musicians

Compton Trailer photo
Compton Trailer

First trailer for N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton


Feb 09
// Nick Valdez
I'm normally not a fan of biopics as they're usually hokey, but this first Red Band trailer for N.W.A.'s biopic Straight Outta Compton looks much better than other other ones out right now. It doesn't seem cheesy like those ...
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Thriller

It's Halloween night, so here's Thriller


Oct 31
// Nick Valdez
This counts as a movie, right? Ah whatever, have a safe holiday! 
Nick Cave in NYC photo
Nick Cave in NYC

Nick Cave performing in NYC for special screening on 20,000 Days on Earth


Also featuring a conversation with the film's directors
Sep 03
// Alec Kubas-Meyer
Are you a Nick Cave fan? Do you live in or around New York City? Then you need to mark September 20th on your calendar, because whatever you might have been doing that day is less important than what you will be doing now. To...
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First trailer for Jimi: All Is By My Side - Jimi Hendrix biopic


Jul 03
// Liz Rugg
Jimi Hendrix is one of the indisputable legends of rock and roll, and now his iconic life will get the movie treatment it deserves. Starring OutKast's Andre Benjamin (Andre 3000), Jimi: All Is By My Side will focus on a sing...

Tribeca Review: Super Duper Alice Cooper

Apr 21 // Isabelle Magliari
[embed]217643:41459:0[/embed] Super Duper Alice CooperDirector: Reginald Harkema, Scot McFadyen, Sam DunnRelease Date: April 30, 2014Rating: NR Super Duper Alice Cooper is a bio-documentary focusing on the rise and fall of Alice Cooper: the band and Alice Cooper: the man. From Alice's humble beginnings as an unassuming pastor's son, the film and chronicles each watershed moment of his career from being black booked from venues to becoming a premier rock god by the end of the 1970's. The film starts with the introduction of teenage Alice Cooper, then Vincent Damon Furnier, and his first high school band. Cooper narrates the documentary himself and is both likable and funny, serving as a bright spot throughout a film which unfortunately begins to drag after the first twenty minutes.  The film's plodding place is caused in part by its bizarre visuals, which include concert footage, old photographs, and special effects exclusively. Living legends Iggy Pop and Elton John provide interviews and only their incorporeal voices can be heard as their testimonials are laid over a constantly moving collage of antique photos/film clips/etc. No interviewees' faces are ever shown, Cooper included, and watching nothing but a collage of pictures and video for 86 minutes kills the film's momentum.  And when the film loses steam, the story loses impact. There's a portion of Super Duper Alice Cooper which touches upon Cooper's alcoholism and how it affected his family, health, and musical career. Outside of some well-placed Jekyll and Hyde silent film clips, which cleverly illustrate the break between the Alice Cooper character and the man behind the make up, the film fails to explore the ramifications of his addiction in a meaningful way, instead relying too heavily on goofy-looking effects. To its credit, Super Duper Alice Cooper does try to tell a massive story in a very short amount of time, which is admirably ambitions but ultimately foolhardy. I feel as though the film would have been more successful had it chosen to focus on a single part of Cooper's career, such as his addiction or his first tour as a solo artist. Trying to convey a forty-year story without showing the faces of the people who were personally involves makes this film feel long and, at times, uninteresting. In the end, Super Duper Alice Cooper was informative, and if you're a massive Alice fan then definitely check it out, but I wouldn't rush out to see this film in the theater. Vincent's journey from religious pre-teen to chicken-throwing rock god is a fascinating one, but this documentary feels hollow.
Super Duper Alice Cooper photo
An ambitious title for a blasé rock doc
As a child, my parents lived and breathed Alice Cooper. My father had a particularly terrifying poster of his made-up, screaming face thumbtacked into the cork-board wall of his office that scared me too much to ever listen t...

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Trailer: Heaven Adores You - an Elliot Smith documentary


Apr 04
// Liz Rugg
You've probably heard of Elliot Smith before. Maybe you've heard his music, maybe you've heard about how he died, maybe you've heard about the Elliot Smith memorial mural in Los Angles. Heaven Adores You is a documentary abo...
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Rubber director and Marilyn Manson working on new flick


Rockstar to Moviestar?
Dec 18
// Michael Jordan
Recently I had the pleasure to do a round table with Quentin Dupieux, Director of Rubber, Wrong, and most recently, Wrong Cops, starring Marilyn Manson. It seems their relationship in the entertainment world is only grow...
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Bret McKenzie writing a fairy tale comedy musical script


Will probably be cute and funny
Aug 08
// Liz Rugg
In an interview with the dudes over at Collider, Bret McKenzie, of Flight of the Conchords and The Muppets fame, revealed that he is in the process of writing a script for a "fairy tale comedy musical" with "singing dragons a...
Jay Z photo
Jay Z

Flix for Short: Jay Z's "Picasso Baby" short film


Jay Z no longer lives a Hard Knock Life.
Aug 05
// Nick Valdez
Say what you will about Jay Z's new album, Bible Quran Torah Dreidel Magna Carta Holy Grail (I know I've said plenty), but his newest music video (referred to as a "performance art film") is built on a pretty neat idea. The ...

Review: Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me

Jul 03 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]215822:40354:0[/embed] Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt MeDirectors: Drew DeNicola and Olivia MoriRating: PG-13Release Date: July 3, 2013 (limited theatrical, VOD, iTunes) Big Star was formed by Chris Bell, Alex Chilton, Andy Hummel, and Jody Stephens in 1971. This original lineup only recorded one album together, the ironically named #1 Record. While Chilton received much of attention given his personality and the work he did with The Box Tops, Big Star's sound was mostly Bell's influence, evidenced by his posthumously released solo album I Am the Cosmos. Bell left the band after the first album, though Big Star chugged along and recorded two more records, Radio City and the alienating Third/Sister Lovers. All three Big Star records were included on Rolling Stones's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. They're three of the best American albums to come out of the 1970s, and that's not hyperbole. "Thirteen" might be one of my favorite expressions of nervous young love in the form of a song -- it's shy, it's adorably naive, and it's so sincere. Give "The Ballad of El Goodo" a listen and it'll make you feel hopeful as the glimmer of the guitars produces that chilly, tingly feeling throughout your body. "September Gurls" is just a great damn song, and ditto "Thank You Friends" and the oddball "Kangaroo." Really, why weren't these guys huge? Nothing Can Hurt Me reveals that despite the great music, a combination of bad luck and worse distribution meant few people could actually get any of those albums at their local record stores. Yet Big Star was a critical darling. Critics praised them at the time and obsessed over them in years after the band dissolved. Obsession is what kept Big Star alive. The documentary recounts a rock critic convention in the 1970s where Big Star absolutely killed. The band turned a roomful of jaded music writers (Lester Bangs among them) into a pack of rabid, gamboling fanboys. [embed]215822:40355:0[/embed] The Big Star story doesn't have an easy shape. A few music docs I've seen in the last year or so have a kind of narrative structure built into the life of the band, particularly if they've made a remarkable comeback of some kind (e.g., A Band Called Death). Big Star's resurgence was a gradual one achieved through music stores, word of mouth, and music critics -- it's not as visually compelling or as striking as sudden rediscovery. There's also a shape that comes from following a compelling personality (e.g., Beware of Mr. Baker). Chris Bell passed away in 1978, and Alex Chilton, Big Star's most compelling personality, didn't want to be interviewed for the film. In Big Star's darker days, Chilton tells his bandmates that he could take or leave the music industry. (Chilton passed away in 2010, as did original bassist Andy Hummel.) Nothing Can Hurt Me darts into little alleys along the way while discussing the band, focusing a bit on the Memphis music scene, talking to rock critics about their memories of the band, shifting focus to producer Jim Dickinson, and so on. Yet the documentary holds interest because its divergences still hang alongside the band's chronology, and directors Drew DeNicola and Olivia Mori interviewed the right people for insight and punctuation. The drops of Big Star songs and material also helps a lot, particularly footage of the band in its early days. I think what DeNicola and Mori have managed to do through their structure is examine the band's history while creating oblique portraits of Chris Bell and Alex Chilton. Bell's an especially interesting figure since he's off doing his own thing after leaving the band. Meanwhile, Big Star is morphing in order to reflect the new musical interests of Chilton. Bell comes across as this vulnerable, suffering artist whose life seems like a preface to tragedy, whereas Chilton has a cavalier attitude about what he does, whatever it is. [embed]215822:40353:0[/embed] One person interviewed in Nothing Can Hurt Me mentions how Chilton could just throw things away if he wanted, and suddenly the beauty of Big Star makes a strange sort of sense. Big Star joined the sensibilities of the hurting introvert (Bell) and the devil-may-care rock imp (Chilton); the kid who was anxious about wanting to hold a girl's hand and the boyking who was touring with The Box Tops at age 14 or 15. If power pop is built on making the bad times a bit more palatable, these two personalities at the center of Big Star might be the marriage of sad lyrics and crunchy guitars in a nutshell. My favorite observation about Big Star comes from a few of the music writers in the doc, and it gets at the heart of cult followings. Why did Big Star never get huge? Distribution, sure, but maybe Big Star was always going to be a niche band. Maybe they were not ahead of their time, and maybe they were not waiting for culture to catch up. Maybe Big Star was a band meant for the right people at the right time, and when Big Star did get to those people, those people wouldn't be able to shake it. The right people may be rock critics, music snobs, and people in the know, or it may be some music obsessives at the record store looking for chains of influence from artists they like today. Cult bands are for just a handful of people who get it. With Big Star, more and more people got it over time. If Big Star got big, they probably would have faded away, and they probably would've sounded awful like Kiss. Big Star's appeal was that they were like a great secret between friends -- a note handed under the table during geometry -- a small band that burned bright, but in a manner that only a few people could see clearly. Since Nothing Can Hurt Me is such a compelling portrait of the band, it might help convert some non-fans. Mostly, it'll make people who love Big Star love them more, and it'll make it easier to spread the word.
Big Star Review photo
I never travel far without a little Big Star
During junior high and high school, I was a big fan of Matthew Sweet, whose music I still dig today. When I hear songs from Girlfriend, Altered Beast, and 100% Fun, they bring me back to that age and those awkward adoles...

