Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Davie Allan and the Arrows interview 2001

Injuns, fuzz & Wild Angels in the streets: DAVIE ALLAN & THE ARROWS interview

[2001 email interviews with Davie Allan & PSYCHOTRONIC MAGAZINE's Michael J. Weldon previously unpublished]

Andrew: This part of Arrows prehistory is always a little vague - how did you go from high school choir in 1961 to releasing your first single on Curb’s label in 1963?

Davie: I met Curb in the Grant High School choir and we immediately started doing demos and then began writing some tunes together. “War Path” was the first release under my name and it also marked the first session with drummer Larry Brown. As you may know, those first two tracks were recently released on the Ace Records comp “Rare West Coast Surf Instrumentals”. To say the least, it’s a shame that those are the only two recordings of mine from the 60’s that he doesn’t own!

Here’s a long one: I guess surf music had already peaked after 1963 so instrumental bands were looking for a different image (I’ve got The Routers album full of football cheers!!!). Did you ever see the Arrows as a true "surf" band like The Ventures? Was the "Jan And Dean" image the kiss of death for instrumental bands in ‘64? Why did you guys come up with the "Indian" image?

I never thought about being labeled anything. After being inspired by Duane Eddy and Nokie Edwards (and somewhat by Link Wray), all I wanted to do was make instrumental music. The Indian image came about after “War Path” followed by “Apache ‘65”. Curb and I agreed on using the name “The Arrows” and went on to use that theme on a few of our first album’s song titles.

What did Curb play in those days? When did he take over as producer and manager?

Curb played piano on a few of the early tracks and was the producer from day one. Regarding managing, I think the 40 year lack of it has put me where I am today (wondering what to do when I grow up!).

"Apache ‘65" may be notable for the lack of distortion, but your distinctive lead playing and sense of melody is already there. What’s your feelings about the album now?

I’m proud of some of the tracks on the album such as “The Rebel Without A Cause”, “Commanche”, “Twine Time” and even “C’mon Do The Freddie” (that was recorded during a major recording session). Much of it was just thrown together. One of the tracks had been a vocal (“Indian Giver”) and you can even hear the vocal leaking throughout.

You list Duane Eddy and the guitarist from the Ventures as your guitar heroes. Were Link Wray and Dick Dale much of an influence? Did you have much to do with them in the 60s?

Link got me started on the road to “Grunge” but I didn’t get much into Dick’s recordings except for the classis “Misirlou”.

"Fuzz" was a real shot in the ass for the 60s, like a taste of things to come...can you think of anyone using it to the same effect before you?

I got into the sound after hearing Marty Robbins’ “Don’t Worry” and Travis Wammack’s “Scratchy”. Maybe Jeff Beck was first?

How did the job scoring "Skaterdater" happen? What can you tell me about the film?

Curb made the deal on doing that soundtrack. It was recorded in one afternoon with no overdubs. My drummer Larry Brown was on the session along with some studio musician heavyweights (Larry Knechtel, Joe Osborne, Al Casey and Jim Horn). When I did the recent “Skaterhater” with “The Phantom Surfers”, we tried to get the lead actor involved but he wanted no part of it.

So Corman heard your music on "Skaterdater" and went nuts. Did you ever meet Corman? Was he personally involved with the Wild Angels soundtrack or was it all through Curb?

I didn’t meet anyone back then (as a matter of fact, I didn’t meet Peter Fonda until 1994). The music was all done through Curb as were all the soundtracks. The Wild Angels was all “Arrows” but then Curb started doing the “big union session” trip with the aforementioned heavyweight types. I liked it much better before but Devil’s Angels did come out nicely with the hiring of Hal Blaine on drums and Carol Kaye on bass.

You’ve said in interviews "Blue’s Theme" was an attempt to sound like a Harley engine! Why do you think it hit such a raw nerve and became such a hit?

We definitely went for as nasty a sound as we could get. That brings to mind a show we did in 1994. We were doing a sound check when the soundman (who had no knowledge of me or my sound) asked “Can we do something about that buzzsaw effect?” Regarding it becoming a hit: I don’t know. All I know is that the film was a hit and “Blues Theme” marked Peter Fonda’s entrance. Also, “Theme From the Wild Angels” was the single until “Blues Theme” was forced from the album by popular demand.

Was Nancy EVER going to appear on the soundtrack album?

