This week we find ourselves inspired by musician Tim Arnold.
Tim Arnold is an eclectic musician with an already storied career. He started that career at only 19 years old, when he signed an 8 album record deal with Sony music. ‘In 1997, Tims band Jocasta released their album No Coincidence. Th release came at the height of the Britpop scene, cementing Tim’s future in music. Tim also collaborated with The London Symphony Orchestra on multiple tracks on the album, the first inklings of his future as a rock and classical crossover artist.
In 1999, Tim became Master of Music for the 400thAnniversary season at Shakespeare’s Globe, composing music for Peter Oswald’s play Augustine’s Oak. He was only 23 years old. That project allowed Tim to pull from several different genres like early Elizabethan fanfare, Drum ‘n’ Bass, Jazz, Early Celtic music and 6th century liturgical chant. Despite the project’s feeling nature, Tim was able to cement its existence in 2011, when he reassembled the musicians from the Globe production ten years a later to record Augustine’s Oak.
Tim went on to pursue a solo career, and a prolific one at that. It began in 2004 with Lokutara, released on his own label. The album was written and recorded in Thailand, at a Buddhist monastery. The monks were his collaborators, teaching him how to create music from patterns found in nature, and even helping him build the studio he would use to record.
It’s this type of innovation, collaboration and creativity that colors all of Tim Arnold’s incredible work.
Over the next few years Tim would go onto record several albums, including 2010’s Sonnet 155. It was previewed to a star studded crowd, and Tim performed the album with actors Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Briers, Paul McGann performing alongside Tim, his band, 3 opera singers and a string section. Tim was inspired to write Sonnet 155 by letters he received from several Shakespearean actors including Derek Jacobi, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson and many more.
In 2012 Tim launched his alter ego ‘The Soho Hobo’ – an album project that would celebrate the character of his beloved home of London’s most creative square mile. The album went on to pick up BBC London album of the year, earning Tim a place in song-writing history as the first artist to make a concept album about London’s Soho.
In ,2016 Tim composed his first feature film music for Blood Orange, starring Iggy Pop. Tim wrote the theme, and all of the music that Iggy Pop performs in the film. Iggy even compared Tim’s eclectic musical talent to the late David Bowie, high praise indeed from such a veteran of music.
Today, Tim Arnold is preparing to release a piece of music that is sure to become a piece of history. Taking pride in his unique background as a straight, mixed race son of two women, Tim has written a beautiful yet sombre ode to the frightening and divisive times in which we live.
“What love would want” will be the anthem that champions diversity, tolerance, and most of all, love. Inspired by Emma Watson’s He for She campaign and Stephen Fry’s seminal speech on the Catholic Church’s condemnation of gay people, and the multitude of other tragedies around the world, Tim brings an aura of hope and a message for change that will resonate around the globe.
We at Addicted are pleased to bring you the video for “What love would want” on Monday, May 17th. For now, read on to be inspired by Tim Arnold, and check out the teaser for the video below.
Tell us about your upbringing. What was it like growing up with your two moms?
When I was a child I didn’t really identify that my parents were different to the parents of my school-friends. I never thought I was missing a father and I never said ‘why don’t I have a father like the other boys and girls at school?’ If anything, I thought I was luckier than the kids that I grew up with. I think the fact that two women were responsible for me taught me not to define people by their gender. There was always a feminine role (my mother) and a masculine role (her partner). I did recognise that when I was a child, but I could see that those two distinct roles were being played by two women who had more that united them than divided them. It frees your perception and expectations of human beings. Growing up with gay parents taught me to be flexible in the way I look at people.
Was it your childhood and your parents that helped shape your view on homosexuality, and your acceptance of it?
All the adults that were around throughout my childhood were, firstly, extraordinary people. I was very lucky. They formed an extended family around my mother (who came from a broken home). They were always there for me. Those who are still alive continue to have that role in my life. When I became a teenager, I started to see that those people who I saw as family were all in same sex relationships. Mostly women, but also gay men too. All that they had in common was that they had all been in long-term loving relationships with each other since I could remember. My view of homosexuality from a very young age was that they were people. Just people. I didn’t grow up with labels. They were people that I loved who were all in long lasting, stable loving monogamous relationships.
I lived inside a community who were straight, gay and of many difference races, all getting along together and that’s how I ended up making Soho (in London), my home for 21 years. The one place in the UK that has always stood for diversity, inclusivity, tolerance and acceptance. I have always believed that a label is similar to a necessary chapter in a book, but a label doesn’t define the entire story. Perhaps one day we may live in a world where a label is to an adult what a rattle is to a baby. Necessary for a time, but destined to be thrown away if and when we embrace evolution.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Was music always in your future?
I started writing songs when I was 12 after I discovered that I had what I call a ‘multi-track ear’. I could distinguish up to 20 or more instruments playing at the same time. I think a lot of musicians can do this actually, but I was doing it before I’d learnt to play a musical instrument or knew anything about mixing music. I was very young and sound itself was like a friend to me.
