Interview: 'Buffy' Actor And Musician James Marsters Discusses Chasing The Ghost Of A Song and His Band’s New Album
By Robin Burks, Tech Times | September 23, 1:05 PM
However, Marsters has continued to work since then as an actor and has appeared in a variety of television shows and movies, while also juggling a career as a musician.
Now, Marsters is in a band called Ghost of the Robot, which just released a new album, Bourgeois Faux Pas. Tech Times spoke with the actor and musician about the new album, as well as the band's evolution and its songwriting process.
Marsters first described Bourgeois Faux Pas by comparing it with the band's previous albums.
"Our first album was a really raw, energetic rock album," he said. "Our second album slowed down a little bit because I was hearing a lot of blues and folk in writing songs. It was also a little bit slicker than the first album. So for our third album, we wanted to combine the two and get back to that raw energy we had on our first album, but also use everything that we learned about production to give it a glean and a glisten."
But there's something else that makes Bourgeois Faux Pas different from Ghost of the Robot's previous albums: multiple lead singers, something Marsters says he's wanted to do since the band first got together in 2001. The band includes Marsters (vocals/guitar), Charlie De Mars (guitar/vocals), Kevin McPherson (bass) and newcomers Sullivan Marsters (guitar/vocals) and Jordan Latham (drums).
"When we did our first album, I was the only lead singer and that was fine for the first one, but I always wanted to be in a band that would surprise the audience and keep them guessing as to who is singing what," he said. "I always liked that about The Beatles: you never knew if it was George or John or Paul or even Ringo. And I think that is more interesting to my ear."
Bourgeois Faux Pas features three singers and songwriters, which Marsters believes makes for a better vibe, especially because the singers' voices blend together so well. Marsters believes this is why Bourgeois Faux Pas is the best album yet from the band.
Marsters also feels that this album has more of a theme than previous releases.
"Love, I guess, would be the theme," said Marsters. "Love in all its varied and powerful forms. I think that's not too different from a lot of albums, but I think that's a worthy subject. We started with a lot of love that hurts songs on the first album: look at this terrible situation, I'm bleeding. And I think this one is a lot more hopeful: I wrote songs about love that feels good."
This new theme also stems from the band writing more songs this time around. Marsters states that the band now has a lot of material so that helps them put songs together on albums that fit a theme or idea.
"With our first two albums, once we had 15 good songs, we would just work on those and then the best 11 would make it on the album," he said. "So we had wildly divergent songs on the album. But at this point, we have so much material that I think we can craft something that fits together better."
Marsters got poetic, though, when explaining his songwriting process, which is different from the rest of the band, who usually pull all-nighters working together. However, Marsters calls himself a "lone wolf" when it comes to writing songs.
"Usually, it's just me messing around with my guitar and finding a nice groove or this ghost will start singing to me like there's a song through the mist far away and I've got to go find it," he explained. "I've always said that writing a song is like chasing a ghost through fog: your fingers are out and you're searching for it. And then when you finally get it done, it feels like 'yes, that's what it always was: I just needed to find it out in the mist.' "
But being a lone wolf doesn't mean that Marsters doesn't collaborate with the others in the band. Because, eventually, he presents his song to the band and they go on from there to add their own interpretations to the song.
"And the end result, every single time, I go 'Yes! That's the ghost! That's the one I've been chasing,' " Marsters describes. "That's exactly what I was hoping it would sound like."
While Marsters plays with Ghost of the Robot, he's also somehow managed to keep busy as an actor. He currently has several projects in the works, including a Jenji Kohan (Orange is the New Black)-written pilot for HBO starring Eddie Izzard called The Devil You Know about the Salem witch trials. Marsters described his time on set while shooting the pilot.
"We went through hypothermia last winter to shoot the pilot and we're waiting for word from HBO on if they want us go back into the forest once everything freezes over again to continue filming because the whole thing takes place outside in the snow," he said. "It takes place in 1680 and they didn't have down parkas or boots that really help you in the snow. It's all like thin wool."
However, in spite of the cold, Marsters had nothing but good things to say about the project.
"But seriously, it was the best group of people," he said. "They have a 'no jerk' policy for who they're hiring, so everyone's really on top of their game. So we'll see: if it comes out, it's going to be super-controversial, which always excites me."
Marsters also stars in the upcoming movie Dragon Warriors, in which he plays a wizard. He compared the movie to the Princess Bride, at least in its humor, and also mentioned that it's a "big special effects film."
"I play a wizard who gets his heart broken and trains a dragon to light on fire anyone that kisses each other in the kingdom," he explained about his role in the film. "But I'm also adorable. It's funny and scary and kind of wonderful."
Of course, there's also a new Jim Butcher book featuring wizard Harry Dresden coming out soon, which means that Marsters expects to go back into the studio in a few months to record the audio verison of it. Peace Talks, Dresden Files #16, is due out in May 2016.
When one looks at the long list of acting projects Marsters has under his belt, one thing is clear: a lot of his work is in science fiction, fantasy and horror – he's been in everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Torchwood to Caprica to Warehouse 13. But what is it about those particular genres that draws Marsters into those roles?
First, Marsters is a fan of genre TV and film. He admits that he cut his teeth on The Twilight Zone, as well as enjoyed the original Star Trek.
"I think that genre has the ability to speak very directly about social issues, or about things that are important," he said. "Buffy was a subversive show. It buried a lie that women can't defend themselves. And we had the first teenage lesbian kiss on that show.
"Torchwood is a show that subverts the lie that gay people can't be heroes. Caprica was talking about watching a civilization destroy itself, which is a very scary and depressing thing, watching in a modern world. But because they're all fantasy, it is easier to contemplate these ideas."