Review: A Band Called Death

Jun 28 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]215914:40317:0[/embed] A Band Called DeathDirectors: Jeff Howlett and Mark CovinoRating: NRRelease Date: June 28, 2013 (limited/VOD; for a full list of theaters and dates, click here) Hearing Death's music for the first time is startling. In our interview with directors Jeff Howlett and Mark Covino, they recounted their first listens. Howlett: "This stuff is amazing!" Covino: "I fell out of my seat." Even if it was just garage rock and early punk, even if it was just three young guys in their attic, there's a moxie to Death's music, a pure self-assuredness. The music is thoughtful, the musicianship is compelling, but most importantly, the songs just hook into you immediately. It's the old David Byrne line about music being physical before it's interpreted intellectually, and Death gets right at the gut. Give the album For the Whole World to See a listen. There's defiant exuberance in "Keep On Knocking"; a confident jaggedness to "You're a Prisoner," "Where Do We Go From Here," and "Freakin' Out"; "Let the World Turn" marries its pair of 100 mile-per-hour choruses to Who-like psychedelia and a little bit of prog rock without sounding mannered. The riff, the lead, and the drum assault on "Rock n Roll Victim" is so damn mean, and yet that bright handclap pattern feels perfect. Check out that trilling intro to "Politicians In My Eyes." The song is all simmering disgust through the verse -- the instruments offering up their own bits of punctuation, the rat-tat-tat vocal constantly sneering -- until the punchiness comes back in seven sudden spikes, like the entire band is spitting out each syllable in the title of the song. Call it protopunk, call it punk before punk, call it rock and roll. You can label Death however you want. Whatever it is, it's golden, and all that music was just stashed in the attic for decades because no one seemed to want it. It's almost like those news stories about people who find rare collectibles they never knew they had, but there's a difference with Death. David Hackney knew that what they had was great and worth saving for later. In more ways than one, without David, there would be no Death. [embed]215914:40316:0[/embed] While labels and radio stations of the 1970s didn't believe in them, Death was a band that believed in what they were doing and had fun doing it. With A Band Called Death, Howlett and Covino didn't just make a rockumentary. Death's story is an unexpectedly layered one. Sure, on the surface it's about music fandom rediscovering lost treasure, and its about late recognition of brilliance. What really comes out in this documentary is a portrait of a tight-knit family, and it's that closeness that was just as important as the songwriting chops. The documentary is broken up into three parts. The first third of the film follows the band in its early days and its attempts to get noticed, the second third is about life after Death disbanded, and the last third is about the band's rediscovery and revival. We see Bobby and Dannis out in Detroit checking out their old stomping grounds and telling stories about the neighbors calling the cops on them for being so loud. We also get to meet their older brother Earl, whose laugh is one of the most pure expressions of joy I've ever seen or heard. Music collectors and the internet helped bring Death back to the public. A Band Called Death offers a kind of love letter and thank you note to music obsessives and collectors of rare singles in some ways. The film also includes interviews with Henry Rollins, Jello Biafra, Questlove, Alice Cooper, and others as a testament to the band's story. (Sadly, an interview with Wayne Kramer of the MC5 was left on the cutting room floor.) Without this newfound interest, Death wouldn't have started playing again. Howlett and Covino said their sound recording sucked when they shot the reformed Death's first show in 2009, but the sound doesn't matter as much as they emotion they captured. Lots of credit also goes to Bobby Hackney's sons, Bobby Jr., Urian, and Julian. The three young men are the backbone of the band Rough Francis, which first played the Death material in 2009 after the band's music resurfaced on the internet. None of them realized that their dad or their uncles had this music in their past. That Rough Francis performance is caught on film as well, and it's another sequence of palpable emotion. In the same way that fandom keeps finding old treasures, in an ideal world it's the sons who keep the father's music alive. [embed]215914:40315:0[/embed] While all of this makes for a compelling story already, the heart of the movie is in that second third, which provides special focus on the late David Hackney. It was David who came up with the sound of Death, the name Death, and even Death's logo -- a perfect triangle denoted by three dots, with a fourth dot off to the side like some presence just beyond. That fourth dot was a spiritual and religious statement since so much of what kept the Hackneys going throughout their lives -- and not just musically -- was their faith. In retrospect, that fourth dot could also be Rough Francis, fandom, and the internet, which all had a hand in keeping Death alive. Bobby and Dannis continued with their music careers after Death broke up in 1977, but David got stuck in an unfortunate rut in his personal life. In some ways, David is painted as a misunderstood genius, and everyone speaks of him fondly, no matter how troubled his life became. Our last glimpse of David before his death is both haunting and heartbreaking, and yet the ways that Bobby and Dannis continued to create are inspiring. A Band Called Death is one of those documentary portraits that feels both emotionally and narratively whole. When Death tours today, they often hang a banner of David on stage with them. It's another one of those moments that's so oddly perfect -- David's a presence but still part of the band, another fourth dot that completes the triangle. These kinds of music stories are great because they seem so impossible and yet are the real deal. They're built not on narcissism and ego like the worst aspect of the music business but on love and togetherness. Those are two of the best things about the Hackney family. The third, of course, is all of that kick ass music. [Note to NY and LA readers: The band Death will be at Cinefamily in LA and will play a live set after the 8:00pm screening on 6/28 and the 7:00pm screening on 6/29. Death will also be at Cinema Village in NY for a Q & A after the 7:30pm screening on 6/30. Death will play a show at Le Poisson Rouge on 7/1.]
Band Called Death Review photo
Family, punk rock, and the rebirth of Death
It's weird what manages to slip through the cracks. In last year's Academy Award-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man, the music of Sixto Rodriguez was ignored in its time, but he'd somehow garnered a major follow...

