A Beautiful Tragedy // Play James Play

The story of  Damien James Stratton is one many of us are too familiar with. Damien James, a talented young musician known for his Latin infused heavy metal, struggled with his demons of drug addiction which became his ultimate demise at the young age of 27. I had the opportunity to sit and chat with Damien James' sister Alix Maria Taulbee. Living in Los Angeles  and visiting SLC, I got the rare opportunity to interview her about her latest project titled Play James Play (video), a bio-pic that pays tribute to James as a man who loved his family, sunflowers, his dog Bud, and of course his music. It's a beautiful story that explores the impact drug addiction takes on both the user and those around them.

Ugly Mag: So describe Damien James to me, what kind of person was he, what do you miss most- what did he look like?

Alix: (no hesitation) Kurt Cobain! I miss his hugs, he would head lock you in his arms, and he was always sweaty, but his hugs could take away all your sorrow. You would feel safe. 

Ugly Mag: Tell us about your new project, Play James Play, what compelled you to tell his story in the way you did? I feel like we hear about death and losing the people we love so often that we start to become desensitized by it, but just watching the trailer  gave me chills.

Alix: Most movies made about that topic are about drugs, sex, and rock-n-roll, I wanted to tell it from a siblings perspective. I wanted other people to know that who also went through something like this - that it's not your fault- it's this horrible disease! I always knew I was living on borrowed time and that one day, I would be telling our story. After one of his relapses, I started writing.... My mom was also sick with cancer at the time James passed away and writing was therapeutic for me. I was only 17 and it's a vulnerable time for anyone at that age and I could have very easily immersed myself into a really dark place, but instead I wrote our story. It was a remarkable evolution on how the story went from a novella to a choreographed dance to an indie film and is now turning into a major motion picture. 

Ugly Mag: Did you ever have moments while filming when the emotional content was overwhelming and you just felt like “This shit is too hard to do today?”

Alix: I would tell my directer Glen David Miller “Get this scene in one take- I can't do anymore than that.” There was both light and dark on set, we shot in SO many different locations and I got to re-live my memories with James while sharing them with my cast members- it was really bonding.

Ugly Mag: How has this process changed you as a person? I think with major trauma you have two options, you can lose yourself in grief or you can turn it into an experience to grow from.

Alix: I think I found myself. After a lot of blood, sweat, tears, damnation and straight-up bullshit I found the person I was meant to become. James was always teaching me life lessons- I remember his words exactly he would always say, “Baby doll the world is full of ugly rejection, but there are those who will offer beautiful acceptance and you'll never know who that is unless you go out there and see.” Plus, music was absolutely healing for me. I listened to his favorite bands and even tried to learn electric guitar. I made it a point to surrounded myself with good people too- people who I knew would be there for me at my best and at my worst. It helps having a guardian angel, you know?

Ugly Mag: So when does the re-shoot for the major film start?

Alix: This winter actually, we've already got scripts in the hands of some really big names.

Ugly Mag: (I got really excited) Can you tell us who?!

Alix: I can't, but I am extremely humble for anyone who has taken the time to read the script.

Ugly mag: Well is there anything else you want to share with our readers?

Alix: Live life fearless! I'm a big believer that if you never try you never know.

A website for the movie is under construction www.playjamesplay.com with information on drug addiction and resources for coping with grief. You can stay connected to Alix through social media on Facebook  as well as on Twitter and Instagram and keep watch for when Play James Play hits theaters.

Stay true. Stay you. Stay Ugly.

Kate Taylor