I was kept in the dark about many things but I don’t believe she was ever approached about singing the title tune. That was Barbara Pittman who did the vocal. She had gained fame in the 50’s on the Sun label. By the way, a “Wild Angels” reunion was being planned for this year to mark the 35th anniversary and the release of the DVD but the idea was dropped (no, Curb wasn’t involved).

Wild Angels Volume 2 is a weird one. Was that Curb’s first obvious attempt at recycling tracks? What was the band’s reaction?

Actually, that had started even earlier. “FUZ” magazine has a great feature titled “Curbside Recycling” that is really a hoot (although a little ridiculous). Even one of the tunes on “The Wild Angels, Volume 1” is recycled: “The Unknown Rider” was originally recorded as part of a Hondells session and released as “Sidewalk Surfing Scene” on the “Go Go With The Buddies” album.

"Angel With A Devil’s Heart" is one of those great 60s singles that could have been huge. What went through your mind when it was shelved? Who did the vocals?

You must have the 1997 bootleg CD “Bullseye” to know about that? I wrote that tune with Drew Bennett (bass) and I sang lead on it. We invited Curb to the studio to hear it and it was the most excited I had ever seen him get! He immediately pressed up a few copies and played it for a couple of radio stations calling the group “The Connection”. He didn’t get the reaction he had hoped for. Maybe if he had used our name it would’ve made a difference and it would have been the follow up to “Blues Theme”.

Sounds like one of the biggest career regrets is the disappearance of the Devils Angels multitrack tapes. How did the music rate, in your opinion?

Actually, all the multi-track tapes are apparently gone. Can you imagine a stereo version of “Cycle-Delic”? It makes me sick to think about it. Those cheap (expletives go here) must’ve re-used the tapes.

What’s your opinion of the Big Four biker films (Wild Angels, Devils Angels, Born Losers, Glory Stompers)?

Not a classic in the bunch but don’t get me wrong, it was a thrill to be involved in those and I’m still making new fans because of them.

Even the non-soundtrack Arrows albums "Blues Theme" and "Cycle-Delic..." have the biker tag. In those days did you think it was a curse, or a useful tool in getting your music out?

I loved the whole act and we really had fun with it back then. I was just looking at some photos in “FUZ” and it’s so funny when you realize we weren’t anything like we appeared. Even funnier is the fact that my rhythm guitarist (Wayne Allwine) became the third official voice of “Mickey Mouse” 10 Years later! Even today, some of the tunes I write and record could easily fit into a biker flick.

Why did you only tour the once in the 60s? Any good war stories?

We did quite a few short trips and the one tour was almost a month. We hit a different state everyday but unfortunately, the party only had a year to go. The most positive aspect of the tour was playing “Cycle-Delic” for a month and then coming home to record it.

I always thought it was amazing that the definitive 60s "freakout" ("Cycle-Delic") was made by short-hairs NOT on drugs. How did you guys work yourselves into such a wigged-out state (long hours in the studio...)? What was it like on the non-drug side of the 60s, watching the rise of the freaks?

“Cycle-Delic” was a disaster at first but after a couple of months of “live” performances, it started coming together. It really is amazing to me that we weren’t “high” when we recorded it (and “Mind Transferral”). We were just a bunch of boring, non-drugged out guys having a ball. I didn’t think much about the drug freaks, we weren’t involved in that scene or even the biker scene except for the image.

Can you describe what it was like holed up in the studio every day during the monstrous soundtrack sessions?

I really enjoyed every minute of it. A couple of times we would do 24 hours straight. It wasn’t just the soundtracks. I worked on countless sessions for other artists that were just as exciting. I can’t look on it too fondly today because I made very little money but I was too busy to notice. Also, I was so sure my efforts would pay off.

What happened to The Trip soundtrack? It could’ve been amazing...

That was a major disappointment. I thought we would’ve been a shoo-in for that one. I even wrote tunes for it but we had nothing to do with it. I don’t know what happened.

Keeping the fuzz out of Wild In The Streets sounds like a decision made by someone in a suit, totally removed from the culture the film is aiming at. Who were the robots?

Well, I guess I was the robot. I can’t listen to that album at all, what a stupid mistake! Once I got into the “fuzz”, that’s all I wanted to use and then I found myself agreeing to do an album without it! Aaaaarrrrgh!

Did you end up friends with Casey Kasem?

