David Arnold

Born 1962

David Arnold

Composer • Guitar • Clarinet • Piano


British film composer David Arnold has been hailed as one of the most successful young composers of today. He is most famous for composing the soundtracks to five James Bond films. He is also an active record producer and has worked with many of world’s most popular rock and pop groups.

David Arnold was born in 1962 in Luton, Bedfordshire. Growing up, Arnold always knew that he wanted to have a career in music and films. His inherent musical talent led to much confusion for him in his youth when he didn’t understand why the ‘Other kids were playing instruments completely out of time, or were singing out of tune’. Though Arnold had not learned about rhythm and pitch yet, he was baffled by their lack of rhythmic feel, ‘It was like watching someone being unable to walk—I couldn’t figure out why someone couldn’t do that’.

At school, Arnold received a basic musical education involving different instruments, harmony and melody. He played with the school ensembles up through college. Though his formal basis is in instrumental music, as nobody sang with the school orchestras and bands, he listened constantly to songs on the radio. This inspired him later to also pursue songwriting.

Before embarking on his compositional journey, Arnold performed in pubs and clubs with a three-piece band, in which he sang and played guitar and piano. The group covered many artists and styles during their three to four hour shows.

Arnold didn’t study composition formally, though he spent eight or nine years working for no money to learn film composition. He scored many student films at the National Film and Television School. Through the strict analysis of the projects, Arnold learned what did and did not work. In between projects he worked part-time and doing temp work at building sites.

After eight years of student films and working with his flatmate Danny Cannon, Arnold realized that he was not well acquainted with anyone in the industry.

Arnold’s breakthrough came unexpectedly with the low-budget film The Young Americansdirected by Danny Cannon, for which he worked on the soundtrack from his bedroom. Everything he earned from the film he spent on creating the score. Arnold then got a call to compose the soundtrack for the Hollywood movieStargate (1994) with director Roland Emmerich, bypassing commercials and low-budget TV shows and films.

After Stargate, Arnold found himself composing for Emmerich’s Independence Day (1996), for which he won a Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition Written For a Motion Picture Or For Television. They also worked together onGodzilla (1998).

Stargate led to Arnold’s popularity skyrocketing and he decided to create an album,Shaken and Stirred: The David Arnold James Bond Project (1997), of covers of all the old James Bond songs, which he really loved. This was a homage to the Bond composerJohn Barry. Arnold said, “For me the success of the Bond series was 50% Sean Connery and 50% John Barry”.Arnold started the project by himself, without a record company. He produced the first three tracks before signing with East West Records. The project took about 18 months and led to videos on Top of the Pops.

The Narnia film was particularly interesting for Arnold as it allowed him to write in a primarily orchestral style in which he referenced Harry Gregson-Williams’ previous scores.

Other films with scores by Arnold include Shaft, Changing Lanes, 2 Fast 2 Furious, The Stepford Wives, Venusand Hot Fuzz. His work in television includes the scores for several British series including the remake ofRandall and Hopkirk (Deceased) (2000), Little Britain and Sherlock.

Arnold is quite drawn to bizarre instruments and has managed to use an instrument made out of goat’s testicles, as well as a Sherlockophone. The former instrument was introduced to Arnold by percussionist Pete Locket. Arnold described how the instrument is made, assuring that it is not a joke, ‘They cut their bollocks off, dry them out in the sun and put them together on a necklace, like a string’. This unique instrument can be heard in the extended, opening chase sequence ofCasino Royale. The Sherlockophone is featured in Sherlock. In Arnold’s words, ‘I wanted it to be like a perverted violin…It was like a single string thing with a rotating bow and a trumpet or horn at the end of it. You play it with one hand, and turn the rotating handle…It’s perverse and weird.’

Arnold’s compositions have resulted in collaborations with many popular artists including Cast, The Cardigans, Kaiser Chiefs, Massive Attack and Pulp, and solo artists Natasha Bedingfield, Melanie C, Björk, Chris Cornell, Shirley Manson and Mark Morriss. In 2009 he also produced Shirley Bassey’s albumThe Performance.

For the 2011 tribute to John Barry at Royal Albert Hall, Arnold sang one of Barry’s songs and played the guitar part of theJames Bond Theme. In the same year, Arnold was appointed Musical Director for the upcoming 2012 Olympic Games and the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. He composed theSymphony of British Music for the closing ceremonies. More than 50 artists were featured including The Who, Russel Brand and the reformed Spice Girls.

David Arnold has won seven BMI Awards for his films, in addition to his Grammy. He has also been awarded the Royal Television Society Award for the title music toLittle Britain and the Ivor Novello Award for The World is Not Enough.

Through his album, Arnold met former James Bond composer John Barry, who was quite enthusiastic about Arnold’s work. He praised Arnold, writing ‘He was very faithful to the melodic and harmonic content, but he’s added a whole other rhythmic freshness and some interesting casting in terms of the artists chosen to do the songs. I think it’s a terrific album. I’m very flattered’. Barry even recommended Arnold to the Bond film franchise producer, Barbara Broccoli.

Arnold scored five of the Bond films: Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough, Die Another Day, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. In addition, he has scored a number of other movies including comedies, dramas, and 19th century period films.

More recently, Arnold has composed the soundtrack to The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader with director Michael Apted, with whom Arnold also collaborated onThe World is Not Enough (1999), Enough (2002) with Jennifer Lopez andAmazing Grace (2006).