Interview: Billy Magnussen talks "Twelve" and Joy State
Mon, 02 Aug 2010 15:26:28
Billy Magnussen's lucky number might just be Twelve.
In Joe Schumacher's gritty crime drama, Magnussen is a menacingly malevolent maniac named Claude, who's got a knack for guns and proves crucial to a big turning point in the movie. Magnussen taps into Claude's psychosis with the panache and poise of a true method actor, and his performance practically burns up the screen. If this is any indication of what's to come, consider Magnussen the new "real" badass we can collectively rely on.
Off screen, he's got a brilliantly melodic rock band called Joy State. Combining flourishes of classical music, '60s psychedelica and classic pop, Joy State is beyond a joy to listen to. Few bands can sound heavy with a violin but they do!
Billy Magnussen sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about making a maniac for Twelve, some of his favorite bands, why Joy State rules and so much more…
What resonated with you about Claude?
He's a psychopath [Laughs]. Playing the bad guy is sometimes really fun! I think I'm a nice guy, but this guy wasn't nice [Laughs]. To work with Joel Schumacher, Rory Culkin and 50 Cent was awesome too. People have forgotten acting is just playing. It's simply imagination. It's make-believe again, and I have fun with it. I got to meet really good people and make some new friends.
Do you have a favorite scene from Twelve?
I have a shower scene in the film where I get rid of my frustration on my parents. I take it out on myself in an almost masochistic kind of way. I go into those places emotionally and physically. It was intense, and I'm really proud of it. Making this character up was insane. A lot of times, Joel would just say, "Action" and let the camera run for five minutes. I got to play around with the scenes. Then he'd be like, "Think about this, Billy." I had a lot of input, and Joel was like a parent guiding in a sense.
Do you listen to music to get into character?
Absolutely! For Claude, I was listening to some heavier White Stripes songs like "Icky Thump" and "Seven Nation Army." I would listen to Wolfmother. It was a lot of kick bass with a good pounding beat. I imagine Claude like a bull. I'd crank Rage Against the Machine. I'd put a bunch of their stuff on and let it go.
What are you listening to right now?
I love The White Stripes and The Dead Weather. The Dead Weather is so proper; I love them. I do think the first album's a lot better than the second one though. They're going a little crazy! I admire it. I think the new Black Keys album, Brothers, is fucking awesome. "Everlasting Light" is brilliant. I've actually seen The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather at Terminal 5 in New York. When The Dead Weather first came out, I saw them two nights in a row. Damn, dude…I don't know how you can make rock like that happen for two hours straight.
Speaking of long amazing shows, have you ever seen Tool?
Yes, absolutely! I just saw Pearl Jam too, and that shit was brilliant. I also caught James Taylor recently at Madison Square Garden. He was great.
What records do you always come back to?
I got into Arcade Fire. They have this real epic interesting vibe. Have you heard this band called The Maccabees? I saw their first concert ever in the States at the Mercury Lounge. They were opening for Miike Snow, and I thought they were even better than Miike Snow. I love The Born Ruffians. They're interesting. It's a guilty pleasure, but I go back to Queen. Freddie Mercury knew how to do it. Ghostland Observatory is epic too.
What's up with your band Joy State?
Joy State started out with me and my girlfriend. We had a White Stripes thing going; I put her on drums. We were playing in our living room, and then our neighbors got mad [Laughs]. Now, I have a classically trained violinist in the band. I've got another guitarist and a drummer. My girlfriend, Cody, is playing keys. We just recorded our EP in the same room that they recorded "Thriller" and Jimi Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower." Peter Frampton recorded in there; it was insane.
There are some cool classical textures in the music.
It's definitely a heavy rock vibe. It's rock-influenced with a classical feel. We have songs where there's a beautiful melody, and then this rock beat kicks in. Then you have the violin and piano going up and down the scales. It's exciting. Our singer has a voice that sounds like Regina Spektor mixed with Janis Joplin. She's only 19. The whole point of our band is. There's so much negativity and darkness in music. We want our music to be happy, and we want people who come to our shows to enjoy it and feel good.
Do making music and acting come from different creative places for you?
Where I am in my acting career right now, I'm only a paintbrush in someone else's quill. I have my color and my tool to help make the picture. With music, I get to be the artist; it's my creation. I feel that's the shift right now. It's exciting. There's no wrong way to make music.
For more Joy State, check out our video interview Cody Horn (keyboards) below and her playlist here!
Will you be seeing Twelve when it hits big screens August 6th?