Records Collecting Dust, the new vinyl-centric documentary from director Jason Blackmore, features Jello Biafra, Mike Watt, and more, combing through their collections, treasures, inspirations, and occasional horrors. It plays Sunday, March 8th, at the Grand Illusion Cinema. Blackmore took some questions over email.
Seattle Star: The names on the screen sometimes go by so fast I couldn’t keep track of them–but I loved all of the stories. The guy with the Sgt. Pepper story, the one with the prog rock fetish–is that Keith Morris? Did he turn out to have every prog record ever made?
Jason Blackmore: Yup, Keith Morris of Black Flag/Circle Jerks/Off! fame. Not sure if he had all the records he was mentioning.
Seattle Star: I also loved the guy with the “Haunted House” record, since I had and loved that record in my own childhood–it actually used to scare me silly! Did you know that record? Did he play any of it for you? (“Chinese Water Torture” would probably be left off today, for one…)
Blackmore: That was David Markey. He was in Sin 34 and Painted Willie. He did the Desperate Teenage Lovedolls movie. I didn’t have that record. I had the Sounds Of Terror record when I was a kid. Very similar. I still have it!
Seattle Star: For the most part, the records people talk about aren’t actually heard on the soundtrack. Did you know going in that you weren’t going to have much of the music? Did that shape how you encouraged your interviewees to talk about the music?
Blackmore: Ha! Well I knew I wasn’t going to be able to afford paying for the use of a Zeppelin or Beatles song. That’s for sure. If I had that kinda money I wouldn’t be making films. I’d pay somebody else to do it. Ha Ha!
Seattle Star: The “On Top Of Spaghetti” bit was an exception to the above. How did you manage the rights to that?
Blackmore: Shhhhhh. It’s a secret.
Seattle Star: The movie doesn’t knock compact discs or cassettes, but except for Kira’s cassettes, those formats aren’t seen much in the film. Did you have a pro-vinyl agenda going in?
Blackmore: I guess you could say the main focus was vinyl. I have nothing against CDs or cassettes. But yeah, the point was vinyl. That is the format I grew upon. And still have a love for.
Seattle Star: Which interviewees were familiar to you before filming, and which were strangers? How did you make contact with the ones you didn’t know?
Blackmore: I live in San Diego. So all of those people (John Reis, Pall Jenkins, Roger Lane) I know. And I already knew others like David Yow from the 90’s. My old band Molly McGuire played with Jesus Lizard a few times back then. I basically worked my ass off to contact people. Phone calls, emails and good ol’ Facebook. Some people hooked me up after they were interviewed. Like Mario Rubalcaba hooked me up with Keith Morris. He was like, “You gotta interview Keith. He would love to be in this film!” And of course I was all “YES Please!” So he put me in touch with Keith.
Seattle Star: Jello Biafra on “Up With People” and Glenn Close’s secret past, cracked me up. (I just read about that whole business in a book Ms. Close’s sister wrote.) Out of everyone’s picks, which ones surprised you the most, and why?
Blackmore: Ha! Funny stuff. I’d say Jello was my biggest kinda “No Shit?” To hear him talk about Creedence Clearwater Revival, that was very odd to me. He’s like THE punk rock president. I would have never guessed that CCR was the band that got him into music.
Seattle Star: Which records did you learn to love from making the film? And who recommended them?
Blackmore: Hmmmmm. I grew up on most of the bands and records that are talked about in the film. I guess I really didn’t find out about anything new that made me run out to the local record store or get on my computer to hunt it down. Maybe Danny Benair talking about The Honeybus? I didn’t know that record or song before the film.
Seattle Star: What films inspired and influenced you to make yours? I’m seeing some similarities to High Fidelity, Vinyl, and So Wrong They’re Right…
Blackmore: I think American Hardcore is the film that really made me think, I wanna make a documentary. I have always been a fan of music docs and music related films. I remember watching Woodstock when I was a kid and being totally blown away. I love that kinda stuff. Like a time capsule of awesome performances and events. I wanted to go back in time and be at Woodstock. Of course I couldn’t, so watching the film is as close as you can get to being there.
Seattle Star: Which films, and filmmakers, inspired you in general?
Blackmore: I love Terry Gilliam. Stanley Kubrick. Of course they are huge well-known names. But if I had to name a couple names, there you go. But it was films like American Hardcore, I Need That Record, We Jam Econo, Open Your Mouth And Say…, Mr Chi Pig, and You Weren’t There that inspired me to make Records Collecting Dust.
Seattle Star: You’ve stated that your film is “not a punk-rock film. And it’s definitely not a film about collecting records.” How do you draw the distinctions?
Blackmore: Well, of course most of the people in the film are associated with “punk rock”. But they aren’t talking about “punk rock records” necessarily in the film. And most of them aren’t collectors nor do they consider themselves collectors. Plain and simple the film is based around people that I would say for the most part had an impact on me and made me pick the path that I chose in life. I wanted to ask them what records/songs/bands made them who they are today.
Seattle Star: Which interviewees were the easiest, and which the most difficult? How did you work through the difficult ones?
Blackmore: I wouldn’t say anybody was difficult. But it was really tough getting Jello to commit to a date. He’s a busy man. I didn’t even know if I was going to really get to interview him until the night before. I had been communicating with his assistant for three or four months trying to pin down a date. My camera guy and I drove up the night before and that’s’ when his assistant called and said, “OK, it’s a go for tomorrow at 7pm”. We showed up at his door and that was the first time I had ever even spoken with Jello. Five hours later, we were in his bedroom listening to music and talking about records after the interview. That was a surreal moment.
Seattle Star: Will you have any bonus materials available on the DVD?
Blackmore: Yes. We will be adding some bonus footage for the DVD. Including an interview with me.
Seattle Star: What’s in the future for you and the film?
Blackmore: Well, the film is showing in theaters coast to coast at the moment. Over 50 dates have been booked. I’m really blown away by that. Very cool! I would really like to make an East Coast version someday. We shall see.
Seattle Star: Seeing as you live in the San Diego area, did you run on anyone who remembered Lester Bangs?
Blackmore: Nobody brought up ol’ Lester.
Seattle Star: …I hate to do this to you, but I couldn’t help it: What’s the first record you bought and the story behind it; the last record you bought and the story behind it; and your Desert Island Top Five?
Blackmore: Oh Shit. Ha Ha!
Can’t remember the first record I bought. But I do remember the first record that was given to me. My Grandma Blackmore bought me The Jimi Hendrix Experience Smash Hits record for my birthday. I was probably 6 or 7? I was a huge Hendrix fan. Still am. That all started when my dad sat me down in front of the home stereo and put headphones on me. He had Electric Ladyland on 8-track. He made me listen to “All Along The Watchtower”. That blew my mind! That’s where it all started for me. My dad and I have talked about it and we think I was three years old.
The last record I bought was a couple nights ago. I went to see Swervedriver at the Casbah and I bought their new album, I Wasn’t Born To Lose You.
I can’t really answer the Desert Island Five, but I’m a sport. I’ll give it a go. Hmmmmm, well, in no particular order here are the first five that come to mind: Beastie Boys Paul’s Boutique, Jimi Hendrix Band of Gypsys, ZZ Top Degüello, Black Flag My War tied with Damaged, Van Halen Van Halen.