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Interview: Titanic film star Edward Fletcher on career progression, debut album, and rock n’ roll spirit

Photo courtesy of Peter Svenson
Photos courtesy of Peter Svenson

Massachusetts-born, California-based Edward Fletcher is best known for his role as Sixth Officer James Moody in James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster, Titanic. Additional roles in the following decade would solidify his acting credibility; among them, a partygoer in the “Fool for Love” episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2000), and Mr. England in Spanish Fly (2003). Acting came to be only one of Fletcher’s assets, the latter 2000s dedicated to a flourishing painting career. However, there is one particular asset he especially holds close to heart—music

In fact, the resonance of music on Fletcher backtracks to the late 80s. As a teenager, his employment in the renowned Cambridge Music store allowed him to foster a wealth of musicianship. This passion has continued well into adulthood, his most recent effort being the band StuntPlane, for whom he plays guitar. Back in September, the band released “Sounds Like You,” the lead single off their debut album, Dyslexic Tango, which hits stores December 2nd.

With the album releasing soon, I had the pleasure of interviewing Edward. We discussed the formative grounds surrounding his skill sets, musical influences for the new album, as well as the state of modern rock today. Ultimately for Edward, acting, art, and music serve as a medium that collectively unifies the world.

ME: To start off, can you tell me a bit about your acting career?

Edward: OK! Well, I played Sixth Officer James Moody in Titanic, which was my biggest credit. I was [also] on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a bunch of other indie titles that didn’t show much excitement, but I was down in Titanic. I worked there for probably about five months because they kept on having to reset the ship. Only two shots were done a night, but I’d met a lot a lot of cool people for that. It was an amazing experience. I played a British officer on the ship. When I was a kid, I went to a British school in Cairo, Egypt, so I had the accent down. I used to get hired a lot to play British people, which was cool, you know?

ME: Ah, I was going to ask you about that. Have you already acquired that affinity for accents, so as to heighten your interest in that role?

Edward: My father spoke 15 languages, and my mother also speaks many languages, so I grew up with a lot of sounds in my ear from different parts of the world. While I’m not good at speaking a language, I can mimic stuff because I know how to [articulate] in different places in my mouth. I also had experienced people a bunch of different cultures, so I have an idea of what British people are like.

ME: You also played the role of Mr. England in 2003’s Spanish Fly, which was critically acclaimed. With this role, did you feel that you were able to add more of your own personality?

Edward: I don’t know if, in any of the bigger roles, I was able to fully express it. I think I was kind of funny in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But it’s more the things on stage and plays that I’ve done, where you get a full character with a beginning, middle, and an end, and get to develop something bigger storywise.

ME: After acting, you’d chosen to pursue other interests, in particular, painting. Was the approach to this avenue more or less self-taught?

Edward: Yeah! I have a bunch of artists in my family, so I grew up seeing a lot a different stuff, and I had an art show when I was 14 years old—my first little thing of drawings. But I never went to art school; it was just something I did for me. Basically, I was in kind of a down period in my life, and I locked myself inside for a year, just drawing. I didn’t go out for awhile (laughs).

ME: During that down period, did you kind of regain a brighter perspective as well as confidence in the ability to express yourself?

Edward: I think I’ve always had that confidence. That is one of my skill sets, you know what I mean? I’m not good at everything, but I know fully that I’m artistic. The difference between music, art, and acting—it’s all kind of one to me in a lot of ways. I have ideas that need to be fulfilled. It’s not like a self-congratulation or self-reference or something. I just have an idea of what I need to say, you know? I have that voice inside my head pretty strong.

One of the things about music is that it’s unique to me, and it took a long time to develop because of that. But I see music the same way I see art. I see storytelling kind of like acting, and I see my songs as plots to a story. And music and color aren’t all that different, right?

ME: Speaking of music, that pursuit is undoubtedly most personal to you. Had you always maintained your interest in songwriting amidst these other endeavors, or did that take some time to reinvigorate?

