This week I was lucky enough to meet actor, musician and model Josh Whitehouse to discuss his new film ‘Modern Life is Rubbish’ – out in UK cinemas from the 4thof May 2018. Natalie (Freya Mavor) and Liam (Josh) are first brought together by their shared love of music but fast-forward ten years later and the couple are preparing to split. But is the soundtrack that initially defined their relationship enough to pull them back together? Below is the full interview with Josh who I can honestly say is one of the most humble, warm and quirky people I have ever met.
Me: Being a singer, songwriter and guitarist in real life, did you find it hard to keep your own identity and experiences separate from your character Liam?
Josh: I found it really interesting to play another musician, especially in terms of the creative process because the band I play in in the film (Headcleaner), is a fictional band, so we got to make original songs. I worked with another guy on the songs, we kind of collaborated and he let me write a lot of the lyrics. It was a really interesting place to go to for me because normally if you are writing your own songs, then you want to make sure not that they are necessarily the best you can do, that is not the right way of phrasing it, but that they are personal to what you aspire to and specific in that you are not trying to do all the old things that you have done, you are working towards something new. Whereas on this, I got to pull on my angsty high school lyrics that I used to scratch in a notebook or on my arm (laughs), that whole phase that you go through when you are a teenager. I got to think about that, it was regressing if anything back to a much younger stage in my punk days which made it really fun.
Me: In the film, your character wants to preserve the authenticity of music, my favourite line of his is that the ‘IPod is the shoplifter of the soul’. Do you think artists would be as successful today if they stuck to vinyl and CDs instead of modern inventions like online streaming, or ITunes?
Josh: Ummm it’s a tricky question because the things that are new are almost destroying the music industry. I do kind of agree with Liam about some of these things, though not as heavily as he lays it down quite extreme. Vinyl is always going to be the solid thing that you can keep in your hands. The whole music industry is completely changing because with digital technology, people are pirating music and it is not something that I am saying is completely wrong, but people are getting music for free and it means artists are making a lot less money. Can you repeat the question as I have gone off on a major tangent… (laughs)
Me: Repeats question.
Josh: It depends if artists are battling with the newer things because while these newer things are in, it is much quicker for everybody to use and the music industry has to shift and go with that, it can’t just stay in the past. Yet there will always be a quality to things like film cameras and vinyl that no matter how big and clever these new digital things are, they are never going to be as strong. I am working on an album at the moment for my band and I was planning on having it made into vinyl, because what are your choices otherwise? You can have it done as an MP3 which I’ll do so it is on ITunes and people can get it, but if you put it on a CD, you can’t even listen to it, none of my computers have a CD drive anymore. Everything is being replaced and getting older and I think there are some things like vinyl that are going to stay true and strong and people will always be able to play. No one is going to stop buying record players but I think they will stop buying CD players.
Me: You co-wrote many of the songs for the film, what is your writing process like?
Josh: I just think about what sound I want to hear. In the film I only wrote the lyrics and it wasn’t really a writing session as such, they told me they were going to teach me to sing a bit better and that we were going to listen to the songs. I wasn’t sure if they were going to give me a microphone and be like: “alright sing something, freestyle” (laughs). I kind of panicked and got my notebook and started scribbling words- the first thing that came to mind, anything that felt right. I tend to just jumble words out that feel as though they might fit to something and if they don’t, then change them. It was very sort of quick and off the cuff. They turned around after each song finished playing and I was like: “I’ve actually got some words” and they were like: “that’s great, lets use that.” Then the ball started rolling really.
But when I’m writing my own music I either start with an idea of a guitar riff or something and then build from there or sometimes it’ll be a hook or a melody, kind of like that.
Me: London forms the backdrop of the film; do you think the film could have worked in any other country?
Josh: Yes, but the film would have to be about another country (laughs) because the film is like an homage to London I suppose isn’t it? It is very much about British Indie music. The story would work in any country but its essence wouldn’t, or at least it would be a very different essence. London is quite integral to the vibe of the film I think.