Interview: The Detroit protopunk band Death

Jun 27 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]215133:39847:0[/embed] [Editor's note: Photos of Death and me are from Tank Alston, the band's manager. The images were posted  on the band's Twitter account: @WorldWide_DEATH.] I remember the first time I heard Death. It had to be two years ago when I was coasting around online looking for music to listen to. Up came "Politicians in My Eyes" and it blew me away. Bobby Hackney: Thank you. How'd the show go last night? Bobby Hackney: It was awesome. Dannis Hackney: Really, really awesome. Bobby Hackney: I don't know which one was better: the earlier show we did with Rough Francis or the one we did last night. But both of them-- Dannis Hackney: They were killer. Bobby Hackney: We had such a great time. Dannis Hackney: [directly into the recorder] Thank you, South By Southwest. Bobby Hackney: Thank you. [laughs] Can you talk about first being contacted for the documentary A Band Called Death and how that process came about? Bobby Hackney: Well, you know, after the Death discovery... Jeff Howlett was a man that I knew from out reggae band days. Dannis and I knew Jeff because he was a musician in a band as well. And it was funny, because after the Death discovery we were getting a lot of phone calls from all over the place. I mean we even got calls from celebrities who were interested in doing our story as a documentary. Jeff approached us, and he had this real heartfelt conversation with me and Dannis, but we still didn't know what the gist of it was. Of course, keep in mind, this was only a few months into the whole discovery, so we're still kind of like a deer in the headlights. "Where is all this coming from? How did this [happen]?" You know. So we're still mesmerized by this whole thing and Jeff says he wants to do a documentary. We didn't think that [the film] would be anywhere near the magnitude of what has transpired. We thought it was just going to be like maybe a local video, and we're like, "What, Jeff? You going to show this on public access? Is this going to be something we watch on Saturday morning instead of the cartoons? What's going on here?" Dannis Hackney: [laughs] [laughs] Bobby Hackney: He he told me, "Nah, I think this documentary is going to be really good. I think your story's compelling and I have some wonderful ideas." So we let him do a series of interviews, a series of test shots and things like that. And when we saw the first pass of what him and Mark were doing, Dannis and I looked at each other and said, "This is way more serious than public access. This looks really good." And so it just kind of snowballed from there, just sort of grew and grew. And we continued [our thing], and he followed us to Detroit, Chicago, New York, wherever we were playing. They did a whole lot of footage in Detroit, really took the time to contact our family and sit down and really have one-on-ones with a lot of our family members. So they got the story from all angles of the Hackney family, and about what we did in Detroit, and a lot of our neighbors we grew up around. Dannis Hackney: People who were calling the police on us! Bobby Hackney: Yeah! [laughs] Bobbie Duncan: [laughs] [laughs] Bobby Hackney: It just blossomed into a production that we had no idea would be on this level. About halfway into project, we knew that there was something special that was taking place. And then when I got the call one night and Jeff was as happy as-- Well, you know. He just couldn't calm down over the phone. I had to calm him down so he could tell me the news. Scott Mosier, who'd produced Good Will Hunting and Dogma, been involved with animation, won an Academy Award for a short documentary -- he wanted to get involved. Scott got involved and he introduced himself to us and our family. He's just a wonderful person in that he really guided us and helped us understand the whole concept of what this whole thing was about and where it could possibly go. So we were in. We were just totally in. So this has been the the culmination of a four-year project. Four years to make this movie. How long did Jeff and Mark stick around with all you guys? Were they just constantly around you? Dannis Hackney: Oh yeah. They went to all the gigs. They went to the hotel rooms. They interviewed old friends. We lived together for a long time on the road -- his camera crew, us, and the band. They went into all these cities and just did it. The more they did it, the more they liked it; the more they did it, the more we liked it. So it just kept going until it wound up becoming the documentary that we have. It's nice. It was Jeff or Mark who said just a minute ago that your brother Earl served as a kind of older brother and a father figure for you two. And I also have to say, he has one of the best laughs ever. Bobbie Duncan: [laughs] Dannis Hackney: [laughs] Bobby Hackney: [laughs] Yes he does! His laugh will be worldwide famous! But you know, him being the oldest brother... In the early 50s and 60s, that's the way the family hierarchy went. If you were the oldest brother, you really were like the surrogate mom and dad. Most of the time when dad was gone at work or mom was out of the house, you knew who second in command was, and that would be the oldest sibling. Dannis Hackney: That was Earl. Yup. Bobby Hackney: But you know the great thing about it was he never tried to dominate us in the way. Earl was great because he was the one that established the agreement that we all held with each other: that we wouldn't be against each other, that we wouldn't fight each other, we wouldn't try to make each others's lives miserable. We would always be in each others's corners. And that's the one thing I love him so much for. He was truly what a big brother should be. Dannis Hackney: He was a good big brother. [laughs] Can you talk you talk about that first show you guys played after the discovery? Dannis Hackney: Wasn't that Joey Ramone's Birthday Bash [2009]? Bobby Hackney: That was Joey Ramone's Birthday Bash. Mickey Leigh [Editor's note: Joey Ramone's brother] invited us there and, just like Bobbie said in the film, that was probably one of the most nervous days of me and Dannis's life. Bobbie Duncan: Mhm. Dannis Hackney: That's right. Bobby Hackney: It was the first time we were going to play Death music in front of a huge crowd in New York City. And, I'll tell you-- Dannis Hackney: Coming from being reggae! [laughs] Bobby Hackney: Being in that dressing room backstage at the Fillmore, you'd have thought that we were having kids. Dannis Hackney: Mhm. Bobby Hackney: We were pacing the floor like expectant fathers! [laughs] [embed]215133:39848:0[/embed] [laughs] Bobby Hackney: And Bobbie was trying to calm us down, and we're like just leaning on him. "You're the New York guy! You're in your element -- help us!" [laughs] Bobbie Duncan: [laughs] Bobby Hackney: And he's looking at us like, "Dude--" [laughs] Dannis Hackney: "--I have issues of my own!" [laughs] [laughs] Bobbie Duncan: "You've got to hold me up too!" You had so much pressure stepping in for David. Bobbie Duncan: Huge shoes. Bobby Hackney: Mhm. Bobbie Duncan: I had big shoes to fill. I mean, not even just the guitar playing, but David's just the influence [on the band] altogether. Just to be the guy who's like, "So who's playing the guitar?" To be that guy, you know? [laughs] Bobby Hackney: It took us a while to really get the stride of it, because there were so many emotional things, can we play the music the way we used to play it. I mean we know that we have a lot of young fans who have expectations when they hear those records. We were carrying all those kinds of burdens in those first few months of really doing the Death material again. And course with me and Dannis, with every note that we played -- and still to this very day -- with every note we play, we remember incidents and wonderful memories of Detroit. I had mentioned that to James Shapiro, who's the Drafthouse Films COO. I said during those times, between 1971 to 1976, we were literally joined at the hip. I mean, if you wanted to find any one of us, all you had to do was find one of us, because the other two would be very close by. [laughs] You guys were saying that you three are getting tighter and tighter as the band Death now. Bobby Hackney: Yeah. I like the fact that with the Death logo, there's that fourth dot outside the triangle. It seems so perfect, because it's almost as if David's watching over all of you. Bobby Hackney: Wow. Dannis Hackney: It's funny you mention the idea of being perfect because perfection is him. Bobby Hackney: That's right. Dannis Hackney: That's the godhead of our operation. Bobby Hackney: And David... That was his resolve. David was well ahead of the whole spiritual concept. He was well ahead of all that, I think, before me and Dannis. And I can say this because I was in school, Dannis had recently graduated or was about to graduate and was on his way to college in Detroit -- Detroit Technical College. So we were thinking about jobs. I was thinking about graduating from school. I had a part-time job. David was just thinking about one thing and one thing only, and that's the music -- hitting that perfection he wanted, writing the songs. I would get home-- Now, I had to write all the lyrics. David depended on me to write all the lyrics. And I would get home and I would have homework to do, and he'd be like, "No, man. You've got to write the lyrics for this song. Come on, I need this song right now. I need it now!" [laughs] Bobby Hackney: So, you know. [laughs] There was a lot of times I had to do my homework right before I went to school because I spent the whole evening with David writing songs! [laughs] And he would come to me with this music and he would say, "This is what I feel." Even with "Let the World Turn." He would describe it, and he would describe certain things, and I would have to come up with the lyrics, man, to match that feeling he would describe. I remember he was telling me the concept for "Let the World Turn," and he says, "Death is like when you wake up, you're really not going to know where you've been. Like when you wake up from a dream and you know it was a good dream but you can't remember the dream." That's where the lyric [comes from]: "Will you be glad when they let you off / Oh but you won't know really where you've been." When he saw the lyrics, he's like, "Man! That's it! That nails it!" And he used to come to us with those concepts. He'd come to Dannis and say, "Look, we need to sound like this." They used to work together at the Chrysler plant, and he was telling them about some machine that they used to hear all the time. [embed]215133:39851:0[/embed] Like some sort of industrial? Dannis Hackney: [Editor's note: Audio a little unclear, but piecing this together from memory.] Yeah, in the stamping room, one of those stamping things. Bobby Hackney: I didn't know what they were talking about, but Dannis got the sound that he was talking about. Dannis Hackney: He'd say stuff like, "Sound like a machine." Or, "Imagine a train. [Make it sound] like a train." Because, you know, we weren't formally educated in music, so we used actual things and themes to picture what we wanted to hear. Bobby Hackney: That train scenario is particular on "Rock and Roll Victim." Oh nice. Dannis Hackney: He was telling me, "The hihat's got to sound like chugga-chugga-chugga-chugga. Bobby Hackney: A choo-choo train. That actually makes more sense, though, musically. You're going for that really visceral feel. All: Yeah! As opposed to being like, "Oh, let's process this, or play at this speed." No. This. Has. Got. To. Sound. Like. A. Train. Dannis Hackney: Right. And I came as close to it as I can. So the background music doesn't get boring. [laughs] Bobby Hackney: [laughs] Have you ever considered combining the rock of Death with the reggae of Lambsbread? Dannis Hackney: Ehhhhhhhhhhh... Bobby Hackney: You know, it's just that the music that we played as Death in 1975 was so rock and roll pure. Yeah. Bobby Hackney: We've been tempted to do that, but it's almost like you don't want to mess with grandma's recipe, you know what I mean. [laughs] Bobbie Duncan: [laughs] [laughs] Dannis Hackney: [laughs] That's right! Bobby Hackney: I don't want to put too much salt in the cookie mix, you know?! [laughs] Dannis Hackney: The world's already got Bad Brains. That's true. Dannis Hackney: Bad Brains was very successful at it, and God bless them, but we kind of want to keep our thing pure rock and roll. Bobby Hackney: And they even tweeted to us, "Don't let go of your reggae roots, because we haven't." Right now I think that for all the fans, and there are a lot yet to come who know about Death but haven't seen Death live, we want to stay committed to them and give them what they want. For the time being, when you come out to see Death, that's exactly what you're going to get. Dannis Hackney: But you gotta remember: we may be a tad slower. [laughs] Dannis Hackney: Those guys were 17, 19, and 21. What is it like playing those Death songs now that you're older? You mention being a little slower, but obviously... Dannis Hackney: Well you just got to practice them a lot more. Me and Bob talked about that a lot. I'm said, "Look, man, I was 19 years old when I was sounding like a freight train." Now, I can sound like a train again, but that train might not be-- Instead of 100 miles per hour, it might be moving at 90. [laughs] Bobbie Duncan: [laughs] [laughs] 90's still plenty fast, though. Bobby Hackney: But the wonderful thing is that because we're now veteran players and we've been through a lot more musical situations, the music is a little more-- I don't know if I'd say it's easier to play, but you can really get into the whole rock and roll feeling. If you're playing rock and roll you can get into that feeling; if you're playing reggae you can get into that feeling; if you're playing blues, jazz, whatever. We fortunately didn't give up playing music, so we've got that experience going for us, which comes in really handy with the Death stuff. How much material did you record in those early days? Are there still a lot of tapes lying around unreleased? Bobby Hackney: There are a lot of tapes. We've got a whole catalog. You see those lyric sheets in the movie? Yeah. Bobby Hackney: Those are from our actual catalog. We have a catalog about this thick of nothing but Death songs that never made it to the studio. [Editor's note: Bobby measured out between his fingers something the thickness of a phonebook.] Oh wow. Bobby Hackney: We've got a lot of stuff. We premiered a couple of those songs yesterday at the early show, and the crowd just went wild for them. We have a new album that we've just finished with songs from that catalog, some songs that Bobbie has contributed, some songs that we've written together. What's the new songwriting process like with Bobbie in the band now? What is it like to create new Death music. Bobby Hackney: I'll let Bobbie answer. Bobbie Duncan: As a writer myself, first the opportunity had to come where Bob said, "Hey, let's start putting together a new album; let's start putting together some tunes." And I guess the process is the same. When David was around he had a concept he brought to the band. Like, "Hey, this is what I want you play, this is the music," but his writing partner were his brothers. For me, what I did in the first place was check out the movement and concepts of the Death music that existed and drew from the energy I was getting from that, and especially from my performances. I came up with a few skeletons, and one of the skeletons I came up with was a song by the name of "Relief." In order to keep the integrity of the music of Death, I could have completed the whole song on my own, but I said, "Nah, I just don't want to do everything in it." So I brought it to Bob and to make sure I got that same energy, he contributed to the song and Dannis contributed to the song. I think we still bring it to the table in the same way, but I just don't live under the same roof with them. Our roof is like the studio. [laughs] [embed]215133:39852:0[/embed] [laughs] Bobbie Duncan: We start with our writing process there, instead of like, you know, he's laying down watching TV, [and I'm like,] "Hey, Bobby, write these lyrics for me." [laughs] I don't want Bobby doing his homework in the morning. Bobby Hackney: [laughs] Dannis Hackney: [laughs] [laughs] Bobby's doing his taxes and you're like, "No, come on, I really need lyrics for this." Bobby Hackney: [laughs] Exactly. Bobbie Duncan: But you know, I think it's pretty much the same process in a sense, but again, I think it's just location. We come together at certain times during the week and we work on the projects like that. I know Rough Francis is playing here at South By as well. Bobby Hackney: Yup, they're here. And they're still here. What's it like having a family of music? Bobby Hackney: Well, you know, I think it just grows from what our mom instilled in us. We kept making the same thing available to our kids. We made music available to them, but that's only the tip of the iceberg. You see my three sons in [Rough Francis], Dannis's daughter plays drums, we have two other kids... I mean, it's a whole musical family. That's just been our family legacy, and we're just thankful for that. All the kids, not only do they respect what we do, but we kind of mentor them in music and I think that music with kids makes them more academically involved, it helps their social lives. You know, we try to just make music available to them as much as we can. [Editor's note: At this point Tank Alston, the band's manager, showed me a photo on his iPhone of a toddler at a tiny drum kit.] Oh! That is brilliant! Awesome! [laughs] Bobby Hackney: That's my grandson! He's the next generation. He's the next one coming. I remember at the Q & A after the screening last night, someone asked about what the band could have been called other than Death. [Editor's note: During part of the documentary, the band talks about how they almost dropped the name Death.] And I think Dannis replied, "Anything But Death." But were there any serious alternate names that you proposed but David shot down? Bobby Hackney: No, we didn't. Dannis Hackney: We really didn't pitch other names. Because we knew that his anger would go like fwooooossssh! [laughs] Bobbie Duncan: [laughs] [laughs] Bobby Hackney: Not only that, but we believed that Death was unique, and me and Dannis, though even we were taken aback like everybody else, I think we had resolved that we've got to make this work. Dannis Hackney: Yeah, we've got to make this work. Bobby Hackney: Especially after we heard David's concept. We had thought when he first did the name, "Please don't tell us you're going into places like gory rock bands. Don't tell us that." And he's says, "No, man. Look, this is the concept." And David always believed-- He called death a door. Now you notice on that Fourth Movement album there's a door at the top and there's the triangle? That was David's concept too. [Editor's note: The Fourth Movement was a gospel rock band that Bobby and Dannis started in the late 1970s/early 1980s following the dissolution of Death.] He used to say, "You know what? It's a shame we can't call ourselves The Doors. That's a great name that's already been taken." He believed that Jim Morrison had the same concept when he named his band The Doors. It's all about that mystery -- what's behind the door? When David told us that concept, it's like Death had opened up a whole new realm of life for us. So we had to stick with him on it. We had to. [embed]215133:39849:0[/embed] Do you think Death was ahead of its time or just unable to find a foothold in its time? Bobby Hackney: Well, we knew that we were doing something pretty unique at the time, we all did. We knew that there was hardly any other black band on the east side of Detroit that was doing what we were doing. We knew that there were other bands like The Chambers Brothers, and of course Jimi Hendrix had put together the Band of Gypsys. We always looked at that and said, "Well that's a black rock band." We didn't think that we were ahead of our time in our music. We just knew that we were playing some pretty hard driving rock and roll. We thought the fact that we were all brothers and that we were all black and that we came from Detroit playing rock and roll was unique enough. With the name Death. So we thought that was unique enough. We didn't think the music was going any groundbreaking, you know? [laughs] Bobbie Duncan: That's amazing, you know, because that's the first time I ever heard Bob say that. Myself, because we're all from the same era, I listened to the stuff. The first time I heard it, I thought it was ahead of its time. I didn't know you guys thought that. Bobby Hackney: No, we didn't. We thought that what was ahead of its time was our concept. And our name. Bobbie Duncan: Yeah, but the music was ahead of its time, because it was punk rock before punk. And, wow, just never heard Bob said that. That's wild. [laughs] Bobby Hackney: That's really true because we were just thinking of being like Alice Cooper. Dannis Hackney: Mhm. Bobby Hackney: We were thinking of being like Grand Funk Railroad, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Todd Rundgren, Pink Floyd, even though there were doing the tripping thing. Most of the bands we gravitated to were the three-piece bands. Dannis Hackney: The power trios. Bobby Hackney: Power trio bands, and really The Who. Quadrophenia made a big difference. They had put out Tommy. David liked Tommy, but the strings and horns and orchestrated arrangements of Quadrophenia -- he just said, "Man, this is where rock and roll is going." We knew that Jimi Hendrix had talked about that concept before he died, that he wanted to take his music into an orchestrated level, and David was convinced that Pete Townshend had the same concept that Jimi Hendrix did. He said, "This is what Jimi Hendrix was talking about doing with his music," after he heard Quadrophenia. Quadrophenia became like David's notebook. Like I said, that was the album: I would leave in the morning to go to school, Quadrophenia would be playing; I'd come back, Quadrophenia would be playing. And I mean all four sides. He tuned into all four sides, listening to the arrangements and the orchestrations.
Death (Band) Interview photo
The power trio talks rebirth and what it's like to be a band called Death
After speaking with A Band Called Death directors Jeff Howlett and Mark Covino, I had the opportunity to speak to the band Death itself. Bobby Hackney (bass, vocal), Bobbie Duncan (guitar), and Dannis Hackney (drums) were all...

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Trailer: One Direction: This Is Us


Jun 25
// Liz Rugg
It was really only a matter of time before there was a One Direction documentary. After being formed in and finishing in 3rd place in the seventh series of Britain's The X-Factor television show, the young boy-band has catap...

