Friday, November 16, 2012

Beautiful Noise is on Kickstarter

If you want to see this film, pledge here:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hollywood Is Killing Its Future

The era of film going is going through a major transformation, attendance is down and no matter how much studios keep price fixing their way into having ‘the biggest weekend ever’ or month or weekend or whatever people aren’t going to movies in record numbers anymore. Since the Blockbuster era began partially in the 70’s with Jaws and Star Wars and cemented in the 80’s with the Bruckheimer brand (Top Gun) the end was on the horizon. The modern golden era of filmmaking was in the seventies with highly individualistic character driven stories made by skilled craftspeople and starring some of the most uniquely talented actors. These are the movies that inspired.

It was uncanny how many normal yet compelling and interesting looking actors made up the DNA of that decade: Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman, Elliot Gould to name a few. The seventies is a gift that keeps on giving, the writers and directors were all unique. As a teenager in the 80’s and 90’s, I methodically hunted down all of these films. Badlands, Bonnie and Clyde (1967) Chinatown, Easy Rider (1969), The Godfather, Joe, The Last Detail, Mean Streets, Midnight Cowboy (1969), Network, One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, Scarecrow, Straight Time, A Woman Under The Influence… the list could go on and on with the excellent foreign films of that decade as well.

It was dubbed New Hollywood and these inspiring figures spawned a new generation of filmmakers, actors, writers who aspired to make films. Some flocked to Schools and others immersed themselves in the act of just watching the movies which in my opinion is the way to learn.

Now, who would be inspired in 2011 by the current flock of releases? As noted in a few recent excellent articles (in GQ, LA Weekly and The Playlist) there is not a lot of original mainstream content, with over 30 sequels and remakes and a whole lot of films that are just plain derivative. One wonders when people will stop going to see this crap. Older people have more respect for film going as a ritual but what of the younger crowd? Hollywood make movies mostly for 13 year old boys but with a generation far more interested in smartphones, social networking and downloading content as opposed to a theatrical experience – who is Hollywood making these movies for?

What was the audience for a remake of Arthur? Who is clamoring to see Clash of the Titans 2, a sequel to an awful remake? How many young actors will be inspired by performances by Russell Brand or Sam Worthington? By constantly opting to do sequels remakes, reboots, adaptations, based on: a TV show, video game, amusement park ride, action figure, board game etc. Hollywood is cutting off it’s own future by creating a massive deficit of new classics.

And this is not to say there aren’t talented people around but the fact is the Independent studios (Miramax, New Line) were bought up a long time ago. And for the smaller budgeted films the source of financing dried up in recent years after the financial collapse of 2008, DVD sales slimming, the decline of video stores and many cable TV networks pulling the plug on co-financing productions. For micro budgets there is hope in the form of fundraising sites like kickstarter, but that has yet to produce a film like Easy Rider that is not only great but has the power to be a crossover hit. Is that even possible now?

In the 80’s there was a continuation of a 70’s vibe in the work that permeated the underground with a few notable breakouts. In the late 80’s there was the beginning of the next movement with Sex, Lies and Videotape the new Indie boom was born. For my money the revelatory film that summer was Drugstore Cowboy, which was a gritty road movie. Based on a true story of addicts who robbed drugstores in the 70’s it was entertaining despite it’s bleak subject matter and it had a marquee name, Matt Dillon who gave an excellent performance.

Now many actors take parts in Superhero films like The Hulk, which has been played by great actors, Eric Bana (Chopper), Edward Norton (American History X) and now Mark Ruffalo (You Can Count on Me). Ruffalo even recently joked that playing the Hulk was like a modern Hamlet for actors today. Needless to say, I doubt the latest incarnation will be any less dull or silly than the past 2 films.

There was a point in time when Superhero films were fewer and some were actually well produced. 1978’s Superman is an excellent example because it had a good script, actors and director and I think it would be a great film even without the hero aspect. Visual effects should enhance a story, not replace it. CGI can be amazing and there are some incredible things they can do visually in modern movies but too much of a good thing can be overkill. Digital Intermediate is another tool that is overused, to tweak the color palate enriches some films but making many look the same and what was once a great advancement become stale and boring to look at.

