You may not have heard of Craig Armstrong the man, but chances are, you have definitely heard his music.Unknowingly, Craig Armstrong, has been a major part of some of your best cinematic experiences in the last decade - whether it's the atmospheric arrangement that creates a spine tingling sensation in The Bone Collector, the foot-tapping orchestral sound that fuses together jazz and gospel in Ray or the entire score for the delightfully heartbreaking, dream making, visual feast for the eyes that was Baz Luhrmann's, Moulin Rouge, for which he added a Golden Globe, Ivor Novello and an American Institute Award to the many others that adorn his Glasgow home.Throughout all those moments - Craig Armstrong has been there, you just didn't know it until now.Not only has Craig written a plethora of film scores (Romeo + Juliet, The Quiet American, Love Actually, Plunkett and MacLeane, Cruel Intentions, The Negotiator, the list goes on!) he has worked with some of the most talented people in music, including Madonna, U2, Tina Turner and Massive Attack, he also released three beautiful solo albums in between composing classical pieces.Following on from last years Piano Works, Craig's latest offering, Film Works, is an album that compiles the last decade of this truly talented composers work that is a must for any movie enthusiast or anyone else who just loves great music. On the album you will find arrangements from all of his greatest movies which include One Day I'll Fly Away (Moulin Rouge) the David Bowie and Ewan McGregor song Nature Boy (Moulin Rouge) and Will You Come Back To Me (The (Quiet American). The beautiful Clair de Lune which he arranged for the Channel No.5 advert that stared Nicole Kidman and was directed by his long-time friend Baz Luhrmann brings the album to a definitive close.Femalefirsts Sarah Williams chats to the man behind the music about the new album, the movies he has worked on and the most exciting news we've heard in ages - his next (as yet untitled) film with Baz!
How did you get into music?
When I was 17 I went to the Royal Academy Of Music in London where I did piano and composition. After that I got involved in writing for theatre and then I got into films. I started doing writing for Peter Mullan on his short films and eventually I did the music for his feature Orphans. Then Baz Luhrmann asked me to do Romeo and Juliet and it kicked off from there really. Romeo and Juliet was the big break.
Was it a conscious decision to go into film or did it just kind of happen?
I was always interested in it. Romeo and Juliet was such a big film and it was really well received and from there it just kicked off.
What has been your favourite movie to compose?
I thought Moulin Rouge was good and also a film called The Quiet American which was an adaptation of a Graham Greene novel.
I have to tell you Moulin Rouge is one of my all-time favourite films...
It's a really interesting film isn't it; well it was more like a musical. It was great fun to work on. It was all filmed in Sydney which is a great city.
How does the scoring process come about, is it the film first or the music?
With Moulin Rouge, you were actually there when the film was being made, because quite a lot of the music you wrote it had to be filmed to, so that was unusual. Another interesting thing was you could go to the studio and see the scenes being shot and then the next day you had the reels to work with. It was an amazing set. It was a very intense movie and there was a hell of a lot of work involved. You don't always get to see a film being made so that was really interesting.
You have worked on some amazing movies in your time - do you ever get star struck when meeting the actors/actresses?
Not so much these days. Everybody is a human being. In a way, to work with someone you have to forget that they are famous otherwise it just gets annoying. Someone like Nicole Kidman, she is just a normal person, she's a great actress though. If you walked in everyday and you were star struck, it wouldn't really work would it.
Now that you have worked with Baz on two of his movies do you two have any future projects lined up?
Yeah he has asked me to work on a movie with him in the future. I'm not sure what it's about yet. But Baz's projects take about two years to generate. I did meet him recently in London, which was nice. He's an incredibly talented guy.
What is the one movie that you would have loved to have done the music for?
I really wanted to do the music for the last Michael Mann film, Collateral, with Tom Cruise. I was up for doing that actually and I went out and saw the film but at the last minute I didn't get it which was a bummer.
Apart from the exciting news that you and Baz may be doing a new film have you got anything else lined up?
Yeah I'm probably working on a French film which would be really interesting. There are three or four projects lined up. Phillip Noyce, who I worked with on The Bone Collector and The Quiet American is making a new film out in Africa and he wants to work with me again so that would be great. I think he is a great director.
You're based in Glasgow so do you just fly out to work on the films?
Yeah, you just fly out wherever they need you. What I try and do is do half the work with them in LA or wherever and I try and do half the work here because I have children.
Your film scores can be quite dark and brooding would you say you are the same?
I wouldn't say that I am a particularly broody person. I think it's got a lot to do with the film. I am quiet well known for my string sound and I think orchestras do have that sort of sound anyway, lush and kind of dark. I suppose to an extent music is a part of your personality but I think it's more to do with the films. I'm more comfortable working in drama. In drama you do have a lot of stuff happening.
You have worked with Madonna, U2 and Massive Attack so how was that experience?
Well that was one of the ways I got into film really. I started to do arrangements for songs in films like Goldeneye and Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me, the U2 song in Batman Forever. I did orchestra in the Mission Impossible film and then that tipped over into actually doing whole scores.
I know many people will have heard your wonderful music on screen but don't actually know who you are - do you like to stay anonymous?
I do a little bit of press for albums like this. The nature of this work is that you are partly in the background, its part of the job. But it's nice to come out of the background every now and then and promote. Being a composer is very different from being a pop star, it's more to do with the music. Instead of selling yourself you're selling the music.
Your new album Film Works is a decade worth of some of your best film arrangements - tell us a little bit about it?
The Film Works album is really interesting because it's got David Bowie doing Nature Boy on it and Nicole Kidman doing One Day I'll Fly Away (Moulin Rogue). It contains a lot of stuff and the thing about it is, everyone knows the music, so I think it will be an interesting listen and I hope people enjoy it.
How was it putting it together?
Putting this best of film album together was really nice because it's like the last decade of work. It's a record of what I have done. I have spent a lot of time on putting it together and I think it's a very special record.
The album wraps up ten decades of your work - so what is next for you?
I'm doing my first classical album which I am recording in December and will hopefully be out in April next year, it contains four orchestral pieces, so that will be interesting for me to do. There are a couple of solo projects that I quite fancy doing but I'll see how it goes.
Craig Armstrong Film Works 1995-2005 is out now - for more info check out www.craigarmstrong.com