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The Comedy of Errors

Interview: Juliette Lewis

5 December 06 interview: Al Needham

"Sometimes fights break out and cops get called - this is one of the dangers of Rock n' Roll music"

She’s racked up a huge list of film credits (although she’s not massively arsed about the movie industry), she’s dossed about with Quentin Tarantino and The Prodigy, she can call up Dave Grohl when she’s a drummer short, and she used to knock about with Brad Pitt. More importantly, she’s one of the few people who have made the transition from screen to CD without making a tit of herself. Her name is Juliette Lewis, former star of Natural Born Killers and Cape Fear but now plying her trade as a frighteningly authentic balls-out Rockstress, and we struggled to hide our jealousy when we caught up with her on a rare day off during a European tour that took in the Rescue Rooms…

How’s the tour been?
It’s been monumental and amazing, we’ve had a million sold-out shows, wild, crazy crowds…it’s been incredible so far.
Do you remember anything about your gig at the Rescue Rooms?
Nottingham, right? Nottingham’s always a bit wild. There’s a girl there who’s really nice who always brings me drawings. No fights broke out, that was good. Sometimes fights break out and cops get called…this is one of the dangers of Rock n’ Roll music, I guess…(laughs)
Starting a band after being a successful movie actress – has it been a help or hindrance in your new career?
It is what it is. I look at things as an opportunity, and we’ve had some amazing opportunities. We’ve got an audience which I’ve earned from the films I’ve made from the last 15 years, and the funny thing is the people who like my films like the type of music we play anyway – guitar-driven good-time Rock n’ Roll. But we get judged ten times harder than any other new band, so we have to be ten times better.
Do people in the biz assume you’re only getting noticed because of who you are and what you’ve done?
I hope not, because the notices are all good. For me, it was always about the gigs first and getting a reputation as a live act, and developing the songs second. Our songwriting’s getting better, and we’re growing as a band. I always tell people to see The Licks before you pass judgement, because seeing is believing.
So what happens when you have to put the band on hold when you get a film offer?
Doesn’t work like that. My priority is the record, and when you release a record you have to promote it for a year. In any case, movies are such a small commitment – you’re only there for anything from two weeks to a month and a half. I’ve already turned down film work while I’ve been on tour.
Yeah! I’ve done movies for 15 years, but it’s not my passion. I’m working my ass off with this band, and I’m trying to get to the next record. Music has been my priority over the past three years – we wouldn’t be in the position that we’re in now if it wasn’t.
Out of all the films you’ve done, which one would you like to erase from your memory?
I’m not telling. And it’d be a film you’ve never seen, in any case.
What’s the harder job out of music and acting?
I couldn’t tell you, it’s a funny question. There’s a lot of creative freedom in music – I would write a song on Wednesday, play it at a gig on Friday and record it in a friend’s basement the next week – that’s freedom. You don’t have that in films – you’re reliant on money, a huge crew of people, etc. In all forms of art, you have to have a will of steel, love it, and be hungry as hell. You’re only gonna be let down if you think everything’s going to come easy.
What was it like working with The Prodigy on Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned?
That was so much fun, because I love that kind of music – you’re not held down by normal song structure. Liam had some amazing tracks, I would spout out lyrics and melody lines, and he’d chop ‘em up. He’s just really incredibly talented and a joy to work with.
And what’s Quentin Tarantino like in real life?
Exactly as you’d imagine him to be; very expressive and funny, and he can hold a conversation about anything.
Juliette and The Licks’ new CD Four On The Floor is out now

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