There is nothing more uninteresting in modern movies than 3D, a flawed old technology that has been proven to be unhealthy for your eyes. Who wants a headache with their movie? The process actually tricks your eyes by constantly electronically flickering kind of like staring into a strobe light for over 2 hours. The most compelling elements of a good film are missing from “The 3D Experience” things like plot, characterization, scope, color, reality.

A terrible byproduct of all the 3D, CG, Superhero, Blockbusters is the absence of drama from American theaters. Once a staple of adult movie going, drama has become scarce. Especially if you don’t live in NY or LA, a drama film (usually an Indie) is nonexistent at the local multiplex. These used to be some of the most prestigious films and many were high grossing films that grew by word of mouth. There is little to offer the over 35 crowd who have fond memories of the days when they had more choices at the box office. There is so much going on in the world today and a lot has changed socially, technologically and especially economically. Our culture should reflect these rampant changes instead we get a perpetual 80’s remix that never went away, from the A Team to the Transformers our culture is stagnant.

3D is not new in fact it comes back every 30 years. The last time around was in the 80’s genre movies like Jaws 3D, Friday the 13th 3D and Amityville 3D. Hollywood was nervous about theater attendance declining due to the burgeoning home video market. Rental fees were only a few dollars and families could watch a film for much less to see feature films. The late Jack Valenti infamously referred to the VCR to the Boston Strangler, this was a ridiculous comment then but now history tells you different, the 80’s and 90’s were the most lucrative decades for the industry with a lot of the revenue coming from the home video market. In it’s inception in the 50’s, 3D came about due to studio heads being freaked out about television. It was a way to entice moviegoers to keep going to theaters along with 3D they also changed the aspect ratio of features from 1.33 to 2.35, which later led to 1.85 and other aspect ratios to look different in scope from television. It was a short lived fad with the only a few genre films and a Hitchcock film (Dial M for Murder) to it’s repertoire. This time around with massive illogical fear of the Internet (illegal downloads, Amazon Instant, Netflix streaming) weighing on their minds, there has been a glut of mediocre films with the 3D name attached.

The most well known 3D film now is James Cameron’s Avatar, the highest grossing film of all time (not adjusted for inflation). It is this film that has given the 3D craze long legs. The film is a technical marvel, stunning VFX and the best 3D to date sadly saddled with a predictable (well intentioned) story, thinly drawn characters and wooden acting. I initially liked it a lot until the mesmerizing images wore off and once you start deconstructing the movie you wonder what you liked about it in the first place.

Critics are powerless against a 300 million dollar juggernaut released by one of the world largest corporations. Critics were once a deciding factor in people’s movie going choices now delegated to a tomato-meter percentile on Rotten Tomatoes. Newspapers around the country are cutting staff and the film critic or multiple critics are usually the first to go.

One great aspect of the Internet is the individual’s access to a larger stage in the form of user comments and review. The odd part is how uniform this opinion is. A hive mind where a hyped film is released and the fan boys go crazy for it instantaneously. This is how well produced action films like The Dark Knight and Inception reach a hysterical point of praise in their first few days of being released. The few remaining critics often heap praise on as well fearing being labeled out of touch with the mainstream (even though they are still perceived that way anyway).

One notable exception is contrarian Armond White, whose main function seems to be an antidote to the knee jerk praise that spreads like wildfire on the web. When the latest comic con approved fan favorite film is released he usually has a negative review ready and waiting. He strikes a nerve with people, sometimes fans debate the merits of a film in the comments at NY Press but some actually resort to sending him death threats. His critiques are inherently flawed though because of his contrarian nature he usually seeks to ignite tempers and nothing else, many of his points are steeped in his ideology. He is a narrow-minded right wing Christian and he will pan most films that are the antithesis of his agenda no matter what their merits are.

The most unnerving part of his repertoire is his personal attacks. Now while I can agree that Noah Baumbach’s movies suck, White goes beyond that and suggests that Baumbach’s mother should have aborted him. This in my opinion loses him more credibility than anything else.

