“Video from “The Boombox Collection: Zion I” (about 10 min)
Zion I, as part of “The Boombox Collection,” is described as “an intimate portrait and performance series peering into the minds pioneering “working class” Hip Hop artists.”
“Zion I” was directed by Mohammad Gorjestani. (Played at Noise Pop Festival, Artists’ Television Access, Feb. 18th.
Zion I: You can feel the downhome sincerity here. Here in the Oakland ‘hood. You can Zion I at home, at work, and eventually giving the kind of performance that’s sustained them 20 years and counting.
DIY does not translate well when applied to gentrification.
At the helm of Zion I is Bay Area MC Zumbi, who has been steadfast in his choice not to rap about “money, power, and bitches,” and instead shares his knowledge and wisdom at the cost of mainstream acceptance.
Production Company: Even/Odd
Directed by: Mohammad Gorjestani
Produced by: Malcolm Pullinger Director of Photography: Mike Gioulakis
Even/Odd is a production company & creative studio founded by filmmakers.
Regardless of format, our aim is to capture authentic stories and cinematic worlds driven by characters exploring relevant issues and timeless themes.
Our work has earned a Webby Award, two SF ADDYs, and numerous Vimeo Staff Picks, and has been featured by The Guardian, VICE, The Atlantic, and industry publications like AdWeek and Filmmaker Magazine.
We have collaborated with notable partners including Airbnb, Square, Pinterest, and Google. Our films have been created with agency partners as well as direct-to-client. Our independent projects have screened at prominent film festivals including SXSW, Tribeca, and DOC NYC.
As a full-service production company, we take on projects from end-to-end or any step along the way.
We are based in San Francisco, and work globally.
The Boombox Collection: Boots Riley
Boots Riley, frontman of the politically-radical hip-hop group, “The Coup”, takes us on a drive through Oakland, and reflects on his music, his future, and his relentless revolt against capitalism. The film is part of The Boombox Collection, a series of shorts about the pioneers of hip-hop.
Released in partnership with Adbusters.
This most famous song title by LZ also informs the title of this Sarah Price-directed (“American Movie,” “The Yes Men Save the World”) documentary.
To think that when I first heard the name “L7,” I thought it stood for a Lagangian Point, that is, a point of space between two large gravitational bodies that is relatively stable; a parking space, if you will.
L7 is a 50s term, meaning a “square” – a kind of person–not a smoke. If you put one of your hand’s thumb and forefinger to form an “L,” and the ones, on the other hand, to make a “7,” put them together– and you’ve got a “square.”
Well, L7 has been called far from square—but it can also mean “odd-“ – and this doco delightfully proves it.
Beginning with a scene in a van where shadowy figures are bouncing up and down and a decidedly urgent voice is screaming, “Just shut up and fuck me, dammit, just shut up and fuck me!”
Ha ha. It was just a ruse. These women are pretty funny!
The film moves to scenes of tour and concert scenes. According to the Guardian UK newspaper, “Pretend We’re Dead” picked out footage from ’85- ’01 over 100 hours of Sparks’s personal assortment from her archives. “We documented ourselves pretty well because we thought no one else would care,” says Sparks. “It will be evocative of an era that doesn’t exist any longer.”
In front of a Peterbilt truck, the band members announce themselves:
Then the film explodes into “Fast and Frightening” —
“The film includes the band’s never-before-seen home flicks, performances, talking heads, and meer-poppins.”
L7-We hear from one of their biggest fans, Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic (also Foo Fighters and Flipper; director of “L7 – The Beauty Process”)—“They had the riffs, the rhythm—they just rocked!”
An L7 concert was such an unpredictable barrage of sound and mayhem, within such primal thrash, that they were first classified as heavy metal. But as time wore on, it was obvious they were nothing like the misogynistic, intolerant or violent heavy metal bands of the day.
