New Version of Stay For Craig Armstrong

3 Apr 2002
'As If To Nothing', the new album by Craig Armstrong, features a brilliant new interpretation of U2's Stay (Far Away So Close).

'As if To Nothing', released this week, is a second solo album of original material from Craig Armstrong and features a stellar cast of collaborative musicians - including Bono, Evan Dando, David McAlmont and Antye Greie-Fuchs.

Glaswegian Armstrong, 43, is a Royal Academy of Music graduate who passed through the ranks of his native city's band culture (membership of Hipsway, Texas and The Big Dish) to become one of the world's most sought-after and respected composers and arrangers.

In the contemporary field, Madonna, U2, Bjork and Massive Attack are among the acts to have benefited from his talents. But he is also an acclaimed writer for theatre and film, where among his credits are scores for the Baz Lurhmann hits 'William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet' and 'Moulin Rouge'

Question one:
The reason I called my album 'As If To Nothing' is to do with the fact that working a lot with music over the years and becoming aware of the sort of intangible quality of music. And the fact that in many ways unlike a painting or a novel it actually doesn't exist in a material sense, it actually exists just in terms of sound waves. I felt the title 'As If To Nothing' would be a good way to define and describe this feeling of etherealness in music.

Question two:
For this album I decided that although there was a lot of instrumental music, quite a lot of the record would contain songs and obviously for these songs I needed to find singers and collaborators.

One of the first artists that I decided to work with was David McAlmont, who did the track 'Snow'. We actually wrote the lyrics together for it and we recorded it in Glasgow.

Bono, is someone who I have done a lot of work for over the years in terms of string arrangements for U2. I said to Bono I would pick my favourite track which was 'Faraway so Close' and we would work on that and see where that would get to.

Mogwai, another artists I collaborated with, are actually a Glasgow band. It turned out to be the most fascinating project. I love the way their music is so filmic and so fascinating. I felt in many ways their sense of space; their sense of dimension and landscape is quite similar to mine.

Question three:
In a sense I have been working on this new album from the period where I finished with my first album. Even when I was in Australia working on Moulin Rouge, I was still writing some work for my solo record. In all, maybe a couple of years.

Question four:
The song that I composed first was 'Ruthless Gravity'. It was a song which in many ways defined the whole record. It was a song that was very complete and I decided that I would take fragments from that song and it would be interpreted through the album, little fragments of the melody would appear through the album. So in many ways it being the first track was quite lucky because it was almost the theme that the whole album was created from. The last track was 'Let it Be Love', and this is a track that like 'The Space Between Us' I wanted a feeling that the album was resolving that it was coming to a positive end, something that was uplifting.

Question five:
Between 'The Space Between Us' and 'As if to Nothing' in terms of the creative process there isn't a lot that's changed. I approach both albums with the same sort of intensity. The only difference is the fact that in 'As if to Nothing' there is this idea of musical development where one track can filter down through the album bit by bit but other than that there's not a lot.

Question six:
The difference between writing for movies and writing for a solo project in one sense is obvious, the fact that in film obviously you have moving images to write to. Other than that I would say I approach all these different mediums say like film, my solo work and my classical work, I just approach them in the same way as a composer. It's my same voice but in different projects. In every single thing I'm trying to write something special and something emotionally true.

Question seven:
I don't think any composers get used to making acceptance speeches. From the point of view that I think that most composers are more comfortable actually working in their studios composing music. For me receiving these awards like the Golden Globe or another BAFTA - they are great honours. A film like Moulin Rouge is incredibly hard work so the fact that your own peers like film makers and directors and other musicians want to vote the fact that what you wrote was special, I think its a real honour to receive these awards.

Question eight:
At the moment I'm very into the German Electronic music from Kitty Yo. At the same time I've revisited a lot of old records of Ennio Morricone. Classically I like a composer called Concelli. I think I'm just like anybody else these days, you listen to lots and lots of different music.

Question nine:
At the moment I'm trying to put together this concert for the Barbican in London which is with the Sinfonietta, one of the main orchestras in London. Other than that I'm doing a new classical work for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and maybe towards the end of the year I may do another movie. So it's quite busy but at the moment, just concentrating on the live show of my albums.

Visit Craig Armstrong's website here


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