Ever since I began conducting interviews on this site, it’s been a dream of mine to speak with Julee Cruise, well known for her collaborations with David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti as well as her numerous appearances throughout Twin Peaks. Floating into the Night is truly one of my all time favorite records, so I was floored when Julee agreed to an interview. To put it simply, I did not get an interview but more of my own private episode of Storytellers – a collection of candid and off-the-cuff memories, stories, and opinions – minus the songs. I would not have preferred it any other way and am absolutely thrilled to share with you my incredibly memorable interview with the one and only Julee Cruise! ”Now, it’s dark…”
BD: Growing up, what was your first attraction to music?
JC: We had lots of instruments laying around. My best friend played guitar, her IQ was 181 and her brother was a super genius at playing every instrument there ever was. I started playing trumpet when I was about 3, because we had one at home. One day I remember in 7th grade my music teacher came who was this super cool jazz guy, he was the reason so many great musicians come out of Creston (Iowa), because of this one guy. He came up the steps and I thought “Shit, am I in trouble?!”. I had to leave the room, and of course I listened in and he said to my dad “you have a prodigy on your hands, she’s going to have to go to university”. And dad says “how much? (laughing) like any dad would say. ”A new french horn?” and he said “no, not yet-but she’ll get there”. And I was really quite adept. I’d go to Led Zeppelin concerts and still be practicing scales on my left hand. They never said “practice”. If they’d never have said it, I never would have done it.
I had the best pot in town because my brother went to Berkeley in 1969, and you know – I was a Cruise so I had to really keep my reputation! It made it extra fun. I had these 5 girlfriends, I’m the 6th one. We weren’t “clique-ish”. They were proud of me, and that’s a big deal to have something like that. I get to see them soon, one’s a U.S. Marshall. One’s a doctor, one’s an oncologist. They’re amazing women and they’re real fun. I’ve known them since I was three.
BD: So how long have you lived in New York?
JC: 30 years, so I am definitely a New Yorker. New York is broke, and it’s one of the safest cities you can live in. I can go out and walk around and yeah – I have a great big white dog who is not scary and she’s boy crazy. But I have a big huge butcher knife in my purse - which is against the law, but hey, if they’re going to hurt my dog I’m going to slice one of them. I am! If they have a right to bear arms, I have a right to bear arms, G**Dammit! That’s how I think. We’re not able to do it, but they can. So I’m always worried about her. I won’t go back home to Creston. My sister lives there though. My brother died last summer, he followed that Irish heritage, you know. I certainly have it. I’ve been clean and sober for a very long time. Cocaine kind of sped up the alcoholism, I think.
BD: That is what I’ve heard.
JC: It’s very prevalent in people your age, you know that? I hate cocaine, one night – I was 4 years sober and watched the entire routine: the beginning, the middle, the dawn – the chirping of the birds and there’s half a line left for 6 people and they are still licking the coffee table in the morning. It was a real wake up call. I was a doctor’s kid in the 60’s and 70’s. We had anything and everything. We built this magnificent fort on speed, but we were very young, we were little but I was a fat kid for about 3 years and that scarred me.
Kids make fun of you…and I still had my friends at the community pool and it was just a very awful time, so I understand when people have different times in their lives that are awful. Kids can be really cruel, but life is cruel, honey! So you better be able to deal with it, because you can’t cheat… you never know – our parents might be right! (laughing) Just in case, you know. My gay friends are not going to die in hell forever, that’s just ridiculous, but I would raise my child I think in some type of organized religion because a group helps in a lot of tragedies, and it helps get sober and all kinds of things. If they don’t have that they become like Hare Krishna’s. They get into cults. People my age people would be entering college and aren’t spiritual at all and they could care less, and that’s dangerous.
BD: Do you practice any spirituality now?
JC: No I don’t, I don’t have to practice it. There’s always a constant contact. Karma is – I’m not a Buddhist but I think there’s many paths to God. My home town was divided by Catholic and Baptist. In small towns they thrive on churches, and you know that because you’re from the south. I do practice T.M., (Transcendental Meditation) but that’s just for my energy. It’s not a spiritual program, it’s physical and you get deep rest. I don’t believe I go into REM a lot, and I started this in college and the string players turned me onto it because I was a soloist in a really high spot, and anything could go wrong with the French Horn or the oboe but it’s a very emotional instrument, and they offered it.
I don’t know about David’s program, but I’m sure it’s meant well but it’s not taking well though. A lot of bands I’ve collaborated with, they think he’s in kook-land and wants everyone to build a shrine and do all this crazy shit, but you’ve gotta admit – he’s got his fingers in just about every cool thing there is.
BD: So how did you come to collaborate with David and Angelo originally?
JC: From an HBO series that came out, I was a resident actress at the theatre and HBO came out and filmed it. It didn’t translate well. But, I was a rather larger than life actress and the director – I remember him as a little girl, he was on The World Turns. He’s still on Law and Order now, if you watch the re-runs. He said he wanted me to meet his friend “Andy… Andy Badali”, who was a tune-smith in Nashville and he thought Steely Dan was a guy and Pink Floyd was a guy… he got successful really late in life. He’s 100% Sicilian and family means everything to him.