HRWFF Review: Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer

Jun 10 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]215622:40213:0[/embed] Pussy Riot - A Punk PrayerDirectors: Mike Lerner and Maxim PozdorovkinRating: NRRelease Date: June 10, 2013 (HBO air date) On February 21, 2012, five members of the art collective Pussy Riot entered the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow as part of a protest against Putin's re-election. They removed their coats and began to dance to their song "Punk Prayer: Mother of God Drive Putin Away" before being escorted from the premises by security. In March of 2012, Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Yekaterina Samutsevich were arrested. They were put on trial, convicted of blasphemy and hooliganism, and each sentenced to two years in a penal colony. Given the urgency of the situation, the international groundswell of support, the wider view of what this means for Putin's Russia and its future (or, more importantly, the future of its people), I expected a whole lot more out of Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer. At the very least, I expected the documentary to embody a more boisterous spirit of outrage, but the outrage is subdued. I expected the soundtrack to be jagged, angular, and agitated like the promo above -- i.e., music by Pussy Riot or like Pussy Riot. Apart from a smattering of Pussy Riot songs and "Free Pussy Riot" by Peaches, the score is quiet and blunt-edged, the sort of thing you'd hear in a TV courtroom drama or the talky parts of a police procedural. I hoped to hear voices from Russian youths -- even if those voices were distorted to protect identity -- but they are not included. I also hoped to hear from other members of Pussy Riot still free in the wild -- balaclavas on, of course, so they can continue to make prank art -- but none of them are interviewed; their cause and their deeper thoughts on punk, performance art, feminism, LGBT rights, activism, human rights, political oppression, and protest go unexplored. I wanted other artists out there (Kathleen Hanna, Ian MacKaye, Jello Biafra, anyone) to talk about art as transgression, subversion, negation, a presentation of alternatives, and how Pussy Riot fits into all this, but none are interviewed. Instead of the above, co-directors Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin have created an uneven primer on Pussy Riot that doesn't delve as deep as it can. You can learn a lot more about Pussy Riot simply by reading the Wikipedia page; you can learn more about Putin's Russia by occasionally reading the news. The documentary is mostly comprised of courtroom footage, which in its best moments present the absurdities of the Pussy Riot trial with a fair amount of objectivity. Throughout the hearings, the imprisoned trio sit in a glass box, like china in a cabinet. And yet as effective as some of this courtroom footage is, I longed for a molding principle for the rest of the content, whether it be an interesting frame of ideas or a moment when a thesis would be pounded out in the form of a film. There is just the Brecht quotation at the beginning, not necessarily the quotation in action. Part of me was also expecting a certain amount of additional access in this documentary. Here I'm thinking about the first Paradise Lost documentary from Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, the film that helped free the West Memphis Three. Obviously Lerner and Pozdorovkin wouldn't be able to meet with the members of Pussy Riot regularly like Berlinger and Sinofsky were able to do with the West Memphis Three, but Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer tantalized me with possibilities and then dropped them without sufficient exploration. The best example of that may come from interviews with the parents of the Pussy Riot members, who share anecdotes and express personal feelings about what their daughters have done. The same can be said of the footage of Pussy Riot in action, whether in the Moscow cathedral or in Red Square. This material feels vital because we're learning about each of these women and how their personalities play into their art and activism. Tolokonnikova emerges as a de facto leader of the group given her history of controversial performance art in Russia. Someone mentions that Russia has never understood what the performance art scene is all about, which made me wonder about previous acts of protest art in Russia or in the Soviet Union. Is there a precedent for Pussy Riot beyond the Dadaists and Situationists that underlie punk and performance art? An underground history within Russian culture that these women carry forward? Other mighty screams in the past echoed here in their call for a new possibility in the future? And what about Voina, the street/performance art collective that the arrested Pussy Riot members were all former members of? Like so much else in Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer, it's not looked into. I at least admire Lerner and Pozdorovkin for getting this film out there quickly while the interest is high and while the story is still fresh in memory. (The footage was shot and edited in less than a year.) Maybe the documentary can help release the remaining Pussy Riot members, or at least churn up interest in the case again. Added scrutiny on Putin, Russian regression, and human rights abuses is always a good thing, as are reminders of the importance of dissent. It just disappoints me that the film feels like a work in progress of an unfolding story, or maybe an opening salvo that's off target. I think the reason I'm being so hard on Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer is because I really wanted to like it and felt that it could have been something much more than just timely. The documentaries that follow Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer should be more interesting, particularly once all members are out of prison and able to speak directly to what matters to them. One thing I'm interested in, though: there are conflicting stories about a falling out between Samutsevich and the other two members of Pussy Riot. Through some legal wrangling, Samutsevich was released on probation in October 2012. Some news outlets say that there's been a fissure, Samutsevich denies this. In Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer, the moment of Samtsevich's release is given a kind of triumphant note. There's a tension in that footage since all three women are in the box and one gets to leave. The fate of the other two is uncertain. The same goes for the collective itself. Samtsevich has said that she's unsure if the remaining members of Pussy Riot will be able to perform again given the fear of prosecution. Last week, two other members of Pussy Riot appeared in New York to connect with activists and keep the issue alive. The New York Times reported that they watched a screening of the documentary last Wednesday at the Landmark Sunshine. They sat at the back of the theater with their masks off, anonymous. The question about Pussy Riot I'm most interested in won't be answered in a film but in lived history: who will be holding the hammer in the end? Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer screens at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival on Monday, June 17 and Tuesday, June 18. For tickets and more information, click here.
Pussy Riot Review photo
An overview of the case that isn't punk rock enough
Pussy Riot was back in the news following the 11-day hunger strike of Maria Alyokhina. Alyokhina started the hunger strike on May 22 to protest the conditions of her imprisonment, which she claimed turned other inmates agains...

Review: The History of Future Folk

May 30 // Liz Rugg
[embed]215722:40163:0[/embed] The History of Future FolkDirector: John Mitchell, Jeremy Kipp WalkerRating: NRRelease Date: May 31, 2013 The History of Future Folk begins with a father telling his daughter a story about how an alien from the planet Hondo was sent to earth to destroy humans so that the Hondonians could take over their planet for themselves, since an asteroid was barreling towards Hondo and they needed a new place to live. But the alien was stopped in his tracks when he heard music for the first time. There is no music on Hondo, and the alien was absolutely captivated and decided that he had to save both of the planets somehow instead. That back story is told in the first few minutes and then we realize that the father telling the story actually is the alien - the revered Hondonian -- General Trius. Gen. Trius, also known by his Earth name, Bill, appears to live a quiet, life in Earth's Brooklyn with his wife and young daughter. He works as a groundskeeper at a space research facility outside of New York and moonlights as a folk musician at a small bar where he preforms in his Hondonian soldier outfit and uses his real identity as an alien as a comedy act. Bill's seemingly quiet life is abruptly disrupted when another Hondonian soldier, named Kevin, crash lands on Earth. Kevin is sent to release the deadly weapon and destroy the human race in Bill's place, but Kevin is a bit bumbling, and with Bill's help he soon understands why music and humans are so special. General Trius and The Mighty Kevin then join forces to save both Earth and Hondo. The History of Future Folk is extremely charming for a number of reasons. Firstly, it plays its oddball premise with an entirely straight face. Even though there are a number of things in the movie which feel very low-production; costumes, the fact that you never see other planets, space travel, there is a sense of continuity in that. The movie never tires to get all Icarus on itself, it doesn't overstep its bounds. It feels cohesive in that way and actually uses its sort of low production value to its advantage in the juxtaposition of its wacky characters and ideas in a modern day, realistic Brooklyn setting. Secondly, and perhaps most adorably, Future Folk shows a clear love of music. A major part of the strength of this movie is its wonderful script and how many different themes it brings together. Future Folk could have been a simple story about aliens being sent to destroy Earth and then not wanting to, and that would've been alright. But it's when the movie underlines everything with a completely unabashed, joyous discovery of music that it really tugs at your heart. The History of Future Folk is not perfect, though. While it is undeniably cute and works well for what it does, it never really becomes totally outstanding. While it's a very enjoyable experience, ultimately I think it will be a bit forgettable. There just isn't quite enough polish or punch to really push Future Folk to the next level, but it's hard to exactly define what it's missing. The interactions between Bill and his wife's character, Holly, also felt forced and bland, especially when compared to the unlikely pair of Kevin and his love interest Carmen, who have the fiery passion of a thousand blazing suns. The awkwardness in Bill and Holly's relationship unfortunately held me back from believing in them as a couple. Holly is supposed to be one of the main reasons Bill stayed on Earth, I mean he married her and had a kid with her! There just wasn't enough development to drive it home that he loved her and needed to save his family as well as the rest of the world. All in all though, I really enjoyed watching The History of Future Folk. It's cute, fun, and never takes itself too seriously, which is really what the Alien Folk Duo Sci-Fi Action Romance Comedy Musical genre is all about. Hondo!
Future Folk Review photo
Acoustical Alien Music
The History of Future Folk is about the origins of the universe's only alien bluegrass folk duo, and how they discovered and fell in love with Earth's music. It's charming, adventurous, and a ton of fun. I mean when's the las...

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This Is Spinal Tap soundtrack getting reissued on vinyl


The tracklist goes to 11
May 10
// Hubert Vigilla
This Is Spinal is one of the best movies of the 1980s and one my my favorite movies of all time. It's still the grandaddy of the mockumentary genre, and I don't think it'll be topped in terms of execution or sheer quality. Th...
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Trailer: The History of Future Folk


May 02
// Liz Rugg
After years of neglect, the Alien Folk Duo Sci-Fi Action Romance Comedy genre is finally getting some attention with John Mitchell and Jeremy Kipp Walker's The History of Future Folk. The movie stars Nils d’Aulaire and...
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Trailer: A Band Called Death


Apr 25
// Liz Rugg
"Before there was punk, there was a band called Death." Death is a band that's now referred to as protopunk, basically meaning they were punk rock before punk rock existed. Basically meaning that they're super cool and were ...

Tribeca Review: Mistaken for Strangers

Apr 22 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]215435:39988:0[/embed] Mistaken for StrangersDirector: Tom BerningerRating: TBDRelease Date: TBD Back when Mistaken for Strangers was announced as the opening night film for the Tribeca Film Festival, the film was compared to Dig! and American Movie, and I can see a lot of the latter in it. Tom Berninger has a little bit of Mark Borchardt in him: a guy who's known only hard luck who's just trying to finish up a film. Tom's actually made some movies of his own that Mark probably would admire. One of them's about a caveman going on a gory rampage, which we get to see a little bit of in all its bloody and grunting glory. Tom's asked to work as roadie for The National during their tour to support the album High Violet. It's a gig he's lucky to snag since he's in a rut in life -- single, barely employed, listless. Tom brings along a camera and thinks it'd be a good idea to make a documentary on the band. As pointed out at the beginning, The National is comprised of two sets of brothers (guitarists Aaron & Bryce Dessner and bassist and drummer Scott & Bryan Devendorf) and Matt. There's a strange sort of symmetry created by bringing Tom along even though he's backstage rather than on stage. Tom has certain expectations about the rock star lifestyle that he hopes to experience -- partying, partying, more partying -- but a good amount of the tension in the film comes from Tom realizing that those rock star fantasies aren't true. Given, Tom's more into 80s metal, which has a reputation for Bacchanalian excess backstage, so his expectations were much different. At indie rock shows, not so much. It's more like hanging out at a friend's apartment, but Werner Herzog shows up as a guest. Tom's fantasy of being a beloved rockumentarian doesn't go as well as he'd hoped either. His primary duty is as a roadie, but he keeps acting like he's the tour's official videographer. As a documentarian, Tom's somewhat inept but in an almost adorable way; as an interviewer, he's a little like Chris Farley when he did the Chris Farley Show sketches on Saturday Night Live. The questions tend to be more awkward than enlightening, and his tone seems a mix of self-deprecating and inquisitive. It's as if Tom is making this all up as he goes along, which isn't so far from the truth. As the doc takes greater shape throughout the course of the film, the questions that Tom asks reveal a lot more about what's really on his mind and what's been nagging him ever since the beginning of the project. One elephant in the room: envy. Matt's nine years older and a rock star of some renown; people call him a genius pretty regularly, and his creativity is continually reinforced by everyone who talks or writes about him. Tom seems to be just getting by, and no one really cares much about him or what he does. In a moment of sibling resentment, Tom says to Matt that he's frustrated that people think the only reason he has a job as a roadie is because he's the lead singer's little brother. I think it's more denial than obliviousness, but people cling hard to things that they have when they don't have much else. Mistaken for Strangers is a documentary that really took shape through the editing. I imagine Tom looking through all the footage he shot and wondering what the hell he'd make of it all since he didn't really have a plan going in. He does have a lot of awkward intro shots of the band members, though. I imagine that had things just fallen into place the way Tom has hoped, Mistaken for Strangers would have been a standard concert movie with interviews and backstage antics. But because of what happens to him over the course of the movie, the doc goes in a different direction and becomes less about The National and more about Tom. There's a big danger in doing that, of course, which is why I mentioned that Mistaken for Strangers isn't the film profile on The National you're looking for. Documentaries that become more about the filmmakers than the subject matter can feel wobbly and narcissistic depending on the person behind the camera. With Tom, the narcissism is tamped down by a lifetime of self-doubt and failure. There's pressure to break the pattern even if it continues in some ways. Sure it's not a good music documentary, but squares aren't great circles either. Even if Mistaken for Strangers was supposed to be a music doc, it really isn't just a music documentary anymore, and it's good at being what it is now. Instead of a tour doc, Mistaken for Strangers is like a portrait of a palooka used to screwing up and letting people down and used to being frustrated by that fact. This is Tom's attempt to do something he can be proud of for once, and something that'll make his brother proud of him. More than that, it's Tom trying to show himself that he isn't as big of a fuck up as he may think he is. Tom may have botched a lot of stuff while trying to make the film, but as a finished movie, I think he stuck the landing. This one's going on the fridge. [For more info on Mistaken for Strangers, visit tribecafilm.com/festival.]
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♫ I won't f**k us over, I'm the lead singer's brother / I'm the lead singer's brother, I won't f**k us over ♫
If you're going into Mistaken for Strangers looking for a rockumentary/tour documentary on The National, you're in for disappointment. The film was directed by Tom Berninger, the younger brother of the band's frontman Matt Be...

