© Justin Sutcliffe

Nitin Sawhney, 48, is a producer, songwriter, DJ, instrumentalist and composer. His many awards include four honorary doctorates. In 2007, he turned down an OBE for ethical reasons.

What was your childhood or earliest ambition?


Public school or state school? University or straight into work?

Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School for boys, a grammar school in Rochester. The idea of paying for education never made sense to me – it should be a matter of equal opportunity for all. I dropped out of law at Liverpool university to qualify as an accountant. I’m happy that I had some legal and business training before becoming a full-time musician in my early twenties.

Who was or still is your mentor?

Never really had one.

How physically fit are you?

Reasonably. I did a triathlon in May and I kickbox, swim, cycle, run, practise yoga and train with weights regularly.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

Neither has much to do with success. Success is just a state of mind. Ambition constantly defers fulfilment, and talent by itself means little.

Have you ever taken an IQ test?


How politically committed are you?

Politicians tend to fight for power, not justice. Nelson Mandela managed to combine both, but he is exceptional. I believe in justice and always hope to fight for it.

Do you consider your carbon footprint?

Yep. It’s way too big – I should sort that out, really.

Happiest place: in front of a piano

What’s your biggest extravagance?

Laziness when I should be working. So, time, I guess.

What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

A time machine.

Do you have more than one home?

Yes and no. I’m always at home with myself but try to feel at home everywhere.

In what place are you happiest?

In front of a piano or guitar.

What ambitions do you still have?

To write and direct a film or discover the Higgs boson under my bed.

What drives you on?

Love and guilt.

Greatest achievement: interviewing Mandela

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

Probably interviewing Nelson Mandela at his house in 2001. The man is a legend. On a personal level, I am very proud that we have sold out the Royal Albert Hall each time we performed there. The first time was in 2001 and I will never forget looking out at that glorious sea of expectant faces and thinking what a childhood dream this was.

What has been your greatest disappointment?

World history.

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?

“What’s an iPhone?”

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

Look for it. More seriously, I have always believed that you could live without most of the objects in your life. Quite often we become dependent on items that merely make us slow and lazy. Travelling the world gives you a better perspective on how little we need in order to have a full and rewarding existence.

Do you believe in assisted suicide?

We should have the right to depart this world with dignity – so, yes.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

On the basis that energy cannot deplete but merely changes form, yes, I do.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?


Nitin Sawhney is a patron of the performing arts education organisation Artis, www.artiseducation.com. His new soundtrack to Hitchcock’s “The Lodger” is available on July 23, £12.99.

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