I didn’t know David and I didn’t like Eraserhead either, I didn’t care – but I did like Andy and all of a sudden everyone is calling him Angelo. And I just fell in love with him and thought he was fantastic. He always has a smile on his face. In my phone I have the guy that gave me the break! I knew I was going to be someone. I knew I’d make Broadway, I would make film, I knew I’d be the crazy neighbor next door – the character actress but never in a million years thought I’d be the beautiful and mysterious Julee Cruise! (laughing) Then a year later I met David. It was in Blue Velvet. They were sitting beside me (at a screening), and every time Frank Booth would squeeze Isabella’s boob or something, David would turn and look at me and I knew this guy had a really childish and funny sense of humor, you know? (laughing)
BD: What did you think the first time you saw Blue Velvet?
JC: I was a little confused, I was on the spot! But, I was just getting engaged and my Catholic mother-in-law who on Wednesdays cleaned the church decided to bring the other church ladies to see the movie with her son’s new fiance! And they all went to see Blue Velvet and sat through the whole damn thing.
BD: Oh my God!
JC: I know, isn’t that incredible?
above: the LP cover of Floating Into the Night
BD: So, aside from the huge turkey sandwiches what was the process like during the recording of Floating Into the Night?
JC: He (David) came into the booth and would direct me, in an acting way. Somedays he’d have to get me on track and remind me. Angelo would say, “You’re flat! You’re sharp!” and I would say, “How? I have perfect pitch!” and we’d argue – but it was a good argument! It was the best. It’s when everything converged at the right time, and we had a master with a plan, and we followed it blindly. If only everyone could set their ego aside and do that, they might come up with something that’s timeless. Angelo deserves the Mancini award, and all those things.
BD: So what was the Twin Peaks era like of your career?
JC: God, I mean it was really something else because it went through many emotions. The first one was I went downstairs very early in the morning and a huge limo is sitting there and Ed (Julee’s husband) said “enjoy this because it might not happen again”. I got there and the music was playing and David was like “Julee!!” and everyone made a big deal out of me. They’d been hearing the music for a while. Floating Into the Night was out for a year before Twin Peaks came out, so there was a little bit of jealousy going on there. Am I out on the road for free here or what? I didn’t get an advance, and even though it made me money it was still competing with me. It was very conflicting. I thought Lara Flynn Boyle was a bit of a creep. It’s too bad my dad didn’t get to see Twin Peaks – he would have enjoyed Dale Cooper.
BD: I watched the show on ABC when I was 9 years old, and that character really captured my imagination.
JC: I’m sure it opened your eyes, like it opened my eyes. Charlotte’s Web was ripped out of my hands and I was reading In Cold Blood. I’m shocked what’s on the networks. But cigarettes?! “Oh no! we think not, we’re not going to put that on”. Soon they’re going to tell everyone in Manhattan it’s against the law. And that is a step in a backwards direction because it makes people want to do it more.
BD: Do you have any particular memories or stories from your time spent filming Twin Peaks?
JC: No, it just was “David’s going to do a close-up” and I thought “big deal”. When I sing now I cry, and it freaks people out a little bit, but they love it. They want to see you light yourself on fire and slit yourself open and spill your guts and that’s exactly what I do. David takes it to the limit, and I take it to the limit and that’s the way it should be performed. The problem is keeping the throat open.
BD: In some scenes, I couldn’t tell if I was seeing tears or if I was just imagining it.
JC: Oh there’s lots, David even said I needed to bring a hankey. I thought it was a fabulous idea, but I didn’t happen to have one on hand.
above: Julee Cruise in the Twin Peaks episode “Lonely Souls”
BD: Are you still close with anyone from the Twin Peaks universe?
JC: No. I’m completely separate from that. (Back then) I didn’t have a manager and then everyone wanted me, but Angelo got so burned in the south that he didn’t want anyone coming in and taking his publishing and now I get it because I just got out of a lawsuit with Warner Chapel, because that’s intellectual property. And now people are downloading things for free? Come on! That’s my livelihood. My husband’s a writer, we’re not riding high at all… and the B-52′s are still out on the road. They had to pay two managers. They thought I could handle it and I did because I was a refreshing breath of fresh air. And Lenny Waronker the CEO of Warner Brothers at the time said, “my God you can speak an entire sentence, get the hell in here.” He was always great. They even got me a dress to go pick up a Grammy with, it was really nice of them to do that. I didn’t have the money. I got this huge check (laughing) and my mom came to do my taxes and she said “Julee, you’re a millionaire!” and I said, “yeah well, you’ve gotta take it when you can get it.”. And Kate Pearson from the B-52’s really taught me what it’s all about.
BD: What is that?
JC: Success is not your pinnacle, or what everyone thinks is so great. Or a gig that pays the most, I made an enormous amount of money with them. Success is getting yourself back up, you don’t walk away. You stick in there because if you really truly know what you want to do when you’re 3 years old I think its your destiny.