Interview: Rob Zombie (The Lords of Salem)

Apr 17 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]215111:39969:0[/embed] [Editor's note: Some of the questions and responses have been altered to avoid spoilers.] What do you think about the way people have been reacting to The Lords of Salem so far? It's great! I'm very excited. I'm not really that worried about reactions. Most of the time I don't even pay attention because it is what it is? I don't sit there watching the audience in fear. But, it's great -- it's exactly what I thought. Some people love it, some people hate it. [a beat] Shocking. [laughs] I assumed the release of the film and the release of your new album is intentional. Can you just talk about how you divide your energies between getting the word out on both? Well, getting the word out on both is actually a littler easier, because I would normally have to do all of this twice. So now I can just sort of do it all at once. It was getting the two things made simultaneously that was the tricky part. That was a great idea on paper, but in execution it was pshew -- fucked up! A lot of work. Would you mind speaking to the process of making the book in addition to the film? Well the book was 100% based on the original shooting script. It almost at this point bears very little resemblance to the movie, which is kind of cool. I mean, I forget when that started. That started during the shooting of the movie, and at some point I realized I was trying to keep the book updated and current to the changes that were happening on the film, and then I just gave up and said "This is impossible." Because the film was changing so much everyday due to just-- I mean, you know, this was a very short shooting schedule. It was four and a half weeks, so I just decided at some point that the book would be all about the original shooting script that we never were going to shoot, so they're very different. At the Q & A [after The Lords of Salem] you mentioned that this loose thread you shot but were unable to complete because of the death of Richard Lynch. Could you talk about how that would have changed the story on the screen? Well yeah, I mean... Let's see... Originally Richard Lynch was playing Jonathan Hawthorne, and then the guy who now is playing Jonathan Hawthorne was playing a different character whose name I can't think of right now. And it was just all the people that were getting killed and dying and getting killed by the Lords music were all linked back through these characters throughout the course of the film, so there was more of a thread. There was sort of a domino effect, and once I couldn't finish those scenes with Richard, what I had shot was useless, so then I just changed it around. But then the characters in modern times who were supposed to be connected [to that footage], they didn't make any sense either, so they all got the hatchet too. So that's why I had to cut so many people out of the movie. I tried making it work, but I just realized it was becoming so convoluted and so confused without the [missing] information that I just chopped it all up. Was tackling your own take on the Salem witch stories something you've wanted to do for a long time? Well, I mean, not really. It's funny, because I came up with the idea about six years ago, maybe. Just like any idea, you have this sort of half-assed idea and you write it down and forget about it. And I kind of forgot all about it, and it wasn't until I was approached to make a movie-- Because the way this project started was someone came to me and was like, "Oh, do you want to make a movie with us? This is the budget, you have total control, blah blah blah. Our only request is that it's sort of more of a psychological horror movie." And I was like, "Okay, that sounds good," but I couldn't think of anything. It was actually Wayne Toth who did all the effects -- who's done the effects on all my movies -- that said, "Hey, how about that Lords of Salem thing you mentioned like a thousand years ago?" I'd completely forgotten all about it. I went back and pulled it up, and I'd written like 20 pages. That's how it all came to be -- it was actually something I'd forgotten all about. You mentioned yesterday that one of the notes production gave you was to make all of the characters 18 and sexy. That's the note every studio gives you, actually. [laughs] [laughs] What other problems did you encounter while filming? I mean, problems kind of get forgotten because there are problems like every second of the day, unfortunately. But really, the biggest problem was just I'd never made a movie this quickly or for this amount of money, so I wasn't ready for that. So when you have the script, you're going through it and you're like, "Oh crap!" There's a certain point after the first week of shooting where you realize, "We're never going to get through this script in four weeks." And you just start ripping pages out and rewriting stuff, and that went on every single day. And then it sort of became a good thing, because stylistically it became-- Well, there's like a scene where one character is laying there dead with three other characters around, and I'm like, "Okay, all this stuff needs to be condensed into one shot, and that's it." There was a lot of that, just figuring how we can turn seven pages into a quarter of a page, because that's what we did everyday. And everyone got like one take because we were running out of time. Was there a lot of research done on your part about what happened in Salem? Does anything sort of stick out in your mind? I did a lot of research and I didn't use any of it, really. Because the one thing that became apparent to me was -- this sounds kind of weird -- but the Salem witch trials were kind of boring. They just hung everybody, you know? Until I started researching it, I think a lot of people confused the European witch trails with the Salem witch trials. In Europe it was the iron masks and the spiked chairs and they're lighting people on fire and doing all this crazy shit. They didn't do any of that in Salem. They just took them out and hung them by the neck. It's like, "That's no interesting." So I sort of abandoned factual things quickly. Can you talk a little about the community of actors you work with, like the actors who come back time and time again? In this movie I actually tried to bring in people I've never worked with, because for me I want to mix it up too. Or if I bring somebody back, I want them to do something different. But sometimes it's hard not to write something with somebody in mind. It makes it so much easier, and I did it again on this one. At the same time, I always try to keep my mind open for like the Bruce Davison role. I don't want to have anybody in mind for that. Or like Judy Geeson's role. I always wanted Pat Quinn, although almost to the last second I didn't think we were going to get her due to visa issues. So yeah, it's kind of a little bit of both. With the next movie that I'm working on, Broad Street Bullies, I don't see anybody that I've ever worked with before being in the movie, truthfully. Not unless they can put some skates on. Yeah, I doubt they can. [laughs] What made you decide to make the leap from horror movies to true-life sports? It's just a great story. I mean, I just love movies and I hate being pigeonholed over stuff. It becomes a real bore, and I don't ever want to be labeled as, "Oh, the guy who does that." It's boring. So I like breaking out, but I was always looking for the right project. Nothing ever came up that I thought, "Oh yes, that's it." Stuff would come to me and I was just like, "Ehhh" -- just couldn't get on board. But Broad Street Bullies takes place in 1974, which is a time period I love. I was a huge hockey fan back then during that time period, so it just had all the elements. I mean it's just a really rough, dirty, nasty story, but it just happens to be a sports movie. Who was your team? Well I was from Massachusetts, so I was into Boston, but I still love the Flyers -- even though they were hated I still thought they were cool. [laughs] You know, they were the outlaws. I think it's something that's a big departure, but given the nature of the story, fans will still dig it even I they don't care about hockey because that's sort of irrelevant in a way. Like most people love Rocky even if they're not boxing fans because it's not really about boxing per se. How are you going to approach this film stylistically? Your five films have a very specific visual look to them and tone. I'm wondering if you're looking to use the same tone and style or if you're going to do something a little more mainstream. Well, I don't like the term "mainstream" because I just find "mainstream" everything boring. "Polished," then? No, and I don't like "polished" either. [laughs] No, but I like things being raw. It's so easy to polish things. In fact, I like mistakes because things have become so polished. When I see certain movies I go-- I mean, maybe I know too much [about the process], but I can look at something [and know it's polished]. They go through frame by frame and digitally airbursh every actors fucking face until I feel like I'm watching an animated movie even though it's a live-action movie. And I hate that. So stylistically, I would want the movie to look like it was shot in the 1970s, because if it's going to be a period movie, I want it to feel like it was made in that period. A movie that has a look that would be perfect is something like The French Connection. If it could look like The French Connection, that would be the perfect look for Broad Street Bullies. But with Lords of Salem I'd argue that's a very polished movie. The cinematography alone is very much different than Paranormal Activity. Yeah! Would you mind speaking about the cinematography? The cinematography was a conscious decision because-- You know, Lords of Salem is a low-budget movie and it had a short schedule, but I didn't want to make it look like a low-budget movie. It's really easy to say, "Aww man, we're going to shoot everything handheld! We're going to shoot some of it with our iPhones! It's all rough because we got no money! Whoopdedoo!" And I was like, "Fuck that! Let's make it look like the grandest film I've ever made even though the budget of [The Lords of Salem] is not even a third of The Devil's Rejects." I mean we had nothing to work with, and I thought just because of that it doesn't have to look that way. So in some ways I think people like it because they do think, "Oh, this is the most normal-looking movie," in a way. I thought that was important for the story too. It had to feel normal and safe in a certain way with the cinematography so that when it got grand and weird it went somewhere. If it was already rough and nasty at the beginning, then you kind of have nowhere to go with it, and I didn't really think that fit the grand visuals. Like [it was] the exact opposite with the Halloween movies: I wanted to take something that had become commercial Michael Meyers and make it all dirty and filthy. Would you ever want to shoot a movie as fast and quick as this again? Not a movie like this, no. I mean, I would like to have more time. Because really, the funny thing is that having too much time and too much money doesn't mean that what you're going to do is good. Sometimes I think it hurts people because there's a certain rhythm you get on set. It's just the adrenaline you get of working. Because I've been on sets of other people's movies where I'm like, "Nobody's fucking working!" [laughs] They have so much money where there's literally nothing going on! They're taking like four hours to set up the most nothing shot, and you can just feel it. The actors are all in their chairs falling asleep and they're bored. They're like, "What are we doing now?" They're not even paying attention. And I'm like, "This is no way to work." So there's that perfect middle ground where you're moving fast but not so fast where people are confused, which is... [laughs] It's also not a good thing when your actors go, "Wait, what are we doing?" They're like, "I'm changing my clothes again. What scene is this?" There were certain times where I'd say to the actors "Change your clothes, come through the door. Change your clothes, come through the door. We're only going to be here five more minutes and I need to use this. We're going to get all your entrance and exists right now." And they're confused. I dunno. How long is a piece of string? How long do you need to make something good? The right amount of time. I wonder if you accepted these conditions to work fast and for x-amount of money and creative control-- Was that any reaction to working on the Halloween franchise with the Weinsteins at all? Yeah, I mean, it really was. I didn't realize because of the limitations how hard it would be at certain times -- I didn't really think about it. I think all of us -- me, my crew, and a lot of the actors -- after the Halloween stuff we were like, "We need to make a movie that's fun." Because those movies were so stressful and not fun to work on that nobody could remember why they wanted to make movies anymore. [laughs] [laughs] Y'know? But that was a big part of it. What was the most challenging thing about the shoot? Any of the scenes, kind of like the last shot of the movie, that was the most challenging. It was kind of a complicated thing to set up because nothing's digital. It's all practical effects. We did it all live, and when you're trying to work super fast. [laughs] It's five hours to set up this one shot, you really start question [yourself]. "This shot better look cool because we wasted half a fucking day on it." Thing like that tended to be the most challenging. Can you talk about working with Meg Foster? She does some ridiculous shit in that movie. [laughs] She's great. Yeah. I mean working with Meg Foster was fantastic. I really love Meg. It's funny because after I cast her, I started worrying if she would be great. Because when I went back and watched a lot of her movies... People always go "Oh, Meg Foster in They Live!" but they didn't give her anything to do in that movie. She's in there. No one ever gave her much to do, like they just thought, "Oh, she's pretty. Let her be in the movie." But then once I got to know her and we started working I'm like, "Why isn't Meg Foster talked about like Helen Mirren?" You know, I mean, it's sad sometimes, the way things go. Yeah, she's just phenomenal, and would clearly do anything for the project. Was she was completely gung-ho about anything you said? Yeah! Yeah! She's not anyone I had to convince about anything. What about Judy Geeson? What led you to her? That was on the the last people cast. I was having a really, really hard time casting that role just because-- It was really weird. I mean, there's a real hatred of horror movies in Hollywood. Hated, especially by actors. They just don't want to be a part of it. A lot of times people go, "Why do you use the same actors?" Because they'll do it. It's amazing the people that won't do things. I'll see someone and think, "Clearly she'll do it. She's now down to non-speaking roles and background parts in TV commercials!" And you offer them a lead role and they go, "Oh, I don't want to be in a horror movie." Like you're asking them to be in some kind of Asian gangbang movie with like midgets. [laughs] You know, they're really like, "Ewwwooooh." And really, one person after another. It was like so-and-so is locked in, they fall out. The next person, no. No. No. No. And I was like, "Oh my god, am I just going to have to eliminate this role?" And then at the last second, Judy Geeson came in an read and I was like, "Fuck everyone, she's great." And both Judy and Meg hadn't done anything in over a decade. They both basically stopped acting. That's a thing I found with a lot of these actors too: they're over it, you know? Because like I said, you're either Helen Mirren and the whole world worships you or you're 60 years old and [the studios] are like, "Oh, you're a washed-up old lady we couldn't give two fucks about." I think they're all happy to be appreciated again. It seems like a lot of people talk about actors not wanting to be in horror movies. A lot of people look down on horror movies overall as a genre and they go in with expectations but don't like it regardless whether the movie's actually good or not. Yeah. Now you're making a sports movie, and it feels like it's almost dealing with the same thing, like if ESPN doesn't like it-- Well, it's really funny, though. It's weird, there's such a different vibe. The the horror movie... The genre community is so different because it seems like they love horror movies so much that they hate everything. [laughs] [It's like they only like something] from 30 years ago. "Oh man, I gotta go home and jerk off to fucking Day of the Dead," but they hate everything. Whatever random movie, you know. But like the rest, they're like, "Oh, great." People [outside of the genre community] don't think of it that way. Like, "Oh, that's cool." I don't think people are at home furious about Argo! "THAT'S NOT THE WAY I WANTED THAT MOVIE TOLD!" [laughs] You know, it's like really weird. People who you think should be the most supportive are always the people the least supportive and hate you the most. Like a regular movie website would be like, "Hey, great," but the horror movie website's like, "Fuck you! And fuck you! And fuck you!" [laughs] Okay. [laughs] It might not be as extreme, but it's kind