Me: Your chemistry with your co star Freya was very believable in the film, how did you achieve this? Did you hang out with each other outside of filming?
Josh: It really does depend on your casting and who you are working with to a big extent, but ultimately your job as actors is to get to know each other. The director sent us on dates, we got given a schedule of things to go to, so we went to watch bands in London, bowling, drinking; we made our own memories. In that time, you are both so aware of what you are doing and what you are about to do, that you really want to connect. It is a very unusual thing really, this permission to get to know someone so well so quickly and the fact that you are both really giving to one another because you both really want everything to work. There is that side to it, but me and Freya really got along very well, we were making each other laugh a lot on set and its not just me and Freya, me and Will and everybody that was around, all my bandmates and Matt, there was just a good sort of jolliness and vibe between everybody. I think that is really important, in order to portray relationships, you need to know each other a bit. You could get slumbered with someone who is incredibly dry but they are a really good actor and that can be very difficult for the other person. It’s a mix of things but I was lucky on this film as we did all get on really well.
Me: The relationships did come across very natural onscreen, I did get invested in the characters and even cried at the end!
Josh: I cried when I read the script, only one tear, but it was enough (laughs). I thought, do you know what, if I cry from reading it, then its probably going to be a half decent film (laughs).
Me: I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but at the end your character does a very romantic gesture. What is the most romantic thing you have ever done, or someone has done for you?
Josh: I spray painted “I love you” in a heart on a rooftop once so that you could see it from the top story of a car park. That is the most romantic thing I did, that was when I was a lot younger. I’m proud I’ve got something to say (laughs).
Me: Taking inspiration from the film’s title (which was inspired by a Blur album) do you think modern life is rubbish? Do you ever feel like you were born in the wrong era?
Josh: No, I don’t feel like I was born in the wrong era, I am really glad I was born in this era. If anything I wouldn’t have minded being born a little further down the line to see a bit more of the future. So much has happened since I’ve been born you know? Like phones and television and the internet were invented and a whole bunch of crazy technology has just been born. I am very curious to see where it is all going; I feel like I am going to be getting old and decrepit by the time there is some mad stuff happening. I am also really glad that I am in an age where I can buy my own microphones and record my own music and have my own studio. These are all things which weren’t possible for anyone to do, we are in an era of being able to do things for ourselves which as a creative is hugely important to me. If I had been born in the 60s I would have been completely oblivious to this idea but I’m really glad that I was born now so I don’t have to be oblivious (laughs).
Me: In the film, Liam has to work different jobs to get an income whilst pursuing his dream as a musician, what jobs did you have before you got your big break?
Josh: (laughs) Have I made it big? I worked in a sandwich shop which I always enjoyed because I liked making people big sandwiches, I always feel like you get rubbish portions so I used to enjoy making big ones. I worked in a pub back in Chester called Bar Lounge for a while, that was horrible because I was the dish monkey basically (laughs). I never wanted a job, I’m very much like Liam in that sense, I was always pretty determined I was going to do something creative because I felt like I was wasting time otherwise.
Me: Lastly I am going to ask you some questions from the film itself, what is your favourite food?
Josh: (Mouths eating food) Like ever? (pauses whilst thinking) I like salmon with roasted tomatoes, baby ones, and asparagus and tenderstem broccoli, that is my favourite meal. Me and my girlfriend have that very regularly.
Me: What has been your favourite moment?
Josh: In the film or in general? Both. Ooooh my favourite moments in life are when you see someone being really passionate and smashing it, when you see someone going for it. There are certain performances where certain artists are having a moment and you can just be like: “yeah, they are killing it”. That usually tends to touch me quite a lot. In the film, let me think… I watched it the other day (laughs). There is a lot of sadness in the film, I like it when it is happier, when Natalie and Liam are falling in love and the blossoming of their relationship I suppose. I also really like all the band stuff and all the jokes (laughs).
Me: Thank you, we are all done.
Josh: Thank youuu very much (laughs), I hope it was okay…
Here is the link to Josh’s personal website so you can keep updated with his future projects: http://joshuawhitehouse.co.uk