At least Baumbach’s movies actually make it into movie theaters. Once a kiss of death now it’s just another mark of obscurity having a film dumped on DVD or worse VOD (Video on Demand). Recently a group of prominent producers and directors put out an opposition letter to the studios reducing the theatrical release window, giving way to a VOD subscription service. With video stores almost sadly extinct (I’m glad Blockbuster is going though) people look to Netflix to satisfy their renting needs. The service is great in a lot of ways but the ripple effect from decreased revenues is brutal for Indies. If the majority of people are watching your film for free or from a rental stream your film will not break even. How can films with moderate to low budgets turn a profit? The Netflix streaming library has an unbelievable selection with thousands of titles including many obscure titles like Up Tight (Jules Dassin) The Offence (Sidney Lumet), China Gate (Sam Fuller) and The Big Night (Joseph Losey) – I have a long list of these I will post periodically. Sadly this will probably change (or end) at some point because of mega corporations desperately want to control and/or dismantle it.

There is still no better way to watch a movie than going to a movie theater, though in 2011 this is a different proposition than it was in the past. Many theaters charge between 12 and 15 dollars a seat plus parking and for 3D shows up to 20. In Los Angeles, there are some great theaters in fact some of the best around including Mann’s Chinese Theater, Mann’s Village, The Cinerama Dome, The Vista and my personal favorite The Nuart. Often I’ll want to go to The Arclight or The Landmark because they have assigned seating.

I love the programming at the Laemmle theater chain because they are the most reliable for Indie, art house, foreign, and documentary fare. The Silent Movie Theater as curated by Cinefamily is very reliable as well among other excellent revival houses like The Egyptian, The Aero and The New Beverly (still in business thanks to Quentin Tarantino). These places are in business because of film fans like myself.

The good news is there more ways to see movies than ever before and it is easier to dip into the vaults and watch classics. The hope is that Hollywood will fail the way it did in the 60’s making bloated big budget epic flops that gave way to New Hollywood and reinvented the business. How that will work in the new millennium with decreased revenue streams for non-event films will be interesting to watch or sad if it doesn’t materialize and Hollywood continues to limit it’s future even more.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


The year started off slow not unlike 2011. I knew documentary film making was a slow process but this was ridiculous (this was nothing compared to the endgame of clearances, distribution and still pending release). We started putting together preliminary budgets, as we needed to go to the UK at least once, Throughout January, February and March I'd really plowed away at emails. Friends and friends of friends were the way. Getting to Jim Reid was a very difficult priority and I was told several times that William was going to be impossible. I'd been emailing several people regarding Jim with the hopes of some reply. There was a long list I was working from that included all the major bands of this "scene" and there was another list of people who could comment positively I reached some and was rejected by others.

I tracked down Ian Masters on the web, he's been living in Japan for years and by sheer luck I had a good friend who just moved to Japan who agreed to shoot the interview for me. We had traded a few emails, Ian and I. He was an interesting guy and when we finally spoke on the phone he was even more fascinating. A real music lover, a pleasure to chat with, it would have been great to be there when the interview happened. It is the only interview in the Doc that I wasn't present for. A true unique and under appreciated artist whose great musical contributions from the first 2 Pale SaintsLP's to his work with Warren Defevrer to his experimental work that he has been doing in Japan for some years now. Many thanks to my good friend Rodney Jao for shooting it for me.

There were more attempts to get members of MBV, I'd been speaking to Vinita more and I also had a lead on Colm O'Ciosoig who I'd discovered lived in San Francisco. I'd traded more emails with prospective interviews. I woke up one morning and saw an email from Jim Reid, I read and reread it several times. He told me that he’d been forwarded several emails -- I was glad my efforts were working but he seemed hesitant. I laid it out how important JAMC has been to me. I could go into immense detail of how this amazing life-changing band had affected me. I will elaborate more when I tell the story of the interview. It’s funny that my true favorite album of theirs isn’t the noisiest one. I’d discovered them backwards and worked my way through the catalog. Their second album Darklandsis such a great album, so much heart, great memorable songs that had their signature feedback sound buried deeper in the mix. It should be more seminal than it is and it’s the record of theirs I listen to most. I would keep up with Jim until he agreed to meet up but he was a tough one to convince. He isn’t bullshitting when he says he is a private man, not a celebrity, not into the showbiz aspect of it. Ideally if they were they would be a more famous band in the US.

