British composer David Arnold, whose music adorns the new James Bond film Die Another Day, counts himself among the luckiest musicians in the world: Every two years, he gets to score the exploits of the world's most famous spy.
The trouble is, it gets more and more difficult. "I felt that I did everything I wanted to on Tomorrow Never Dies," he says at the end of a long day of mixing the music at London's Air Lyndhurst studios. "When I looked at The World Is Not Enough, I was back at the bottom of the mountain looking up at the top again. You've got to get up there, but you can't take the same route as you went last time.
"Now on Die Another Day, I'm back down at the bottom of the mountain again. It's trying to avoid, to a certain extent, what you've done before, but not abandoning it completely."
Arnold is the eighth composer to write music for Bond movies but only the second to score more than one. John Barry, who established the Bond sound with such classic scores as Goldfinger and Thunderball, had done 11 before leaving the series. Arnold has inherited the mantle, bringing the sound of 007 into contemporary musical terms while "trying to maintain the spirit of what John did. I think his shadow looms large over the whole thing."
Arnold, 40, is that rare breed of film composer who understands both the value of the traditional orchestra and the high-tech world inhabited by most rock and pop artists. On Tomorrow Never Dies, the score was mostly orchestral; on The World Is Not Enough, it leaned heavily toward the electronic. "This is an extension of both of those," Arnold says.
The locales of the films are a major influence on musical choices. In the new adventure, Bond (Pierce Brosnan) visits both Korea and Cuba, so Arnold accompanies him with the native sounds of both countries. "It's good to share the responsibility for some of the rhythmic propulsion with ethnic-based instruments, rather than completely electronic," he notes.
Arnold won a Grammy for his massive score for the blockbuster Independence Day and counts among his other early successes the music for the sci-fi film Stargate and the fantasy Godzilla.
He does a lot more than just Bond these days. Within the past two years he has also penned the music for a wide-ranging slate that includes Samuel L. Jackson's Shaft remake, the swashbuckling The Musketeer, the Ben Stiller comedy Zoolander, the Jennifer Lopez thriller Enough and the acclaimed Ben Affleck drama Changing Lanes. Up next for Arnold: the music for The Fast and the Furious 2 with John Singleton, with whom he worked on Shaft and Baby Boy.