David Arnold is one of our busiest composers around, creating mystery around the hit TV show Sherlock, a sense of occasion for both the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, and of course putting the 00 into five 007 movies with his witty, contemporary scores.
Ahead of his Casino Royale in Concert appearances at the Royal Albert Hall, he spoke to Siobhan Synnot about his Bond inspirations.
You had already worked on three Bond scores, when Casino Royale brought us a new James Bond. Was the arrival of Daniel Craig a game-changer for you?
When I first read the script, Daniel hadn’t been cast, so all I knew was that it wasn’t Pierce Brosnan anymore. James Bond was an unknown quantity for the first time, which was very exciting. Also, whoever played him wasn’t James Bond – yet!
Is that why the Bond theme doesn’t kick in until the very end of Casino Royale?
Well he isn’t James Bond until the end, so you can’t play the James Bond theme. Why would you? He hasn’t grown into that role. So what I did was seed elements of the Bond theme whenever he did something which became a kind of iconic Bond moment.
When he wins his Aston Martin in a game of cards, you get a little hint of that ‘da, da, da-da-da’; when he puts his tuxedo on for the first time, or flies into an exotic location for the first time, you’d get a bit more. You feel as if he’s earning his theme.
Then finally he’s got that gun on his shoulder, and he’s asked ‘Who are you?’ and Daniel Craig replies ‘Bond. James Bond’. And bang – we go into the Bond theme, and everyone goes ‘Wahay!’ [laughs] I certainly did when I saw it, and I knew it was going to happen!
Tell us about writing You Know My Name with Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell
It’s not a startling idea, but the best way to start a Bond movie is with a great song, so I always tried to begin by writing something which reflected the script that I’d just read.
For Tomorrow Never Dies, I wrote Surrender, which ended up as the closing title song. For The World is Not Enough, they let me do the opening title song, and another song for the close. Madonna did Die Another Day, but I had written half a song for that film, and that ended up being the basis of the score.
By the time I was thinking about You Know My Name, I’d seen Daniel Craig and I wanted to get someone who sang the way he acted. I didn’t want to write a song called Casino Royale because that’s just a place. But I loved the way Daniel says ‘The name’s Bond. James Bond’. I loved the arrogance of saying ‘You know my name – you know who I am. Get out of my way” because he’s an alpha male Bond. Judi Dench calls Daniel a ‘blunt instrument’, and the song was very much based on that.
I wanted a voice that could kick a wall down, the way Bond does in that opening scene. There are a lot of gentle, introspective singer-song writers out there, but there aren’t that many ballsy, aggressive big voices, like Tom Jones. But Chris had that voice, and he was also one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. He was so easy to work with, and slightly underestimated as a song writer and lyricist.
When you’re composing for a Bond movie, do you feel you have to steer away from those famous muted horns?
Well you wouldn’t want to abandon them completely! Growing up with Bond films, I loved the correlation between the opening title song and the rest of the score. The genius of John Barry was the way he extracted elements, so you’d have the title song inviting you into the film, and later you could hear how it connected to everything else in the movie.
Didn’t Beatles producer George Martin introduce you to John Barry in 1995?
Yeah, that’s one way to feel tiny – sandwiched between two giants of music. George was in charge of Air Studios, and because I was there every day so I got to know him really well. George was an absolute gentleman. He would come into the control room and all the producers and the director would go, ‘Oh my God, it’s George Martin!’ And George would smile and say, ‘Oh, that sounds marvellous. You’re so lucky to have David.’ Because who is going to disagree with George Martin? So every time I was in Air doing a score, I’d say to him, ‘Just come in, and say it’s great’.
One day, George said, “John Barry’s in Studio One, would you like to meet him?’ Of course I did! I played him a couple of songs I was working on, which were covers of his [for the album Shaken and Stirred: The David Arnold James Bond Project]. Fortunately, he liked them and we became friends. Shortly after that, I got my first Bond movie and I’m pretty certain that somewhere along the way, John had given me the thumbs-up.
You didn’t feel the need to pester him with questions about writing for the Bond films?
Of course I did! I would have liked to have sat there all night asking him about things, but how boring would that have been for him? So we never talked about music that I’d done, or music that he’d done. We’d talk about films and things that we liked, but generally we just talked about life.
SETTLING THE SCORE
Friday 18 October 2019
Experience eighteen classic scores by Michael Giacchino and David Arnold at this one night only event! Settling the Score will feature all your favourite movie music as well as storytelling, challenges of wit and friendly competition between two sensational screen composers.