New York Times JULY 28, 1994 - by Neil Strauss


David Bowie has been exploring strange new worlds, and they're light years away from those of Space Oddity and Starman. "I'm totally in this alien area and it's great," he said by telephone on Tuesday in his first interview since last spring, when his CD-ROM Jump was released. Mr. Bowie's alien land is interactive multimedia, in which manipulatable pictures, sound, video, animation and text turn users into participants. His means of travel is the recording studio, where technology and the creative process meet.

Mr. Bowie said he'd been immersed in four new projects with Brian Eno, with whom he recorded pioneering electronic pop albums in the late 1970's: "Heroes", Low and Lodger. The two are working on a new CD-ROM, music for the La La La Human Steps dance company, a music theater piece and, he said, "an album of so-called songs."

"We don't feel part of what's going on at all now," the forty-seven-year-old singer said. "We feel totally distanced from everything, and that's kind of exciting. It kind of feels a bit dangerous because you're not sure if anybody's going to relate to what you're doing. People might dismiss it, which is fine, because we're used to being dismissed. The stuff that we did in the late-'70's was pretty much eighty percent dismissed all around. But I think that they've proved to be three of the most important albums of that particular period because they defined so many areas of where music was going to go."

The recently released Jump is just a hint of the things to come. That CD-ROM, which allows users to create their own videos for Mr. Bowie's 1993 single Jump They Say by manoeuvring through a bank of preselected images, was created by the Los Angeles multimedia company Ion, with Mr. Bowie's permission and resources but without much of his creative influence.

"What spurred me on," Mr. Bowie said, "is that I looked at the thing they did for me, and then I started looking at everybody else's CD-ROM's, and I thought, 'Well, is this as far as it goes?' and I think that really made me want to get involved, just to see what I could do with it."

"The other major decision which helped me a lot was not having to do my old hits anymore," he added, referring to his decision in 1990 never to perform his early songs in concert. "It made a kind of barrier for me and really pushed me into saying, 'Well, do I want to stay in music, and if so, why?' Because it certainly wasn't to just keep doing the cabaret rounds for the rest of my life singing 'Ground Control to Major Tom.'"

Mr. Bowie continued to make music, recording with the band Tin Machine and releasing a solo album in 1993, Black Tie White Noise, which is no longer available because its record label, Savage, went out of business. Mr. Bowie is still trying to find a new record label (he says he has plenty of offers), and hopes to release his new CD-ROM in January and his album with Mr. Eno shortly afterward.

He said the ideas for his planned projects would be difficult to put into words. Unlike most other music-oriented CD-ROMs, he said, his will not be archival, biographical, or based on an album release. It will be fully interactive, he explained, and have a nonlinear storyline, allowing the listener to "approach the thing again and again and never go through the same experience."

"Everything seems to have crossed through the mediums a lot more," he said, "and I'm not quite sure what it is we're doing, but it's not just making records anymore. It's got a lot further than that, and we keep translating everything to be interactive. The medium that we are working in is not actually CD-ROM. The medium is interactive multimedia, and I think that the CD-ROM is only the best delivery system currently available."