David Arnold and Don Black interviews

David Arnold and Don Black interviews

The Bond composer and the Bond lyricist answer your questions

Posted 10.11.2014

David Arnold

We asked you for your questions for David Arnold. We chose the best ones and put them to the Bond composer…

Q Travis McClain: Are there any specific instruments you try to find a way to use in your scores? If so, what are they and where would we notice where you’ve sneaked them in?

A David Arnold: I love the sounds of deep low strings… cellos, low violas and low violins… it’s a velvety rich dark sound, and alongside dark trombone chords and French horns gives you that foreboding but sensual Bond sound. I also love the sound of harp and alto flute. Most notably, all of these sounds are in “Night At The Opera” from QUANTUM OF SOLACE. The flute/harp combination is something John Barry made famous in his work for the Bond films that he scored.

Q Ricardo Elorza Bobadilla: What turns any score into a Bond movie score beyond the use of the theme here and there? Thank you.

A David Arnold: You’ll get a million different answers to this question… but for me it’s a sense of danger, mystery, an undercurrent of violence and a slightly perverse sense of romanticism. To represent those elements in a musical form should get you close to the sound of a Bond score.

Q Sebastian Johnson: What was your favourite scene to score?

A David Arnold: I liked the scene between Bond and Elektra (in THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH) when they’re in the bedroom and being tender with each other… probably because I liked the theme I came up with for her and it played well in this scene. “A Night At The Opera” from QOS and “Surrender” from TOMORROW NEVER DIES were highlights.

Q Matthew Soberman: Not counting your own, what’s your favourite Bond theme?

A David Arnold: ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE.   

Q Andres Quiroga: What made you approach Chris Cornell for the song “You Know My Name”? That was a match made in heaven.

A David Arnold: We wanted a singer who sounded like Daniel Craig looked and moved. Chris has the power, grit and, when needed, sensitivity to welcome the audience into the world of CASINO ROYALE. 

Q Richard Grant: What piece of music that you wrote for the Bond series are you proudest of?

A David Arnold: I like quite a lot of cues over the years, it’s difficult to say which  is a  favourite… but I suppose as it was the theme that got me in to the Eon/Bond family in the first place… I’ll go for “Surrender” from TOMORROW NEVER DIES.

Q Juha Mäkinen: Who is you favourite composer, in other words a “hero to you”?

A David Arnold: John Barry… who else???? 

Don Black

Oscar-winning Lyricist Don Black worked on the theme songs for THUNDERBALL, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER and TOMORROW NEVER DIES among others. Here, he answers your questions…. 

Q Wingless Angel: Is there anyone who hasn’t sung a Bond theme that you wish would, or had?

A Don Black: Bette Midler because she has this kind of a wink with everything she does. There’s something sexy and witty which are great ingredients for a Bond theme.

Q Nicolás Suszczyk: What was the hardest song to write? The one that took hours and hours to find the words?

A Don Black: Probably THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN because John Barry wasn’t that happy with his tune and he changed it quite a few times, which was very unusual for him.

Q Bond Blog: What’s in your opinion the best Bond song ever and why?

A Don Black: This is really a personal thing. I was managing the singer Matt Munro when we got the assignment for FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE. The song is lovely and every time I hear it, it brings back so many memories for me. I remember Lionel Bart who wrote it, coming round and singing it in my ear. I have so many great memories associated with that song.

Q Marcus Eastop: Do you have any anecdotes about any of the artists you have worked with – for instance Dame Shirley Bassey?

A Don Black: Well I’ve got hundreds! The thing about Shirley Bassey is that she doesn’t sing songs she lives them. When Terry Wogan introduces a Shirley Bassey record on the radio he says, “She doesn’t just sing songs, she bites lumps out of them”.  I love Shirley Bassey and the way she attacks everything. She’s an absolute joy to work with and you know you’re going to get a sensational performance whatever she does.

Q Justin Whitby: Which is your favourite Bond lyric of all the ones you wrote and why?

A Don Black: DIAMONDS ARE FORVEVER… I’ve always thought a Bond song should be provocative and sensual. There’s something about the song that seduces you into it. 

Q Clayton Hodson: What past music or artists have inspired your work and how so?

A Don Black: All the greats like Sinatra, Streisand. I was brought up to love all the great song writers like Cole Porter and Irving Berlin, The Great American Songbook always influenced me. 

Q Stephen Perry Williams: What did you use for inspiration for your lyrics, for example, did you read the book or the script, or did you get to see footage from the movie?

A Don Black: I don’t really, I like to get a sense of it – I like someone to tell me what it’s all about in a sentence. I just need to know the nuts and bolts of it, I often don’t read the script I just want to get straight to the heart of the story.

Q Derek Martz: How does writing a Bond theme differ from writing “normal” songs?

A Don Black: You’ve got to over write in a way, you’ve got to lure people into it. The best songs are the ones when you want to know what happens next, you hear the opening line and it’s a story. With a lot of songs you don’t need to do this, you just have to make people feel good, but with a Bond song the emphasis on the song should be seduction to gradually lure the listeners in.

Q Vasilios Sotiropoulos: In the lyrics to THUNDERBALL, who do you talk about as being ‘He’? Is it Bond, No. 1, or Largo?

A Don Black: I was thinking about Bond, thinking ‘He always runs while others walk’. In my mind it was James Bond, but I guess it could work for Largo too.