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Illustration: Rob Kelly

The Hot Seat: Billy Bob Thornton

His surprise skills include handling jugs-and crap.


The credits for the self-titled debut CD from the country-rock trio the Boxmasters may list its drummer and lead singer as one W.R. "Bud" Thornton, but there's no mistaking the Southern-fried voice emanating from the speakers. It belongs to the man who gave us Sling Blade, Bad Santa and a few good years of outlandish tabloid fodder when he was married to Angelina Jolie. On tour to promote the double album, Thornton, 53, called us in advance of his band's Monday 18 gig at Highline Ballroom, which the actor-musician promises will be "a big, loud hillbilly show."

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By "big, loud hillbilly" do you mean that your live show will be a hoedown? Or are we talking more of a hootenanny?
Well, we're not up there with, like, jugs and washboards and stuff. It's a full-on electric show. But it's not like we don't have jugs and washboards—we just use 'em for things other than music.

No offense, but has anyone ever told you that you should stick to acting?
[Laughs] You know, everybody's a critic. You get a lot of jealousy and stuff like that. It's like, "Oh, wow—he gets to do movies and he has a band and he got to marry this beautiful girl." People don't really like that, especially when it's somebody like me, who's kind of a regular guy. Some people just want to kill ya. They really do. It's like their whole purpose is just to kill any joy you might have.

Well, you certainly killed my joy—you didn't tackle Duran Duran on the second disc, which is all cover songs.
We wouldn't do them for two reasons. One, that's kind of not our bag, although I did like that chick in the "Hungry Like the Wolf" video. But the other thing is, I don't know if we'd be able to do them justice.

Who could? May I assume that the term boxmasters doesn't refer to the band's TV-watching prowess?
Boxmaster meant "playboy" when I was growing up in the South back in the '60s and '70s—a guy who was adept at procuring women. You can kind of connect the dots and figure it out pretty easy.

So all three of you are confirmed boxmasters, then?
I know one of us is!

You're known for having a variety of phobias. What's your biggest?
Let's see. Well, I would have to say castles.

I don't know if it's a past-life thing or what, but I'm pretty creeped out by 'em. Anything moldy or old. It's hard for me to go to England and places like that. When I go to England I stay at a really, really modern hotel.

That's insane.
And also, there's another thing. You know, I have the phobias, but also there's certain things that annoy me to the point that it's almost unnatural. Like people who say "ex-cetra." Another one is "simular," [as in] "That's very simular to this one, isn't it?" When people say that, I know that I won't become real close friends with them.

I lose it when people say "disorientate."
I can't believe you said that—that's one of mine! Someone told me one time that someone was disorientated. And I said, "Oh, you mean disoriented?" And they said, "No—disorientated." It just drives me crazy.

Were you an English major?
Actually, I was a psychology major. Which I guess is kind of appropriate in some ways.

You bought your current home from Slash. Did it come with all the empty Jack Daniel's bottles?
No, but it came with lizards and snakes and things like that. He says he got them out of there, but I'm constantly checking to see if there's an iguana hanging out in the closet.

You just filmed a movie called Manure. Tell me something I don't know about shit.
It smells like money. [Pauses] I play a fertilizer salesman. We had some actual fertilizer on the set that I had to crumble up in my hand. But I was raised in Arkansas, so I'm used to it.

Billy Bob Thornton and the Boxmasters play the Highline Ballroom Mon 18.

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