Every week, High Fives asks five bands five themed questions over five days. This week, we’re all caught up in the release of the Bruce Springsteen documentary, The Promise, and talkin’ music docs in anticipation.
For the past fives years, there’s been some weird shit happening in Los Angeles. For a city where weird shit is going down all the time, we’re obviously talking some serious left-field, non-TMZ-type business. Centered around an all ages, DIY space called the Smell, LA has become ground zero for experimental punk and noise music in North America, with No Age helping to lead the charge along with bands like Abe Vigoda, the Mae Shi, and Health. Formed in 2005 and consisting of drummer Dean Allen Spunt and guitarist Randy Randall, No Age picked up where the duo’s previous band, Wives, left off. Waves of white noise and raucous punk songs churning underneath formed the basis of the band’s first EP and 7” releases, compiled in 2007 as Weirdo Rippers, and grabbing attention outside of the band’s Los Angeles home base for the first time. Since then, No Age have continued to win praise for their mix of experimental sounds and increasingly strong songwriting, with 2008’s Nouns landing the band on best-of lists from everyone from Pitchfork to Rolling Stone. On September 28, the band released their second full-length, Everything in Between, cementing their status as a valuable and noisy rock and roll force to reckoned with, further opening up their songs and letting their lingering pop tendencies shine through. But only sometimes. The band plays Montreal on Wednesday, and Toronto on Thursday.
What is the greatest music documentary of all time?
I really love 1991: The Year Punk Broke by Dave Markey. This doc follows Sonic Youth on their European festival tour and features Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr., Babes in Toyland, and the Ramones. I watched it on VHS all the time when I was in high school. I would memorize all the skits in between the live performances. Kim Gordon keeps playing out scenes from Madonna’s Truth or Dare. There is a great scene where Kurt Cobain plays the Kevin Costner role when he awkwardly visits Madonna backstage. This movie is such a classic!
What is the worst music documentary of all time?
Visual and Special Effects Drumming with Kato Peragine. This is not a music doc exactly, but it is definitely one of the worst/funniest video I have ever seen. It is an instructional video on how to play drums in the most visually interesting way. Kato Peragine is this New Jersey hair rocker past his prime and his accent and tight spandex make him a “I can’t believe this isn’t an SNL skit”-kinda character. He shows you how to wrap your drum sticks in neon tape and twirl them between your fingers and in front of your face. He also instructs the viewer on how to bounce the drum sticks off the floor tom. But what is hilarious is that he misses catching them half the time. This video has nothing to do with improving your musical ability. Its only purpose is to teach how to look like a huge jackass while you play the drums. So many great one-liners. “You don’t want the cymbals to block your face because if you can’t see the audience they can’t see you.” Unless your hair is teased 4 feet above your head!
Has anyone ever followed you on tour or in the studio to document you? How did you feel, and what were the end results like? If not, do you dream of the day when someone cares that much?
Yeah, we have had someone film us in the studio and on the road. It was cool, but a little weird. Especially in the studio because we need to be focused on what we are doing and it can be distracting looking over your shoulder and seeing a camera. On the road it’s cool because we’re usually just goofing around or sleeping. Nothing has ever happened with the footage because we can’t really imagine inflicting on anyone the boredom of watching us dick around in the studio and drool in the van. Maybe someday we will collect enough of it to make something worth watching, but right now it just all seems too egomaniacal to put out.
Do you think increased interest in the behind-the-scenes working of bands and records is worthwhile, or does it remove some of that patented rock and roll mystique?
I am into some of those classic album series of DVDs. I love it when they put the master tape up and ride the faders to show you all the layers that went into making a song. The Lou Reed Transformer one is awesome. The engineer brings up these David Bowie backing vocals that were never used in the final mix and it sounds amazing. Also, they talk to the session bass player who was hired to play on “Walk on the Wild Side” and he explains how he just wanted to get paid double for laying down two tracks of bass to make one of the most iconic bass lines ever. It is cool to see that nobody had any idea that the records they were making were gonna be hits and they were just regular guys doing their job. I don’t really care about rock mystique. But the self-aggrandizing masturbatory element of rock movies can be sickening. Nobody cares what kind of cereal you ate while you were making a record.
What music documentary has yet to be made that you’re dying to see?
The Black Flag story! Please somebody get Greg, Chuck, Dez, Chavo, Keith, Robo, Henry, Kira, Bill, and SPOT in front of a camera. Easier said than done I am sure. The footage of their interview in Decline of Western Civilization is awesome, but it would be incredible to get them all to tell their side of the story. I dunno. I will stick to watching live bootlegs, but it would be insane if they someone got them all on camera before they start to pass on to the other side. I don’t even wanna think about that.