Edward: I was always working on it. A lot of ideas in these tunes are very complex that I’ve been refining, and refining and refining. My idea was that you could have songs that were personal, like storytelling. Musically, normally songs are in 4/4 in one key, and kind of stay in one place. People put different sounds on a classic beat, and that becomes a new sound. But my idea is you can use old sounds and make the skeleton of the song completely different—changing keys wildly or having an odd meter rhythm. It can still be catchy even though it isn’t repetitive. It’s like avant-garde but it’s not trying to be unpalatable.

ME: Let’s talk about your single, “Sounds Like You”, which you’d debuted with your band StuntPlane. I noticed it has a real alternative rock feel, which I appreciate. Did you feel like channeling a specific set of influences, or did it all come together spontaneously?

Edward: It all came naturally. I think that’s very integral to me. When I think of my favorite people, David Bowie’s the first thing. The first time I discovered I love music was when I heard “Suffragette City”. Then I heard “Modern Love,” and loved that too. When I realized they were by the same person, I was like, “(mouths explosion sound effect) mind blown!” And then I just looked inside his catalog for a long time.
There was also Tones on Tail and Bauhaus. Then I really got into David Sylvian, and this combination of New Romantic, soft pop stuff with jazz—people improvising through ambient music. It had a high level of musicianship, but it was also cinematic. Most people tried to show off that they play great; everything was almost like a movie soundtrack.

And then I discovered After the Flood by Talk Talk, and that has been one of my all-time, mind blowing things where it was just so personal. You listen to that, and it’s almost like a dying bird song, you know what I mean? It’s beautiful; very morose. You couldn’t really listen to it with a lot of people around.
So what I wanted to do was make my music as personal and genuine as possible, and really put my artistic self out there in a way. When I think of Joni Mitchell’s or Elvis Costello’s lyrics, I think of those guys that are personal for themselves. And because it’s so personal, you realize in your own life, “Yeah, I saw that! I know exactly that moment,” you know (laughs)? I wanted to do that with the music, which is not everyone’s cup of tea; it requires something as a listener.

But I wanted to make prog rock that’s not too long, like when you’re waiting for hours for the song to end. Short pop songs, but I want identity, so as you listen to it, it reveals itself deeper and deeper like those albums that I love. Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs—come on! That rocks my world. And they’re not going to try and chase something that’s out there already. They’re doing them. Of course, they have influences, and of course, they are standing on the shoulders of giants. I certainly am listening to people like Grant Green, David Torn, and Jimi Hendrix, as a guitar player. Then with songwriting, David Bowie, who was always trying to break the barrier.

I identify with the self-expression of it. I’m giving you me. I’m not pandering to you, and I’m not chasing something to fit into some cog or wheel.

ME: In my view, “Sounds Like You” is saying “what goes around comes around”. Sometimes we’re overconfident, impulsive, and deceitful, and as a result, we recognize the ramifications of our actions. On the album, does it more or less follow a theme of “from childhood to adulthood, we learn as we grow”?

Edward: I’d say it’s more just about interpersonal relationships and different vignettes of relationship dynamics. Each song is about that. And I would say that “Sounds Like You,” to me, is a songwriting genre of what I think is the very base of my themes used for that particular song. I think of things like “Positively 4th Street” by Bob Dylan, where he’s dressing down somebody pretty harshly (laughs)! This is the point of view watching somebody do something to one of your friends, essentially. You’re there bearing witness, and you’re not happy about it.

ME: Another topic I want to bring up is your guitar collection, which essentially began back in the 80s, in Cambridge Music. Since then, it’s become massive. What about these guitars resonates with you in such a way that shapes the development of the album?

Edward: They’re usually extremely classic. I do like PRS guitars which are built kind of like sports cars; they react and play beautifully, and have all these different tones. They’re basically in the vein of 50s and 60s guitars, which I think are the most iconic and coolest. On each one of Hendrix’s records, when you hear him on recordings, it’s a Lead Plexi with 412s, Celestions, and a Strat. You can’t get that sound anywhere else. When you hear it, you’ll know, that’s that tone.