of similar to sports. Like there's some boxing movie [and people are like], "Oh, it's not as good as Rocky, so it must be shit." But the rest of the word doesn't act that way, that's the funny thing. They say, "Hey, great, a hockey movie. That'll be cool." It's really weird, and it's so funny because I think the genre world gets so micro-focused and stuff. You get out in the real world and everyone's like, "Ah, who gives a shit? That's a movie, I gotta get to work." [laughs] [laughs] They're not staying up all night blogging about it, they just don't care. So it's a really weird thing, you know? How much do you pay attention to criticism or media about your films? I really don't because it doesn't matter. If someone goes, "Read that, it's really nice," I might look at it and go, "Hey, great, somebody liked it." But that's about where it ends. I mean, you can't... It's sort of all irrelevant. I think that if I was new to this, I would be like, "Oh my god, somebody [wrote this]," because I know some people who've got to read everything. And then they just have a meltdown. The thing that I've noticed is that everyone's opinion changes with time. Even big film critics go back and change the reviews in their books all the time because they originally trashed a movie that's now considered a classic. Like, "I've gotta go back and add a couple stars to that review or I'll look like a dick," you know? [laughs] It happens all the time. I had a friend who used to always do that: point out in Leonard Maltin books, "Oh, look, now he likes that movie a lot more than he did back in '74." And that's the thing with all my films. When I made House of 1,000 Corpses, everyone fucking hated it. "Oooh, biggest piece of shit ever made, blah blah blagh," and now they're like, "Ohmygod, that'smyfavoritemovie! I love it so much!" And then when I made Devil's Rejects, "Oh, that sucks compared to House of 1,000 Corpses," and then now they're like, "Ohhh, that's my favorite one!" It's just the endless "whatever's new sucks and whatever's old is great." So, bleaughck. But I already went with that with the music business too. I think everyone likes to feel like they're in the know if they like something old, and they have to shit on everything new, until that's old, and then they like it. Can you talk about some of the influences on the film? I mean, I don't know if you're familiar with the work of Ken Russell-- What, you think I just fell off the fucking turnip truck?! [laughs] No. But in terms of The Devils or Don't Look Now, do you look to those films at all and do they consciously or unconscious perhaps... Well, I mean, I've seen all those films so they're all in my head, and I went and watched some of them with my cinematographer because that's the one thing: it's not like you're trying to emulate a film or copy a film, but sometimes it's really hard to explain what you're thinking with just words. It was a sort of, "Maybe it'll be like the paces of Barry Lyndon with the visuals of The Devils but sort of filtered through Repulsion, with a little bit of, you know, Tommy thrown in for some pizzazz at the end." [laughs] It's sort of like a mishmash of everything. Did you look to any artists at all for some of the visual imagery? I'm not an art scholar or anything, so-- So I can just make up a bunch of names? [laughs] You can make up a bunch of names, but then I could go and Google them. [laughs] But I'm just wondering, for example, one of the final images is the most powerful image in the film. That was pretty much a classic image. We pulled from a bunch of different ones for sure, just so I could show Brandon some of how it was lighted and showed wardrobe that this was what we were going to do. So yeah, there wasn't any one particular artist. That was sort of a classic look of that person and those kinds of paintings. There may have been some in particular, but I can't remember off the top of my head. Sometimes I'll just see an image and go, "That's cool. I like the way that street looks," I don't even know what it is. What advice do you have for young filmmakers who may be battling with budget constraints who want to make their films look high quality? Truthfully, I don't think that's important. I think that's the least important thing you can do, because it doesn't impress anybody. Think of it in terms of music. You can hand me the worst-sounding cassette, and if the song is great, you'll go, "That song is fucking genius!" And you can hand me the most overproduced record of all time, and I'll go like, "That is fucking bullshit." And it's the same thing with movies. You can watch something and it could look-- You could film it on your phone and watch it and then think, "Jesus Christ, that guy is a good fucking actor." And you'll get it. Nobody cares. Nobody in Hollywood cares, and nobody's going to be impressed by it. There's no point. Good work comes through even if it's through shit materials, so someone could do this giant mural and people will think, "This guy sucks," and some other guy will fucking draw on a napkin with a fucking pen and people will go, "Fuck, Jesus Christ that guy is talented." So yeah, I think it's irrelevant. I guess long-windedly I'm trying to say that's irrelevant. [laughs] Good work come through no matter how rough it is. The characters and the scenery have seemed to become your staple in all these horror movies. People can see a movie without seeing the credit and think, "Oh, this is a Rob Zombie horror movie." Is there ever a point where you're looking at makeup or the wardrobe and you're thinking, "Ooh, too much. Let's pull it back." No, I always actually think the exact opposite. Every time a movie's done I'll think, "Fuck! Why didn't we go even further?" I've thought that every time. I've thought that on this movie, I've thought that on every movie. I always think that. You forget sometimes why you make the choices you did. Sometimes it was the only choice you could make. Sometimes the sun was setting and that was the only shot you could get, or whatever. But you forget that stuff and you think, "Why didn't I do this?" I mean, all the actors do it. They're all, "Oh, why did I say that line like that? I should have done this." It's a never ending... [laughs] I guess that's why other people's criticisms are irrelevant because you're so busy criticizing yourself there's no room for other people. [laughs] [laughs] Could you talk about the process of writing and recording the Lords song? The spooky record thing? Yeah, that was something that was a little tricky because I wanted it to be organic in the sense that it really was a group of musicians playing that. It wasn't like weird sounds we put together, everybody had some weird old instruments; it was recorded live, it was real, because I thought that was important... even though I don't know if it is -- at the time I thought it was. But how we came up with it. I was on the East Coast and John 5 was on the West Coast, and we were basically on the phone basically humming different weird note patterns back and forth to each other until we arrived at that one. And truthfully, I don't know if he thought of it or I thought of it or if it was a combination of both. I mean he can't remember either. It's sort of one of those things where I needed it to be catchy enough that people could remember it when it came up in the movie, but odd enough that it didn't sound like a song. Because it's not really supposed to be a song. You mentioned wanting to push things further. Even in this movie which does go to extremes. Is there any particular scene you can think of, like with one of the insane midget turkey-baby thing? Yeah, everything. Literally everything I think that. But I know at the time I didn't do things because I could. You know, like when we shot the scene of Sheri with the skull make-up walking up the stairs with the little guy. That was our last day of shooting on that set, it was 5:00am, we had been there forever. She was so delirious she didn't know where she was. My biggest challenge at that point was to keep Sheri from having a laughing fit because she was so punchy that anything would set her off. And you know, you walk up the stairs and you see that little guy, it's like you want to burst out laughing, because it's so funny. I still laugh every time I see him. So yeah, every scene has something like that. It's actually kinda weird. The creature is absurd but I found it terrifying at the same time because I was like, "What the hell is that? My god!" She was actually scared. She hated looking at it. Because he'd be walking around the set in that suit, and he's only like 2'6", I think. He's so tiny. You have to be really careful because he literally was like the size of a baby walking around. [laughs] It's pretty freaky. Is that you find kind of challenging when you're making a movie: turning something funny into scary, or turning scary into something you may think is funny? I mean, I knew I wanted something that was absurd, because the basic story, if I just read you the one line, you'd go, "Oh, that's been done before." Which is fine, that doesn't bother me. It kind of like how every note's been used, but it's just how you put the notes together. But I knew when we finally saw the thing I didn't want him to be some giant demon creature. So then I thought the reveal would be this weird little Kentucky Fried midget. [laugh] You know, maybe it's funny, maybe it's terrifying -- but you'll remember it. [laughs] It's like thinking of this other creature was a challenge, you know. I didn't want it to look like a baby with like contact lenses. It'd probably be something more disgusting than that. You had mentioned in the Q & A you're not thinking sequel with this one, but it does leave the door open somewhat to a sequel if you wanted to come back and revisit. I mean every movie kind of does in a way, because I think we now see it that way. But I don't think it would make sense. To me the power of so many movies was that feeling when the movie stops. And then coming back a couple years later and going, "Oh, I know I left you with that weird feeling. Now let's explain it." And you're like, "Really?" Sorry if I'm-- No, not [to your question]. I mean the feeling that really, we need to explain it? And you feel the same with The Devil's Rejects: you wrote down an idea but it's not something that you're going to [necessarily] act on. Probably not. Doing another Devil's Rejects thing is the only time I've ever felt like I want to do something because of the fans. And I don't want people to misinterpret that. I always want to do things as great as possible for the fans, and that's really important. But I can't be dictated by what they want. You can't work that way. But that's the only one that just seems like people just love it so much that I feel... That's the only time I've ever toyed with the idea of doing another one. It seems like that movie has become so insanely popular as the years go on, but... It always seems when you go back for the third one. Nothing quite cuts it. We hear Sam Raimi say, "Well, I want to do Army of Darkness 2 for the fans," but there's that sense that it nothing I want to do but something I have to do. I assume the same would probably be with Halloween 3, if Weinstein just dumped a shitload of money on you. Yeah, I mean, it's like I'd never approach is as, "Ughhh, I have to do this." would always try to approach it like I wanted to make it special. Things just happen. Like whatever we did when we did Devil's Rejects, you wouldn't recapture it again. It just wouldn't happen. The actors have aged, they're different, the relationships between the actors have changed. You'd come back and... it's like you're trying to force a high school reunion to happen. I mean, maybe you'd get something great, you know? What I would try to do would be to try something different just so that it wasn't feeling like you'd try to recapture something. And it's like you said before: as soon as it'd come out, people would just be like-- "This is shit! This isn't what I wanted!" [laughs] "The first one was so much better." Basically what I was saying. But then give it six years and then all of a sudden... Exactly. There's something about the horror genre though, when fans like a movie, there's always a movement behind it. Like, "Yes, let's make another one. We'll do three more sequels!" Well, yeah. It's weird. You never know how much was dictated by the fans and how much is dictated just by the business. Because it used to be like, "Oh, check out my new project! It's unlike anything you've ever seen!" And now when you say that, people just sort of glaze over. But now, [if you say], "Check out my thing! It's just like Paranormal Activity!" People are like, "Really?! Let me see it!" [laughs] It's like that with music. It's like that with music. It's like there's this quest to give me more of exactly what I know I already like. That's why, you know, it's all the same. "Play the hits!" And that's why when people ask, "Do you listen to what the fans say," I'm like you really can't because The Beatles would still be playing "She Loves You." They never would have got to The White Album because the fans would have been like, "Harumngph! 'Revolution,' please! Give us another 'Help!'" What do you consider to be your biggest career success and your biggest career failure? I don't know. I always feel that both of those things are in the future. I don't feel like anything has really been a failure, because it always seems like it made sense and worked out in some fashion. There have been things that have taken strange paths to getting there. Like [The Haunted World of El Superbeasto] was one. Working on it, the company kept changing hands until by the time we wound up at the final place, they're like, "We're horrified by this! We're not releasing this! This is nothing but dirty jokes and cartoon tits!" But the people we started with were very excited about that aspect of it, so, yeah, that was kind of a bummer, but someday it'll be resurrected in some way, somewhere else probably. As far as the biggest success, I always think that's the next thing, you know? I'm never satisfied with it. [a beat] Everything has been the biggest failure, I guess. [laughs] [laughs] You brought up Tommy earlier, and I'm kind of wondering if at some point you'd be interested in doing... I don't want to say a rock opera, but at least something where music is a factor in the narrative. I think it'd be great. I mean, there are certain types of movies that just have disappeared. They'll make things like Chicago or Dream Girls, but Tommy and The Wall -- that type of thing is gone. I just don't know if people would go for it. But every time I think people won't go for something, that's exactly when they go for it. But yeah, some sort of music-driven film would be great. They're turning a lot of those movies into musical theater. Any artist with a multitude of hits seems to be approached about that. Have you ever been approached about something like that? I have not, but I mean, I would always say this seriously -- and it sound like I'm joking -- but House of 1,000 Corpses as a Broadway play makes total sense. It seems like anything that's weird and odd and a little bit campy, it seem now like, "Yeah right." But who would have thought any John Waters project would somehow be this multi-million dollar bonanza on Broadway. Or even Monty Python or anything. Xanadu. Fucking Spider-Man! [laughs] [laughs] They're doing Silence of the Lambs right now. Silence of the Lambs. [a beat and then laughs] It's just so strange! [laughs] Really just like anything else. Any kind of known property is what they want, because they just never want to do anything new. That's the whole thing with the industry. New is bad, built-in audience is good. Going back to a couple questions ago, are there any other actor you want to resurrect from being in career stasis? People who haven't worked in a while that you think should really be in a movie. I mean, probably. I see people all the time that I really like. I don't have any names that jump to mind at the moment. A lot of times... What's been the sad case sometimes, and I don't want to mention names, there are people like that and you get with them and you realize that they've gotten too old and there's a reason why the don't work anymore. Even with Richard Lynch it was sad. When I worked with him on Halloween he was phenomenal, but when he showed for The Lords of Salem, his agent sort of neglected to tell me that he was basically completely blind. He literally couldn't see. And I couldn't understand it because the camera would be here, six inches from his face, and he'd be yelling "Rob, where's the fucking camera?" Is he joking? It's six inches from his face. And then I was like, "Oh..." You literally had to walk him and place him and sort of direct him that way. So, he didn't seem healthy, but, you know, the agents don't tell you, and that's happened a few times with people where they show up and you go, "Well, I guess that's why so-and-so hasn't been working a lot lately." But, then again, some people are like Eli Wallach. [laughs] [laughs] Keep charging along! [laughs]
Rob Zombie Interview photo
Bottom line: Rob Zombie is an absolutely f**king delightful person
Even though I didn't care for Rob Zombie's The Lords of Salem, I was interested in speaking to him, having dug White Zombie growing up and enjoying The Devil's Rejects. A friend of a friend had met Zombie through his job and ...

