How We Met: Nitin Sawhney & John Hurt

'All actors want to be rock stars and all rock stars want to be actors'

Nitin Sawhney 47



One of the country's more eclectic composers, in a 20-year career Sawhney has written classical and dance music, and collaborated with artists including Sting, Brian Eno... and Nelson Mandela. His new album, 'Last Days of Meaning', features the voice of John Hurt



I was watching the election campaign last year when an idea dawned on me: so much insecurity and fear was being played upon throughout the campaign, with all three of the main parties trying to blame much of the economic downturn on the influx of immigrants. It's nothing new, of course; political opportunism always happens in times of recession. But I liked the idea of creating a character, a grumpy old man, who would watch the election unfold and comment upon it in a wider context – a social commentary of sorts, but without being overly politicised.

Initially, I thought it might work well as a script – I'd written it during a Tube journey on my iPhone – but then I realised it could be part of an album, monologues dropped in between songs helping to contextualise the music. I realised I needed somebody to narrate it, and I thought of John.

I was friends with him already; we'd met a couple of years ago at Sir Paul McCartney's Institute of the Performing Arts in Liverpool, where we were both being given fellowships. John's wife is a big fan of my work, so we all went out to dinner after and we just clicked.

Shortly after, I was commissioned to write the music for the BBC's Human Planet series. They were after a narrator, and I suggested John. I pitched it to him direct, and also asked whether he'd consider being the narrator on my album. He said yes. The voice I had in my head was very Samuel Beckett, very Krapp's Last Tape. As it turned out, John has played Krapp on stage before, so it was evident he'd be perfect for the project, and he was.

The day he came into the studio was initially daunting, me thinking, "Oh God, I have to direct the great John Hurt." But then, of course, I didn't need to direct him at all because he knew exactly what to do. I've been lucky to work with some truly great British icons: Sir Paul, Antony Gormley, and now John. And all of them proved easy to work with, each possessed with phenomenal insight. John's timing was spot-on.

He was very gracious. He could have been a git and it wouldn't have affected my enthusiasm for working with him, but the fact he wasn't was a major bonus. But that's John for you. He is very, very cool.





John Hurt, 71



Among the country's most celebrated actors, Hurt has had an illustrious career spanning cinema, theatre and television. His notable screen roles have included 'The Naked Civil Servant', 'The Elephant Man', 'Champions' and the Harry Potter franchise. He is also one of our most in-demand voiceover artists



I met Nitin a few years ago. I was to be given some kind of award given out by Paul McCartney at his institute, but I wasn't sure I would be able to make it because all sorts of things were going on at the time. Then my wife took a look down the list of people who were also to receive fellowships on the same day, and she saw Nitin's name on it. She is a huge fan of his, so she told me that no matter what, we were absolutely going to go up to Liverpool as she wanted to meet him.

I came to his music very much through my wife, and I have to say that I love what he does. It's so individual, so special. When music strikes a chord within you, it's difficult to say precisely how and why it does, but Nitin's really does.

He also happens to fascinate me as a person, and he is a wonderful conversationalist. He is intrigued by all the same things as me – quantum physics, for example – subjects I know little about but am nevertheless intrigued by.

Shortly after we met, we found ourselves working together on Human Planet, for which I was doing the narration. It's true that I do quite a lot of voiceovers and narrations, but then I do enjoy doing them; they're fun.

I haven't done very many music projects, though. I did appear on an Art of Noise album once, and of course I also provided the voice for Mike Batt's rock opera The Hunting of the Snark. In my experience, all actors want to be rock stars and all rock stars want to be actors. Usually, we should each stick to our day jobs, but working with Nitin is different. He is so organised and disciplined, and the recording was quick and effortless; and we had a lovely lunch afterwards.

I find him very simpatico. There is not a word for it in English, but that is what he is to me: simpatico. Our friendship was immediate and instinctive. We share ideas, a certain way of thinking and talking, and also have a similar approach to the very business of living. We gel.



'Last Days of Meaning' is released by Positiv I-D on 19 September

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor