Dexter's Michael C. Hall Is a Rock Star: All About His Band Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum
The experimental rock act Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum dropped their self-titled debut EP on Thursday
From Dexter to rock star!
He’s perhaps best recognized for his award-winning turns on TV, but Michael C. Hall has actually been singing professionally for more than 20 years, starring in Hedwig and the Angry Inch and the late David Bowie‘s Lazarus on Broadway.
Now the actor has taken his musical career up a notch, fronting the experimental rock band Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum with drummer Peter Yanowitz and keyboardist Matt Katz-Bohen. (As for that unique band name? It was inspired by Katz-Bohen’s daughter.)
“I didn’t have any aspiration to be in a band; it happened spontaneously,” Hall, 49, says in the new issue of PEOPLE.
Indeed, Hall met his cohorts during a stint on the Great White Way.
“Peter met Mike doing Hedwig in 2015, and they became friends. I had been friends with Peter for a long time, but we really reconnected when I joined the cast of Hedwig. After Hedwig was done, Peter and I were jamming and we said, ‘Hey, it would be cool if we got a singer for this.’ And Mike said, ‘Hey, it would be cool if I could sing on this.’ And it was kind of love at first sight.”
Yanowitz adds that everything clicked when Hall joined the group.
“For Matt and me, it was like Michael was our missing piece. You Know that book you read when you’re a kid, the Shel Silverstein book, The Missing Piece? It was like that,” Yanowitz says. “But we actually found the missing piece, and that’s really when we became a band.”
As for the future, “We’ve already started to mix the next EP, which will be as eclectic as the first one,” Yanowitz says.
Adds Katz-Bohen, “We have plans to record with other people as soon as the quarantine lifts,” but in the meantime: “I just want people to enjoy it — trip out and vibe out with the music.”
Here, Hall opens up about going from screen to stage, what he learned from working with David Bowie and how he and his wife Morgan Macgregor are holding up while social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
You guys have a lot of influences. How did you go about finding your “sound”?
We never came up with any kind of mission statement or even how we wanted to sound. People have asked us to describe it, and I guess we say rock-tronic or goth-a-delic. Early on, we half jokingly referred to it as a jam session between Black Sabbath and Giorgio Moroder. When we come up with a song, Peter likes to say, “Does it go in a museum or not?” Most of them do. It feels like it’s a pretty big museum with lots of wings, so we can have all kinds of different kinds of songs.
You’re an actor. When you’re onstage with Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum, are you playing a character — or is that just you?
I suppose there’s some sort of presentation of myself that’s specific to our live performance, but I have the same name as him, you know? I don’t approach this the way I would approach playing a character. We’re presenting material that’s emerging from us and sharing it. And that’s part of what’s been really liberating about the experience of doing this. In my day job, I’m charged with embodying and executing other people’s vision. In this case, it’s all emerging from us.
You’ve been doing musical theater professionally for years. How has that informed your work in this band?
I certainly am comfortable being on stage and know what that feels like and know what it feels like to have a relationship with a room full of people and to share something with them and to share a space with fellow performers; being an actor who’s done work on stage, I know what that feels like.
I think doing the Hedwig job was the first chance I had to front a band. I loved it. I was living a rock and roll fantasy. I think that show just sort of organically led to me being invited to do the Bowie musical, and that was obviously an amazing time, to be charged with executing such a big part of his final artistic output. It’s like those seeds were being planted when I look back — in the end, they all make sense. It’s not exactly the same thing as acting on stage. However, there is something essential about it that’s more similar than different.
I’m curious what you learned from working with Bowie shortly before his death.
Bowie had, throughout his career, different manifestations of his persona as a performer, and he was an actor: He had characters he embodied in his music. The inherent theatricality of his presentation was something that always appealed to me. Along with being a lover of his music, the thing I’ll take from David is just his easy kindness and energy and positivity. He was really an amazing human being.
Let’s talk about the future of the band. You called acting your “day job” — how do you balance that with making music?
I like the fact that as an actor my life is perpetually up in the air and coming down. I certainly said no to some acting opportunities over the course of the past several months that I might have said yes to were the band not there. I’m not going to stop acting, but I definitely don’t want to stop making music with these guys.
We’ve been playing gigs in New York and Brooklyn for a year and a half. We were going to take a trip to Los Angeles and perform out there and do some recording out there, but you know, like everything, that’s put on hold at the moment.
It’s a crazy time right now. How are you and your wife doing in isolation?
We’re in upstate New York. Luckily we love each other, but we also like each other a lot, so we’re okay being holed up together! It’s a crazy thing when you understand that the best thing you can do is just keep yourself isolated and do nothing. It is a time to, you know, to write, to exchange ideas with the other guys in the band, and try to find a new way to move things forward just from a creative standpoint. But like everybody, I’m just trying to stay sane and remain vigilant without being completely infected by fear.
What have you been listening to while you’ve been social distancing?
Actually, there’s a group text that I’m on and a guy challenged us to make an eight-song playlist. It’s got just music that soothes me. I’ve got “Let Down” by Radiohead, “I’ll Keep It with Mine” by Bob Dylan, “Crimson and Clover” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, “Things Behind the Sun” by Nick Drake, “The King of Carrot Flowers” by Neutral Milk Hotel, “BAD” by U2, part of a “Palestrina” mashup and “Green Machine” by KYUSS — just to sort of bang your head at the end of it all.