I was doing more tracking: Bilinda Butcher, Liz Fraser, Ivo Watts-Russell, Douglas Hart andBobby Gillespie were all on my list then. The only one I had a lead on was Bobby but that was going slow, eventually Bobby would lead to Douglas who is an amazing guy. My friend Matt O Toolehelped me acquire a camera in the UK so that when I went there I would have a camera waiting.

April of that year was rather traumatic on a personal level and rather than getting derailed I’d plotted out the first of 2 trips to the UK to get the bulk of my interviews. May 2006, it was a whirlwind of depression, no sleep, constant travel, bad food, meeting great people and a whole lot of talking. I will recount that in my next post, which will be up sooner than a year.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

"The Tipping Point"

When I interviewed Simon Raymonde (in 2006), he asked me what was the “Tipping Point” (a reference to Malcolm Gladwell’s compulsively readable bestseller) for the project I’d immediately thought of the fall of 2005. In August of 2005, meeting my future wife Sarah Ogletree, an amazing editor and filmmaker, who later became my producing partner and editor on Beautiful Noise and has played an invaluable role in the making of this film, was the beginning.

In September of 2005, I had an accident where I fell and injured my head but I had an interview scheduled with Andy Bell of Ride a few days later. I had to capitalize whenever interview subjects were in LA, so I did the interview anyway. I interviewed him backstage at the Hollywood Bowlbefore an Oasis concert. It was a strange environment. I am not a big Oasis fan nor have I ever been, my cameraperson Aymae Sulick and I (as guests of Mr. Bell) entered the long vacant hallway that led to a room. We were the only American’s allowed backstage and we were made aware of this as we walked back to see him.

In the room at the end of the hall Andy came forward to greet us, he was wearing a cool vintageJamie Reid designed Sex Pistols T Shirt that had the word “Nowhere” on it. He said he wore it for our interview. He was very gracious and friendly. He offered us water and asked us how we were doing, a very pleasant exchange. There were two other people in the room, a security guard who looked like Tom Hardy in Bronson; I wasn’t going to fuck with him. And the other one was some douche bag with his back to us, staring at the wall while silently strumming an acoustic guitar; he was wearing John Lennon glasses… It was Noel Gallagher. In the middle of talking to Andy, his eyes gravitated towards my forehead (I had a big bandage on my head and looked something likeBasil Fawlty when he escaped the hospital). Andy said, “Oh my god, what happened to your head”.Noel Gallagher turned around only for a moment to say: “Yeah, what the fuck happened to your face,” then abruptly turned around and pretended he wasn’t there again. Afterward, the interview with Andy was great; there was a sense of relief that Ride was going to be well represented in the film.

Following the interview with Andy, the leads started to flow in and the floodgates opened, slowly and then a downpour, it was people like Dave Newton, Nat Cramp who runs the amazing Sonic Cathedral Club and Record Label and the Multi-talented Phil King of Lush, Mary Chain, among many others; invaluable connectors. I was pressing forward and seemingly getting closer to the documentaries central interviews: Jim & William Reid, Kevin Shields, Liz Fraser. It all felt flimsy still without those names, I tried to think of things to say in my emails for the more hesitant subjects. Many of the people on my list are very intensely private people; I’d like to think of the film as unconventional. It’s so unconventional that we are still struggling with distribution. We live in a conventional world now and it’s only via the Internet we have increased access to fringe artists. But with those innovations they still have little to no chance to penetrate the mainstream. How wouldJesus and Mary Chain fare now if they were just starting out? Would they be signed to Warner? I was always surprised out of all of the bands I was into they were not more popular. In my book they are on par with legendary bands like The Velvet Underground and The Ramones and should be treated as such. Part of the duality of this day and age is that more people are familiar with them but only to download their work for free.

I’d heard from the great Sonic Boom (of Spacemen 3, Spectrum, EAR), who was very cordial and was open to be interviewed at his place in Rugby.

The amazing Emma Anderson wrote back right away and was open to be interviewed as well. I’d been sending everyone my treatment and there were a lot of positive comments as my goal was to stay far away from the cookie cutter “Behind the Music” type of rock storytelling. I wasn’t interested in who was dating who and what drugs people took, embarrassing stories or people taking shots at each other. I wanted to make an interesting film about fascinating musicians who were forward thinking about the sounds they created.

