high profile, we were costing the BBC too much so it gradually closed down,' adds Limb. Sadly the Workshop officially closed its doors in 1998.

However a generation of music fans had grown up with the Workshop beaming their own brand of electronica directly into their living rooms. 2009 saw key members reunite for a live show at London's Roundhouse. 'We discovered there was such a big residual interest in our music,' says Limb, 'so our first reaction was "let's get a band and tour together." It took us four years but we've got some great people on board.' Alongside Limb, Paddy Kingsland, Peter Howell, Dr Dick Mills and Mark Ayres will be performing. 'We've also managed to recruit Kieron Pepper,' adds Limb, 'a wonderful percussionist who played with The Prodigy for 10 years.'

The live show consists of classic theme tunes and several new compositions. 'An album is being planned and there will be collaborations between us and people who were never at the Workshop but have a reputation in the electronic music world.' Unfortunately Limb isn't at liberty to mention names yet but everyone from Orbital to Prince has sampled the Workshop's output over the years. 'With the new equipment that's available there's a lot of stuff we can do now which we couldn't do 20 years ago.'

UPDATE: Sadly, Dr Dick Mills of the Radiophonic Workshop has taken ill, and their spring dates have been postponed. His condition isn't life-threatening, and the group are expected to reschedule their dates til October/November 2014. Those with tickets should retain them until further notice.

BBC Radiophonic Workshop - Dr Who theme live at LEAF

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