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 Bowl before 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 vintage Jamie 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 like Basil 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 would Jesus 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. Kane he 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 but Slowdive 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