I was feeling renewed momentum as the calendar flipped to October 2005 and I made contact with even more people. I’d found out that the project was being discussed among my targets. I scoured the Internet for even more contacts, some were still elusive but there were others that were in plain sight. I’d emailed a kind of gushy email to Debbie Googe, Bass Player extraordinaire (My Bloody Valentine) and got back a very friendly email. At the time she passed on my interview request (luckily we did get her in 2007) but was kind enough to forward my info on to someone close to Kevin and I became one step closer to this elusive interview. The response came from Vinita Joshi and in the beginning I was informed by her that Kevin passed on our project, but there was a glimmer of hope, the door was not shut and I was not dissuaded. It helped that she seemed enthusiastic about our project. Plus, I had some other decent leads to Kevin.

I felt like we had to press on and wanted to track down some famous fans of the bands that were also sonically innovative themselves. There were three names that came to mind Trent Reznor,Billy Corgan and Robert Smith. They had all said nice things about this period of music, particularly Robert Smith. I’d emailed his management and a day later I received a message directly from Mr. Smith. He was very direct that he was extremely busy but was also very interested. More on him in future posts, he is such a legendary artist.

More responses began to trickle in as I was furiously sending more emails, reaching out to more people and it was very heartening that most everybody was nice and intelligent. Ian Masters (Pale Saints), Mark Clifford (Seefeel), Ali Shaw (Cranes) and my good friend Dave Pearce (Flying Saucer Attack) who I’d never thought I’d get. Dave wrote me a lovely email about how he was camera shy and was an anti-rock and roll guy but because we caught up with Alex from A.R. Kanehe was confident that we were moving in the right direction.

I’d managed to hear from all the ex-Slowdive people. Neil Halstead, Christian Savill and Simon Scott were immediate though I only managed to get Neil on camera. All great people, and I have to say such amazing timeless music. It would be impossible to pick a favorite from all these bands butSlowdive is truly unique in that they fit in more with my temperament and musical tastes now more than ever. They were a forerunner of some of best modern music around today.

Later in the month, I interviewed musical connoisseur Nic Harcourt of KCRW who had a nice office and was an informative interview. I’d started emailing with Thomas Morr, who put out the great Blue Skied An Clear Comp and put me in touch with several of his artists on Morr Music.

Fall of 2005 culminated in a brilliant interview in November with Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins(more in a future post) and would close out an amazing year. I was energized and looking ahead into 2006, tipping head first towards further great points to come.

Photo Credit: Sarah Ogletree

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"In A Different Place"

In August after a mildly productive July, there was a nice change of pace. I was emailing back and forth with Mr. Gardener and he’d mentioned he was going to be in San Diego. In addition to him,Adam Franklin (Swervedriver) and Rob Dickinson (Catherine Wheel) were to be at the same event. Me and Chris and my friend Tosh drove down there on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

Mark Gardener was just as cool for our second meeting. Our timing was perfect, the sun was at its peak and Mark was in good spirits. He had brought a few friends with him and we all drank wine as the interview took place. I enjoyed interviewing him, though it was sad when he recounted the demise of Ride, a band I’d loved so much. After we wrapped I spoke with Mark for a while and he made a very gracious offer. I’d told him I was having trouble contacting many of the people on my interview list and he offered to help.

Rob Dickinson was up next; he was the most guarded and uneasy of any of the interviews up to that point. I heard of Catherine Wheel while working at my college newspaper. We did not do music reviews but record companies sent us CD’s anyway. Many of them I would collect and bring to St. Marks place to trade in for stuff I really wanted. The deep blue cover of “Chrome” caught my eye, a fantastic album cover of three people submerged under water doing some strange acrobatics (It was designed by famed graphic designer, Storm Thorgeson who designed “Dark Side of the Moon”). The CD was flawless from beginning to end, a great album. It was 1993 and everyone was deep into Grunge or actually the commercial form of it that was massive that year, I tried to get people in to the band but pop-grunge ruled the airwaves and few listened. During the interview I told Dickinson this info, which seemed to make the interview go smoother. In the end it was a pleasure to meet him.

Adam Franklin didn’t have much time but he was a good interview and fun to meet. We interviewed him outside; he was very warm and giving. We chatted a while before and after. Swervedriver is such a cool band, they are the most hard rock of most of these bands and they do it really well. Their songs invoke such classic imagery of the open road, dangerous yet serene. They have a great song called “Duel” named after the excellent Spielberg film about a faceless truck driver running an average man off the road for the entirety of the film. Their songs are raw yet insightful, a classic band.

