mercoledì, gennaio 18, 2012

Blood, Sweat + Vinyl: DIY in the 21st Century / Report + Interview

Quanto segue non ha la presunzione di essere ne un live report ne un’intervista di quelle che si leggono comunemente sulle riviste o sui siti di settore. Vuole essere solo un contributo portato all’attenzione di lettori italiani su una gran bella realta’ che chi scrive ha conosciuto durante un soggiorno in California, nella citta’ di San Francisco. Non essendo un giornalista e non avendo mai fatto un lavoro del genere, mi limito a raccontare brevemente un concerto e a trascrivere parola per parola quanto emerso da una lunga chiacchierata con il regista di questo splendido documentario

Il 15 Ottobre 2011 ero all’Oakland Metro Operahouse, a due passi da San Francisco per la premiere del documentario realizzato da Kenneth Thomas intitolato “Blood, sweat + vinyl: the DIY in the 21st Century”. Mi presento al locale con largo anticipo dal momento che la protesta “Occupy Oakland” mi aveva fatto allontanare da downtown con una certa rapidita’. Dopo un’oretta di chiacchiere con dei ragazzi provenienti dall’Oregon, entriamo e ci troviamo davanti il merch desk piu’ ricco e appetitoso che abbia mai visto! Le tre etichette coinvolte nel documentario (Neurot, Hydea Head e Costellation) mettevano in mostra tutti i loro lavori piu’ belli e interessanti, perdersi in quel mare di dischi non e’ stato assolutamente difficile.

Aprono la serata gli Ides of Gemini, freschi di firma per Neurot recordings. Tempi dilatatissimi, voce etera femminile, atmosfere rarefatte per un set davvero molto intenso e coinvolgente. Seconda band: Oxbow. Autori di un set acustico al centro del locale prima di un concerto memorabile, me li avevano sempre descritti come una live band di altissimo livello, ma mai mi sarei aspettato una cosa del genere. La loro idea di musica, trasmessa dal vivo, e’ qualcosa di unico e indescrivibile. La serata si conclude con il set dei canadesi Evangelista che purtroppo non sono riuscito a vedere data l’ora tarda e la necessita’ di trovare un mezzo per poter tornare a casa.

Fra una band e l’altra, proiezione di ognuna delle tre parti del documentario. Tutti seduti in silenzio ad ascoltare interviste, report e stralci di concerti di band che hanno segnato (e stanno segnando) un epoca.
Nei giorni successivi ho incontrato Kenneth in citta’ e ci siamo fermata a parlare a lungo del suo progetto, quanto segue e’ cio’ che e’ emerso dalla chiacchierata....

Hi Kenneth! Whose was the idea of this project, how many people are involved into. How much time did it take you to have all these interviews and how long was to put everything together.

Basically I came out with the idea, it came to me because between 2000 and 2005 there were a lot of music documentaries being made mostly about music of the past like Punk rock music, or film about music from the seventies or the eighties made for band such as Black Flag, Ramones and about al the people involved in that kind of movements, and for me it’s very inspirational but at the same time nobody in the documentary was talking about how they had inspired people today. This punk rock idea of starting your own record label and not trying to be signed by a major label basically doing everything yourself otherwise is not called DIY people like Neurosis stuck doing that, people like Isis were doing that, people like Godspeed you, Black Emperor! are doing that and I basically felt like something needed to be made to talk about what was happening today with those punk and DIY ideals. In my opinion bands like Neurosis, Isis and Godspeed you black Emperor! and the bands under their labels are just as important to the evolution of the music as band such as Black Flag and Circle Jerks, all these bands of the past of which have talked about, left and right, and now it was time that someone talks about Neurosis and the others, I should be the one to do it! (laughts...) Things change and I hate the idea that people forget about all these awesome bands.
I got the idea in October 2005, I was looking at my records and I thought “Wow I have so many releases of Neurot, Hydrahead and Costellation.” Each of these three labels has his specific aesthetic, look, and there are a lot of differences as far as like the music that they put out, but they all operate under the same sort of philosophy. It just happened to be that the band Pelican was playing in Los Angeles that night and I was living in LA too. I run down to this tiny, dark, smoky little bar called The Mountain Bar in Downtown Los Angeles and I met Larry, the drummer of Pelican and I just pitched the idea of the documentary, and he answered me that Aaron Turner was there, so I could talk directly to him, I mailed him the idea and he reply me “Great!” I purposes him to shoot a footage of the Isis concert in Los Angeles the week later, and he agreed. I told him: “I will film your next show on November 5th 2005 with 3 cameras and a soundboard recording and you guys can use the footage for whatever you want as long as I’ll use it for the documentary and you agree to an interview. And he said “Yes”. Then Isis used that footage for a DVD released the next year called Clearing the eye which is basically a bunch of concert footage, and then I sat down with Aaron and the whole thing started from there.

The subtitle of your documentary is “The DIY in the 21st century”. We all know that these three labels keep their jobs under the DIY philosophy but we know that they became landmarks for this kind of music in the latest years as well. How can they combine these two aspects and how did they relate themselves to you?