SXSW Review: Los Wild Ones

Mar 21 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]215138:39832:0[/embed] Los Wild OnesDirector: Elise SalomonRating: TBDRelease Date: TBD There's an old-fashioned ethos behind Wild Records. On the one hand, they're a rockabilly-only label. It's retro rock and roll with the right kind of panache -- pompadours, bangs -- but played with a swagger like it's a cousin to punk more than some kind of nostalgic trip. There's no room for irony on the label in the same way that irony at the rockabilly shows is non-existent. The other old-fashioned thing about Wild Records: a resistance to going digital. Reb Kennedy, the head of Wild Records, dismisses digital music as crap and low quality, and prefers to issue the work of his artists on vinyl (and CD, though records are the real passion). It's one of the many things he says with total candor in his thick Irish accent, though I wondered if he'd eventually have to compromise. There's an interesting cultural dynamic going on with Wild Records. Reb's from Dublin, a guy with a serious stare and a knack for good taste. One of the interviewees in the film recalls Reb hanging out in front of a Dublin record shop asking people what they were going to buy before letting them in. People thought he worked there. Nah, he was just hanging out. When we first see Reb at work, he's sifting through stacks of unsorted 45s -- on tables, on chairs, on the floor, on bookshelves. The Wild mastertapes are out in the backyard in boxes or on tarpaulins. It's not always like that with Wild, but maybe it kind of is in some metaphorical way. The artists on Wild Records are predominantly Hispanic, and all of them are based in Los Angeles. The music they make and the way they dress is the timeless stuff of 20th century Americana, and there's actually a lot of crossover between groups, with people playing in each others's bands. Some, like Marlene Perez and Victor Mendez of The Rhythm Shakers, dated. There it is -- the modern American melting pot, cultures making music together, and they've got greased hair and a Telecaster and think iTunes can go screw itself. Well, only Reb speaks for the last bit. The artists on label would rather make the jump forward with digital distribution in addition to pressing vinyl. It's a contentious point, but that's not the source of drama in Los Wild Ones. [embed]215138:39839:0[/embed] Director Elise Salomon and her team stuck close to the Wild Records family for a few months to chronicle the regular goings-on at the label and in the lives of the artists. What we see are talented musicians trying to find the right balance between their passion and their personal lives. For Gizzelle, it's about being a single mom and a frontwoman at the same time. For Luis Arriaga, he needs to deal with some major changes that upend his routine and make the future uncertain. And Reb just wants to keep his artists happy and the label alive, somehow, someway. These are not inventions or artificial concerns. This is the thing that artists deal with everyday. There was a piece in The Onion posted yesterday that, like their best writing, was funny because it's also the truth: Find The Thing You're Most Passionate About, Then Do It On Nights And Weekends For The Rest Of Your Life. That's exactly what these men and women are doing. It may be difficult, it may even seem a little sad that people sacrifice so much to do what they care about, but watching them up on stage and hearing them talk about the scene and the music, the struggles are worthwhile. Think Sisyphus with the boulder. Now think of him doing a five-song set at the top of that hill before going back to push the boulder back up the hill again. [embed]215138:39831:0[/embed] But what's important about Wild Records is that everyone helps look after each other. Not only are they playing in each other's bands, they're hanging out and making sure everyone's all right. Reb is not just the head of the label. There are some parts of Los Wild Ones where he seems like a surrogate father figure. He'll scold when he needs to, and he'll be the jerk because he has to get the best out of his artists. When people are in a bind, Reb is there for them, and during an especially moving part of the movie, he helps pick one of his artists up out of a really deep emotional pit. That's why the drama in Los Wild Ones isn't over squabbles between artists and management or rivalries within the label. Everyone involved in Wild Records seems to like it because it's more than just a label or a group of like-minded friends -- Wild Records is a family. Part of the draw of the film is seeing Salomon champion the music on the label, all of which is solid rock and roll. More than the music, though, Salomon is interested in the family dynamics revealed simply from these people doing what they love. When Reb talks about recording his artists, he says that he wants the occasional mistake or screw up in there. He'd rather get the performance on tape rather than refine it through a process. It's raw and authentic, and that's what the spirit of Wild is all about. It's sort of how this surrogate family functions too in Salomon's doc. They love each other, they play their hearts out, and they keep going. The good and the bad is all caught on tape, but the important thing is that it sounds fine regardless, and it's real. [embed]215138:39830:0[/embed]
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Meet the family of Wild Records, a DIY rockabilly label based in LA
[From March 9th - 17th, Flixist will be providing coverage from South by Southwest 2013 in Austin, TX. Prepare yourselves for reviews, interviews, features, photos, videos, and all types of shenanigans!] I'd originally plann...

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Documentary on The National to open Tribeca Film Festival


Mistaken for Strangers is directed by the brother of lead singer Matt Berninger
Mar 01
// Hubert Vigilla
Even thouh SXSW is almost upon us, a few of us New York-based editors are also gearing up for the Tribeca Film Festival, which runs from April 17th to April 28th. The opening film was just announced: Mistaken for Strangers, a...
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Flix for Short: The Stars (Are Out Tonight)


New David Bowie music video featuring Tilda Swinton (aka Also David Bowie)
Feb 26
// Hubert Vigilla
David Bowie just put out a music video for "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)," the second single from his forthcoming album The Next Day. Whereas the previous single, "Where Are We Now?", was melancholic and a touch wistful befor...
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David Bowie & Iggy Pop biopic Lust for Life in the works


Set in West Berlin during the mid-to-late 1970s
Feb 07
// Hubert Vigilla
A new film is going to focus on David Bowie and Iggy Pop's collaboration and friendship in West Berlin circa 1976-1978. Titled Lust for Life, the film will be directed by Gabriel Range (Death of a President). The screenplay i...
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Jay-Z will score Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby


I got 99 problems with the adaptation but this ain't one
Jan 03
// Hubert Vigilla
The most recent trailer for Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby featured Filter's abysmal cover of "Happy Together." I hope that song doesn't wind up in the final film. But even if it does, at least the score will be interesting....
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Lady Gaga documentary in the works


Terry Richardson will chronicle the singer's life and her new album, Artpop
Dec 28
// Hubert Vigilla
A documentary about Lady Gaga is now in the works, which will chronicle her life as well as the creation of her forthcoming album, Artpop. (Oh, I get it... how drôle.) The film will be made by Terry Richardson, who you ...
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Flix for Short: Labrador and Charmer


The music videos for "Labrador" and "Charmer" by Aimee Mann, directed by Tom Scharpling
Dec 06
// Hubert Vigilla
I've been a big fan of Aimee Mann since the late '90s after a chance encounter with the song "I Should've Known." With the year winding down, I figured it's a good time to highlight two music videos from her new album Charme...
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Flix for Short: Breezeblocks


The music video for "Breezeblocks" by Alt-J
Dec 05
// Hubert Vigilla
It's that time of year when I catch up with music that slipped passed me in the last 11 months. I recently ran into the song "Breezeblocks" by Alt-J (∆). It's not bad, and it's been growing on me. I actually find mysel...

