James Marsters: I have truly enjoyed acting in anything since the fourth grade. I love the feeling that I’m hoodwinking the audience, like I’m a con man and they’re my mark. The difference between me and a true grifter is that I’m not conning people out of anything. I’m conning them into accepting a gift. The gift may be; a new perspective, a celebration of their better selves, simple escape, or subversion. Subversion is my favorite gift. We all get taught lies when we are children. Some of these are; violence works, old people are boring, and you can buy your self identify. There are many more.
JM continues: ‘Buffy’, and ‘Torchwood’ we’re both subersive TV shows, so those are my favorites. ‘Buffy’ subverted the lie that woman can’t defend themselves. ‘Torchwood’ attacked the lie that LGTB people can’t be heros. ‘Smallville’ was an awesome show. Al Gough, the shows creator, fixed the problem that is Superman. Namely, how do you get your hero into an adventure if he can’t be hurt? How exciting is a story when you know the lead will always be just fine in the end? Al explained to me that he would make his Superman so young that he was not yet a man, so inexperienced that he didn’t yet know he was super. He would make him a teenager, vulnerable to everything that a teen is challenged by; his parents, his girlfriend, his self image, his teachers, everything. Problem solved. Genius.
JM continues: ‘Caprica’ was a brave show that gave us a safe way to watch a planet slowly ruin itself. Horrifying on the news, fascinating on television. ‘Witches of East End’ was a heartfelt rumination on the challenge of holding your family together in a chaotic world.All of these had a central message, a core that I could get behind and believe in. That has made it easy for me to find the passion that fuels me. ‘Dragon Ball Z’ is an examination of healthy manhood. A good man is peaceful, loves kids, is egoless, and is goofy sometimes. However, if you attack his family he will put you down as quickly, and as ruthlessly as necessary. A good man does not create chaos in order to prove himself against. That’s done by overgrown boys, and villains. I’m a big fan of Dragon Ball Z. Dragon Ball the movie wasn’t that. My son showed me the ‘Honest Trailer’ for Dragon Ball. The opening line was, “Dragon Ball…the biggest offense against Japanese culture since Hiroshima.” Word.
James Marsters plays the villain of “Dragonball Evolution” named “Lord Piccolo”.
GS: Your talents don’t end at acting. I understand you’re quite the musician as well, with several albums already. Did any of this come from Joss Whedon’s “musical” episode of Buffy called “Once More with Feeling”?
JM: I learned guitar from my Father, who learned from his Father, as has my Son. I started playing in bars when I was 13. I played with a good band called The Vandals in high school. We were enamored with The Clash, and played a lot of their songs, and also wrote a lot of originals.
In 2001 I was sitting on my stoop strumming away when up walks this 18 year old dude named Charlie DeMars. He had come to LA to shop and album that he’d just finished with his band Power Animal to the record companies. It was an incredible album that I fell in love with. Unfortunately, the record companies did not. Fortunately, that freed him up to start a band with me. He said he had a great bassist and a drummer who might be interested, they were both 18 years old, but I’d have to wait to meet them. They were in New York playing jazz at the Lincoln Center! A rhythm section who has the proficiency for jazz and the fire of youth turned out to be gold for a rock band. We called ourselves Ghost do the Robot.
We recorded our first album ‘Mad Brilliant’ within weeks of meeting each other, and took off that Summer to play England, Scotland, Germany, and France. We found an audience right away. Ghost is a real band, and I’m only one part of it. I’m not the only lead singer, or songwriter. We have three; Charlie, Sullivan, and me. I’m not the leader, and I don’t often get my way. Because of this we rock very hard. We always have.
Ghost of the Robot formed just before Joss did ‘Once More with Feeling’. He told me he got the idea for a musical episode of Buffy because the cast and crew partied at his house once a month, and always ended up playing a lot of music and singing together. It would start with us reading one of Shakespeare’s plays. Joss gave a hilarious ‘Hamlet’, one of the best I’ve seen. Tony Head gave a terrifying ‘Richard the III’, and I attempted ‘Macbeth’. By the end of the party it was all beer, and wine, and guitars, and Joss at the piano.
GS: Is there another album coming out? If so, when? What will it be about?
Yes! Ghost of the Robot just dropped a new album on iTunes called ‘Bourgeois Faux Pas’
. It’s a return to the hard driving rock that drove our first album. We’ve learned a lot about making music in the recording studio since our first album, so this one screams, but it also glistens and shines. It’s theme is Love. Love in all its myriad, beautiful, terrifying, and powerful forms.
GS: One of the things I loved about the character of “Spike” was the torment he had to deal with when he fell in love with Buffy Summers. The demon had his own “inner demon” that nearly drove him mad. Do you believe there ever would have been a day that he truly left her behind and left Sunnydale or would he have stayed for all time, regardless of the rejection?
JM: As we saw in Angel, Spike did leave Buffy and Sunnydale behind. He didn’t leave because of Buffy’s rejection of him. He left because, having gotten a soul, he realized that he was not good enough for her. He’d hurt too many people, and had a lot of growing to do.
The surprise is that much later he comes back to her, after he’s had a chance to sort himself out. This part of the story is playing itself out in the comics which Joss is still involved in, and so is as much of a part of the story as the series is.
GS: I know from personal experience that you’re “geeking out” about Star Wars. What are your thoughts on the upcoming movie? Are you excited? Do you have any concerns about the film?
JM: I am totally geeking on the new Star Wars! I big hope is that J.J. Abrams will retain the subversion of the first 6 films. Did you know that ‘Apocolyse Now’ was Gearge Lucas’ idea? He gave it to Francis Ford Coppola because he was too busy to develop it. Star Wars and Apocolyse Now have a similar theme of the Vietnam War, but not many people realize it. How many people know that Darth Vader and his dark empire, who rains down destruction with surperior technology and overwhelming firepower, represent America in that war? And that the forrest dwelling underdogs, the Jedi, Wookies, and Ewoks, are avatars for the Viet Cong? I read an interview with Lucas back in the early 80’s in which he talked about this.
Even in the much maligned prequels the subversion persists. In them we see a democracy being systematically corrupted from within. Sound familiar? Say what you will about the prequels. I think George went out swinging for the bleachers. Sorry to go on so long about Star Wars, but I am TOTALLY GEEKING OUT!!!