Terry Gilliam on why Arctic Monkeys and Arcade Fire are his favourite bands

25 January 2020, 13:30 | Updated: 25 January 2020, 13:31

The Monty Python star and director of the new movie The Man Who Killed Don Quixote takes Radio X through the Tracks That Changed His Life.

"People now that inspire me, musically, are Arcade Fire and Arctic Monkeys. The As - we don't get beyond the As."

Terry Gilliam is talking music - which is unusual as he's spent a lot of time lately talking about his epic new movie, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, a film that's taken three decades to finally get into cinemas.

Gilliam is behind some of the most challenging movies of the past 40 years, from Brazil and The Fisher King to The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and his adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's classic Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas.

For Gilliam, it's the musical artists that keep pushing the boundaries that fascinate him. "Arctic Monkeys just keep surprising me," he tells Radio X "Their latest album - Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino, which I think a lot of people didn't like - I think is amazing.

"Again, they're not afraid to take chances, to shift and move. So many artists have just become stuck in a rut, because that's what works. Let's just stay there. For me, the point is to keep expanding and surprising."

"I love Arcade Fire," Gilliam says. "I got to be involved with them as a group, doing a little concert at Madison Square Garden. When I was on tour with them, I demanded they play Modern Man every night, because I wanted to hear it. There's something about that song that just captured me.

"I love The Suburbs as an album, particularly We Used To Wait, because it's about a time before the internet and emails, when you'd have to send a postcard or a letter and it would take time.

"You would go out and didn't know if it had been received, you'd wait for a response. The waiting was what made life full of expectation and interest. I thought that was such a smart song."

It was Gilliam's time as animator and sometime performer with Monty Python that brought the American into contact with the genuine rock'n'roll life. Python toured heavily in the 70s, filling out the Hollywood Bowl at the end of the decade and hanging out with ex-Beatle George Harrison, who bankrolled the classic Life Of Brian film.

It's been a rough time for the Python group - musician Neil Innes, who wrote songs for Monty Python & The Holy Grail, as well as being behind the soundtrack to Eric Idle's Beatles spoof The Rutles, died suddenly on 29 December aged 75. And Terry Jones, one of the six members of Monty Python, who directed the troupe's movies, passed away after a long struggle with dementia on 21 January, aged 77.

On location for Monty Python & The Holy Grail: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin
On location for Monty Python & The Holy Grail: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin. Picture: United Artists/Kobal/Shutterstock

In a tribute to Jones on Twitter, Gilliam called the late Python "a brilliant, constantly questioning, iconoclastic, righteously argumentative and angry but outrageously funny and generous and kind human being... .and very often a complete pain in the ass. One could never hope for a better friend."

The Rutles: Rikki Fataar, Eric Idle, John Halsey and Neil Innes
The Rutles: Rikki Fataar, Eric Idle, John Halsey and Neil Innes. Picture: Above Average Prod/Broadway Video/Kobal/Shutterstock

Gilliam met Jones and Innes on the ITV show Do Not Adjust Your Set in 1967, where Neil's group The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band were performing songs every week. He says of Innes: "Neil was one of the most wonderful people on the planet. His music was beautiful and his mind was wonderful. He was concerned with society, he was concerned about humour, he was incredibly funny. "

A young Terry Gilliam as in-house cartoonist on the TV programme We Have Ways Of Making You Laugh
A young Terry Gilliam as in-house cartoonist on the TV programme We Have Ways Of Making You Laugh. Picture: ITV/Shutterstock

Gilliam had come to London in the late 60s, partly to avoid being drafted into serving in Vietnam and partly to find out more about the weird and wonderful sounds that were coming out of Britain at that time.

"David Bowie was just breathtaking," he explains, "because his persona as Ziggy Stardust was quite extraordinary - there's David, totally androgynous... where is he going, what is he doing? His music was just spectacular.

"He was playing. And that's what I was enjoying the most, to see people playing - playing with the ideas of what they could be, what they could NOT be."

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is in UK cinemas from 31 January.