david arnold interview james bond

An Interview with David Arnold • James Bond Soundtrack Composer

First Published in 2006

In this exclusive interview with the current James Bond music composer, UnivEx becomes the first James Bond related Web site to interview the talented composer in relation to Casino Royale.

David Arnold gives a few hints towards his Bond score for the up-coming film, fresh off completing it in the studio. David also dispels a few rumours on the current Bond theme and talks about what’s hopefully in store for him in the future. We hope you enjoy the interview!

First up, how long did the Casino Royale score take from commencement to completion?

We started recording music only 8 weeks after completion of principal photography. I had been working on the song for a little while beforehand, so the whole thing this time around was around 10 – 11 weeks.

Soundtrack.net reported in late August that Nicholas Dodd would be conducting and orchestrating your Casino Royale score. Are you able to confirm this and how and when did you first start working with Dodd?

Nick did work on Casino Royale with me. I first worked with Nick on my first commercial venture which was a film called the Young Americans. We had a small budget but I wanted to work with Nick and he kindly joined in for not much money. Before that I had been scoring student films with small student orchestras and had handled all the music myself.

For Tomorrow Never Dies, you told John Burlingame you used an 85 piece orchestra. Has that changed much throughout your tenure as Bond composer and if so how many does Casino Royale employ?

85 seems about right for Lyndhurst Hall. Any more and I don’t really hear the difference. Other composers have had larger numbers in there, but I feel comfortable with that amount. We were actually only about 70 players this time,although on some cues 6 of those were percussionists.

You mentioned, prior to writing it, that the Casino Royale score would take a rather different musical direction from past Bond scores. Since there is a new gunbarrel for Casino Royale, does this new direction involve the gunbarrel as well, or will you take a rather traditional approach, ala Tomorrow Never Dies?

Well the film has taken a rather different direction, so it was appropriate that the music does also. Overall , it’s a more serious piece, the film and therefore the music isn’t frivolous or silly and is rooted in a far more believable place dramatically. The music for action in Bond has to do what it has to do, although I rely far more on orchestral forces than electronic this time, and the writing for the poker games for instance is more about tension than anything else. I don’t think its anything radical, but its more mature I think.

Was anyone else in the running for the Casino Royale title song, apart from Chris Cornell? And what exactly were you looking for in the new artist?

Not that I know of. There are always names bandied around in the press but it is more often than not fanciful and speculative..The main reason for choosing Chris was to do with the idea of masculinity in music. I asked myself, who could sound the way Daniel Craig’s Bond looks?

The way Daniel moves made me consider the whole alpha male thing which has been absent in music and to a certain extent films for a while. Is there a contemporary male singer who can go from sensitive to aggressive and back convincingly. Lia Vollack, head of music at Sony Pictures came up with the idea of Chris, who wasn’t really on my radar at that point, but when she mentioned him, I thought it was an intriguing choice, especially as he is a great writer as well.

Reportedly, you used the On Her Majesty’s Secret Service theme as a template for “You Know My Name.” Did you end up using any other existing Bond themes for inspiration for new material on Casino Royale?

This wasn’t true at all. I said that in Casino Royale we would not be using the Bond theme (it’s in the script!) until the very end, so there would have to be music to replace it, I said that in that respect, its closest musical cousin would be OHMSS, where the main theme became the de-facto Bond theme for that movie (with the odd exception of course). I certainly never said I would be basing the music of CR on OHMSS

Are you able to tell us if the title track “You Know My Name” is incorporated into the actual score of Casino Royale as was done with “The World Is Not Enough” and “Surrender” in Tomorrow Never Dies?

It is, in numerous guises.

There are Internet rumors circulating that the “James Bond Theme” will not be heard in its full glory until the climax of Casino Royale. Is there any truth to this rumor?

It is true, although we hint at the Bond theme through the score as Bond ‘earns his stripes’. We don’t play it out until the end, and I think it is a glorious end. The band really played it fantastically well and it’s a no frills reading of the theme, a kind of, it all starts here approach.

A few days ago the track listing was released for the coming soundtrack. With 25 cues, it seems we may finally get most of the completed score. Are you able to tell us how much of the original score hasn’t made the final album?

Only a few tracks were left off, and I believe Sony are going to make those available as downloads through I tunes, so you can get the complete thing if you really want it. We were coming up against the physical limits of what we can fit onto a CD, but in the end, some tracks were a little too nebulous and strange to want to listen too in isolation (The license 2 kills track for instance which is largely atmospheric with bursts of extreme orchestral violence).

I think there is around 75 minutes of music on the album which I am delighted about. And props to Sony Records for turning the thing around so amazingly quickly. It will be in the shops less than three weeks after we finished recording, which is pretty stunning for a major label.

What would you say is the biggest challenge in writing a Bond score? And what is the one element that every Bond score needs?

The biggest challenge is living up to my own and everyone else’s expectations. I found that you cant please all the people all the time so you have to do your best and do it the way you feel is right at the time. Everyone has an opinion on what makes a good Bond score, and one mans meat is another mans poison. (That doesn’t quite sound right, but you get the point?)

Which Bond score do you feel you connected with the most?

I feel connected to parts of all of them, I feel closer to the more emotional pieces, like “Elektra’s Theme” but equally more excited by things like “Come In 007 Your Time Is Up.”

Have you thought about reviving John Barry’s famed “007” theme for inclusion in a future Bond film score?

I have thought about it and if it is right I will do it, but its quite a presence in any Bond film and it has a particular kind of heroism about it which isn’t always appropriate.

It certainly wouldn’t work in CR, as to me it gives the sense of whatever happens, Bond will prevail, and although we know this is ultimately what will happen, in CR the drama is much more believable and you never really know whether he will succeed or nor, in fact there are moments when he doesn’t.

There are rumours that your Tomorrow Never Dies score references previous Bond cues. Apparently the music from the tarantula scene in Doctor No crops up at one point. Are you able to let us know if this is truth or fiction? And if true, where exactly?

The only thing I referenced was Johns From Russia With Love opening orchestral figures. And a touch of Goldfinger’s opening PT sequence in terms of orchestration. If the tarantula stuff is on there, I never noticed.

Finally, are you able to confirm whether or not you will be writing the score for the next Bond film (Bond 22)?

We haven’t got into Bond 22 yet, but as ever, if James Bond returns, I would like to.

David Arnold James Bond Composer

A word from the interviewer: Adam Farrington-Williams

First off, I must thoroughly praise David for making himself firstly available for answering questions from his fans and then secondly for answering them so quickly. It’s a fantastic interview, thank you very much David!

Secondly, I must give my extreme thanks to the Administration at David’s official Web site. I strongly advise you visit it at www.davidarnold.com

Furthermore, the Web site has a number of David’s pieces available for download, including some of his unreleased James Bond cues. As well as offering a regularly updated news section, which informs fans of David’s works. Definitely worth a visit. David also frequents his forum and answers fans questions.

I hope you enjoyed reading this interview and stay tuned to UnivEx for more interviews, features articles and editorials in the coming months. We’re back and ready to go.

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