A few days later, I exchanged emails with Mark, he made good on his offer to help me which led to my correspondences with former Ride manager David Newton, his help in getting me in touch with people was amazing and I started rolling more emails with various contacts in the UK.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

“Getting Footage and Gaining Access”

I’d met Ulrich Schnauss in late April 2005 in Hollywood; he was my first interview for “Beautiful Noise.” It was a beautiful spring day, I left work early and hustled down to Hollywood to meet him. I got there ridiculously early and killed time at the Coffee Bean until Chris arrived. When we reached the door of the club where Ulrich was, no one at the door knew we were coming. I’d called the PR Company who set the interview up and there was no answer. We had to improvise. Walking around the corner, the back of the club was wide open so we just walked in. I guess since we were both carrying gear, security assumed that we were “with the band” so to speak. When we got in I looked around for Ulrich, it’s at this point I’d realized I didn’t know what he looked like (this happens to me again – many times). I started poking around and I found him asleep backstage, at this point someone tells me that he has the flu. I decided as long as he wanted to do the interview, I was ready to do it. It would have been depressing if the first scheduled interview of the film got canceled, fortunately Ulrich eventually got up and was adamant about doing the interview. Chris and I got situated and then Ulrich gave a very interesting interview, sharing his experiences of hearing this music when he was younger (similar to my discovery) and the impact it had on him. We chat a bit before and after, he is intelligent and friendly and talks almost as much as I do. I’m happy to call him a friend.

So at this point as the film was progressing, I started scheduling more interviews with people either living in or visiting Los Angeles. It was only days later that the next interview would happen, it was with Anthony Gonzales of M83 in Santa Monica. Another afternoon shoot, I met him after a radio interview where the station asked us to wait outside. So when Anthony came out we talked music with him near a row of dumpsters, classy I know. He was really cool, a very thick French accent but unfortunately we didn’t have much time as he was running late to his next tour date. I’m a big fan and I’ve enjoyed all the M83 releases, though “Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts” is still my favorite.

Brad Laner of Medicine was my next interview a few weeks later; we shot it at his beautiful house in the San Fernando Valley. I have always been a huge Medicine fan because they are an excellent band that everyone should know. I was lucky enough too see them play a blistering set at theMercury Lounge in New York only weeks before the band would break up. Brad and I hit it off immediately; he got what we are trying to do with the film and gave a great interview. We talked for a while afterward, we have a lot in common and he threw a hint that he was interested in scoring films (I will elaborate on that in a later post).

After many phone calls to Wayne Coyne’s (The Flaming Lips) friendly PR rep, a date was set in Hollywood at the end of the month. When I first saw Wayne he was in a crowd and he stuck out. A natural performer and although he is not at all an anti-rock kind of guy he shared his appreciation of what he described as the mysterious element of the bands of that era. His hair was kind of crazy and he had on multi-colored shoes and was generally very happy and chatty. It was hard not to laugh when he spoke; he is naturally very funny and made many jokes. I would quote them here but I’d rather not spoil the movie for anyone. It was a great pleasure to meet him; “Clouds Taste Metallic” is one of my favorites. Ronald Jones, the guitar player on that record, is one of my guitar heroes.

At this point in June, 2005, I’m emailing and calling more people and making some progress but the frustrating aspect was how far away most of the key players are located mostly in England. Finding links to Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine) and Jim and William Reid (The Jesus and Mary Chain) seemed impossible. I found out through more research that Alex Ayuli of the mighty AR Kane wasn’t far from me, I’d contacted him and he was a short drive away in Southern California. AR Kane is an incredible group, and possibly the most bafflingly under recognized band that I was covering. The song “Up” is certainly a favorite and I think everyone should check out “69” and “i” because they are both stunning works of art. It was a very hazy day, as we sat in his yard he gave an excellent interview. Alex is a very fascinating guy and amazingly talented musician. He was kind to put me in touch with the great Robin Guthrie, (Cocteau Twins) one of the most genius guitar players and producers out there, it would be a few months before I would meet him.