I also have a large record collection, and I became obsessed with all the different classic tones that people have. From blues to mostly early rock—before Eddie Van Halen—like Eric Clapton, Peter Green, BB King, Freddie King. If you’re not a classic rock and blues guy, then I want you to be Robert Fripp, you know? But I love those old tones.

So I wanted to make my album structured around classic tones. Every classic rock, new wave, or punk album has different sensibilities. If you’ve got a Les Paul on the wrong kind of music, then it doesn’t sound right. Some music can only be heard through a maple neck Tele with a blackface Super Reverb, so I’ve collected those tones.

On the album, I have 22 different guitars. And on each cut, with the rhythm tracks—which make the ‘skeleton’ I’d mentioned to you before—I’d have a Humbucker pickup in one ear and in [the other] a single coil. Even though I’m playing the exact same thing, they would pick up different parts of the chord. The single coils would give the top more shimmer, and the Humbuckers have more low-mids, so different qualities of the chords would come out.

ME: In your PR piece, you’d made a point about rock music being a true art form, to which I wholeheartedly agree. As a singer-songwriter myself, I noticed a lot of these newer bands, great as they are, are on the fringe. In most cases, their presence is relegated to the internet, so they’re not as widely known as they should be. What are your feelings on the state of rock music today?

Edward: Yeah! Well, there are so many things vying for that same space, like video games. People of certain types of music use samples, and that’s not really the same as playing your instrument. So in developing new ideas as having to do with high art, it’s just not there for rock bands. And then you have so many people in rock cover bands. That’s because, I think, it’s way more popular to do something else than do something new. It’s a real drag, because just like jazz, you’re always trying to build on what was there before. Just doing a museum piece where you come out, pretend to be somebody else, and copy their act—that’s so dead, you know?

Rock is about being alive! It needs to be a little dangerous, and it’s not supposed to be a sell-out kind of thing; it’s supposed to be a genuine expression of being free. I do think people have lost that, and there’s not enough interest in getting people to come out, especially here in Los Angeles. I wish more people were there to express something new and really do rock music because it is one of the greatest things explored around the world.

ME: Going back to what you’d mentioned about acting, art, and music all going hand-in-hand, do you feel that we all have talents within us that have yet to be explored?

Edward: For sure! Everybody lives in the same world. We all have stuff going on that we’d want to express, and it’s not like any of that should be exclusive. To do something well, you’d need to put a lot of time and effort. But that doesn’t mean that someone couldn’t start doing that at some point when they’ve had the right attitude about it.

Most of us have just been told to sit back and consume, and not even think. Think about all those people you know who are talented. If they apply themselves in something and decide that’s what they’d want to do, it’s so long as the person is actually interested, as opposed to wanting to be adored. So if you were interested in something, you’d learn it! And the thing is to have an open mind, making sure you’re curious enough to figure out how to do stuff well. There are a lot of ideas out there, you know?

ME: Lastly, anything you’d like to say to your fans?

Edward: I know that my music is something very personal, and I hope it’s personal to you. I hope that you cherish music like I do, and thank you for following me. It’s one thing to express something; you have to have someone hear it in order for it to have any effect at all. It’s a two-party thing—the person who receives music is a big part of the experience, and it becomes part of your life. I know all the songs that are part of my life. I hear them and they’re attached to a sound of different things. It’s like being part of somebody’s life, so you have what’s included in that.

Edward Fletcher Socials:

Artwork Website|StuntPlane Official Website|SoundCloud

Download “Sounds Like You”

About Jake Kussmaul

I come from a family who is passionate about all things music. I learned to sing at an early age, and by 13, had my very own Fender Strat guitar. I tried my hardest at learning all that I could. Because I was born with cerebral palsy, I had to teach myself an adaptive playing style. I learned to write and record my own music, despite these difficulties. In college, I started making great use of my writing abilities by reviewing music, as well as copy editing. I guess it's best to stick with what you know, while welcoming a fair challenge at the same time.

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