Exclusive interview! Muddy meets…. Laurence Fox
The actor-turned-singer has been front page news since an incendiary appearance on Question Time last week. In this exclusive interview, he talks midlife crises, death threats and groupies with Muddy's Kerry Potter.
This was supposed to be a fun, light-hearted chat about the Lewis actor’s new album and forthcoming tour when it was arranged a couple of weeks ago.
Then Laurence Fox went on Question Time. Been living under a rock for the last few days? Here’s a quick recap: he accused an audience member of being racist after she described him as a “privileged white man”. He’s since claimed black and working class actors don’t complain about prejudice until they become famous and has moaned about the historically accurate inclusion of a Sikh soldier in 1917, Sam Mendes’ new movie about WW1.
The 41-year-old scion of the Fox acting dynasty has also said he won’t date women under the age of 35 because they’re trying to overthrow the patriarchy to install a matriarchy. Oh, and he’s had a pop at vegans. Okaaaay.
His latest album, A Grief Observed, is, um, an acquired taste, with lyrics tackling the rise of wokeness (spoiler: he’s not a fan) and the aftermath of his toxic divorce from actor Billie Piper, with whom he shares two sons. The artist himself has described one of the tracks as “an anthem the whole deaf community can get behind” and “playing on a loop in the foyer at Dignitas”. Let’s just say Bob Dylan is unlikely to be nervously looking over his shoulder any time soon. So what on earth is going on with Fox? I find him on bullish and blasé form, fresh from his latest spat on Twitter.
How are you?
Well, I’ve had a couple of interesting days.
So I see. Tell me about the highlights and lowlights?
They’re all highlights really. I quite like that people got a chance to really lose their shit. And it’s nice to go through the digital rite of passage of being Twitter-stormed.
Isn’t it exhausting, constantly arguing with people?
I never argue. I just tell them how stunning and brave they are. They don’t really want to argue with you, they mainly want to insult you and make you feel dreadful or frightened. Good luck!
Beneath the bravado, is it getting to you, being at the centre of this?
I don’t like being at the centre of it but I don’t feel sad. I had no idea this was going to happen. I didn’t think that saying something vaguely sensible would set off the wokies. But the wokies are a troubling bunch.
What’s most surprised you about the reaction to Question Time?
Nothing really. It’s always like any situation that’s vaguely stressful. You find out who the goodies are, the ones who’ll check in on you. It doesn’t bother me what goes on on Twitter at all but it started to stress me out when my friends started calling me up and saying, Are you alright, mate? Is was, like, [worried] God, why should I not be?
Have you lost any friends over this?
I don’t have that many friends to lose! My mates have been around a long time.
The family WhatsApp group must’ve been buzzing?
They don’t give a shit. We just don’t care in show business. They’ll slag you off one day and say you’re brilliant the next. It’s relentlessly boring.
Have your parents had a word?
No. We just had my sister-in-law’s birthday party and it wasn’t really the time to go on about “woe is me”.
Most people in the acting industry have very different views from yours – how much of a pariah are you now?
That will remain to be seen. We’ll have to see how that one goes. If you’ve got the wrong opinion and you’re hounded out of work for that, then you’re not in the right job, are you?
Are you acting at the moment?
I’ve just finished a drama for Netflix called White Lines. It’s about four people who go to Ibiza when they’re 20 and one of them goes missing. Twenty years later a body is found. Now I’m doing music for a bit. Then I’ll do something else – I dunno what yet. That’s if I get a job – I might be blacklisted.
Have you always had no-filter?
I’ve never had a filter and it’s got me into trouble endlessly. Although not like this. Being honest is definitely going to grate on some people, isn’t it?
Do you think you’re having a midlife crisis?
Yeah, probably! That’d be fun… No, I don’t think I’m having a midlife crisis. I think we might be having a culture crisis and I’m fed with it. The sensible people I have respect for don’t think vastly differently from me. The angry, wokey crowd – they’re angry and wokey about everything.
Is this all a ploy to shift your album and tour tickets?
No, not at all but if it does… my album has gone back into the charts so I’m thrilled.
You just do it. It’s something you do. I just started doing it one day and people started liking it – or not liking it, as the case may be. I uploaded a song to BBC Introducing, and got onto Dermot O’Leary’s radio show, got a record deal and it went from there.
People often criticise actors who move into music…
People often criticise everybody. Life is full of criticism. If you let your critics define what you do, you’ll end up pretty lonely and unfulfilled. Music is beautiful, it’s a great way of expressing my thoughts, it’s addictive.
Your ex wife was a huge popstar – did she have any advice for you?
I’m not married to her any more so I’m not going to talk about Billie, thanks.
What inspired the new album?
The track Distance is about this crap modern thing where everyone has to think the same way. It’s boring. I’m tired of identity politics. So I wrote a song about it. The album is also about the last few years, since I got divorced. It’s about what I see, what I think.
How do you find playing live?
Well, you’re not instantly good at something new, are you? But I don’t get nervous any more. I did a Live Lounge for the BBC the other day and that went pretty well. But it’s not as amusing as the Jeremy Vine version. [His appearance on the TV show is being widely mocked online – check it out below]
I watched that video earlier. Um, I don’t know what to say.
I was pretty nervous on that day. I hadn’t practised it properly and it was only 8am.
What can people expect at your show?
It’s quite intimate and there’s a bit of explaining about what the songs are about. And there’s the girls who wear “For Fox Sake” T-shirts and follow me around relentlessly.
You’ve got a gang of groupies?
How rock’n’roll are you?
Not very. I have a pint of Stella before I go on stage and I request a bottle of Disaronno for my rider, which I share with the band. You can’t drink a whole bottle of Disaronno by yourself. That would be rock’n’roll though.
Are you worried people will come to your gigs to throw eggs at you now?
I dunno. It seems like an awful lot of effort to do that. I think it’s Twitter I’ve pissed off, not the real world. The more you can piss off Twitter, the better. I’ve had death threats. I just retweet them. I don’t really mind about death threats, one is only concerned about one’s children. As long as I saw them coming, no one would be happy coming after me because I’m not a frightened bunny.
Are you pretty hard then?
No, I’m not hard. But I’m not scared.
Isn’t there just a tiny bit of you that’s slightly anxious about the fact that many people are furious about what you’ve said?
No, because I won the argument. They just don’t like it.
How’s the rest of the week shaping up?
I’ve got the kids so I’ll be busy with the nibblers this week.
What do they think of all the fuss?
I dunno. I haven’t seen them for a week. I’ll find out when I see them later.
A Grief Observed is out now and the tour runs 17-28 Feb, including a 26 Feb show at the Bullingdon in Oxford