"I don't subscribe to the Artist as God school of thought....I see musicians just as part of the workforce, no more or less valid than the practitioners of any other trade. Obviously, there's a spiritual element to music, but then there's a spiritual element to many things. If you can do it - whatever 'it' is - then do it, and try to do it well." (Craig Armstrong)
Craig Armstrong (b. 1958) may not be instantly recognisable by his name alone but when mentioned alongside some of the artists he has collaborated with, his success becomes apparent.
Remember those fabulous string instrumentals on the Massive Attack album "Protection"? The balcony scene music from Baz Luhrmann’s "Romeo + Juliet"? How about the incredible orchestration to that same Director’s "Moulin Rouge"? Armstrong had a hand in all of these projects and more.
Born and raised in Scotland, he went on to study at the Royal Academy Of Music in London and then at the Scottish Arts Council. He won several awards during this time for his composition and musicianship – including an award for Young Jazz Musician of the year. In his early career, he was part of several Scottish ensembles – including Texas (he co-wrote "I don’t want a Lover") and The Big Dish – he decided however to diversify and went on to great success in the fields of contemporary music, classical music and film music.
"When the Big Dish disintegrated, I took time to reassess...I was by then a husband and the father of a two-year-old child and had become aware that my time was not infinite. Life isn't such a long thing, and I realised that it was madness to spend it doing things that I didn't really want to do." (Armstrong)
Now in the late 80s, he worked as a sort of "in-house composer" with the Glasgow based Tron Theatre – which proved a good basis for some of the more illustrious scoring he would do for "drama" later in his career.
By the late 90s, he had moved on to work with Producer Marius de Vries and Nellee Hooper. For about 5 years they had an incredible influence on the contemporary musical climate and were asked to work with many world-renowned artists.
"For a time, it seemed like we were responsible for some of the most major tracks by some of the most major artists in the world. We had a pretty amazing run of it, looking back." (Armstrong)
This work led him to work on the album "Protection" with the ultra cool Massive Attack. He scored the two instrumentals Weatherstorm and Heat Miser – and his success here led to a contract with their label – Melankolic. In 1998 he released his first solo album "The Space Between Us" – which acted as somewhat of a CV for his musical endeavours up to that period – including film music (The Balcony scene from Romeo + Juliet) and the tracks that had appeared on Protection as well as some original material.
He had already shown his genius with film music through his collaboration on the soundtrack to "Romeo + Juliet", and his success in this field continued. "Plunkett and Macleane", "Kiss of the Dragon" and "Best Laid Plans" are other notable triumphs. He had won the Anthony Asquith Bafta and an Ivor Novello award for his work on Luhrman's "Romeo + Juliet" and recognition of his talents in this field continued – he was awarded with the ASCAP in 1999 for his score to Philip Noyce’s "The Bone Collector". In 2000, yet further success came with a Golden Globe award for his score to the box office smash "Moulin Rouge". He also composed and conducted the strings on the title music for the films "Goldeneye", "Batman Forever" and "Mission Impossible".
Armstrong has also continued to work in the "classical" field – with commissions from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the BT Ensemble, the Barbican Concert Hall and from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. His piece "When Morning Turns to Light" written for the latter group, premiered in Edinburgh in December 2000 and his piece "Visconti" – a tribute to Mahler – premiered at the Barbicans Stockhausen Festival in 2001. His work for theatre is also to be commended – including the group he worked with early in his career – The Tron theatre and more recently the Royal Shakespeare Company.
His latest project again shows the seemingly never ending diversity of talent that this man has become renowned for. The album "As if to Nothing" (released 15/04/02) is an incredible work – including appearances and collaborations with Bono, Evan Dando, David McAlmont, Photek and Mogwai. Each track on the album seems to flow seamlessly into the next – a work of incredible scope and profound beauty.
"Almost every other track acts as a microcosm of the first one, 'Ruthless Gravity' (the title borrowed from a favourite Ian McEwan novel Enduring Love). That gives it a certain symphonic quality, It hangs together and has a kind of collective truth." (Armstrong)
Musician / Composer:
Orchestration / Strings / Arranger:
- Protection – Massive Attack (1994) – also performed on piano and conductor
- No Protection - Massive Attack Vs Mad Professor (1995)
- Passengers: Original Soundtracks 1 – Passengers (1995)
- Hold me, Thrill me, Kiss me, Kill me – U2 (1995)
- OST – Batman Forever (1995)
- OST – Goldeneye (1995)
- OST – Mission Impossible (1996)
- Peace at Last – The Blue Nile (1996)
- Theme from Mission Impossible – Larry Mullen & Adam Clayton (1996)
- Spice – Spice Girls (1996)
- 2 Become 1 – Spice Girls (1996)
- Coming Up – The London Suede (1996)
- Wildest Dreams – Tina Turner (1996)
- OST – Romeo + Juliet (1996) – also conductor and producer
- Please – U2 (1997)
- OST - Welcome to Sarajevo (1997)
- Celebrity Skin – Hole (1998)
- Ray of Light – Madonna (1998)
- OST - Cruel Intentions (1999)
- OST – Best Laid Plans (1999) – also performed piano, composer, conductor, producer
- OST – The Bone Collector (1999) – also performed piano, producer
- You only tell me you love me when you’re Drunk – Pet Shop Boys (2000) – also performed piano, keyboards and produced
- Mini – Pet Shop Boys (2000) – also performed keyboards and produced
- Headliners – Fergie (2001)
- Nightlife – Pet Shop Boys (2001) – also performed piano, keyboards and produced
- Song Book: The Best of Texas - Texas (2001) – also performed keyboards
- OST – Moulin Rouge (2001) – also producer and orchestra production
- OST – Kiss of the Dragon (2001) – also conductor and producer
- Release – Pet Shop Boys (2002) – also produced
- I get along – Pet Shop Boys (2002) – also produced
- OST – Moulin Rouge 2 (2002) – also solo instrumental, performed piano and producer
Mixing / Programmer:
discography taken from Allmusic.com
Classical listings not included here.