Everybody was extremely accommodating and I think part of it is because these labels are very tight communities, there’s a high degree of trust and integrity and once I interviewed Aaron Turner from Isis then I was able to contact the guys from the band Cave In, because they were in town a couple of months after I interviewed Aaron and because I interviewed Aaron they said “Oh, well we heard about this thing, we’re cool with that!” Once I did that, I was able to contact Pelican and they remembered, and from there I was able to contact Steve Von Till just through email but because I’d already interviewed people who he knew personally and respected. They’re all really nice but they all have very busy schedules and I was able to show them some video samples and some interview samples as a way of saying this is my idea. I’m really serious about it and this is my proof; look at this samples there is Aaron Turner talking there is Isis play, shots of Pelican play. It was important for me to shoot everything as professional as possible just because my background is being a documentary camera person in general, so that’s just how I shoot and so I think that what I was doing was gonna be professional. Moreover because I had already talked to people that they respected and so it was easier for them basically to give me a chance and everyone makes very heavy and intense music. They’re all very nice and accommodating and there’s no ultimate personalities, so what you see is what you get, they’re not trying to hide anything. Because my philosophy was: “This is my documentary but this is your music so as far as who owns the footage I say we both can use the footage for whatever we want”, so letting them know that is what I felt about the project from the beginning developed a mutual respect and trust and I also let them know every step of the way what was going on. I wanted to make sure that everything was alright and I treated it as a cooperative effort; the whole way through and because of that I was able to get some exclusive access to things I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. I interviewed Steve Von Till up in Idaho where he lives, got to go inside his recording studio, he plays some Harvest Man stuff and he let me just videotape, it was cool because it was stuff that will soon be on the album “In the dark tongue” so that was really exciting.

Keep talking about DIY…

It’s interesting because a lot of these bands who choose to live and play under the DIY philosophy who make this choice basically don’t make a full living at this kind of work. All these bands have to have other jobs besides the musicians and there’s a Steve Von Till quote in the documentary where he says that the most important thing for them is the legacy they leave behind and I think that is the common idea behind people who subscribe to the DIY philosophy is because if you wanted to make music that became popular you’d be operating under a different idea of how to create music and that different idea would be somebody else’s idea like that would be a decision coming from a corporate media head saying this is the type of music that sells records this is the type of music that you’ll hear on the radio and if you are concerned with looking back at your life when you get older and saying “Wow, I really made something worthwhile” it’s hard to imagine people who made music specifically to be popular and specifically to be on the radio looking back and saying “Wow I did something that really had a lot of integrity and really came from my soul” and I think as Steve Von Till said the most important thing is the legacy. The thing that was confusing to me is that there are bands like Flaming Lips and bands like Tool and Mastodon that are very rare because they’re bands that are pretty much in full control of their artistic direction and whatever music they want to make and their music is not played on popular radio because their songs are too long or too weird but for some reasons they’re on major labels. What I don’t understand is how can more major labels don’t see that Mastodon Tool and Flaming Lips sell a shit load of albums, if major labels give the artists a little more freedom to control and with these examples it can totally benefit the labels but for some reasons major labels still operate under the idea this is the music formula that works, these are the bands that we want to sign because they’ll write the music that will sell records, make us money.

I noticed that there is a lot of stuff inside the box set for the limited edition. There’s some particular reason? Why did you decide to put everything together?

So much of this documentary was made inside live music venues, inside rock clubs and I wanted to give people who bought the limited edition box set some special items that reminded them of the merchandise table at the rock club because when you go to see a band like Pelican or Neurosis or Isis you go to their merchandise table they’ve got t-shirts and goodies but Isis for a while had a limited edition toy, Neurosis had … all these bands had weird little items that they sell that are really cool and really rare because you don’t see it all the time and I wanted to do that: take that idea and put it into the limited edition box set so when it sells out and then more are made you still have the CDs and probably the booklet and the other stuff was specific for the limited edition. It’s like vinyl, there’s always a limited of colored records. We wanted to do the same thing for here because this is all about the music.

Have you already had any European screening yet? How are the first screening going here in US? Any plans to come to Italy to promote your documentary?

Portugal is happening a week from now (October ndr…) but the promoter of that festival is really excited about showing this movie so I’m assuming that it’s gonna be great and Supersonic (UK) happened last night and unfortunately I could not make it but I saw a couple of Twitter feeds where people were really excited about it which is the response I was looking for that people see it as something important that needed to be made. The festival that we just did in Oakland we did a lot of advertising, a lot of posters all over town, postcards, every bar and coffee shop that we could think of where people who like this kind of music would go, we got an interview in the East Bay express which is a local newspaper and that all helped a lot and people were there to see the bands, which were Evangelista, Ides of Gemini and Oxbow but they were also there equally to see the film. I wanted people to come and see the music and it’d be great if they paid attention to the film but when we played the film everybody was dead quite and was paying a lot of close attention and I was very excited about that because I realized that was the best way to show the film, in a rock venue with other bands that inspired the making of this film, and everyone was appreciating the bands and the film at the same time. So we’re hoping to continue that next spring. In April we’re planning on doing a tour that involves multiple cities in France, in Germany, and we’re hoping to get to Italy, we’re working on that as well so like I said what we’re planning in France is similar to what we’ve done here, but it’ll also be great to see the movie screened in cinemas and as long as the fans of this music know that this movie has been made I think that people will really dig seeing it so we’re gonna be in the neighborhood, so if people in Italy want to see it we can set something up.

-Alessio Corsini

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