Friday, 1 October 2010

An Exclusive Interview With Filmy Musicy Man David Arnold!

Regular viewers of The Incredible Suit will know of my borderline psychotic obsession with James Bond, film scores and James Bond film scores. It caused no small tremor in my basement, then, when David Arnold, composer of the last five Bond films, agreed to an interview with these very words:
Arnold is also responsible for chuffing ace music from the likes of Stargate, Independence Day and Hot Fuzz, as well as TV series Little Britain and Sherlock. However he's currently focussed on the upcoming Concert For CARE at the Albert Hall on October 18th (tickets still available!), an evening of movie tunes which he's organised, starring the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and composers including John Powell (the Bourne films), John Ottman (X-Men 2, Superman Returns) and Rachel Portman (Chocolat, Never Let Me Go). All proceeds from the concert go to aid organisation CARE International, for whom Arnold is an ambassador.

So without further waffle, here's what I asked him and, for the sake of completeness, I've also included his answers:

Hello David. You told me I was forbidden from introducing you with “The name’s Arnold, David Arnold”, you big spoilsport. How would you rather be introduced?

Can you introduce me with “The name’s Arnold, David Arnold”?

Er... OK. Let’s just skip the introduction and start with the personal stuff. You’re listed on Wikipedia under “Notable Lutonians”, along with silky-voiced ‘80s pop legend Paul Young and cricketing chap Monty Panesar. What do the three of you chat about when you’re hanging out in Wardown Park?

We talk about where to get the next litre of Diamond White from, then Young starts a fight with Panesar, and while they’re at it I twoc the remaining McDonald’s that we previously rescued from the bins. It’s all over in seconds and we’re all back to normal, singing Wherever I Lay My Hat, throwing balls and writing film scores.

What a lovely image. I follow you on Twitter, and you appear to have an unhealthy obsession with The X Factor. What does a witty, intelligent, handsome, talented gentleman such as yourself see in the most satanic form of televised evil, like, ever?
I only do a bit of X Factor commentary when the show’s on. It’s not unhealthy. I am unhealthy but the Twitter / X Factor axis is not. I find that utterly mindless TV does me the world of good when I’ve been concentrating for unnatural amounts of time on something serious that has consequences should I not deliver what and when I am meant to.

You’ve worked with some proper legends like Bjork, Saint Jarvis of Cocker and, erm, Chris Cornell. Is all this celeb-mixing just another day’s work for you or do you sometimes have to try hard not to do an accidental excited wee when meeting the likes of Shirley Bassey?

I get excited at the idea of it, but the reality is usually very different, as it’s then down to me to do the gig. Most of the people I’ve worked with have been lovely and some of them have become friends regardless of work. I’m not starstruck but would admit to struggling if someone said Stevie Wonder wants to work with me. For the record, I didn’t wee anywhere near Shirley Bassey.

Well that’s a relief. Your Stargate music is one of the most used pieces of movie trailer music. Does that make you swell with pride or is it a bit annoying? After all, you didn’t write it with Chicken Little in mind, did you?

It’s never annoying to hear something I’ve written and recorded being used for purposes other than that for which it was created - within reason of course: I wouldn’t be thrilled if a political party used it for a recruitment drive. But I love the idea of music finding its way into other areas of life and reaching people’s ears that it may not otherwise.

Where do you keep the Grammy you won for Independence Day, and why haven’t you won a BAFTA or an Oscar? Are people stupid?

My Grammy is in storage, as I moved earlier in the year. At least I hope it is. Now I’m going to have to check. I’ve been nominated for BAFTAs but not Academy awards, probably because the films I do aren’t really Oscar sorts of movies, and also because I may not be any good. In my experience, most people are stupid and I include myself in that. The trick is to know when you are so you can avoid being stupid again later.

I must try and remember that. You scored all the Brosnan Bonds apart from GoldenEye. Have you ever been tempted to do your own score for it and play it while watching the film with the sound off?

The idea of scoring older Bonds is unfathomable. I think they’re all best left well alone, and every time we make one I, and the whole crew, spend our time trying to make the next one better.

What you’re basically saying is “That’s a stupid question”, and I think you’re probably right. I suppose the next best thing is the GoldenEye game you’re writing the music for. How does writing music for a video game differ from a film score?

I did that with my friend Kevin Kiner, who did all the heavy lifting on that show. He’s a very talented composer and I think the credit reads ‘Themes by David Arnold, music by Kevin Kiner’. I produced the title song, which is the old Tina Turner song sung by someone else. I’m not sure I’m allowed to say who it was yet so I won’t.

Game scoring is all about writing to mood and not to picture, finding different ways of saying sad, happy, excited, dangerous etc, so they can be triggered by various things that happen during gameplay. I didn’t bother writing a theme for Bond growing wings and turning into chocolate as I knew it wasn’t going to be in the game. Which will be a big disappointment for all those expecting that very thing to happen.

I’m far too old to play computer games, but I’m looking forward to hearing the GoldenEye game music. Will it be released commercially?

I don’t think so, but stranger things have happened. I’m still playing that computer game where you get the computers to write “bollocks” over and over again in Currys.

