David Duchovny talks about how he ended up making a rock album, creativity (or the lack thereof) in Hollywood, and the fact that he REALLY wants to tell you about the X-Files revival, but he would have to kill you if he did.
I’ve always been a fan of David Duchovny. His sullen, dark, cool guy persona always seemed realer, more relatable than the usual pretty boy carbon copies that Hollywood is famous for. It also didn’t hurt that he was the star of one of my favorite shows, the classic X-Files series.
2015 has been a big year for David Duchovny. Best known for his performances as Special Agent Fox Mulder on the X-Files, and Hank Moody on Californication, this year, Duchovny has put out the New York Times bestseller Holy Cow: A Modern Day Dairy Tale, stars in the upcoming six-episode revival of The X-Files, returned to network TV with the NBC series Aquarius and released the alt-rock album, Hell or Highwater. (cue record scratching) Wait, what?
That’s right, The Talented Mr. Duchovny rocks, and we salute him.
The Couch Sessions caught up with the man who says “I would think my biggest fear my entire life would’ve been singing in front of people” before his Monday, October 26 performance at the Howard Theatre in DC.
The Couch Sessions: 2015 has been a very busy for you. You published a best-selling book, you have the nerds going crazy with the X-Files revival, you came back to network TV with Aquarius…
David Duchovny: We call them fans, not “nerds”. [Laughs] Don’t get me in trouble.
No problem, I’m one too. It’s a term of endearment.
So how did you end up recording an album?
Well, it just all started very organically about four or five years ago where I found myself with a bunch of time.
I was just finished shooting Californication at the time, and you know I’d always wanted my kids to play guitar and I’d always wanted to play guitar. I actually picked it up with the thought that I would learn how to play guitar in front of them, in a way so that they could see, I’m always preaching to them.
The beginnings of things are the hard part, then you get good enough to have fun with things, anything, you know any kind of body of knowledge. So I thought, ‘Well I’ll put my money where my mouth is and I’ll do it, I’ll do it in front of them’ and that’s just how I started picking up the guitar and again organically it just went to playing rock and roll songs that I liked growing up.
I’ve always been pretty good with words and I’ve always written, so if I could come up with a few chord progressions that I like, maybe I come up with a melody. I know I could come up with words, just one step at a time.
I started working with this guy named Keaton Simons (Singer/Songwriter) on the songs, and then I met Brad Davidson (President ThinkSay Records) through him. Brad really shepherded the whole project to the completion of the album.
We’ve had albums from Don Johnson, Keanu Reeves, and Russell Crowe. Could you hear the collective groans from people when you announced this album? Do you even pay attention to stuff like that?
Not really. Obviously, I’ve come across it as I talk about it. People will bring it up, but it doesn’t really make sense to me. The way that I think is, I don’t think about who somebody has to be in order to do something.
If you’re an actor, that doesn’t mean, that you can’t make music. Or if you’re a musician, that doesn’t mean that you can’t act, or build a house, or whatever. Music, to me, is the most democratic thing. Everybody should be making music. So I get it when people ask me am I worried about that guy who made music, or this guy who made music, who wasn’t very good, who was an actor or an actress.
Well, I’m just doing what I do, and I’m really not thinking about that.
Why did you name this album Hell or Highwater?
That was the song that was decided that would be the single of the album. Hell or High Water just seemed to stand for a lot of the feeling of the album. A lot of the songs are about the ends of things, moving on, of loss, and of perseverance. Really, that’s kinda what Hell or High Water meant to me, it was a song about perseverance, like you’re going to be okay, you’re gonna stand there through Hell or High Water. So it’s representative.
I read in a recent interview where you said “I’m more of a writer who’s been acting than an actor who’s new to writing.” How has this affected you creative process? Do you look at scripts critically?
I look at it as a writer sometimes. But usually the way I look at a script or a scene or a piece of dialogue is I give the writer the respect of thinking, well they must’ve worked at it, and there’s a reason why it’s particularly this way so I will try and make that work as best I can. If I still have a problem with it, or it’s not working, or I can’t make it work, then we can look to change it.
You’ve built your career on being unpredictable, from Denise/Dennis on Twin Peaks, Special Agent Mulder, Hank Moody, to Bob Rueland in Return To Me – that’s one of those late night cable favorites…
Yeah, that’s a sweet movie.
You’ve always chosen a wide range of roles and projects to work. Do you think with all the different things you’ve done that getting into music was just the natural progression of your career?
No. It wasn’t natural at all. It was a huge surprise to me still.
I just think music was always central to my life. I was always listening to music. I wasn’t always playing it, as I said, until recently. If you’d asked me 3, 4, 5 years ago was music was going to be part of my performing or creative output of my life, I would say of course not. So it’s a surprise to me and I think it’s been maybe the best surprise I’ve ever had in my creative life, it’s just completely out of left field.
You’ve been on tour doing dates since July, how’s life on the road been treating you?
Well it’s good. We haven’t played that many dates, so it’s been nice.
I’ve been able to be at home in New York, and travel around a bit, and do some dates. I like being able to come home. We’ve been doing the Northeast, when I’m working in LA in November to do Aquarius this year; I hope we can do a west coast swing.
Okay. So you’re not sitting on a bus going from city to city, you’re doing spot dates.
No, it’s not “Turn the Page”; it’s not the Bob Seger song. Not yet, anyway.
What would Mulder and Hank Moody think about Hell or Highwater?
[Laughs] I don’t think Mulder ever listened to music; Mulder didn’t seem to have any kind of hobbies or interests outside of his work. So I don’t think I think Mulder downloaded it yet, Moody would’ve enjoyed the late 60s vibe to it, the mid-70s vibe and he would’ve I think liked the lyrics, I think he would’ve wanted a few more hard rocking numbers.
…do you think Hank would go out and buy it, or would he do an illegal download?
That’s a good question. He would have illegally downloaded it for sure.
[Laughs] Ok, last question. I would like to get your opinion on something. Lately, Hollywood has been really big on sequels, reboots, revivals, etc., etc. Do you think this speaks to the lack of creativity now or are they just giving fans what they want?
It might be a bit of both of those things. But I like to think in terms of what we’ve done with the X-Files, you have this great, classic frame for a show. This endless, flexible frame for a show that could be scary, funny, smart, impossible, and even romantic. It’s hard to come up with a frame like that; it’s hard to come up with characters that are so kind of perfectly iconic. So, I don’t think it’s a lack of imagination in that sense, I think it’s a recognition that some things work.
I can’t let you go without asking at least one X-Files question, my editor will kill me. What can you tell me? Any spoilers you want to share?
…well if I tell you something, I’ll have to kill you. So it’s either your editor will have to kill you, or I will so you’re out of luck.
photos courtesy of flavorwire, ThinkSay Records