Jamie Campbell Bower really is a modern Renaissance man – literally. He’s played characters from centuries past time and time again, including a young, witty Christopher Marlowe in the TNT drama Will – as well as King Arthur in the Starz series Camelot. He’s also had memorable supporting roles in iconoclastic fare like Sweeney Todd, Harry Potter, and Twilight.
But Bower isn’t just a go-to actor for big-budget period pieces – he’s also the frontman of the punk band Counterfeit, which formed in the UK and is currently touring all over the planet, recently stopping by Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory for a typically high-octane show.
We caught up with the actor-musician to talk about how punk spirit is alive and well, as well as how and from where he draws inspiration.
How did the band come about – was there a moment that the five of you (Bower, Tristan Marmont, brother Sam Bower, Roland Johnson, Jimmy Craig) realized you wanted to make music together, or did it happen gradually over time?
Three of us had been playing in a different outfit that I had formed whilst at school and had taken different lineups throughout the years; but it didn’t feel like what we were doing was an honest representation of who we were or what we wanted to be talking about…so we put it to bed. I just started writing from the heart and this monster was born. I’d always wanted to play music with Sam and so it made total sense to ask him to be a part of it; and Jimmy was an old friend who we knew could hit the drums like a madman. It all fell perfectly into place.
Have you always known you wanted to pursue music seriously, or was it more of a hobby?
I’ve been playing shows since I was 16 around London in various different bands. I always just loved performing and would do it regardless of title.
Describe punk today as it feels to you – how do you think it’s changed in the past few decades?
How does punk feel to me today? Punk feels alive and well. I think the word and usage of punk over time has taken many different meanings and that’s cool, we’re a long way from the Vivienne Westwood, Sex Pistols and Kings Road punk, in what is modern and being described as such. Punk is heart, it’s soul, it’s not giving a fuck, it’s for the people and it doesn’t give in. That’s still there and long may it remain!
Would you describe your sound as more an amalgamation of different styles?
I try not to describe our sound and put it in a genre – but if I were to I’d say that we’ve got a rock ‘n’ roll heart and punk sensibilities. But we take inspiration from everything, and yes, I would call it a bit of an amalgamation.
Where else do you look for inspiration?
It varies. With art I can be inspired by writers, musicians, films… whatever it is that truly moves something in me or makes me connect with a part of myself that perhaps I wasn’t aware of before. Ted Hughes and Brian Pattern are my go-to poets. Musically I’ve always be drawn to artists like Marilyn Manson, Guns N’ Roses, Deftones, Gallows…to name but a few. I like bands who make loads of noise or bands who shock and don’t give a fuck.
What parallels would you draw between how you approach music and how you approach acting – do you feel those two realms of your career exist completely separately?
I try to keep them separate as with acting I’m portraying a character and with music I’m being me with no barrier. Of course they’re both creative outlets and share similarities but for me the differences between playing Christopher Marlowe or a red eyed Vampire and walking out on stage with my band and playing a sweaty rock show and living that life far outweigh the similarities.