An emblematic part of Blue Velvet (1986), Industrial Symphony No. 1 (1989/1990), Twin Peaks (ABC, 1990-1991) and Fire Walk with Me (1992), the American singer Julee Cruise (b. 1956) was born in Creston, Iowa. Cruise has an angelic voice that neatly fits the Lynchian soundscape, and she is seen as an on-screen singer in Twin Peaks, Fire Walk with Me and the experimental and largely forgotten piece Industrial Symphony No. 1. Cruise has made a number of popular records such as Floating into the Night (1989), which includes a lot of the most iconic tracks from Twin Peaks, and she originally came to work with Angelo Badalamenti and David Lynch, inasmuch as Dino De Laurentiis could not get the rights (or was unwilling to pay the fees) for “Song of the Siren”, which was later used in Lost Highway (1997). Instead, Angelo Badalamenti was asked to do a Shostakovich-like track for the end of Blue Velvet, and Badalamenti thought that Julee Cruise should be the singer. “Mysteries of Love” became a huge hit, and Cruise remains a vital part of The Lynch Mob and the mood which is so essential to Twin Peaks and Fire Walk with Me. As a person, Julee Cruise is unorthodox, funny and digressive, and our conversation circled different themes concerning music, Twin Peaks and David Lynch.
AH: Twin Peaks has often been described as one of the most important and influential TV series of all time. Do you think that Twin Peaks has had an impact on modern television drama, and what was so different about it at the time of its arrival?
JC: It changed things. William H. Macy wouldn’t be doing what he’s doing on Showtime now, if it hadn’t been for Twin Peaks. I felt it at the time. I felt that it was the best show since The Twilight Zone. I know that it changed television. David really pushes it to the limits. Think of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me where an old man is crossing the street, and it just takes forever, cars honking. Twin Peaks was cinematic. He let loose all those fabulous shows that we are seeing right now. It was like a red light saying that it was okay for a director to go with his own idea. And that is the way it should be. People don’t like the suits talking.
David likes to create all aspects and have control, and he did that on primetime TV, and to have this take off – why people liked it, why do people in Japan or Moscow like it – I don’t know why. Being on set is kind of nothing, but being on set with David Lynch was awesome.
AH: Many people will remember you from Twin Peaks where you performed as both a singer and an actress (or an on-screen singer, if you will). Could you say a few words on the Twin Peaks soundtrack in general?
JC: My album was out for a year before that, but Europe just went nuts for it. My music is very straight and classically done, almost like a boy choir, and my harmonies and tails that I do at the end of songs are thing that I hear. But David would direct me to be beautiful. David pushes it to the limit, and luckily our music fit right in. The music is so overly dramatic, it’s used in such an overly dramatic way.
Listening to “Floating into the Night” from beginning to end is a very different experience from listening to the soundtrack.
AH: Before becoming a part of Twin Peaks, you did Blue Velvet with David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti, and Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks seem to be connected in a way, don’t they?
JC: Blue Velvet was a transition into Twin Peaks. When we were doing the “Floating into the Night” premiere in 1989, it felt like a whole year. If you watch David’s films, you don’t know which era it’s supposed to look like, and he is very stuck in the era he grew up in – it was the 50s.
And Angelo Badalamenti music fits that kind of nostalgic mood very well. Angelo, mind you, is younger than the Bernard Herrmann era (i.e. he was born before Herrmann starting making film music). Angelo really knows how to follow his piece.
AH: Your songs are very emotional, and the mood and tonality of Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet are defined by the music that you and Angelo Badalamenti have created. Could you say a few words on the process – what you think about in order to get in touch with and express such strong emotions.
JC: I do it is as straight as I can. But as the years go by, you lose people and my dogs. “Falling” is about Rudy, my dog. [She laughs]
I love things that are challenging. Taking on David and Angelo’s music was definitely challenging. I don’t know if I can carry this off today. I’m a classic musician. I can hone in on what Angelo wants to do. But to bring my voice back. It takes so much to sing so soft.
AH: A strong moment in Fire Walk with Me is underscored by the track “Questions in a World of Blue”. To me this fits Laura’s frame of mind perfectly, neatly underscoring her sadness, as she looks in the mirror and cries by the booth in the bar.
JC: I sang that a-capella at the festival a couple of years ago. That is like listening to Brahms, and to me that is musically as much about the harmonies in terms of how it was written musically and lyrically. I don’t feel a lot of emotions when I sing this song. It kind of drains you dry. But, yes, it is such a strong and emotional moment in the film.
AH: There is an ethereal and fragile quality to many of the songs in Twin Peaks. Does that make sense, and how would you describe it?
JC: David has brought out that side of me – that vulnerability – that I don’t like to show because I don’t know when the music starts and the acting stops. At the time I did “Mysteries of Love” for Blue Velvet, they had always laid down the tracks for me, and I took those lyrics home and did them in an almost European dialect – very long tones, stretched out. I thought of it as a love-letter for Isabella, and I did it like that.
If you listen to “Floating”, the first track on the cd, it is totally different. It’s done in a different tone, a different voice.
AH: How would you describe David Lynch as a director? What makes him and the so-called “Lynch Mob” so special, creating such interesting artistic and magical synergies?
JC: I can flip through channels, and I can recognize a David Lynch film, even if I haven’t seen it before. His films are instantly recognizable. As a director, David isn’t afraid to fall on his face. He wants people to react to his work, to have your own thoughts and reactions to his film.
Regarding “Lynch Mob”, it’s an oddball combination, in that we’re all geeks. David is elegant, but he’s a geek. We’re all geeks. And people like to work with David because he’s a good man, he is a very funny and dark man.
AH: Twin Peaks is a huge phenomenon in Denmark, as you may or may not know, and in 2007 you sang “Falling” at The Roskilde Festival with Kenneth Bager. How did that come about, and could you explain the experience of singing that particular song?
JC: I loved some of the songs we came up with. They didn’t expect me to come up with the songs that I did. Kenneth Bager asked me to sing this one song, and actually I think the girl there did a better job of it. And when I sang “Falling”, I was home.
AH: Do you think that you will be a part of the ‘new’ Twin Peaks?
JC: If David felt he wanted me or Angelo in it, it’s David’s call. We’ve already recorded a lot of the music, and whether or not David wants to use it, it’s David’s call.
Kenneth Bager, featuring Julee Cruise, at the Roskilde Festival in 2007: