Sunday, November 5

DEK Mag: David Duchovny about his music “Playing the first time in Glasgow was memorable" - November 2023

Golden Globe–winning actor David Duchovny has always been reluctant to limit himself to a single career, making his directorial debut on an episode of the television series that made his name, The X-Files, before moving into feature films with House of D. A bestselling author of literary and graphic fiction, he has also recorded three albums – Hell or Highwater (2015), Every Third Thought (2018) and Gestureland (2021) – and this month embarks on his second European tour. Meanwhile, he is currently appearing on the big screen alongside Meg Ryan in the romantic comedy What Happens Later.

Although not particularly known for playing romantic leads, Duchovny was sure that, with Ryan both directing and starring opposite him, he would be in safe hands. “She is obviously an amazing actress in that genre. I thought, well, she’s amazing, I would trust her as a director, and I've never done a movie quite like this.” Based on a stage play by Steven Dietz, What Happens Later is a two-hander, with Duchovny and Ryan taking the only speaking roles apart from a disembodied airport announcer (voiced by a pseudonymous actor whose real identity is yet to be revealed). Duchovny was immediately attracted by the script, in which a chance meeting between ex-lovers stranded at an airport leads to a re-examination of their past relationship and a rediscovery of their mutual attraction. By embracing the melancholy, regret and occasional cantankerousness of middle age, the film adds some welcome bite to the more familiar world of the snow-bound meet-cute. “It was good, it was a mature romantic comedy, and I really hadn't seen that done in a while.”

Ryan adapted the play together with Dietz and playwright Kirk Lynn, and she and Duchovny then spent a year reworking it, reading through the script over Zoom and coming up with extra dialogue or structural improvements. “After the Zoom meeting she would go and rewrite. Sometimes it was stuff that we had improvved during that rehearsal, or it was just things that we talked about, or it was reordering some things. There’s slower reveals than in a more traditional multi-character movie – it's just her and I every scene, so the layers drop off and we had to figure out how best to keep the tension alive.”

Unusually these days, What Happens Later was largely filmed in long takes without the use of playback. “If I'm acting and directing, I usually like playback because if the camera’s moving I don't know exactly what it caught,” Duchovny explains. “But I don't need it as an actor, I feel it actually slows things down a lot and makes you feel you've done something when you haven't. They didn't have playback when I started acting, and people did a lot of great work before there was playback.” He says was happy to leave all such directorial decisions to Ryan, in spite of being an experienced director himself. “You want to be sensitive about that because every director has his or her own vision. If I'm going to be in a movie with a director, I'm trusting that person to direct. I'll pipe up if I've got an idea, but generally I'm going to take care of the acting part.” This was particularly true for What Happens Later as, having finished a directing project just days before going on set, Duchovny felt ready to focus on acting alone. Although the SAG-AFTRA strike means he is currently unable to talk about that work, earlier this year saw him bring three strands of his career together when he directed the film adaptation of his 2017 novel Bucky F*cking Dent, in which he also stars.


The fourth strand, music, has been an important part of Duchovny’s life since his youth when he would attend concerts in his native New York. He particularly recalls the excitement of securing a ticket to see Peter Frampton at Madison Square Garden in 1976 at the height of his success. “It was amazing to see big acts back when I was a teenager because they didn't come around that often. You couldn't see them on TV all the time, you couldn’t curate your Spotify list and listen to them whilst walking around all day long. So there was something rare about being able to catch a big act when it toured.” He’s also a lifelong Rolling Stones fan, comparing their new single “Sweet Sounds of Heaven” to some of the slower songs on their critically acclaimed 1972 album, Exile on Main St. “I think Mick Jagger sounds terrific. The energy that Mick Jagger still has live, it’s really phenomenal.”

Duchovny is about to go on tour himself, starting in Scotland, which holds happy memories for him. “Playing the first time in Glasgow was memorable, if only because it was the first time I played a big room – there might have been 1,000 to 1,500 people. Also, it's my mother's homeland and it happened to be my mother's birthday, that first concert, and I got the crowd to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to her. I got to wear my kilt. There was a lot going on!”

He’ll play four performances in the UK before crossing to mainland Europe for a further six dates. He hopes that, whereas before the audience came for Duchovny the actor, this time they’ll come for his music. “When I first toured and when I had one album, I knew that most people that were going to come to see me didn't know the music that well – there wasn't a lot of it, and it hadn't been out very long. I'm sure I'm still going to get people that are curious, and that's fine; I'm not saying don't come to my concert! But my own personal hope is that these people like the songs, they like the vibe, they like the music.”

With material from three albums to draw on, Duchovny has been able to plan a setlist that moves between a variety of moods and genres. “I like the live performances to have a flow in and out of tempo; in and out of feelings; in and out of a rock song, where you're dancing around, to a ballad, hopefully where you're being moved or listening to the lyrics.” As Gestureland was released shortly after the COVID lockdowns, when he didn’t feel comfortable encouraging large audiences into concert venues, it is only now, two years later, that the songs will get their European live debut. Although some of them were written during the pandemic, Duchovny says that the lyrics were not drawn directly from the tribulations of that time. “My usual process is not really tied to events of the day, even something as disruptive to life as COVID. I mean, it would put me in mind of other more universal feelings of being locked down, or loneliness, without having to attach it to a particular moment in time. My instinct is to try and make them both universal and timeless.”

Tour begins in Edinburgh on November 6th. Buy tickets here.

What Happens Later is in UK cinema’s now.

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