This time the Univex interview chair is filled by the original James Bond composer and famed creator of "The James Bond Theme," Monty Norman. In this 10th Anniversary Special interview promised by myself a few months ago, Monty very kindly answers questions on his music life, the world of Bond and what's to come for Monty Norman.
What's your earliest recollection of the music world?
When I was 7 years old hearing a song called “whickey whackey woo” played by my guitar-playing hero who lived downstairs was probably my first introduction to wanting be a musician.
Monty Norman and David Heneker
The roots of the James Bond theme are in an earlier song you wrote called Bad Sign Good Sign. Was there something about that tune that made it suitable for the Bond theme, or could you quite easily have used a different tune?
Absolutely no other tune, when I split the notes of this eastern sounding melody it metamorphosised into exactly what I was looking for, for the character of James Bond.
When you were hired to compose Dr No, did the producers give you free rein to do what you felt right, or did the music have to meet
certain requirements that they had outlined?
In essence free reign, but obviously I had many discussions with the producers and director.
Now let's talk a little about the present. How long did it take to
write your latest album, "Completing The Circle?" And what was your
inspiration for it?
I started my professional life as a singer working with the big bands then became a writer of films, shows, T.V. etc, so it seemed a good idea to coordinate all these elements by Completing The Circle with my writing and my singing. The whole process of putting the CD together with producer Gerry Bron and orchestrater Paddy Milner was over the period of a year.
If you would, please describe the process you go through when
writing your music or any musical score.
I start the process by looking for the mood, the ambience and the character of the scene be it for film, stage or television.
Dr. No Score
What music have you been listening to recently? What's in your CD player?
Recently, I like to listen to Katie Melua, James Blunt, Paddy Milner, Jamie Cullem and I still adore all the great big bands such as Countie Basie and Duke Ellington.
Right now I’m listening to my iPod not my CD player anymore which ranges from the Big Bands through to Jazz and Classical music.
Now let's get back to Bond. Do you still follow the Bond series and what are your thoughts on David Arnold's take with your classic theme?
Yes I have seen every one of the films and I find it interesting how each composer puts his own stamp on my theme. I think David Arnold has done a spectacular job of all the Bond films he has done so far and his many versions of the theme are always right on the button.
With over 40 years and 19 Bond movies since you scored Doctor No, what do you feel has been the biggest change in Bond scores?
The Bond scores have changed as technology has grown both in music and more especially in film techniques. It probably went to far for a while in that direction but I believe it is now returning to its basic with the added technical ingredients in the right proportions.
What do you feel separates Bond scores from those of other films?
The James Bond character!
What, do you feel, it takes to make a Bond score?
A good composer!
What are some other Bond films you would have liked to compose the music for?
It is almost impossible to select any given Bond film and I am more than content to have started the whole process with Dr. No.
Norman after defeating John Barry
If you were to compose the music for the next Bond film, who would you like to sing the title song?
Casino Royale is not the easiest of titles for a lyric, so I would do an instrumental.
What advice would you give to the next Bond composer?
I’m sure it will be David Arnold and he doesn’t need my advice!
And finally, we all know you have a career outside of James Bond music. Are you able to give us any word on current or upcoming projects you may be working on?
I have signed a contract to revive on Broadway my musical Irma La Douce and I am in the process of writing a stage musical based on Kingsley Amis’ best selling novel Lucky Jim.
After forty years, are you still a Bond fan?
If so, do you have a favourite Bond?
And lastly, do you have a favourite film?
A word from the interviewer:
My thanks go out to firstly Monty Norman for his willingness and speedy replies and secondly to Gerry Bron and Josh Kaye at Bronze Records, London (who put together and helped organise the interview). Monty's album titled “Completing The Circle” is available from his website, through Bronze Records Limited. Please visit both websites: www.montynorman.com and www.bronzerecords.co.uk.
Buy it from “BRONZE ONLINE SHOP” located at the Bronze Records official website.
Questions written by Adam Farrington-Williams