James Jagger admits that playing his most recent character, Kip Stevens, can be a bit problematic. In HBO’s Vinyl, Stevens is a sort of proto-punk archetype—part devil-may-care, part cultural revolutionary, part bastard: “He’s a nasty bit of work.”
Vinyl showcases a potent cast (including Bobby Cannavale and Olivia Wilde), masterful direction (the pilot’s by Martin Scorsese), and strong storytelling. In spite of a number of earlier acting gigs, Jagger’s likely to be more heavily scrutinized than his peers—an inevitable consequence of his father Mick’s role as an Executive Producer. Yet he is well cast, exuding just the right amount of don’t-give-a-fuck swagger, and with the look and accent to boot. He has also played guitar and vocals in punk bands, and for Vinyl to be taken seriously it needs a cast that can hold an instrument.
As a commercially sensitive, big-budget depiction of a counter-movement in rock’n’roll, there’s an ironic mélange of cultural misappropriation and historical storytelling embedded in Vinyl. “There were a few moments which were kind of hilarious.” Jagger acknowledges. “There was one day we were shooting an exterior shot of this golden era of New York as this incredible creative, dangerous, exciting place—and it might have turned a bit soft nowadays—and we were shooting on this avenue uptown, and they were dressing the street with all this rubbish because it didn’t look authentic.”
There is something a little implausible in the idea of another counter-culture emerging from those same streets—at least while the median sales price in Greenwich Village sits above $1.2 million—hardly a haven for the young and feckless.
“There has to be some kind of paradigm shift in music.” Jagger speculates, “At the moment, I couldn’t see it happening—the way the industry is. No one envisioned popular music. If you were in Vienna in the 1700s you had no idea. But right now, I feel like things have stagnated slightly, and we’re getting just scenes repeating themselves and bands copying other music.”
Growing up with Mick and Jerry Hall as parents, the grounds for rebellion were a little different for Jagger— “join the army or join the church” he wryly admits. When I ask him who gave him his first guitar, he tells me it was his “old man,” yet his love of playing came in his teens, “probably to impress girls to be perfectly honest,” and memories of the instrument are hazy: “I don’t know the actual make, it looked like a little sort of Stratty thing, but it was black and had a humbucker so it wasn’t a Fender Strat.”
For this, the Secrets Issue, I asked Jagger if there were any hidden truths that have only come to light in later adulthood: “I was always really bad at keeping secrets, but I used to have a moped and Mom never knew about that.”
Maybe some forms of rebellion will always be rebellion—no matter the higher power. And maybe rock’n’roll will always keep insurrection at its heart—something hard and unpredictable, and chained and studded in outrageous garb—while all the edges go soft and soy latté around it.
Photographer: Dani Brubaker for LGA
Stylist: Martin Waitt
Groomer: Kumi Craig for The Wall Group using Consonant Skincare
Styling Assistant: Hilary Gluck
Location: The Bowery Hotel