We never really became close but I’ll never forget how much he helped make “Blues Theme” a hit. The credit also goes to George Sherlock who was the “Tower Records” promotion man he was also the photographer on the “famous” band shots.

Did you have much to do with The Standells and Chocolate Watchband around Riot On Sunset Strip?

Nothing with The Chocolate Watchband and all we did with The Standells was a few appearances.

Curb is listed as co-writer on a suspiciously large number of tracks. What were your feelings at the time?

I think he may have written as much as 90% of the tunes I recorded. He always had to be the control freak. He did write some great stuff though as did Jerry Styner and Harley Hatcher.

Changing the band’s name to "Sidewalk Sounds" sounds like Curb elevating his position of importance by renaming it after his label/company, while deleting the "Davie Allan" part of the Arrows. You don’t have to respond, just an opinion!!!

Actually, there were other fake names such as “The Hands Of Time”, “The Visitors”, “The Back Wash Rhythm Band”, “The Streamers” and others. I felt it was ridiculous and I guess their thinking was to make it look like the roster was bigger than it really was.

FUZ describes your music as "surf fused with psychedelic garage punk". Were you aware of all of those bands around in the mid 60s, playing primitive caveman rock, that ended up on the Nuggets and Pebbles compilations?

I knew very little about the “garage” bands from that era. Besides Elvis, I was really into the English groups, especially “The Beatles”. Speaking of “Nuggets”, thanks to Rhino Records for including “Blues Theme”. I’ve actually made some money as the co-writer but all my artist royalties for it and all the other comps in which “Blues Theme” appeared have gone to the producer.

At what point did Curb lose interest in promoting the bands and records, and start concentrating on promoting his own career?

It was basically all Curb from the beginning. I elaborate on that in the book I’m trying to put together. I was there from the start but by ’68, things had changed drastically. I did sign with Curb again when he was at MGM but after a few unpromoted singles I was dropped from the roster.

How did your guitar survive all these years?

I just couldn’t give up as frustrating as it has been at times. I guess the main thing that kept me on track is the fact that the bulk of my writing has come since 1993. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because of having a producer who was able to get a lot of my product out there. The guitar is my Fender “Jazzmaster” from 1965 (with a few changes).

Did you ever need to hack up an amp to get the sound you needed?

A number of times I’ve used various distortion boxes with the distortion setting on a particular amp or as in the case of “Blues Theme”, the amp was on “10” and filled the room and all the other mics.

How long did you have the double-necker? What was the sound like?

We had been given a supply of Mosrite guitars in 1967 and that double-neck was such a great showpiece. A major mistake was selling it in 1970. It was too heavy and the sound was a little thin but I would loved to have used it once in awhile during my latest so-called comeback.


Andrew: How old were you when you first heard the Arrows on the big screen? Can you describe the feeling?

Michael: I NEVER heard The Arrows on the big screen. The movies he worked on did not play at the neighborhood theaters I attended as a kid and I didn't attend a drive in until around 1970 when I was in high school and some friends had cars. By then his movies were pretty much gone from the screens. I first heard Allan on top 40 radio (Blues' Theme) when it made the charts then on local drag strip commercials - but that was ALL I heard at the time. That hit seemed to fit in with the garage/"punk" rock scene at the time. It was up there with Louie Louie, Wipeout, Hey Joe and Gloria. Those movies (bikers, teen rebellion...) also usually did NOT play on TV often or at all. I think I saw cut versions of BORN LOSERS and DEVILS ANGELS on TV but I didn't see most of them until video in the 80s. As far as the LPs go - during the 60s, I was scraping together hard earned cash to buy the latest releases by the many top rock acts of the day - not soundtracks or instrumental albums! The only instrumental albums I had back then were The Ventures from the earlier 60s. I started buying Davie Allan LPs in the 70s when they started showing up (real cheap) in cut out bins - in drug stores and what they used to call five and dime stores. I still had to imagine what most of the movie were like then.

How would you describe the "Davie Allan sound" to the uninitiated?

Some of it was fairly tame and lame music for hire but the best tracks were an untamed grungy mixture of mind bending guitar techniques, many new at the time - like twang, wah wah, sustain, echo, and feedback. I'd compare some of his prime stuff with Dick Dale, Link Wray, Jeff Beck, Lou Reed and John Cippolina and his music was perfect for biker, drug and teen rebellion movie scenes. You should remember that when people were freaking out over the great but more blues based paying of Hendrix and Clapton and the more psychedelic guitar sounds of SF - Allan was hardly noticed or taken seriously. Even today some people seem to consider him a surf guitarist for some reason.

