He has a new show, a novel and an ‘X-Files’ revival – and a debut album called ‘Hell or Highwater’
By Brian Hiatt May 11, 2015
As of a few years ago, David Duchovny had never played guitar, and he had barely sung a note in public since flunking a choir audition as a kid. So he was as surprised as anyone to find himself recording what turned out to be a likable, lyrically tart, vaguely Wilco-ish debut album, Hell or Highwater, due out May 12th. It started when his split from wife Tea Leoni left the 54-year-old actor with unaccustomed free time, thanks to joint custody of his two kids: “I thought, ‘Maybe I can learn to play guitar to amuse myself,’ ” says Duchovny, who’s starring in a new NBC series, Aquarius (premiering May 28th), and will also film six new episodes of The X-Files this summer. “That was the motivation.”
One of your songs disses Bob Dylan for doing ads — that’s ballsy for a debut LP.
DD: If I were him, I wouldn’t give a shit what I think. It came from watching the Super Bowl with my children, and the jingoism and bullshit America über alles stuff was making me ill. To me, Dylan was a way in. I’m happy he can make money. I think he can do whatever the fuck he pleases, and he’s aces with me forever.
Your voice sounds a bit like the guy from the National.
DD: If my voice sounds like anybody, I take it as a compliment [laughs]. With singing, I just wanted to have some sense of when I open my mouth, what the fuck is gonna come out? It’s not natural to me.
What was the first day in the studio like?
DD: Horrible. At one point, I was just lying on the ground underneath the mic, yelling that this was all a mistake.
You also published a novel this year, and your Twitter bio simply says “dilettante.”
DD: It’s all just an offering. I’m saying here’s something I did. If you like it, take it with you, and if you don’t, maybe I’ll do it again, and hopefully you’ll like that one.
What’s behind your line about “mediocrities for hourly fees”?
DD: We’ve all paid for a little therapy, haven’t we? I had a professor who said they called them shrinks because they make things small. They shrink everything. That’s probably the most specifically angry I get in any of these songs.
“A man of words is a man of lies” is a nice lyric.
DD: That’s the English-literature guy in me: Words are just an approximation. That’s one of the great things about music: It kind of fills up the distance between the words and what you’re feeling.
What songs did you start with on guitar?
DD: The Beatles, Lou Reed, the Band, Petty — classic white-guy rock. I love Seventies funk, but I’m not good enough to play it yet. So hopefully, within the next year or so, I’ll get my jazzy chords and come out with a little Sly and the Family Stone tribute album.
How much of the X-Files mythology do you have straight in your head?
DD: Very little. I think Gillian [Anderson] and I should probably do a remedial course by Chris Carter or somebody who runs a website that knows exactly what the hell they’re talking about.
What’s it like to have Fox Mulder follow you around for all these years?
DD: At one point it was frustrating, and I feared being typecast. Now, it’s just kind of funny. I was going to sing last week, and New York is where I get the best recognitions, and this guy goes, “Oh, shit! It’s homeboy from The X-Files!” That’s the way I like to think of myself: homeboy from The X-Files.
David Duchovny on ‘The X-Files’: ‘It’s Not Done Until One of Us Dies’
The actor also discussed his next role, a cop in pursuit of Charles Manson, in advance of the ‘Californication’ series finale
“I would always want to do it,” he said. “I wish we’d done more already. I wish the second one did better business. I think it did OK business, but not the kind of business where you get to do another one right away.”
Duchovny said that he remains friends with both X-Files creator Chris Carter and his costar, Gillian Anderson. Moreover, he loves the Fox Mulder character. “Once I was able to branch out and do some other movies and do Californication, I didn’t feel like, ‘People only think I do that,'” he said. “I no longer have that anxiety.”
Ultimately, the possibility of making a third movie – for which he said no script exists (“I’m friends with Chris, and I’m sure he would have said something”) – depends on a number of factors. “It’s just a matter of interest from Fox and scheduling,” he said. “Chris has got a new show. Gillian’s working. I’m working. It’s not impossible, but it’s not easy. And I never think it’s done. I’d say, it’s never done until one of us dies – until one of us three is gone.”
In the immediate future, Duchovny is prepping for his role as Sam Hodiak in the crime drama Aquarius, which will air on NBC some time next year. The show takes place in Los Angeles in the late 1960s and follows Hodiak, as he attempts to solve a murder and finds his way to Charles Manson. “My character is trying to find a missing girl, a daughter of a friend of his,” he says. “I play a straight-up Fifties man being introduced to the new world of the Sixties and Manson, and the world is changing all around me and I’m not able to change with it.”
“It’s a very interesting time period for the country,” he continued. “Still, to this day, there’s a lot of mystique about the promise of the Sixties and what went wrong there and what’s gone wrong since. You had Manson on one hand, and the dark side of the Sixties, and you’ve got peace, love and Flower Power on the light side. There’s a lot to work with.”
Shooting for the show has not yet begun, so Duchovny has been spending his time prepping for the role. “I talked to homicide detectives to get a feel for what their day is like, for what their job is like, so I can feel comfortable physically in the world,” he said of his process. “After that, then you’re playing a character. You want to make somebody new.”
Duchovny says one of the main things that drew him to the character was just how different Hodiak was from Californication’s Hank Moody. “And I think Moody was as far from Mulder as I could get,” he said. “Whereas Mulder could have been a virgin – we’re not sure – Hank Moody certainly was not. And this cop, he’s not Robocop, he’s not completely straight-up; he’s got his demons but it’s a different world, it’s a different style of acting. It’s going to be very different. I like the challenge.”
Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/news/david-duchovny-on-the-x-files-its-not-done-until-one-of-us-dies-20140625#ixzz3b6bC9qSe
Follow us: @rollingstone on Twitter | RollingStone on Facebook