I didn’t think it was anything particularly special until I started listening to Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells again and again. After I heard that album, I learnt to map out musical sounds in my mind like countries on an atlas. From that moment, I knew all I wanted to do was make albums of music, with as many instruments as possible. Although, I think I differed from many youngsters that go into music in that I did not want to be in a band, I didn’t want to be a pop-star, it had nothing to do with enticing members of the opposite sex and I didn’t care about money or fame. I didn’t feel that ‘I’ was important. I still don’t. What is important is the music if you’re lucky enough to have it come through you. It’s cute to talk about artists being creative, or having something special, but in truth, we are all special and we are all just a channel. With music, my channel was open and I’ve always been grateful for that.
I never identified with the 20th century image of a music icon. I just wanted to give my life to the music itself. At that time when I was 12, I had limited availability and access to music because I lived in the countryside in a part of Spain in the 80s that had very little in the way of popular music. In that lack of it I developed a thirst and hunger for music that still drives me today. Sometimes going without something can have a positive side to it. It made me value music from a very young age.
What influences helped shape your musical style and sound?
As a singer my mother, Polly Perkins, is my strongest influence. For the first 15 years of my life I saw her performing in concert halls, pubs and theatres, and no matter the size of the venue or the audience, she gave the same uplifting and energy-filled performance every single time. After my mother, my biggest influences would be my elder brother Toby’s record collection. Everything from Gustav Mahler to Ian Dury. When I lived in Spain with my mother, my brother was still living in the UK and was very switched on musically. His record collection was a lifeline to me. Lastly, my Five Fantasy Fathers; John Lennon, Ray Davies, Pete Townsend, David Bowie and Freddie Mercury.
Who inspires you?
Inspiration comes to me in a great moment created by one person. The moment I heard Tom Hulce playing Mozart in the movie Amadeus say “I have to have time for composition”. The moment I saw Ashley Judd take to the stage at the women’s march in Washington and address the crowd. The moment that Yoko Ono helped John Lennon to grow out of being a man into becoming a complete human being. The bravery of Quentin Crisp. The wisdom of Gandhi. David Bowie writing for his life in the video of his song ‘Lazarus’. A speech from Stephen Fry, a verse from Sylvia Plath, a word from Ian McKellan, a syllable from Billie Holliday, a vowel from Cate Blanchett and the kindness of people I meet every day who make me feel there is a reason for me being in this world. They all inspire me.
You’ve gotten some high praise from some great people in the music industry. Is there a dream collaboration out there that you’d like to make happen?
If you are constantly looking out of the eyes of a young boy who thought he’d have to make music by himself throughout his life, then every collaboration I’ve ever had has been a dream! And it really has. My friends call me a workaholic, but I have also been incredibly lucky along the way. I have worked with some extraordinary individuals.
I count each day as it comes, but if I could, I’d love to work with David Byrne, PJ Harvey, Tony Visconti, Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, Tori Amos, Marianne Faithfull, Rufus Wainwright, David Arnold or Arvo Pärt.
Tell us what inspired you to write “What love would want?”
To begin with, the women’s march at the start of the year inspired me to write ‘What Love Would Want’. It provoked a lot of different emotions and reignited my frustration with apathy. The U.N backed campaign He For She led by Emma Watson struck a chord and I began singing those three words whilst lying on my back with the guitar. I put the guitar down and switched on a YouTube video I had saved earlier in the day. It was Stephen Fry’s speech about the Catholic Church and their condemnation of gay people. The video finished, I picked up the guitar and the rest of the song wrote itself and at the same time I had the idea for the video. It just all came at once. Some songs you write. Other songs you just surrender to and they come through. I don’t think of the song as something I created. It wanted to be heard and I used my tools to help that process along. And…I am as much he for she as I am straight for gay. I guess the song was floating around and knew it wouldn’t have any trouble using me as a channel.
What impact are you hoping this song, and the upcoming video, will have? How do you think (or do you hope) people will react to it?
I only hope that whoever the song reaches that they will be touched by it, but it does matter that people understand who the song is addressing. In Shakespeare, you have to understand who a lone player on a stage is speaking to in order to understand why the words are being spoken and why they have been written at all. This song wasn’t written to be heard by those of us who already express acceptance and tolerance. We are the ones who need to sing it. Every single line is part of a diatribe to a Trump, a Putin, the Vatican or anyone whose power has shaped division and suffering in our communities.
What Love Would Want is the gentlest way I could find to say what I am angriest about. It turned my anger into compassion, hate into love. The chorus is not a statement. It’s a question. We ask He for She? She for he? We ask He for he? She for She? Those words are an observation of the futility of labels. Never mind what leaders would want, what the church would want, what our parents would want or even what you or I would want. How arrogant of all of us. No, ask what love would want. Because love is the only law. If you start to think of love as a person itself, it’s hard to start making rules that outlaw that person.
If you had one wish to help make the world a better place, what would it be?
If I had one wish to help make the world a better place, I’d wish that no one on earth ever felt afraid to be themselves ever again. I would wish for the downfall of fear.