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Juno Temple: ‘Kurt Cobain’s Voice Changed My Blood Temperature’

The 'Vinyl' star talks about discovering Nirvana and getting a gramophone from Martin Scorsese

“There’s a great E.E. Cummings quote that says, ‘The most wasted of all days is one without laughter,'” Juno Temple tells SPIN over the phone. “But I would like to add ‘and without music.'”

The 26-year-old British actress’ genuine love for melody is perhaps the best reason why she’s qualified to portray A&R assistant Jamie Vine on HBO’s recently debuted show Vinyl (Sundays at 9 p.m. EST), a period drama chronicling the oft-corrupt music industry in 1970s New York. Helmed by veteran Hollywood director Martin Scorsese and rock icon Mick Jagger, along with writer Rich Cohen and producer Terence Winter, the series follows record-label president Richie Finestra’s (Bobby Cannavale) quest to save his company from financial ruin. Jamie, meanwhile, mirrors her boss’ ruthless ambition and “golden ear” when she offers to manage a shabby proto-punk group called the Nasty Bits.

Temple, who has starred in films like Atonement (2005), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), and Horns (2013), doesn’t just star in Vinyl — she also collects it. She called us up to talk about her life in wax cylinders, getting an iPhone-ready gramophone from Scorsese, and the “euphoric” first time she heard Nirvana.

How did you first become interested in Vinyl?
The 1970s was my favorite time for music. I still listen to ’70s music on vinyl. It also felt like [the show] wasn’t afraid to show the grime of it too, you know? [My character, Jamie,] was just such a ballsy little creature with such incredible ambition and drive, and such an amazing ear. I just thought she was such a cool young woman to play, especially in that time period when women weren’t really taken that seriously. She’s gonna fight for her right to be heard.

How will Jamie contend with the music industry’s gender divide?
I feel like in the ’70s, times were changing a little bit — but not really. It was still such a male-oriented business. But this young woman isn’t gonna be told to shut up and sit at her desk, you know? And I think what’s really cool is, with her amazing ear she proves to Richie who’s the boss, like, “Actually, I’m worth listening to.”

It’s interesting because throughout the entire season there are moments where she thinks she’s getting elevated — she thinks she’s really making things happen for herself with the company. And then she’ll get shot back down again and reminded where she was. But what I love so much about her is that that’s never gonna stop her doing what she wants to do — she so truly believes in music, and I really think wants to be a part of this sort of revolution that’s happening with music in the ’70s. She’s the perfect age for that — she’s in her 20s. And I think Richie finds that very impressive.

Yeah, I noticed in the pilot that Jamie acts relatively unfazed by a lot of her workplace’s day-to-day sexism. 
She knows that she’s got more to offer than a lot of people think she has. She’s kind of like, “Sticks and stones break my bones, words will never hurt me, motherf**ker.” [It’s] inspiring to play a young woman like that. I’ve played so many young women that are lost and confused and trying to figure out what they want in life, and she’s got an air of confidence to her.

Vinyl spends a lot of time delving into Richie’s early love of the blues. What do you think Jamie grew up listening to?
She would definitely love the blues. I can imagine her being into the Velvet Underground and Lou Reed. I imagine her being really turned on by great lyrics. And I definitely think she’s an Iggy Pop fan. I think she likes music that has something to say. But I also think she would know that the blues inspired rock’n’roll and that rock’n’roll inspired what’s gonna be punk. I don’t imagine her being monumentally into classical music because I would imagine her parents probably listened to that, and she really doesn’t want to be anything like her parents. [Laughs.]

You were saying earlier that you enjoy a lot of ’70s music. What’d you grow up listening to?
I grew up with a lot of punk rock because of my dad — the Clash and the Pistols. My dad knew all the words to those songs and would tell me about what it was to be a young man in that time in London. And then when I became a teenager, I was a huge Eminem fan — I thought he was just a lyrical genius. And Dr. Dre, and N.W.A, I really got down with that. I definitely had a slightly rebellious moment, I kind of got into weird ’80s techno pop, which broke my dad’s heart. [Laughs.] I had a blip of, like, Gary Numan, and my dad was like, “No!”

I also went to boarding school like three hours away from my house; [my mom and I] would drive and listen to a lot of the Pretenders and T-Rex, and the Kinks. The Kinks are like poetry to me. In my later teens, I got into ’90s grunge. That was like a euphoric moment for me, when I discovered Nirvana. I was like, “What the f**k is happening?” Kurt Cobain’s voice just felt like it changed my blood temperature.

Are you a big vinyl buyer?
I am, yeah. I really only listen to vinyl in my home, I don’t really listen to music on my iPhone. But I did get given this amazing device, which was a wrap gift from Martin Scorsese — it’s a gramophone that you put your phone in, so your music from your phone plays through the gramophone. That’s changed my life. Like, say you’re f**king around with your girlfriends and you want to dance to Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own,” you can actually listen to it through a gramophone.

I’m trying to think of the vinyl I’ve been playing a lot recently… I’ve been playing the Modern Lovers and Iggy Pop a lot. I’ve been listening to a lot of Neil Young’s Harvest recently, even though I’m so desperate to get my hands on Harvest Moon on vinyl. I don’t have that one yet, and I need it.

Do you remember the first CD you ever bought?
Yeah, it was Dr. Dre’s The Chronic. That was the first actual CD I bought. My parents had so many CDs, and so much vinyl… And my dad always had great technology to play music, that was really important for him. But I used to listen to the radio too and make tapes and stuff.

What are you listening to these days? 
Two years ago my brother got me into Courtney Barnett. She’s quite a lyrical genius. And then I actually dig that band Wolf Alice, who I’ve also known about for like a year and a half, and it’s so great that they’re actually getting the recognition now. I think they got nominated for a Grammy [Ed. Note: They were nominated this year in the Best Rock Performance category]. And my brother’s now actually kind of getting into ’60s, psychedelic German music — like, this band called Can, which I’d never heard of before. I’m really really digging their vibes.

I actually also recently watched the What Happened, Miss Simone? documentary. That was insane. It threw me for a loop. Like, I had to digest it for a minute afterwards, you know?

Ooh, I went to the premiere last year at the Apollo in New York. Lauryn Hill performed.
Oh my God, wow. Lucky you. When I was in New York I was devastated because I love Patti Smith, and we were shooting quite a lot at Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady studios. One day I turned up and I was like, “How are you?” to one of the girls that worked there. She was like, “Oh my God, I had the most amazing weekend, we had a party and Patti Smith came and played, and there were only like 25 people.” I was like, “F**k you!” [Laughs.]