Shirley Manson opines about the band in a snippet: “”They were openly, brazenly, feminist, and I really responded to that.” Garbage bandmate and the producer of L7’s album “Bricks Are Heavy” Butch Vig and Veruca Salt’s Louise Post, Joan Jett, X’s Exene Cervenka, and others are highlighted in the film. Look at L7’s visit dates here.”
Donita Sparks was born in Chicago, grew up in a suburb — Oak Lawn–made the ‘scene’ in Chicago (at such seminal clubs like O’Banion’s, the Lucky Number and Neo) as a teenager but soon after graduation from high school moved to LA.
L7 co-founder Suzi Gardner (who later became famous for being the first woman to be “tit cast” by Cynthia Plaster Caster), lived in the Silverlake neighborhood where “all the art punks lived.” She had developed a reputation for being a poet and writer (LA Weekly), which pissed her off because she wanted to be known as a ROCKER [emphasis added].
Another Chicago native, Dee Plakas joined L7 in 1987. After running through a number of drummers L7 welcomed Dee to the band in 1987.
Jennifer Finch, even though she played with Courtney Love in S.F. band Sugar Baby Doll/Babylon and with the LA band the Pandoras, was not a very accomplished bass player at the time she met Donita and Suzi, but her connectedness with the LA punk scene impressed the members of the band and so she joined, making up for her lack of technical virtuosity with attitude. She was responsible for taking the band to the next level but departed in 1996.
Courtney Love kept in touch with the band and convinced them to come to Seattle, which was like the difference between night (LA) and day. They were treated like a real rock band, not a novelty–and their performance led to a signing by SubPop, a leading alternative label; and which led to a tour of Europe. “Smell The Magic” their second album followed (1990).
In 1992 they were signed to Warner Brothers/Slash/Elektra. Grunge had become everywhere, thanks largely to the massive success of Nirvana’s “Nevermind.” Bands like Sonic Youth were being played on MTV and underground bands were being featured on “Nightflight.”
Their album, “Bricks Are Heavy” produced by Nivana producer Butch Vig, was a dip in the sea of heavy metal while still on the beach of grunge. It received generally positive reviews and was their best-selling album to date. “Pretend We’re Dead,” written and sung by Donita Sparks, was one of the eleven tracks on the album, and it received significant airplay not only in the US but in many other countries as well.
(Some have noted that the riffs on “Pretend You’re Dead” sound like a speeded-up version of a Suicidal Tendencies song. As far as I can tell the bands are friends, and no offense was taken. A similar charge was levied against Puddle of Mudd’s “She Hates Me,” but that’s another story.)
Around this time, In 1991 L7, along with the music editor of LA Weekly, started Rock 4 Choice, a series of concerts to benefit women’s pro-choice groups. They went on for a decade and provided a venue for artists Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Melissa Etheridge, Siste Double Happiness, Foo Fighters, Hole, Joan Jett, the Offspring, Salt ‘n’ Pepa, Pearl Jam, and many others.
There is footage of L7 in 1991-92 at Smart Studio, Butch Vig’s audio workshop in Madison, Wisconsin, where Butch Fig recorded “Bricks. . . .”
Their European Tour, “Hungry for Stink,” their fourth album did fairly well, especially in the UK where one of their singles from the album, “Andres” made it to #34 on their music charts. They did not make a “stink” at Lollapalooza ’94, where they were booked in the daytime. not as controversial as their Reading ’92 one, where Donita Spark pulled out a tampon out of her vagina and tossed it into a crowd, riotous and angry, due to an equipment delay.
Most of the time they spent offstage partying and getting to know the other bands– George Clinton, Smashing Pumpkins, The Breeders, Beastie Boys, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
Japan tour. Selling their panties to fans. Concert in London. Warner Bros. dropped them while they played with KISS and Rage Against the Machine.
Frank Zappa once said, “When you go on the road, it makes you crazy.”