What's your opinion these days of the "Big Four" biker flicks that Davie scored?

I think THE WILD ANGELS is an important movie in many ways. It started the whole biker movie trend, made more people notice Roger Corman and led to EASY RIDER. Parts of it are still kind of shocking and ahead of its time when you consider when it was made.

I like DEVILS ANGELS and BORN LOSERS (which led to the whole BILLY JACK phenomena) both almost as much, but both are more "normal' movies than THE WILD ANGELS. All three are very different movies. THE GLORY STOMPERS is complete trash but you gotta love seeing Dennis Hopper in it.

What do you see is Davie's contribution to psychotronic culture?

He helped make some important movies much better than they would have been and he made some great music without much recognition at the time. And like Dale and Wray, he's still out there making great music. - Michael J. Weldon

American Movie: Chris Smith & Sarah Price interview

AMERICAN MOVIE interview with Chris Smith & Sarah Price

[Originally published in Macabre magazine #2, University of Queensland, Autumn 2000]

Easily one of the best documentaries on Brisbane screens in years, American Movie suffered from a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it season at the Dendy last month. It’s a warm and funny portrait of Mark Borschardt, a goofy-looking flannel-shirted slacker (on the surface at least) from Milwaukee Wisconsin, who happens to be possessed by the fierce spirit of independent movie-making. For two years filmmakers Chris Smith and Sarah Price followed Borschardt, his bemused family and friends, and whoever else Mark smooth-talked in front of or behind his 16mm camera, through an almost quixotic journey to finish his 40-minute b&w horror opus Coven. Chris and Sarah were both in Brisbane on a promotional junket last month to talk about a dude named Mark...

Andrew: I read an interview with you that said probably the worst review you've had was about two and a half stars.

Chris: Yeah, but that was until we saw this list of all the reviews from the year, and there were a few below that too.

Sarah: This one place, they had a range of solid stars up to... we got an empty star! Like, a hollow star?

Chris: But that was from Vogue magazine, I mean what do you expect from Vogue magazine? It's like, they're fashion, and then you have people like Mark and Mike, that are so real, and it's like two worlds, you can't expect for them to work together anyway.

They're staring at wall to wall flannelette shirts...

Chris: Exactly. Can you imagine the colour of their faces?

Although I did find the other night one review, from an Internet movie magazine, and they gave it a D-minus. Because they said Mark was just so...(long pause) They just didn't get it.

Chris: If you don't get it, it would be a painful experience. And I think it's that way with any film. If you don't buy into what the movie's about, and you don't understand where it's coming from or what it's really about, you're not going to ever come around to seeing it. And then I think it's that you're just wondering why you're watching this movie. I mean, if you look at any movie made, it's hard to find one that has a unanimous consensus, that this movie is good or bad. But in general the people that we met that liked the movie and we do interviews with, we find we get along with them well and they actually seem like interesting people in their own right. And it seems that like gravitates to like, in that sense.

It seems from what I've read that it's pretty much a universal theme, about a character trying to drag himself out of the shit.

Chris: I think it related to anyone who had a dream in their life and tried to follow it, has gone on that kind of journey that you take when you follow something like that, I think they can definitely relate to the movie in that sense.

Sarah: I think also because it's pretty contemporary, in the sense that this isn't something Mark did a long time ago. What people are finding really inspiring about him is that he's trying to lift, get over some of the personal flaws that he thinks he has, and then also juggle his adult life, having kids and getting money and paying the rent, with still being able to take that energy of when he was younger, going out into the woods and shooting Super-8 movies, maintaining that energy into his adult life, so that that's what makes him happy and that's what he wants to continue doing. I think people connect to that.

I wanted to talk to you about what you guys did before American Movie. Now, American Job, that was your first...

Chris: That was my first film. It was a narrative film that I did in the mid-nineties that had documentary elements in it. But it was basically a narrative film that was centered around working crummy jobs in the States and how that can kind of steal your soul and everything else. So it was a world that I knew at the time, and a lot of my friends were working for below five dollars an hour. So the movie was basically dealing with that. And American Movie was kind of in reaction to that. It seemed great because here you have someone who's in that situation but really trying to take control of their situation and get themselves out of that world.

