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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried