James Marsters: Rockin’ Out With Spike And Ghost Of The Robot
By: Arlene R. Weiss – All Rights Reserved © Copyright November 5, 2012
James Marsters just might be the hardest working man in show business with one of the coolest dossiers in both music and Hollywood.
An acclaimed, actor, singer, songwriter, guitarist, and musician, Marsters, along with his many career spanning and stellar, albums, tours, and theatrical, film, and TV roles, celebrates a worldwide cult status among fans for his many diverse and signature acting roles throughout the science fiction, horror, and fantasy genres.
Marsters is most renowned and gained fame for his iconic role as the heroic, British vampire ,Spike, in Director, writer Joss Whedon’s hit television series, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and its hit spinoff series, Angel.
Marsters’ portrayal of Spike, the punkish, platinum blond haired, black leather long coat attired, droll, quipping Nosferatu with the London accent was influenced by the whole look, attitude, and swagger of British punk rocker Billy Idol.
But, that rock and roll attitude is no act. It’s the genuine real deal for Marsters, who has always rocked out on guitar, enjoying a successful musical career as both a supreme solo artist and with his band Ghost Of The Robot, simultaneously in tandem with his acting career.
Marsters, who was born and raised in California, and who studied at the Pacific Conservatory Of The Arts and the esteemed Juilliard, sings lead vocals while burning up the fretboard, fronting Ghost Of The Robot.
His L.A. based, internationally touring, rock outfit started in 2003 with next door neighbor and friend, Charlie De Mars. The two guitarists started jamming with one another and then performing at local clubs together. Ghost Of The Robot has released several EP’s and three acclaimed albums, 2003’s debut, Mad Brilliant, and in 2011 B-Sider and Murphy’s Law.
The band, whose music is steeped in many influences including Muse, Radiohead, Weezer, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and Pink Floyd, performed two sold out tours of Europe in 2003 and 2004. Marsters co-writes the group’s songs with his bandmates while sharing lead vocals and lead guitar duties with De Mars.
In 2004, Ghost Of The Robot broke up when Marsters left to pursue a solo music career. James went on to release two acclaimed solo albums, 2005’s Civilized Man and 2007’s Like A Waterfall. In 2006 James also released his Words And Music DVD, which showcased Marsters abridged acting performance of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and a one man, live, music concert performance.
All three albums reflect a more lyrical, introspective side of Marsters with him singing all vocals, strumming acoustic guitar, and composing an array of eclectic material showcasing his blues, folk, and roots stylings and influences.
After enjoying several highly successful U.K. and European solo tours, Marsters and Ghost Of The Robot reformed in 2010 and are currently about to release their new album in 2013 titled, Bourgeois Faux Pass, this time featuring the newest member of Ghost Of The Robot, James’ talented son, Sullivan, who also plays guitar and co-writes with his dad and fellow band members on the new record.
The classically trained Marsters, began his acting career with an array of theatrical productions and prestigious theater companies throughout Chicago and Seattle, including two which he helped found, The Genesis Theater Company and the New Mercury Theater Company.
In 1992, Marsters landed his first TV acting role on two episodes of the television series, Northern Exposure. He’s appeared in dozens of dramatic TV shows, films, and stage productions but Marsters has quite the fan following based on his roles in such seminal, cult, sci-fi, horror, fantasy genre shows including, Smallville, Supernatural, Torchwood, Metal Hurlant Chronicles, Caprica, Andromeda, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars, (with a healthy dose of the non genre related equally awesome Hawaii Five-0 2010 reboot thrown in for good measure).
Marsters also is known for his stately voiceover work on videogames, animation, and his narrative readings of fantasy genre audiobooks including Carnival Of Souls, recently released September 4, 2012 and The Dresden Files series, including the newest chapter in the series, Cold Days which will be released November, 27, 2012.
James also spends much of his packed music and acting schedule, frequently globetrotting, regularly making guest speaker appearances at all of the prestigious, international comics, film, and TV fan conventions including industry heavyweight, Comic-Con International.
Though James was extremely pressed for time, he graciously spoke with me just before boarding the plane to jet away to Australia for most of November for the Supanova Pop Culture Expo. He’ll be will be speaking at several Q&A sessions and participating in a discussion on the Whedonverse Experience Panel.
James will also be performing his music, live in concert at Supanova at both of his Oz guest appearances in Brisbane and Adelaide, treating his fans to two, intimate, one man acoustic solo shows.
Arlene R. Weiss: So you just got back from your guest speaker appearance at the Welcome To Sunnydale Convention in Paris! What were your impressions of the city, its people, and culture and specifically, how the fans there relate to you….an American actor, playing a British vampire, taking in the illustrious sights of France…..way cooler than an American Werewolf in London I would say!?
James Marsters: I had a great time in Paris! It was too short because I went there on a weekend break from filming I’m doing in Toronto. The French were polite as always and treated me like a king!
The funny thing is, I don’t think the French know that Spike is an Englishman because they translated the show (Buffy The Vampire Slayer) to French! They were very charming and they have a beautiful city.
Arlene: How does Spike say “Bollocks, time to kill some Slayers!” in French?
James Marsters: Ah yes….that’s easy. “Taureaux, temps de tier quelques tueurs!”
Arlene: You’re also about to leave for Oz…Australia that is, with apologies to your many fans who may have thought I meant you are visiting the guitar playing werewolf, Oz, portrayed by your “Buffy” cast mate Seth Green!
Tell me about the live music performances you will be giving at at Supanova. Will it be an acoustic show and what have you planned for the setlist?
James Marsters: My solo musical set at the Supanova shows in Australia will be acoustic and will cover a wide range of my musical years ranging from “Vandals”, which I wrote in New York in the mid ’80s, to “Dangerous”, which was on Ghost of the Robots’ first album, to brand new stuff.
Arlene: Ghost Of The Robot has garnered a huge fan following and critical acclaim for its exuberant performances and energetic, live shows. What are your fondest moments with the band?
James Marsters: One of my favorite experiences with the band happens every time we play live. For sound check, the engineer is always a little doubtful in the beginning. Then afterwards, he says, “Hey, you guys are really good!”.
After the show, he’s jumping up and down pumping his arms telling us, “You guys rocked! You totally rocked!”. This happens every time.
Arlene: Your son Sullivan recently joined the band and he plays on Ghost Of The Robot’s new album. What first inspired Sullivan to take up music, and also to take up the guitar, and what was your initial reaction to his wanting to also be a musician and a performer…were you happy about it or did you want him to do something more conventional? Parents and children don’t always see eye to eye when their children announce their plans to enter the arts or be a musician.
James Marsters: I played guitar for Sullivan every night when he was young. But, he discovered guitar on his own while I was in Europe doing concert tours and fan conventions. Within no time he became eerily, impressively, and jaw droppingly good at it.
I am fine with him being a musician, but I have stressed to him that choosing the life of an artist most likely means poverty. The reward must be in the doing of it.
Arlene: Are you doing more lead vocals on this new album? What about Charlie De Mars, how much is he sharing vocals with you on this album?
James Marsters: I will again be sharing lead vocals with Charlie De Mars and also Sullivan, on our new album.
Arlene: When Ghost Of The Robot was first germinating ideas, what was the impetus for, and what influenced the style and creative direction of your music, your songwriting, and your aspirations for the band?
James Marsters: Getting women and then complaining about what they did to us!
Arlene: Who is producing Ghost Of The Robot’s new album?
James Marsters: Ghost Of The Robot has self produced all of our albums.
Arlene: A little about Ghost Of The Robot’s beginnings. Didn’t you and Charlie first meet as next door neighbors? Tell me about that and how your friendship and musical partnership began and has since continued to this day.
James Marsters: Charlie and I did meet when we were neighbors in Santa Monica, California. We have hurt each other, helped each other, and been there for each other ever since.
Arlene: How did you conceive and come up with the band name, which I love by the way, very awesome!
James Marsters: Ghost Of The Robot refers to one’s soul. The part of yourself that if you lose, you become hollow, like a tin man.
Arlene: How old were you and when did you first know that it was the guitar that you most enjoyed and wanted to pursue playing…and why the guitar? What is it about the guitar that fires and sparks your creativity and imagination and thus inspires you?
James Marsters: I chose guitar because its notes have a liquid in them. Because you can bend the notes, they can sound almost human.
Arlene: Didn’t you launch your solo musical career in London, and why do you think that the U.K. audiences appreciate your musical artistry so much?
James Marsters: I think I am so well appreciated in the U.K. because they have very good taste!
Editors Note: James Marsters will be performing his one man acoustic solo shows in concert at Supanova. For more information go to the Official Website for Supanova.
For our Aussie friends, here’s where you’ll find James at Supanova:
Saturday, November 17, 2012 Adelaide, AU 6:30 pm Australia time