You both worked on American Job.

Sarah: He did it, it was Chris's film, but I helped with the editing a little bit at the end. I was supposed to be in it, but I had to work. That's our big joke.

Were you guys were in film school together?

Sarah: Yeah, we met taking film classes. You were majoring in art a bit more, and I was majoring in film. But I was doing more experimental documentary type of stuff, just student work. But that was where we met, and we just started helping each other. That was in 1991. So we were friends for a long time before we moved up to Milwaukee. Chris moved up there to have facilities to continue or finish editing American Job, and I'd come up to visit a little bit. But we both had a professor, a visiting artist professor, who was from Milwaukee and was talking a lot about it, saying it was a great place, and if we wanted to stay in the mid-West and continue trying to do filmmaking that we should consider that as a place to go. Because it was a larger city than where we were at the time. And so Chris went up to finish that. I went up and visited, I liked the city and stayed doing some graduate work in film production up there. And that's where we started filming Mark.

So where was Mark at this time? Was he in a class with you?

Chris: I was actually teaching an independent study class; I wasn't really teaching, I was just chaperoning this group of people that wanted to use equipment over the summer. Because I was there working on my own film, and basically I just had to show up and this handful of oddball people from around Milwaukee would show up because they just wanted to use equipment, and somehow Mark ended up in this class. And ironically Mark was the student that showed up, and then couldn't afford to pay for the class so he dropped out, but his name was still on the register so I kept thinking he was in the class. But anyways... I saw him over that summer, working on Coven and doing his thing, and by the end of that summer he told me he was going to make this movie called Northwestern. And that's when I asked him if we could start, if I could go with him and start a documentary on his process.

So what started as a documentary on Northwestern ended up being a documentary about him finishing off Coven.

Chris: That's what it is on the surface, but really it's a documentary about his family and friends and their lives, more than either of the films in general, it's kind of about everything.

Sarah: And also in order to do that, Northwestern has always been his big dream film, that he's worked mentally on and in script form for fifteen years. So the idea that in order to do something, in order to approach your goal, you may have to finish other things or go through other things in order to get there.

On the strength of American Job, you were contacted by Michael Moore to work on The Big One.

Chris: Right, we both worked on that.

It just seems so perfect, because we've had The Awful Truth out here for probably going on a year now, and just about everyone I know is absolutely hooked on that show. From reading about American Job and then seeing the connection between that and The Big One, it seems obvious that Mike Moore saw American Job and went, "That's the sort of approach that I want to take."

Chris: Well yeah, but he did a lot for independent film in making Roger and Me, because it gave a lot of people inspiration to say, "I don't need to know anybody, and I can grab a 16mm camera and go out and make a movie that can get seen nationwide or around the world." And I think he gave a lot in that sense to the independent film communities. Especially with documentaries.

Sarah: He was Michael Moore before he ever saw American Job. But it was in his book, 'Downsize This', that he listed it in his 'Movies to Rent' - it wasn't actually available at the time, but he obviously saw the movie and really liked it. And it was the book tour for that specific book that he was going to go on and he wanted to document it, and we happened to have a friend that was working with him and she knew that at the time we'd already been filming for a year on American Movie, so she knew that we were working as a team and they were kicking around the idea of just having a team of documentary people OR having a larger crew, they didn't really know what. So she recommended us and then he remembered, "Ah, American Job, I loved that film." So it worked out well. But as it turned out there was a little bit of a larger crew. Quite interesting though.

So getting to see Mike Moore's guerrilla techniques up close in the flesh, that must have been -

Chris: Yeah, because you assume that he's so calm and collected while it's happening, and it's all just like routine, but every time we'd walk into one of those big companies it's like totally exhilarating and you never know what's going to happen and I think everybody's equally nervous about the whole thing and it was kind of an amazing experience to be a part of.

Sarah: But he plays it off so well, I mean that's what was so interesting to watch is, you don't know what you're going to get into and when you're inside this building, and here comes the security guard and there comes someone else, to see how he plays it off, to see exactly what he says and who he's talking to and how he gets himself in and out of these situations, it's really incredible.

Well, you get that just watching the TV show, you just get that RUSH following the camera following him through the building...

Sarah: Yeah. So that was interesting. People have asked about, did we learn anything in terms of style, did we take any of that style or whatever. But we've both always said that although we were both influenced by Roger and Me, The Big One was a very different film stylistically and had different motivations behind it. He's just a personality who has a lot of political motivations to try to right the wrongs. And whether he does that through films, books, TV shows, films are just another outlet for him.