When I’d first heard Ride’s “Nowhere” sometime in the 90’s, I felt like I was riding waves listening to it. I sat on the floor staring at the compelling deep blue ocean photo on the cover and my imagination was going wild. One of the great albums of all time, sweet melodies, hooks, thunderous drumming and guitar playing that was out of this world. The album was so solid it was almost like a greatest hits but it was actually a debut! The songs sit so perfectly together by the time the guitar riff in “Dreams Burn Down” kicked in I’d thought that this was one of the most powerful albums I’d ever heard.

Needless to say when I read that Mark Gardener was going to be in town I’d dropped everything. I found out the day of, so I rushed down to the club he was playing at with no plan. I was a little apprehensive before, the club was dark and crowded, and I had no camera and no questions. My goal was just to meet him and plan an interview in the future. Looking around in the dimly lit club it dawned on me, what does he look like now? Any of the pictures that I’d seen him in he was boyish looking with really long hair dressed in nondescript clothing. Seeing him in the club he was definitely more mature, dressed in a casual suit and his hair was now very short. There were a few people around him when there was a momentary break I told him about the project and was relieved to find him very positive about it. When I got home that night I blasted “Nowhere” all night until I fell asleep.

July was mostly very quiet except for meeting the great writer Jim DeRogatis who was as cool as his prose. It was in August that things really started to progress.

“A Strangely Isolated Place” and “Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts”

In 2003 and 2004, Ulrich Schnauss' “A Strangely Isolated Place” and M83’s “Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts” were released. Upon buying and listening to both albums relentlessly I’d realized that the sound was re-emerging. In the ensuing months there were even more bands harkening back to the beautifully noisy sound I’d loved so much. Many reviews mention the My Bloody Valentine influence but upon reading interviews with Ulrich he was drawing from a richer and bigger canvas, many gems from his homeland Germany were mentioned (specifically Tangerine Dream) but what was really eye opening was his love for Chapterhouse, an unjustly maligned band from the early nineties. I was very impressed with him for not only being an amazing musician but for having the balls to praise music that he loved regardless of the negative perception of them in the UK. Record shopping, I found even more new bands inspired by that era and even more curiously I came across an electronic Slowdive tribute record released by Morr Music; something like this didn’t seem likely a few years before. 

I started digging around more and I came across indie labels like Darla Records, Tonevendor, Rocket Girl, Club AC30 and Sonic Cathedral, they are all committed to promoting artists who make beautiful noise and introducing new sounds in the ever-changing music marketplace.

It was around this time that I’d started thinking of documenting the period in some way, and eventually I decided to make a film. I wanted the documentary to tell the story of a style of sound that has been largely influential to progressive music of the last several years but had gained no mainstream acceptance. I wrote out a treatment then showed it to my good friend and skilled cinematographer, Chris Otwell and asked if he was interested in shooting some of the interviews. Eventually I would work with several different camera people including myself on a few occasions. It all seemed simple at first. I’d also created a budget that only included film equipment (camera, microphones, lights, tapes) and travel fees and though these nominal costs seemed high for my wallet, I decided to give it a go anyway.

It was in January of 2005 that I’d started to gauge interest from my network of film industry contacts for advice and/or funding and the response was mixed. Many people were very positive about the subject matter but I was given very cautious advice about the commercial viability of a project like this. It was suggested that I should start getting some footage and gaining access.

I didn’t really know many people in the music world; many of my early contacts were made through my brother Matt Green who led me to music industry veterans Jon Sidel and Marc Gieger (more on them later). Alan McGee (when I’d interviewed him in 2007) told me that my film couldn’t be made without the Internet and he was absolutely right. Relentless emailing and researching kept this thing going despite all odds. Thinking about it today it would be even easier now with the popularization of social media networks which so many people are a part.

Documentaries were more popular this decade than ever before but after a few Blockbuster documentaries mainstream interest had waned, even more so with music docs. Dig, New York Dolland Devil and Daniel Johnston were all well received critically but not as well commercially. This did not faze me in the least; all of these films were very interesting and compelling in their own ways. Though what I was trying to do had very little in common with those films, I did not want to lionize any one group but wanted to encapsulate an interesting cultural era. At this time, I started hunting down visual material, You Tube was my first stop but at that time it was only just beginning and was mostly only useful to re-watch old videos.

