Interview with Jamie Campbell Bower from Counterfeit

The band outside the Hi Hat. Photo: Gosia Machaczka

We met Jamie Campbell Bower, the lead vocalist/guitarist of the British hardcore rock band Counterfeit, while the band played in Los Angeles at the Hi Hat. The band has only released one album so far but already gained a strong reputation for their powerful live performances. Jamie gave us his best performance advice plus we found out that Jamie prefers being early and is completely comfortable being naked.

R: – So this is a Swedish-American magazine, you have been to Sweden right? Do you have any memories from that?
J: – I remember being a bit fucking cold. (laughs) It was actually beautiful as well. I remember the drive through Sweden and Norway, such a gorgeous part of the world. It’s so peaceful. My brother actually lives in Denmark and he absolutely loves it there, he was like “this is everything, I wanna build a studio here and have a cabin in the woods!”.
G: – If you like skiing it would be good…
J: – Well Roland as well actually, he did a cross-country skiing in Sweden, and he had never skied before in his life.
R: – Hm, interesting.
J: – Yeah, that’s his connection to Sweden.
R: – He’s got a Swedish name as well.
J: – Yeah, viking!
R: – Your band is well-known for having great live shows, have you always been this energetic on stage or has it evolved through the years?
J: – The shows has been so important from the word go for us, even the very first show we played together was wild. But if you look at that and the shows we play now, of course we’ve become more comfortable on stage and we know what we are playing perhaps more than before. But we really wanted to go out there and make an impact from the word go. Being energetic and giving everything has been like a mantra for us.
R: – Are there any specific bands that has inspired your live performances?
J: – I have always been drawn to bands that shock, like Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails. And when I was little I enjoyed the hardcore/punk band Gallows. Their shows were off the fucking chain. I remember seeing them when I was like 16 and it absolutely blew my mind. That has been with me ever since. I wanna go out and play like it’s our last fucking show every time.
R: – So do you have any advice for other upcoming bands on how to do a good live show?
J: – Well, as long as it’s honest and real, and as long as it’s from the heart… I guess what we’re talking about and the way the music is, lends itself very well to the high energy. But for example, if you are a singer-songwriter, I wouldn’t do the same thing (laughs). It would probably not work out as well. So, my advice is just to be… you. To listen to your heart and your soul and go out there and do what feels right. If this is what you’re shooting on to do, the stage should be the place where you feel the most you.
R: – Do you go to a lot of shows yourself?
J: – I try to go as much as possible. But it’s harder now, particularly in London actually because a lot of the smaller venues has closed.  
R: – So are you as energetic in the audience as you are on stage?
J: – Abso-fucking-lutely yes! I remember going to a show with A Day To Remember with Tristan at Alexandra Palace a few years ago and moshing so hard, losing my phone and my wallet, screaming the words, kids looking at me and be like “what the fuck is this guy up to”. I’m just having a good time!
G: – So when you write your lyrics, is it straight-forward personal or are you inspired by something and write more universally?
J: – For me, the lyrical process has to come from myself and an honest place. But the music always comes first. A song would be born out of an emotion and a feeling that I’ve been having. Once it has gotten to a certain point, I’ll start work on it lyrically, and I’ll start to really come to terms with the truth and honesty of what I’m trying to say. It’s a process of hit or miss. Sometimes when it’s not true it can sound ok, but it’s not necessarily what I’m trying to say. So, I have to question myself all the time. For the new songs we’re working on, Sam has been really helpful in the lyrical process. It can get to certain points when you hit a wall, like with any art form. It’s always good to have a second opinion and someone who asks you too, and Sam is very good at that.
G: – So I hoped you could explain the meaning behind “for the thrill of it”? I get that it’s about a complicated relationship, but then you’re saying “so give me 20 to life” and I’m guessing you’re talking about jail?