Review: Beware of Mr. Baker

Nov 28 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]213712:39189[/embed] Beware of Mr. BakerDirector: Jay BulgerRating: NRRelease Date: November 28th, 2012 (New York) Though he's been drumming for decades, Baker's enduring legacy is the work he did with Cream. Together with Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton, they redefined rock and roll. As Baker explains, they called themselves Cream because they were the musical cream of the crop -- the best musicians, and those blessed with what he calls "natural time." It's some innate sense of rhythm that can't be learned. Without it, drummers are only technically proficient but never spectacular. Think of natural time as the "it" factor that differentiates music you hear from music you feel. In Beware of Mr. Baker, one of our first impressions of Baker himself is violence. At the beginning of the film, he smacks Bulger in the face with a cane before storming off. I wondered what triggered all this, and there isn't much of an answer. This is just who Ginger is. As the film relates his life story, we see a pattern of ruination and shaky relationships. He just chugs along, ever forward, gig after gig, in pursuit of musical perfection, as if he can come to a greater understanding of natural time if he just keeps at it. This assault with the cane took place at the end of Bulger's shoot, but by placing it at the start of the film, he helps convey a lot of information about Baker as a person. He's a fiery, crazy, unpredictable son of a gun. There's a montage of other musicians commenting on Baker the performer and Baker the man. The assessment: what a great performer, what a downright horrible man. Whether it's footage of Baker in his prime or an image of the elderly Baker stretched on a recliner, there's a sense of danger. He's like a wild dog without a leash, a rattlesnake coiled. There were plenty of times throughout the film where I wondered when he'd lash out at the camera. But even apart from that, Baker's such a fascinating person. His path to music, his dive into rock and roll excess, and his almost spiritual exploration of rhythm are remarkable. In addition to the candid interviews with Baker and the rich archival footage, Bulger makes interesting formal choices in presentation. It's a documentary about music that has its own crazy rhythm going on. Split screens and superimpositions help convey a sense of polyrhythmic construction -- multiple beats at different speeds going on at once. One of the recurring images in the animated segments is Baker as part of a slave ship. Yet it's more like a viking ship as it traverses the globe, leaving behind fires and devastation wherever it goes. And it keeps going -- the S.S. Ginger Baker, dragons be here. There's a frankness to Baker that's admirable in the oddest possible way. Even though he's not totally likable, he's never totally unlikable. He's a man who doesn't censor himself, and that kind of arrogance and obliviousness is endlessly entertaining. Some of it could be fueled by ego, or maybe a lot of it. Baker talks crap on Cream bandmate Jack Bruce even though he still loves the guy. (Surprisingly he has nothing but good things to say about Clapton. Clapton, by contrast, says he loves him back, but always felt ill at ease around him.) He shits on Mick Jagger as if The Rolling Stones never happened, and then dismisses Keith Moon and John Bonham as if the people who sing their praises are philistines with no sense of timing. When he's told that Cream helped give birth to heavy metal, Baker sneers and says that metal should have been aborted. Or maybe he smiled instead of sneered. With Baker, it's hard to tell the difference sometimes. Yet people accept Baker's behavior because he is that damn good. That's the case with many gifted artists. Sheer talent can make up for many personal shortcomings. When Bulger talks to Baker's family, they seem to have taken Baker's behavior in stride. "That's just dad being dad," Ginger's son seems ready to say. When Femi Kuti talks about Baker hanging out with his father, the great Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, he seems just as accepting of the man and who he is. That might be the greatest strength of Beware of Mr. Baker. Bulger resists hagiography and just allows Baker to be himself. By doing this, Baker is revealed as someone who's complicated and compelling because of it. Why stare into the void? He plays some mean rock and roll. But if Ginger Baker is a force of nature, what kind of force would he be? Fire makes sense but seems too obvious, what with his young shock of red hair and his cruel temper. Thunder and lightning is too obvious as well, but there's something to both -- all that sound and speed and fury. I think if Baker is a force of nature, he'd have to be time itself. It would explain his innate affinity for rhythm and that obsession with natural time. He's trying to get back to his truest state. Time just keeps moving forward, can't be contained, can't be stopped. It's a relentless and cruel son of a bitch, but time is such a fascinating thing to study. Time's measured out in different ways in Beware of Mr. Baker. You see it in the man's face over the years, going from a young hooligan to a coked-out rock idol to a craggy old curmudgeon. Baker tapped it out on his drum kit for Clapton and Bruce, like the hortator on the warship measured out strokes for the galley of rowing slaves. Even the older Baker, nearly inert in his recliner, seems to measure it out as his restless leg quivers, moved by an unknown rhythm. His foot looks part snake tongue divining some nascent time signature in the air, and part snake rattle trying to give that nascent thing form. And then, you knew it was coming, he pops Bulger in the face and walks off alone. There's an erratic pattern to this sort of behavior. But what do you expect from the polyrhythmic man? It was all just a matter of time.
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Jay Bulger's documentary on a force of nature named Ginger Baker
Beware of Mr. Baker is like the anti-Searching for Sugar Man. The latter chronicled Sixto Rodriguez, an obscure Detroit folk singer who inexplicably developed a following in South Africa. Beware of Mr. Baker follows Ginger Ba...

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Lenny Kravitz starring in Marvin Gaye biopic


What's going on?
Nov 26
// Thor Latham
It looks like famed musician Lenny Kravitz has officially signed on to portray legendary musician Marvin Gaye in an upcoming biopic directed by Juilien Temple. Details are iffy at the moment, but it is said that the movi...
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One Direction to get a documentary, totes not a joke


Nov 14
// Nick Valdez
I really wish this was a demented joke, but sadly that's not true. Morgan Spurlock, yes the semi-respectable documentary director of Comic-Con: A Fan's Hope and Super Size Me, and Simon Cowell (former American Idol jerk and ...
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Drafthouse releases award-season Miami Connection Ads


For Your Consideration: New Wave Taekwondo
Nov 06
// Liz Rugg
Just when you thought that John Carter and Battleship had this year's awards season on lockdown, the dark-horse candidate emerges onto the foggy stage, shirtless, mustached and ready to blow you away with his heartfelt taekw...
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The Muppets sequel begins shooting in January in London


Life's a happy song when Brett McKenzie is writing it
Nov 05
// Thor Latham
Last years The Muppets seemed to be a surprise success for Disney, though I'm not sure why they didn't expect it, because anyone who's seen the movie can tell you it's fantastic. Anywho, the studio got the ball rolling o...
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Martin Scorsese's Frank Sinatra biopic acquires writer


Aug 13
// Thor Latham
Martin Scorsese, one of the most iconic of American filmmakers, is not a man to rest on his laurels. Even with production beginning on The Wolf of Wall Street, he is still keeping his prospects in order. To that effect, ...
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New image of Andre 3000 as Jimi 1970


May 30
// Cecilia Razak
Andre 3000 (Andre Benjamin of OutKast) will be playing Jimi Hendrix in the upcoming biopic All is By My Side. Well, he will sort of be playing Jimi Hendrix. He won't actually be playing any Jimi Hendrix, because the Hendrix E...
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Kanye West debuting short film at Cannes


May 18
// Jason Savior
The 2012 Cannes Film Festival is currently happening, and it was announced this morning that it will premiere a short art film from Kanye West, titled Cruel Summer, next week. Produced by West's multimedia arts company DONDA ...
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Jack White to score The Lone Ranger


Apr 25
// Maxwell Roahrig
Fresh off from the release of his (awesome) solo album, Jack White has been announced to write the score to Gore Verbenski's adaptation of The Lone Ranger. Alex put it in the staff email "I think Max just spouted love juice i...

Joe Hisaishi: The man behind Miyazaki's music

Feb 17 // Liz Rugg
Mamoru Fujisawa was born in Nakano, Nagano, Japan in 1950, and started violin lessons when he was five years old. This sparked his life-long love affair with music. He later attended Kunitachi College of Music in 1969 to study music composition. He broke into the world of anime musical composition by composing the music for a small animation called Gyatoruzu. After his first composition gig, he continued to compose for various small projects, such as Hajime Ningen Gyatoruz in 1974 and Robokko Beeton in 1976. As he started to become more well known, he came up with a stage-name, inspired by African-American musician Quincy Jones. In Japanese, "Quincy" is pronounced like "Kuishi", and in Kanji this can be written as "Hisaishi", and "Joe" comes from "Jones" of course. Thus, Joe Hisaishi became Mamoru Fujisawa's working alias. In 1983, Hisaishi was recommended by a record company to compose the music for the then up-and-coming Hayao Miyazaki's animated film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. This collaboration lead to a great friendship between the two men, and since then Hisaishi has composed for virtually every big, feature-length movie Miyazaki has made to date. Since this is Ghibli Week, let's take a look at just what makes Hisaishi's contribution to these films so amazing. At its core, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind has a sense of grandeur to it. This is underlined through the score. In the scenes where Nausicaä meets the Ohmu, large insects that have overrun the post-apocalyptic world, the score helps you understand - without words - that these beings are powerful, dangerous and otherworldly. That said, parts of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind's score is a blast from the past! The 1980s, that is! Electronic and synthesized music was big in Japan at the time, and Hisaishi reflected this in the score at appropriate times.Princess Mononoke's score lends itself to the traditional Japanese themes being depicted in the movie. There are times - like certian scenes in the forest - where the score sounds totally natural, like bamboo falling. Okay, that sounds SUPER cheesy, but it's true! It works perfectly within the context of the scenes too! Most notably for me in Princess Mononoke's music is the first ten minutes or so. Mononoke wastes absolutely no time getting into the action. Within a few minutes, we go from an idyllic scene and tune in the Japanese countryside to an animalistic, bestial, zoomorphic beat that catapults the viewer to the edge of their seat as they watch the hero, Ashitaka, battle a demon boar spirit. I've seen the opening for Princess Mononoke so many times, and it still scares the crap out of me, and Hisaishi's excellent score is a large part of that. It always makes me feel like someone's going to start preforming ancient blood-letting rituals or something at any second. The soundtrack for Spirited Away is endearing and perfectly matched in every scene. It brings to the foreground a lot of the themes that Miyazaki implies with the work; ideas of lost Japanese traditional ways, luxury and excess, hard work, mischief and even retribution. Ideas that are embedded deep within the Japanese cultural psyche. The scenes in within the bathhouse have the most memorable music for me. Those scenes recall such a fully Japanese tradition and the music follows up right alongside the lush visuals. To this day, when I listen to Hisaishi's Procession of the Spirits, I can't help but dance. It's absolutely entrancing. The soundtrack for Howl's Moving Castle varies considerably from the previous two collaborations between Miyazaki and Hisaishi. The soundtrack places a large emphasis on the singular piano, often played in European styles, and the full-fledged European orchestra. The songs are sweeping and grandiose, a perfect match for the whirlwind of a romance that is Howl's Moving Castle. The characters' moods range from lonely self-pity to heart-bursting excitement, and Hisaishi's music mirrors their every step. Ponyo's soundtrack is heavy on the orchestral strings. Ponyo's theme song herself is flighty, mischievous, and lighthearted. The rest of the music, while perhaps not as memorable as some of Hisaishi's previous works, mirrors the cute, mild-mannered tone set by the film. The ending credits song in the Japanese version of Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea became a bona fide hit in Japan. Sung by eight year old Nozomi Ōhashi, by the end of 2008, it was ranked as the 14th highest selling single on the Oricon Yearly Charts. The Japanese version of the song is totally more adorable than the English version which, if you ask me, is one of the most grating parts of the entire experience. Without Hisaishi, movies like Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle would have been radically different to view and chances are that they would have been lesser works. Joe Hisaishi's contribution to Hayao Miyazaki's works while almost intangible, are undeniably important to the experience of a Miyazaki film. Joe Hisaishi truly deserves to get his due recognition within the wider Miyazaki audience.
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[All this week, Flixist is holding Ghibli Week by bringing you all sorts of Studio Ghibli related posts to celebrate the U.S. release of Ghibli's newest movie, The Secret World of Arrietty, on Friday, February 17th! Check ...


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