David Arnold: The Hollywood composer on the scores that came to him in dreams, Puff Daddy, and why an MP3 is no match for a live orchestra

Grammy-winning, British film composer David Arnold, 52, has written scores for Independence Day, Godzilla and five James Bond films

You've got a live performance of your film scores coming up. Is there a wider move towards the 'experiential'?

Anything that you can't download probably has more value now. Anything which is not quite as easy to find is going to feel a lot more interesting. Just the sound of it: if you're sat in front of a 75-piece orchestra at full pelt, it's a very different experience to listening to an MP3.

Have you ever had a score 'just come to you'?

I've had that on a few occasions. Stepford Wives was quite traumatic to write music for, for many reasons, but ended up, I think, being one of the best things I've done. Two days before we were due to record in New York, I got a call from the producer who basically put a red line through everything. I had to rewrite the thing in a week, which I didn't think I could do.

How did you react to that?

I drove down to the beach in West Sussex and I just sat there staring at the sea for a bit. I was quite exhausted: I'd already written the score and I thought we were finished. I was down there for two nights and I had a piano and I was getting nowhere and was prepared to come back and say, "I think you better hire someone else". Then the entire new theme, which became the spine of the score, just turned up in my head when I was driving back. The same thing happened with the Stargate theme, actually, while I was driving past the M1 services at Toddington.

Is it moments like that, that you wonder if there's someone upstairs?

I don't know that many people who take that much responsibility for their music. Have you ever had a dream where you've heard a record you've never heard before and you think to yourself in the dream, "If only I could remember this when I wake up, I could have a number one record"? I have them all the time, and I'll force myself to wake up and remember it.

So did any of your scores come from a dream?

When I was writing Independence Day, I had a dream that I went into a keyboard shop and I was playing with this new synthesizer that had been invented specifically to write music for alien invasions. I pressed the button and thought, "Ah, that sounds quite good" and I ended up putting it in the film as the theme for the aliens. It's really weird, because I don't feel I have any part in it. But to an extent, all music happens subconsciously.

Do you worry you may one day be replaced by a computer?

Well, there are already programs which write film scores. But to me, it's like standing in front of a really good print of the Mona Lisa. It looks the same, it's got the same colours, but there's something oddly two-dimensional about it.

When you worked with Puff Daddy on Godzilla, you didn't know which of 11 studios he would be in until the last moment. Was he the trickiest person you've collaborated with?

Shirley Bassey was challenging in lots of ways. She'd done so much, and I think what I had in mind wasn't the record she wanted to make. With Puff Daddy, the world of the rapper is very real and a little bit frightening. It's an awful thing to have to fear for your safety.

Lastly, can you save a bad movie with a good score?

No, of course you can't. It will only ever be a bad movie with a good score.

Biography

Grammy-winning, British film composer David Arnold, 52, has written scores for ‘Independence Day’, ‘Godzilla’ and five James Bond films, including ‘Quantum of Solace’. His London concert debut is to be held at the Royal Festival Hall on 6 July, as part of the Songbook Series

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
    What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

    What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

    Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
    Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

    Are you a 50-center?

    Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
    The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

    Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

    The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
    Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

    Hollywood's new diet trends

    Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
    6 best recipe files

    6 best recipe files

    Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
    Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

    Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

    Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Atwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works