INTERVIEW: Bill Murray and Jan Vogler

Published on, Nov 2018

Bill Murray & Jan Vogler Will Pull The Rug Out From Under You With ‘New Worlds’

It’s midday in Vienna and Bill Murray is nursing a headache on his way to the airport to catch a flight to Perth, the first stop on his Australian tour with his musical partner, German cellist Jan Vogler.

It’s Vogler, or as Murray later enthuses, the “punctual” one, who instigates the call. “I’ve never been on time for much of anything,” Murray tells.

“I find it uplifting and educational to learn that there are people that actually show up when they’re supposed to, or when they’re expected; it’s opened up a whole new world for me.”

Joined by Vogler’s wife, renowned Chinese-American violinist Mira Wang and Venezuelan-American pianist Vanessa Perez, the musical force spent the previous night opening an exhibition of art and antiques cured by Murray’s good friend Wes Anderson at the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Thus explains the headache he’s now nursing.

“We had an excellent dance party in my hotel room last night,” Murray says. “We had about fifty people dancing until about three-thirty, four. Considering we started at about 10pm, it was a pretty impressive dance party.”

That’s when Vogler fittingly pulls things back to their New Worlds Australian tour and collaborative LP of the same name. “Now, we are all into Australia, and all about doing our show, and the joy we hope to bring with this show to you guys,” Vogler says.

“There is something for people who love classical music, but it’s also so much beyond that.”

New Worlds blends classical masterpieces from the likes of Ravel, Schubert, Saint-Saëns and Bach with iconic spoken word excerpts from American writers such as Twain, Hemingway and Whitman and classics from the American songbook, including Gershwin, Bernstein and Foster.

It’s an interesting prospect for those who know Murray as the man behind Groundhog Day, Ghostbusters, Stripes and myriad of other titles, and while the aforementioned description of New Worlds might turn some away, Murray is certain their live show will be worth the time invested. “It looks like a stuffy, dry show, and then we pull the rug out from under them, and just hit them over the head with great music and great playing,” he tells.

“It’s absolutely true,” Vogler adds. “I think it’s highbrow, lowbrow, and everything. It’s something that I have never really seen.

“With this show, I feel the energy just building, and building, and building, and at the end, everybody has an incredible amount of energy.”

The energy conveyed throughout the album and translated to the stage might have something to do with the spontaneity of how the pair met back in 2013 at a Berlin airport.

They were both going through airport security to catch a flight to New York – Murray taking a break from filming Monuments Men and Vogler returning home after a long tour. Murray asked Vogler how he planned on fitting his cello in the overhead. From there, they sparked up a conversation on the plane, consequently sitting next to one-another and Vogler watching Stripes, which just happened to be on the in-flight entertainment list. They traded contact details, stayed in touch and invited each other to a few events before their creative partnership was born.

The whole thing reads a little like a love story.

“We’re all laughing now; you got the whole band laughing at that one,” Murray laughs. “Yeah, it is a love story. We love each other, and we really love playing this show. When we turn on the switch and go, we’re just filled with love. It’s a fantastic feeling… When we walk out on the stage, everybody just goes someplace else.”

The pair had no prior knowledge of each other’s work when they met. “Bill and I met, but then for two years we didn’t work at all together,” Vogler explains. “We would just hang out together, and let a friendship build. It was something I didn’t have very much of in my life.”

While Murray can’t decide whether or not no prior knowledge was a benefit to New Worlds, he does say it made the process “a real joy”.

“We come from very different worlds; we come from different continents. But we have so much in common in the centre,” he tells. “There’s like a jelly doughnut centre to each of us,” he adds, continuing on to deliver some trademark Murray commentary.

“Even though we look like barnacles on the outside, we have jelly doughnut centres.

“When you have a jelly doughnut centre, it kind of shakes when things go well. When life goes well, and music plays, the jelly kind of vibrates a little bit. It’s like some sort of an alien being inside, that shakes. We each have it – Vanessa has it, Mira has it, too. We’re just a bunch of doughnuts that are coming to your country and we’re very excited. We’re really excited. It’s a really stuffed pastry, coming your way.”

It’ll be Vogler’s first time in Australia, while Murray has only visited the East Coast in the past.

“If you’re in Perth, will you put an ad in the paper for me?” Murray asks. “I hope that this fellow that I met in Bali thirty years ago is still hanging around. I’m not very good on names, but we rode around on motorcycles in Bali, up in the mountains, I think it might have been Kintamani, and we ended up in Lake Batur, and had a lot of fun over there.

“He had a Lonely Planet book called South East Asia On A Shoestring, and it changed the way I travel; I became a traveller, as opposed to a tourist. So, I hope he’s still there. And I hope he comes and finds us at the show. Tell him not to buy a ticket; I’ve got a couple of tickets for him.”

Vogler adds: “That would be wonderful if you could convey his message. I know you [cover] music, but still, this is about friendship, and music happens through friendship.”