On Friday, August 10 and Saturday, August 11, local indie filmmaker Lonnie James along with his partner Susan Simpson will assemble a crew at The Distillery to record live performances of eight of Calgary’s premier punk bands, some of them—Forbidden Dimension, the Von Zippers and the Ex-Boyfriends—the godfathers of punk in Cowtown. James himself is veteran drummer who spent a number of years in Toronto working on his career before returning to Calgary. Currently he’s a YouTube sensation in the USA hosting his wacky productions of Monster Model Madness.
Filming the live Atomic Sockhop performances is only a part of a documentary James in currently in the midst of. He and Simpson have already conducted interviews with all eight bands profiling members and asking them about their ambitions and accomplishments. Essentially it’s a personalized look at what makes punk tick in Calgary. Here James and Simpson reveal a bit of what the film focuses on and hopes to achieve.
BeatRoute: First off, why are you interested in doing this?
James: I think people need to see this stuff. It’s current, at the same it’s part of history. And no one has done it before, and no one may do it again for long time in this town.
BR: What do you hope to uncover, to discover?
James: I just want to turn people on to some of this stuff. Some of these bands never leave town, they’re local heroes, but that’s it. There’s lots of good bands in town, and this is no means the definite list of the best bands. But they are some of my favourites, and some are my friends. I respect a lot of them for what they’ve done, what they stand for after all this time. There’s a lot to be said for that. There’s tenure.
Simpson: Some of them have been together for 20-25 years.
James: (snorting) Much longer than frickin’ Nickelback!
BR: For these bands that have a lengthy resume, what kinds of things do they have to say?
James: It’s just their viewpoints, really. How they looked at things when they were younger, how they look at things now. How they still approach it. With a lot of younger bands they’re optimistic, very enthusiastic, but there’s a naiveté, they still have a hope for the future (chuckles). The older bands are a little beaten down, but still not too cynical. That comes out in the interviews.
BR: Why do people approaching 50 still want to play punk rock? Don’t you find that a bit peculiar?
James: It is. When I was 15 there’s no way I thought I’d be playing music like this at 50. I have thought about quitting, and I did for a few years. But I’m back here doing it, and I don’t regret a day. People still like punk. It’s just so passionate.
BR: What drives that passion? Is it a need to be creative? Are they still angry?
James: I think so. You work at that job; you still have frustrations.
Simpson: I also think society has become more accepting. There’s all kinds of genres of music out there, whether you’re 16 or 60, you have audiences interested and following different types of music. Back in the ‘70s if you did the littlest uncool thing, like wearing North Star runners (instead of Adidas Rom) you got harassed. Now it doesn’t matter that much.
James: It also depends were you are. We were in New York recently, roaming and noticing everyone is into doing their own thing. And you go, “This is so good, I wish it was like this at home.” It’s slow, but it’s coming around in Calgary. Much better than it used to be.”
Simpson: Punk bands are still hidden from the general view of the public here. And that’s one thing we’re trying to get out in the documentary. This music has been going on for a very long time. It exists here in a big way. And that says we aren’t just a bunch of rednecks, oil barons and software geeks.
James: There’s a lot of cool people here doing good work.
Atomic Sockhop takes place over two nights at The Distillery, Friday August 10 and Saturday August 11. The cameras start rolling at 9 p.m. sharp.
By Team BeatRoute