How browned off were you when Sheryl Crow’s song was chosen for the Tomorrow Never Dies opening titles while your (and Don Black’s) infinitely better song Surrender, sung by k.d. lang, was consigned to the end credits? Because I tell you what, I was incandescent.

At that stage I was immensely grateful that they used Surrender as the closing titles. I’m more glass half full. Although I do like the idea of the glass being the right size in the first place.

Are you scoring the next Bond film? Do you have the foggiest idea when it might get made? The wait is driving me potty.

I never assume anything where movies are concerned. I have been talking to the producers about it, and they know how committed I am to the series and how much I care about it. We’ve done well together so far and I’ll do it as long as they keep asking me to. As far as when it’ll be made, that all depends on MGM sorting out their business situation, so all we can do is wait. I doubt if it would go on too much longer though.

Let’s hope not. You’re currently working on the new Narnia film, The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader. Don’t be offended but I probably won’t see it, so what other projects have you got “in the pipeline”, as I think I’m supposed to say?

I actually have a pipeline outside my studio and am constantly checking what’s in it. Aside from a build up of fat from restaurants and some discarded baby wipes, I can see that Made In Dagenham is coming out this week, which I scored and wrote the end title song for with Billy Bragg and which is sung by Sandie Shaw.

The GoldenEye game is out in November, and Morning Glory with Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton is out in November in the US and January here. Right now I’m starting the Simon Pegg / Nick Frost alien-road-trip-comedy Paul, which is very funny. I finish that mid-December, then I am powered down and my prime directive re-programmed.

So this Concert For CARE looks a bit good. How did you get involved with the charity and how did the idea for a concert come about?
A few years ago I went to a fundraising event for CARE and there was a woman there talking about her experience in Rwanda at the time of the genocide. It’s the sort of detail that derails your idea of what life and people are all about. I talked to them about getting involved and they asked me to be an ambassador for them. I said yes and travelled to Rwanda to see for myself what’s going on and the work they’re doing, not only there but all over the world. My instinct was to grab a bag of clothes and stay there to help, but I knew I could make more difference by fundraising and awareness raising at home.

It’s bound to raise oodles of cash already, but with this interview you have the chance to reach literally tens of people and convince them to buy a ticket. So what can they expect on the night and how will the money raised help the charity?

Last year’s event at Brixton was a rock and roll one, this year at the Albert Hall it will be a little more polite. My friends from Film Musicland, where all the composers live, have all jumped on board. I would urge everyone to visit to see what’s going on and come along and have a great night. It’ll be unique and hopefully really good. I don’t preach and we’ll only have a very short presentation about CARE at the beginning.

CARE doesn’t spend money on advertising or mailouts - only 10% of money raised is used in admin, so you know you’re supporting someone in need rather than paying for someone to be behind a desk. Also they employ locally where possible, so the money raised can go straight to the area where it’s needed.

That’s an impressive roster of composers appearing on the night. Was it a challenge to get them all in one place at the same time?

Not really; there’s no touring, TV, press or other stuff with film composers. We pretty much know where we’ll be and when most of the time, so it’s a little simpler to corral them.

Right, well I’ll be there so please make sure they’re all as corralled as possible. Most importantly, and because The Incredible Suit viewers demand to know (I imagine): What’s your favourite colour?

The recently discovered colour equivalent of that umami flavour you find in avocados and Chinese takeaways. They haven’t got a name for it yet.

I thought you’d say that. Before we finish could you just say something nice about my blog that I can pretend you casually dropped into conversation?

I love The Incredible Suit so much that I actually have serious pain in my kidneys and blood is coming out, which I don’t think is right is it?

It doesn’t matter, I just want to impress folk. Anyway, thanks for your time and the best of luck with Concert For CARE. Feel free to join me for an ice cream in the interval, although you’ll have to pay, the prices are extortionate at the Albert Hall.

I have spat in all the ice creams which is why they’re so expensive as they’re now collectors’ items.


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  1. Your finest hour, Mr Suit.
    A proper interview which is also proper funny.
    Mr Arnold is a genius on every level.


  2. This is my favourite thing today.

  3. Excellent. Well done. Like Arnold scores, each celebrity interview is even better than the last. Wearing your Incredible Suit enabled you to hold your own in the parry and thrust of witty verbal fencing.

  4. Brilliant! Informative and funny. Reassuring to know Mr Arnold is into your witty banter and repartee. What a lovely way to start the day!

  5. Excellent, funny yet informative interview Mr Suit. David Arnold comes across as a lovely man!
    Hope the concert goes well for David (wish I could afford to go!) and that you have a great time and maybe the chance to do some more interviews!

  6. David Arnold, a great composer, and this is an excellent interview from the Suit.

  7. I am blushing on all four cheeks right now.

  8. Just because you don't plan to see Dawn Treader doesn't mean you couldn't have asked David Arnold some questions about the score! It is a big deal! Why choose personal interests over professional ones in an interview?

  9. Wonderful. I learned several things today. Thank you for sharing.

  10. What an 'Incredible' interview - but then I am biased

  11. That interview 'looks' really nice ;)
    Who's next on the Suit's interview list I wonder?!

  12. The identity of the Brand new interview is a secret. Sorry about that.