As well as playing the title role in crime drama Dexter – back this autumn after eight years off screens – Michael C. Hall has starred in musicals since high school, including the lead in David Bowie’s final stage project Lazarus. So Michael is more natural than most actors to start a band, especially as his bandmates in Princess Goes To The Butterfly Museum worked alongside him in Broadway musical Hedwig And The Angry Inch.
But how have the trio – also featuring Blondie keyboardist Matt Katz-Bohen and Peter Yanowitz, who’s drummed with Yoko Ono, Wilco and Melissa Auf Der Maur – managed to create an unexpected album full of Underworld-style bangers? NME discovered why Bowie would approve of the band, their involvement in an unreleased Cribs album and got some hints about Dexter’s comeback.
Hey guys, how did the band come about?
Michael C. Hall: “Like any person in their right mind, I’ve always harboured rock and roll fantasies. Doing [Broadway musical] Hedwig And The Angry Inch [in 2014], I got in touch with the feeling of wanting a band. Hedwig and Lazarus were invigorating, and maybe gave me permission to do my own stuff. Hooking up with Matt and Peter, we’ve got a collective world that none of us individually could quite come up with.”
Peter Yanowitz: “It’s an effortless collaboration. We’ve started our own record company, and it feels like we’re a DIY band. It’s a homegrown spirit I haven’t felt since I was a kid.”
Matt Katz-Bohen: “I’ve toured with Blondie and Cyndi Lauper for years and had my own bands, and there’s no imbalance of power here – we’re three equals.”
What’s the story behind the name – Princess Goes To The Butterfly Museum?
Katz-Bohen: “It’s something my daughter said when she was three or four. It just felt serendipitous. There’s a sense of innocence to the name, which we work to hold onto in the music. A lot of our best ideas come from keeping that childlike worldview.”
You say “childlike”, but songs like ‘Armageddon Suite’ and ‘Bombed Out Sites’ are lyrically apocalyptic. Were they written about lockdown?
Hall: “It’s interesting, because those songs were actually written before everything went south. The songs on the record written since then are almost the opposite, like ‘Angela Peacock’, where I’m trying to get away from what’s happening in quarantine. The songs written later are more nihilistic. That wasn’t deliberate, but it’s likely an unconscious response to the storm and stress around us. Those doomier songs? It’s not like everything was hunky dory in the world before quarantine.”
Yanowitz: “‘Hunky dory’? Nice Bowie reference, Mike.”
Hall: “Yeah, I was hoping to sneak one in.”
Having worked with Bowie on Lazarus, what would he think of the band?
Hall: “I think he’d demand to play tambourine with us. No, I think he’d like it, because he championed music that isn’t bound by anything more than the need to be its own expression.”
It’s surprising that ‘Thanks For Coming’ is such a great club album. Is that the music that inspires you?
Katz-Bohen: “We embrace the power of synthesisers to be powerful and make your music sound twice as heavy. A lot of the heavier songs on the record don’t have guitar. That comes from Ed Banger and, even earlier, acid house.”
What are you up to away from the band?
Katz-Bohen: “Blondie are keeping it pretty chill and low-key. There’s talk of a UK tour – something with Princess would be perfect. We’re focusing on our next album, but Blondie are always thinking multiple albums down the line. We have so many ideas, it’s absurd.”
Yanowitz: “I wrote a show, This Ain’t No Disco, with Hedwig And The Angry Inch [composer] Stephen Trask. We’re putting out a double album of the music, spending the next few months getting guest vocalists for it. Michael is never far from my thoughts, but I like to keep Princess separate, so probably not you, Mike.”
Hall: “I’m looking forward to getting back into Dexter’s shoes. I don’t really know what to expect, as I’ve never returned to a job after so much time. Having Dexter in a completely different context, we’ll see how that feels. It’s been interesting to figure out how to do that and I thought it was time to find out what the hell happened to him.”
Did you need much persuading to play Dexter again?
Hall: “I just needed the persuasion of time passing, so I could [get] some distance away from that part and have more possibilities for him. Really, it was about being presented with a story I felt was worth telling. There had been some other proposals and possibilities for Dexter, other roads we started down, but this was the first one that was worth continuing on.”
Is this new 10-part limited series definitely the finale?
Hall: “I’m reluctant to say ‘definitely’, you know? Let’s see. What’s plain now is that there’s 10 new episodes.”
Peter, what’s happening with Exclamation Pony, your band with Ryan Jarman from The Cribs?
Yanowitz: “Ryan is a really good friend and there’s a great record we’ve made that nobody has heard. I don’t know why Ryan is sitting on it, when there’s 15-20 songs that’s some of my favourite music ever. I hope he wants to put it out – maybe if Ryan sees this, he’ll get to it and put it out there.”