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I READ* by… David Arnold

David Arnold


1. Your favourite genre of reading matter: fiction, poetry, biography, comic, other?

I always like a biography. I’m essentially quite a voyeuristic person who is endlessly fascinated with people and the way they live their lives and do what it is they do. The fact that they write it down saves me the trouble of finding them and asking them lots of personal questions.


2. Favourite book about music or musicians?

Hit Men by Fredric Dannen was an eye-opener when I first read it. It’s a book concerning the music industry in America in the seventies, which involved blackmail, corruption, payola and the rest – all good stuff. The fact that there was a music industry is heartening also, as we watch the current one dissolve before our eyes.

Also thoroughly enjoyed the Led Zeppelin and Mötley Crüe books about their touring experiences, doing those rock and roll things that one may dream of doing, but would never dare. (Some of those things, I wouldn’t even dream of doing, just to be clear.)


3. The book that has influenced you the most?

Play in a Day by Bert Weedon. Essentially, pick up a guitar, do these things and your life will change.


4. Your favourite character(s) in literature? 

Can I have James Bond? For the most obvious reasons… if he hadn’t existed, I may not have had a day job. Thanks Ian Fleming.


5. Favourite place to buy books?

Daunt Books in Belsize Park or South End Green. Fabulous places. They wrap books for you if you’re giving them as gifts, never make you feel like you have to buy or leave, and, as one would expect, the staff have an enormous personal knowledge of what’s out, when it’s out, when they can get it, or what else you may like… and all from having asked for just the one thing. It’s like a proper old-fashioned but on-the-button
organic bookshop.


6. Best book cover?

Best book cover would have to be an old Sainsbury’s baking book I have, simply because the cover shows the most magnificent Victoria sponge, which as we all know, is the king of cakes. (Buttercream and jam; no cream, thanks very much.)


7. Most well-thumbed?

Musicians can be relatively obsessive about things: lists and both order and chaos tend to be themes that run through their lives. Having worked with many lyricists, I am fascinated with words and phrases and their meanings and origins, so my current most-thumbed book is Linda and Roger Flavell’s Dictionary of Idioms and Their Origins. This particular obsession began when I went on a tour of the Houses of Parliament. I was shown some tally sticks, upon which a mark or score was made when repaying part of a debt, hence keeping a tally or keeping a score.


8. Your favourite children’s book?

I really enjoyed Lionboy series recently and as a child I loved Moonfleet and Tom’s Midnight Garden. And recently, having reread all the Narnia books in preparation for my scoring of the film The Voyage of the Dawn Treader I rediscovered how much I love The Magician’s Nephew.


9. Do you read on the toilet? If so, what do you read?

It is essential to read on the toilet; why waste time doing nothing else – you have both hands free after all. The Flavell idioms book is a good fallback book, but most of the time I try to get through a bunch of music and film magazines to see who is doing what, when are they doing it, why are they doing it and what they hope to do next.


* David Arnold is a Grammy Award-winning composer and producer famous for scoring all the James Bond films since 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies,
as well as the Hollywood blockbusters Independence Day (1996) and Stargate (1994). Most recently he has produced Dame Shirley Bassey’s new album,
The Performance (2009).