But I do admire the characters (from Twin Peaks)…Russ Tamblyn and God, I mean West Side Story! Peggy Lipton was so cool with her hat, she was a hippie. And she didn’t age, and neither has Catherine (Coulson). I went to the 20 year reunion in London and was so sick, running a temperature of 120, but they were very nice but it wasn’t like Seattle, the 10 year anniversary and I thought it was only right to pay homage to my fans that come to my sites and say nice things and not expect anything in return and they will accept that I can jump from one thing to another.
Today I got 6 big jobs and they have a whole hotel, one of them is related to what we’re talking about – which is David and Twin Peaks. It’s a at a 5 star hotel in St. Petersburg which is very lavish anyway. Why? I don’t know. I guess I’ve been in a lot of soundtracks. It’s amazing what they’ve done. The entire hotel is designed Lynch-ian, not necessarily all Twin Peaks so that should be interesting but I’m going to bring some really rare things to the table. Even though I have to sing 7 songs, I’m getting paid what I would get for an entire tour. Then I’m doing a one woman show, gallery things all over Europe at art exhibits. It’s not based in humor, it’s based in reality. I’m not in stand up. It’s a rough show, and it’s all true.
BD: I really hope you are able to tour the states again, that would be great!
JC: I’ve never gotten a chance to do the interior of the United States, which is where everyone tours.
BD: Really? You didn’t tour on Floating Into the Night?
JC: I did, but I toured before I went on Saturday Night Live – and that was my thing. It was Ed going “Do it! Do it!” I called the CEO of Warner and I said “Lenny, get me on”, even though Lorne Michaels wasn’t all that nice to me. I’m throwing him the finger right now. Fuck you Lorne! Fuck you.
BD: Can I put that in the interview?
JC: Yeah, sure. I have a very strong opinion about things. It causes problems but I don’t care.
BD: You mentioned the Twin Peaks Festival in Seattle, how was that experience?
JC: Oh man. Well first of all we were stalked by some woman from the Travel Channel, but you stay and have a view of the falls at this lodge and all these really cool people come, they’re not geeks or Trekkies, they’re really intelligent people. A lot of Japanese people.
BD: You should consider coming back to the Festival! I know the fans would love to see you.
JC: I don’t know about that. No one wanted to do it last year so it was in England. But they (Europe) got that music before anyone else did. I was on their late night talk shows. I did a late night show with Muammar Gadafi in Sweden! (laughs). How bizarre is that? I hope it’s the same people running it.
BD: Well they’re doing it again this August!
JC: They are?! Oh, good, if it’s the same people.
BD: What other projects are you working on now?
JC: I’ve got a major film coming out and a juicy little monologue in the beginning. David of all people wants to see it.
above: the LP cover of The Voice of Love
BD: How do you feel about collaborating with David and Angelo again?
JC: Well, I’m going to. David said last night, “you’ve gotta come out, we’ve got this stuff to sing. I’ll pay your ticket, no problem with that, you’ve just gotta come out”. I was behind him, all the way on this Karen O album, I thought the reviews were very unfair, I mean the girl does not sing like me. She’s belting – when I belt I’ll shatter the glass. She’s singing from the heart. They just put on an effect that everyone, even Bono uses. They used it in jazz for a long time. Buddy Holly did it by singing in the bathroom.
BD: Are you working on any new songs these days?
JC: No. I have quite a catalog because I’ve collaborated with 18 bands. The whole electronic scene, they’re mean, the English. We’re Irish, and they’re mean motherfuckers and I’m going to audit them. I don’t care if they have kids. Pay up.
BD: I am curious, what are some of your all time favorite artists?
JC: Traffic, every Steely Dan (album) there is transcends me. Carlos Santana, Alanis Morrissette… I love the writing of her lyrics, how the cadence is off and it fits. There’s The B-52′s, they’re great and there’s Norah Jones, she makes me cry. There’s Marvin Gaye – probably my favorite as well as McCoy Tyner. Real hardcore jazz. Not crossover, I hate crossover unless it’s Miles Davis. He was the first one that did it, and then everyone else made money. I loved Wrecking Ball too, I thought Emmy Lou Harris did a great job on that. I like all kinds of music if it’s done well. There was a division growing up that there isn’t now. There’s a lot of crap. Anyone with a computer can do it, and the problem is they can’t perform it! So they have to rely on the record company, the machine. Now there’s no such thing as a worldwide record company.
We’re all so confused. It was beautiful the way it was set up, until one point. Until the record stores started taking kickbacks, not just radio people. I’d go in just to see if I was alive, if my record was still there. It was a joke, but I wasn’t joking. But the transition (record stores closing) was what really upset me. That’s when I went “I’m out, I’m going to Europe”. You just can’t get a tangible product. You can’t have that now, it’s all downloads.
BD: Well I still have Floating Into the Night on vinyl, and it sounds as great as ever.
JC: I do too! Somewhere. I got everything framed, but then the cool thing to do is throw it in the corner. I’m very proud I was with Warner Brothers and that David Lynch and Angelo were my producers, I’m very proud I was in the B-52′s, I’m real proud of every collaboration I’ve ever done.
Many thanks to Julee Cruise! Keep an eye out for her brand new website coming soon.