J: – Well, it’s a reference to both jail and the person that it’s about and locking yourself into that relationship for an extended period of time. The song is about an individual, but what it highlights is this bizarre issue that I seemed to have at the time with the idea to be in a relationship and seeing that person with someone else and all those doubts that goes through your head. “Am I good enough” and that sort of things. But ultimately, I try to connect with the feeling that we can all have, that sort of “terror” when you fall in love.
G: – If there was a reality show about you guys, which song would you chose for the intro?
J: – (laughs) It has to be a massive party banger though, doesn’t it? I mean, I’d need to write a new one, a jingly specific theme song for the show. Yeah, that’s what I’d have to do.
G: – So what’s the craziest thing you have ever done and would you do it again?
– Oh my gosh… I’ve done many crazy things and been in many scary situations that I don’t wanna end up in again. I guess swimming with sharks was fucking crazy.
G: – In a cage, I hope?
J: – Yeah but then again, I did swim on the beach next door to it. I’ve done many crazy stupid things in my life, none of which I would particularly want to highlight. I don’t necessarily want to do those things again, some of them I would. (laughs)
R: – But most of them not?
J: – Yeah, exactly. We live and we learn, do we not?
G: – What benefit do you bring to the group when hanging out with friends?
J: – Oh my gosh you’re asking me to talk positively about myself, it’s terrifying! I mean, I find enjoyment in getting to the bottom of people and really listen to them and try to get to their emotional core. I find very little joy in surface conversation and falsity, I like to actually know what’s going on with someone. So I guess that can be a quite intense experience.
G: – What’s the silliest fear you have?
J: – I have gotten over it now but I used to have a fear of walking upstairs, because I thought someone was behind me. I guess I had watched too many scary movies. Also spiders. And failure.
G: – What makes you nervous?
J: – Judgement. Fear of rejection.
G: – Who from the band would be the worst person to be stuck in an elevator with?
J: – I think Roland because…. No I think it would be me, I’m pretty bad. I’d a) freak out, b) need to pee, c) probably just get really hungry and start craving snacks.
G: – And who would be the best?
J: – Tristan or Roland…
G: – You just said Roland would be the worst?
J: – No Roland would be both the worst and the best because if Roland needs to use the bathroom he is very, very adamant that he needs to go as I accounted not too long ago in the bus. But he would be also the best too because he’s quite level-headed. Tristan is a good problem-solver, he’d probably be able to figure out what the issue is and fix it.
G: – Would you rather be Donald Trump or George Bush?
J: – I’d rather be dead.
G: – Would you rather have all your thoughts broadcasted so everyone would hear them or never wear clothes again?
J: – Never wear clothes again! I’m perfectly comfortable being naked.
G: – What trends did you follow when you were younger that you’re ashamed of today?
J: – (laughs) Many! I was a skater emo kid. I wore a denim sun visor with New York Yankees logo on it. My hair was kind of short and I spiked it and I wore Wu Tang Clan jeans, it was all wrong! It was a bad look.
G: – What’s something that annoys you but doesn’t bother most people?
J: – Basic things, I don’t like the sound of pencils. And I don’t like being late. I like being early. Sort of unconventional in the rock’n’roll world I suppose. People have the image of rock stars just showing up whenever they want.
G: – What’s your favorite book or movie and why did it speak to you?
J: – I got asked this question the other day and I kind of stumbled on the answer, because I was concerned that my response would be judged in some way. I guess some people will see this as cliché, but I remember reading Cather in the Rye. I was 15 years old and you get thrown into this world of modern/classical American literature and you discover a character like Holden Caulfield that seem to represent everything that you’re feeling as a young adult. And my favorite movie is The Great Escape, because when I was kid my dad sat me down and made me watched it, it was his favorite move. So, for me it has sentimental value.
G: – Would you rather have unlimited love or unlimited money?
J: – Unlimited love. Love is unlimited.
G: – Any other plans you want to share with us?
J: – After this tour we’re going into the studio again to finish our next record. And we just launched the Pledge campaign, where people can come and buy an access pass and they can see what it’s like to be in the studio with us, and come to music video shoots… I’d like to bring people in. I talk to so many people after shows and I wanna find out what they want to see because the world now is so difficult. I wanna get people involved and share the experience.

Interview by Rosanna Rundlof & Gosia Machaczka
Photos by Gosia Machaczka