I started contacting UK footage vaults and I ordered several clips on VHS (VHS!) that I was charged a lot for, calling this a rip off is an understatement. When I got them I started wading through the footage and it was frustrating because there were very few clips (if any) for most of these bands. There was a lot of work I had to do to get started. I had to get interviews with people (my list of names was over a hundred); I had to start my film. It seemed unthinkable and unfeasible to start approaching people at the top of my list, I had no contact info, for most of my extensive interview wish list. The most natural thing to do seemed to be to reach out to interview current artists who have roots from that era; in a nice twist of luck both Ulrich Schnauss and M83 were coming to Los Angeles.

“Like A Chainsaw In A Hurricane”


It was 2004 and the mindless political environment of the U.S. election year had played out in the worst possible way. My interest had turned away from politics towards my youth. I had just turned 30 (moved from New York to Los Angeles 7 years earlier) and after writing several screenplays the idea came to me to start a project about a style of music that was an inspiration to my creative endeavors.

It was in early 1992 when I first heard the song “Reverence” by The Jesus and Mary Chain with a best guitar cover that hooked me into seeking out their catalogue. They had been around many years and I had even heard and liked some of their songs before but at that moment I was finally hooked. The overall production was intense but it was the massively thick fuzz guitar sound that was infectious. William Reid is one of the most inventive and skilled guitar players I’d ever heard and it was with that guitar sound that I became obsessed.

At that time the Internet wasn’t popularized yet, it was through hunting record stores in St. Marks Place, Manhattan that a store clerk told me about Creation Records. With help from a used copy ofThe Trouser Press guide, I slowly made my way through the Creation catalogue from My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Slowdive, Swervedriver, Telescopes, Boo Radleys and then beyond Creation to all the amazing 4AD Bands: Cocteau Twins, Lush, Pale Saints… Each revelation was as exciting as the last and over the next few years there would be even more bands that I would enjoy with the same intensity: Medicine, Curve, Chapterhouse, Spacemen 3, Loop, Flying Saucer Attack, AR Kane, Seefeel. It was an unforgettable sound; generally speaking it was an overwhelmingly loud music that consisted of long distorted guitar riffs and droning vocals that produced a hypnotically hazy world of confusion. It challenged perceptions by ushering in a new style of music that was more comparable to states of mind rather than to other forms of music despite strong varied influences from Psychedelic Music, Krautrock and Post-Punk.

It didn’t occur to me right away that many of these bands had switched gears creatively, broken up, changed names or just completely disappeared. It was a mystery to me what happened to this amazingly unique non-commercial music, virtually unknown in the U.S. when they were active, with few MTV plays and even less journalistic coverage. At the time Rolling Stone, Spin and to a smaller extent Alternative Press and Raygun come to mind, as the music magazines of the day rarely covered any of these bands beyond Cocteau Twins, The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine. Only a few books, chiefly Jim DeRogatis’s excellent “Kaleidoscope Eyes” and Rachel Felder’s equally magnificent “Manic Pop Thrill” covered more of these bands than most of U.S. music media. Throughout the 90’s I was still listening (while getting into electronic music as well) and was still challenged by these user-friendly sounds. The music was interactive in the most primal way, music I could listen to no matter what my mood. Eventually later in the 90’s there were fewer and fewer musician dabbling with these ideas, only Bowery Electric, lovesliescrushing andMahogany instantly come to mind, even Sigur Ros – there were a few others but the distorted guitar sound was mostly out and barely anyone was mentioning names like Ride, Slowdive andChapterhouse.

One of my first Internet searches ever was: “When is the new My Bloody Valentine record coming out?” Soon after searching for info about Cocteau Twins and The Jesus and Mary Chain who were still around through most of the nineties, I’d looked up many of the other band names mentioned above and I found out very quickly why many of these bands had broken up, changed names or just completely disappeared.

Some of the younger groups (notably Slowdive and Chapterhouse) were initially well received by the UK press but after poor album sales and other burgeoning movements, the press already wanted to move away from them. There were many snarky journalists' back then in the UK who wrote a lot of nasty things about these groups; mostly unrelated to their music. Though having a sizable cult appeal their influence and importance would not be heard for another decade.

This is the first post in an ongoing series, more to come...