On June 15, 2013, the much anticipated documentary, Filmage, will be making its debut at NXNE in Toronto. Filmage is the story of the Descendents and All, two bands who are beloved by many and highly influential, not just within the punk scene but all music.
Writer’s Note: I am going to break journalistic rules here. The Descendents and All are my favorite bands of all time. They were the first punk bands that I obsessed over. When I discovered them in the mid-1990s, they were the soundtrack to my life. I poured over their lyrics, consumed their records, and learned to play their songs on guitar. As I have gotten older, and they have gotten older, that has not changed. I still throw on their fantastic records and get lost in my own happy place. I am really, really, really looking forward to seeing this film.
I had the opportunity to ask the filmmakers of this project a number of questions about the bands, how the movie came together, and, above all, when we can expect to see it. A huge, huge thanks to the team at Filmage for taking the time to answer my questions.
Deedle LaCour – Director / Editor / Producer
Matt Riggle – Director / Writer
James Rayburn – Editor / Co-Producer
Justin Wilson – Director of Photography / Editor
To start off, when did you first become a fan of the Descendents or All?
Justin Wilson: As a teenager, wearing out a Somery tape that I still own.
How long was it before you noticed the guys from this one band are in another band?
Justin Wilson: Obviously, Bill Stevenson’s name pops up everywhere so he was the guy I noticed was first responsible for some of these albums. After that, I started realizing how incestuous their whole scene was, which made me more open minded about playing music with different groups at a young age.
How did the idea for the documentary come about? When were the seeds planted to begin doing this?
Matt Riggle: In 2004, Deedle and I saved up money and drove with our band to Tulsa to record with Stephen Egerton, guitarist of Descendents/ALL. Instead of actually making a record, we spent most of our paid studio time asking questions about his band or handing him guitars and saying stuff like: “Play ‘Scary Sad’ right now… Okay, now slowly, so I can actually see…” Around five years later we pitched the idea for the movie, and a year after that they said cool.
Who all has been involved in making the documentary?
Deedle LaCour: The four main filmmakers are Matt Riggle, Justin Wilson, James Rayburn and myself. Aside from that we have a bunch of incredibly talented friends and peers that have all jumped on board. A few of us work at a post-production facility called charlieuniformtango and so we have great people and resources there. IMOV studios in Belgium did cartoon animations for the film. Broadcast producer Stefany Strah and Caryn Capotosto from Tremolo Productions have come on board as producers to help get the film released.
As far as interviews and cast, over 50 formal on camera interviews were filmed with the members of the band and some of the most noteworthy people in punk rock’s history including: Mike Watt (Minutemen), Keith Morris & Chuck Dukowski (Black Flag), Brett Gurewitz (Bad Religion), Brian Baker (Minor Threat, Bad Religion), Fat Mike (NOFX), Mark Hoppus (Blink 182), and Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) to name a few.
Did you have a template or an inspiration you used as you began to build the documentary?
Matt Riggle: We did have a plan but it was huge, and it took every bit of the last two years to parse it down to something that would fit within the confines of a couple hours. We’re talking about a band that’s been at it since the late ’70s, and we wanted to cover not only the music and chronology, but all the characters involved. We knew Bill was the driving force (or seemed to be), but it was clear that everyone contributed a crucial piece to the puzzle, so we set out to capture all of it.
The Descendents and All are both immensely beloved bands by fans and musicians alike. Was there a particular person who you interviewed that took you by surprise?
James Rayburn: One great interview experience for me was Dave Grohl. Listening to a guy who has influenced music so much discuss how Bill Stevenson was a drumming idol for him, that was cool. And of course asking our interviewees “DESCENDENTS or ALL?” also produced some great answers.
In 1999, All released a greatest hits comp that had an awesome Descendents/All Family Tree. Were you able to connect with all current and former members of the band? Was there anyone who was super tough to get?
James Rayburn: We interviewed every living member of the family shrub, with the exception of Ray Cooper. Ray was very gracious with us, but preferred to stay out of the spotlight. His story is still in the film, just told through some of his bandmates. Bill was probably the most elusive person to pin down, but mostly because he is so busy.
Were there any common themes or threads that came out either between band members or fans of the groups that you were surprised by as you began to interview people?
Deedle LaCour: All the guys in the band love The Last. I was surprised by how much Joe Nolte and The Last came up during all the interviews. Also, as a huge ALL and DESCENDENTS fan myself, I was surprised to find out that many fans who love DESCENDENTS, don’t love ALL. We explore this in the film.
One of the things that the documentary trailer touched on is the frustration by members of the bands on the distinction between All and the Descendents. Was your impression that the band just sees both outfits as one long string or was there any sort of other delineation?
Matt Riggle: Each band member has his own carefully-articulated take on it, but generally most seem to feel it’s just kind of this “thing” that has evolved over a 30-year period. They see it, maybe, more as a series of “eras,” and each time the lineup shifted–no matter the band name–it was pretty much treated like a new animal. But I’d say, for the most part, they view it as a steady stream. They understand, however, that many fans do not.
The premiere for the film is coming up on June 15th at the North by Northeast film festival in Toronto. What are you feeling as that day approaches? Is there excitement, relief, nervousness, all of the above?
Deedle LaCour: All of the above. I’m stoked but there is still much to do as the date approaches and I’m really tired these days. Time for another Bonus Cup.
As I am sure there are many fans who are eager to see the film, what is next? Do you plan on playing the movie through the festival circuit? Do you have any plans in place for online viewing, DVD, etc?
James Rayburn: That is the million dollar question, isn’t it? Right now, we’re just so excited to be finally premiering at NXNE. We have been accepted into other festivals that we have not announced yet, but hope to soon. There are no plans yet for public distribution. We still have a few bonus cups to align before we can have a proper commercial release, but I assure you we are working hard on it.
Quick Hit questions:
Favorite Descendents/All album
James Rayburn: Pummel
Favorite Descendents/All song
Deedle LaCour: Cheer, Long Distance
Favorite Descendents/All lyric
Matt Riggle: Tough one. But I suppose since I’m kinda homesick at the moment it’s: “We both know how hard it is for both of us to try, and we both know how hot it is in Texas in July.”
Favorite Descendents/All album cover
Justin Wilson: My favorite Descendents album cover is Milo Goes To College for execution but Cool To Be You for concept. ALL would be Breaking Things for the practicality and Allroy Saves for the blasphemy burned into my young mind.
Best show experience
Justin Wilson: This would be the 1st time I saw Descendents at Deep Ellum Live in 1996. I went to the show with a bunch of friends, including the guys from MXPX. It was really cool to see that show with those guys because while we loved MXPX’s music, we were all just huge fans of the Descendents. It was a transformative experience to see this mythic band brought to life before us. None of us could believe how solid they were. The songs mean so much more live because the conviction they have to be true to themselves. They’re really something else.