So you guys are now a working team?

Sarah: For this film we were.

So you don't see yourselves as carrying on as a...

Sarah: No.

Chris: If the project is right. But right now we're doing different things. I'm setting up an Internet television station that's going to come up in May. And then doing some commercials in the States and different things like that. I think after doing a project this big we're excited at trying different things. So my energy is focused more at doing this website called Zero-TV, which is going to be kind of interesting and freeform. You know, things are going to have a quick turnaround, rather than something you spend four years on, rather something that you shoot in an afternoon, edit that night and post in the morning.

Sarah: And I'm finishing a film, trying to get back to editing, another documentary that we started shooting the first year that we were shooting American Movie, but this is one that I was doing camera on and Chris was doing sound on. So for one year we were a documentary team on two films, and then after one year of filming, that one was stopped, and I tried to do editing on it here and there, but it was pretty obvious that got pushed to the wayside, so now I'm going back and trying to, I haven't seen it in something like two years, but I'm going to try and finish it. And let it have its life!

You're trying to tie up all the loose ends as well.

Sarah: Exactly. It's more a closure for me rather than starting, I can't even imagine launching anything, I just don't have any, there's nothing that's new that's coming to me right now. And that's just because I need to dedicate my time and finish that film. For this film it made sense. We both said that everything had to fall into place with Mark and his friends and family. Had we met Mark two years prior, two years later, we wouldn't have got him at this point where he was 29 and on the brink of turning thirty and really was feeling an urgency, that he had to really buckle down and start creating his reality in a sense. He wasn't where he saw himself being. And Uncle Bill, he was there, everything had to fall into place in order for this film to become what it is. And I think that was the same with Chris and myself, we happened to be there, we happened to come together for this as well.

I think Uncle Bill was an important part of the film, too. Cos that really roots the character, it really gives Mark his humanity. No matter what his mouth is saying, there are those scenes where he's bathing his uncle in the bathtub. All that sort of stuff, it's really touching. And then that final card at the end, where it says Bill left him fifty thousand to finish Northwestern...

Sarah: It makes you tear up.

It does! Because the thing about the documentary is, it starts off painting Bill as a miser.

Chris: He IS a miser!

Yeah, but slowly, like the bit where he's dragging out his songbook, it turns you completely around.

Chris: It was amazing, he had all these love songs and he'd just start breaking into them while we were over there.

Sarah: And then also through that, the sense of humour that he had, it was like this amazing poetic touching love song that suddenly ended up in this very warped sort of place. But it was a sense of humour that both he and Mark shared together. We always said they were like kindred spirits or kindred souls, they shared the same ideas about life and everything.

When my girlfriend was watching it with me last night, she said it was really cool that Mark treated his uncle like a person. Instead of a problem, or a doddery old fool.

Chris: That was one thing that always impressed us, he treated everybody the same, whether you were his five year old kid or his eighty year old Uncle Bill, you still got talked to the exact same way. He talked to you like you knew what he was talking about, and you were a smart intelligent person, that was down with the program.

Sarah: And he'd call you "man" or "dude", regardless of whether it was Bill or his daughter. "Man, dude, what are you talking about?" He has a lot of real respect for everybody, I think that's also the feeling we got from Mark and what other people get when they meet him and hopefully that's what they got from the film, is that he respects everyone and he's respecting himself and he's respecting his times.

It must feel weird now that you don't have him in your pocket.

Chris: Well, it's nice not to have a camera on your shoulder. People have asked, are you continuing with this whole second part, the celebrity part of it. And it's something we thought about, before it started to happen, but then just... you can't continue doing that forever, it's just so taxing and it's just such a grind, to be on call 24 hours a day. So I think that that's someone else's movie, if they want to do it.

But that would turn into a mammoth series...

Sarah: Yeah! Maybe it could be like a 7 Up type of thing, every seven years check in. It'd be crazy. But that's what the website is for, putting on little updates and stuff of where he's at with Coven, where he's at with Northwestern.

From what I heard, it did really well in England as well.

Sarah: It hasn't been released there yet, supposedly.

Chris: It's played there a lot though, at a few festivals and stuff. Oh, it did actually go on that tour, it did go on a British tour too. But it hasn't been, the theatrical release hasn't happened. But it did go on that tour, so it has played there.