Back to where they started: DIY. “All we have is us—us, and a booking agent. So they started their own label: Wax Tadpole, and put out their sixth and final album done in a studio, “Slap-Happy.” In collaboration with Bong Load Records.
LZ was reduced to a trio, as Gail Greenwood, the most recent bassist left the band. before recording it.
Bong Load would have major success with a single “Loser,” by Beck in 2001, but not this one album. Lagging sales were bleak, critics were divided. Eventually, the unsold copies at a distributor went into a landfill.
It was, therefore, no surprise that the band went in hiatus 2001
All in all, besides the ones already mentioned, director Price interviewed CSS, Allison Wolfe (Bratmobile), Exene Cervenka, Lydia Lunch, Joan Jett, 7 Year Bitch, Louise Post (Veruca Salt), the Donnas’ Allison Robertson, and Distillers founder Brody Dalle.
Much more to tell. Just go see it. It was crowd funded by a Kickstarter campaign.
The annual Noise Pop Festival in San Francisco is twenty-five years old! I have been ignoring it for so long that I decided to visit one of the venues, Artists’ Television Access, the non-profit art gallery and screening salon on Valencia in the heart of the Mission District in to watch some of the films, one a feature length import from Germany called “My Buddha Is Punk.”
1. Dharma Punk-tuation
(2015) (1 hr 8 min) #music #punk #documentary
Kyaw Thu Win Is in a punk band call Rebel Riot. He is a cheerful mid-twenties-year-old who lives in Yangon (AKA Rangoon), the largest city of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). His homeland is a burgeoning riot of over 100 ethnic grouping just north-west of Thailand and sharing a long border with it going south.
At the time, Myanmar was run by a military dictatorship, albeit slowly making political reforms amidst the rise of pro-democracy advocate and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party, the National League for Democracy, but there is still a civil war going on, and with multiple ethnic clashes, especially between Buddhists and Muslims.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the country in 2011 and President Obama one year later.
The country has been under military rule for about thirty years. An ostensibly civilian leadership came to power in 2010, but there are few real civil freedoms.
Kyaw is determined to develop the punk scene in Myanmar. He lives in a communal arrangement called Common Street with other punks, and travels repeatedly to regime’s promises, and wants to raise awareness of his country’s repeated violations of human rights.
Through his music and demonstrations, he criticizes the ongoing civil disturbances in Myanmar and the targeted persecution of ethnic minorities nonaligned with the government.
He travels the country and at his own band’s gigs to promote his own spiritual and political philosophy among the young generation: it’s a melding of Buddhism and Punk that is purely non-religious and non-authoritarian. This presents a major challenge for him, a dilemma that is not resolved but fuels the energy of his passion as a cultural renegade and musical creator.
This is a very impressive production done entirely by a German crew. It is making the rounds of festivals and university screenings and can be watched in its entirety from one of the sources here.
About the Director
Andreas Hartmann is a filmmaker and cinematographer headquartered in Berlin. He won a scholarship to Myanmar to make this, his second documentary during 2012 and 2013. His new documentary Free Man (2016), is about a young nonconformist living on the streets of Kyoto as a jiyujin (free man).
A Documentary About Iggy Pop
and the Stooges, by Jim Jarmusch (108 min)
Rock ‘n’ roll does not lend itself to sober accounts well removed from the heat of the moment. Nor does it bury its dead. As a band fueled by raw exuberance, the Stooges crashed and died in the arms of their critics and fans by their third album, “Raw Power.”
Years later they seemed to come back to even greater acclaim. This idea for a film on the band came at one of those moments of popular reprise. Iggy Pop, no stranger to Jim Jarmusch’s style, and an occasional actor in his films (“Coffee and Cigarettes,” “Dead Man”) broached the topic with the eclectic filmmaker, during a Stooges revival tour in 2008.
Iggy Pop and Jim Jarmusch have been good friends for the last twenty-five years, though Jarmusch’s adulation for The Stooges goes beyond friendship. As he comments about the band–“No other band in rock ‘n’ roll history has rivaled the Stooges’ combination of heavy primal throb, spiked psychedelia, blues-a-billy grind, complete with succinct angst-ridden lyrics and a snarling preening leopard of a front man who somehow embodies Nijinsky, Bruce Lee, Harpo Marx and Arthur Rimbaud.” In another moment Jarmusch hails them as “rock and roll’s greatest band ever.”
This film is a part biography of Iggy Pop, the main character in the telling of the story, but it seems to his celebrated solo career, where he had his greatest commercial success. Still, enough of The Stooges is enough, and Iggy holds the narrative together like mayonnaise on a sandwich.
Jarmusch lets Pop conduct the flow of the conversation, with his bandmates, Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton, James Williamson, Steve Mackay, and Mike Watt, given their moment to shine as well. Most of them are gone, but Jarmusch was able to catch all of his early cohorts, even such influencers like the lead singer of the MC5 Wayne Kramer, and their manager and White Panther founder John Sinclair. (One exception – Stooges bassist Dave Alexander who passed away in 1975).
We see his Iggy in review – born Jim Osterberg, son of a Cadillac-driving, high school English teacher and coach, growing up in a trailer park in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where he played drums in the living room of his family’s mobile home. He had a great relationship with his parents, although we don’t hear much about his mother. Osterberg says.
“They helped me explore anything I was interested in. This culminated in their evacuation from the master bedroom in the trailer, because that was the only room big enough for my drum kit. They gave me their bedroom.”
Through an expert use of live footage from the era—including some amazing segments filmed by Loni Sinclair, John Sinclair’s wife–interviews with band mates, short cuts from 60’s TV shows, and stop action animation, the director and his talented crew kept the action of the story’s history moving.
Pop playing in the frat band Iguanas, where he got his name; appearing at the teen dance club The Ponytail–his drumming in blues-oriented The Prime Movers; a brief sojourn at the University of Michigan; meeting the Asheton brothers, his co-creators of The Stooges, originally called the Psychedelic Stooges.
At his cusp of his bandhood, Iggy was impressed by the energy of the bands he saw in Ann Arbor and Detroit. Not only the MC5 but also national acts like the Jim Morrison and the Doors, the Sonics — and ‘black’ acts — Bo Diddley, James Brown, Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters. And one of the biggest at that time, at least in the Midwest, was the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. In a meeting with Mike Bloomfield, bassist for the band Iggy was told: “’If you want to learn to play [the blues’, you have to go to Chicago.” So he went and gigged with the likes of James Cotton and Johnny Young when they went to the ‘white’ suburbs.
No British Invasion for him. He was dedicated to recreating the sound and the mood of the ‘real’ blues he discovered in the smoky gin mills of Chicago’s South and West Sides. Which ironically enough was the motivation for much of the British Invasion.
The MC5 played a crucial role in the recording career of The Stooges. When Danny Fields, who was working for Elektra Records at the time, flew out to Michigan to hear them live, he also heard the Stooges, a local band the MC5 were raving about. The Stooges also got signed to Elektra and they dropped the adjective psychedelic from their name.
Ron Asheton called up Moe of the Three Stooges to ask for their permission to use ‘The Stooges’ as the band’s name. Moe replied that he didn’t care what the fuck they called the band as long as they didn’t call it The Three Stooges!
Interesting factoid. Leni Sinclair, the wife of John Sinclair, manager of the MC5 and one of the founders of the White Panther Party, shot much of the footage included in the film.
One reviewer notes, “Iggy’s so chill he does half of his talking heads next to a washer and dryer, while guitarist-turned-producer-turned-engineer-turned-guitarist James Williamson files his from what looks like a public restroom.”
There is much good to say about “Gimme Danger,” and I can’t think of a single bad thing to say about it.
Last question—when is Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk – by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain — which has one of the best recollections of early Iggy and The Stooges I have ever read — going to be made into a movie?