Sarah: They want us to do press they think in June for it. But yes, it's doing well on the festival circuits, internationally, and now it's still playing. It was released in the US in November, and it's now dying down a little bit, but it's still on in the US and Canada in what, fifteen theaters?

I first heard about it by seeing Mark on Letterman. And they played chunks of American Movie on it, this must have been last October.

Chris: November 13th. Or 17th, actually.

I was watching Letterman in the background, and then all of a sudden this character comes on. I was drawn to the TV. And I thought the amazing thing was, you know, he really kept up his end, and didn't let Letterman get the better of him.

Chris: It's funny how far reaching that show is.

Sarah: It's really nice, because we like David Letterman. But you know, people were worried because Letterman can be cruel to people. But he's only that way to celebrities that set themselves up in some way or other. So the only reason why Mark was even on is because David Letterman saw the film, he watched the tape and loved it. And I think he felt a connection, not just because he's from the mid-West, but because he ropes his mother into some of his stuff sometimes, like being a correspondent or something. But either way I think he felt very honestly and genuinely happy for Mark and wanted to help the film and so had Mark on, which was great. And that went really well, had him on a second time. And now he's asked him to be his political correspondent for the campaign elections! So when we get back to the US, he's leaving in about three days or something to go interview the candidates that dropped out and then work his way up to Gore and Bush. So that's the big thing, keep watching because it should be pretty hysterical. But guess the first thing he said - "We've got to get Al Gore in a Coven shirt, man!" Even the second time he was on, he wanted to find out when Sony was doing another push of the film and that's when he had Mark on again. So he really was helping in that way.

That's pretty cool, but that also marks the difference between the independent film scene in the eighties, around the time that Roger and Me came out, and now, where Sony can fork over money and say, "Here, we're going to push your film." And actually have it playing in cinemas, instead of languishing on the direct-to-video shelf.

Chris: I mean, it's amazing to think that a film like this would have a company like Sony and Columbia Tri-Star behind it.

But the whole studio monopoly thing of the eighties, that's just gone. Now you've got people like Miramax, who are competing with the big companies.

Sarah: And are becoming their own giants now, so you've got to have other upstarts now, filling it there. It's like a big circular wave of companies. That's cool.

What haven't you been asked about?

Chris: We've been asked about everything! It's been a year and a half.

Sarah: We've done a lot of press. The one thing, in the US we set up a six week tour for us. We were going to a different city a day, and there was one stretch in the beginning, like this eight or nine day stretch where we were literally flying to a different city every day, we had ten hours of press, radio, TV, we would go to a screening at night, then a Q and A, then they'd have a party, we'd go to the hotel and go to bed at two, get up at six and then fly to a different city. And we were completely out of it, but then it got a little easier. But that was with Chris, myself, Mark and Mike, the four of us were traveling together. Even when it was grueling, it was hysterical, I mean they're so much fun to travel with. So it was great. It just helps when you meet people, and you're able talk to them about the film, and especially with Mark and Mike, because everybody feels that they can ask them what their perspective is, having been followed around for a couple of years, what do they think of the final film. It's been lots of fun.

So what's Mike's reaction to the whole thing?

Sarah: He loves it. He's totally enjoying it. I don't know if you saw the website, there's a telephone number where you can call him, we put a phone in his basement, because he loves talking on the phone, so the phone number is 4-66-MIKE (laughs) and if he's home he'll pick up and he just loves people calling all the time, and he talks... He would have come here, but they pulled him at the last minute, I don't know why he wasn't able to come. But we had a re-opening in Minneapolis, so Mike went up by himself to do a Q and A and sign autographs and stuff. He loves it. He's having a really good time with it.

I think I read an interview with you where you said you weren't entirely happy with the marketing.

Chris: That was more with the ads. The poster we had a big hand in, it was our own photo shoot, Sarah picked the colour for the background, we worked with them and were involved with that. The problem we had at a few places were just with the quotes that they were putting on the ads, that painted it as this slapstick comedy, a hilarious movie, and we felt that it was much more than that and that people want to see an intelligent film that is funny but is also much more than that, and the marketing campaign seemed very geared towards, like they had "Hilarious" on there nine times.

So that's what you meant about pushing the freakshow angle.

Chris: Yeah, taking quotes like that is kind of disheartening when you think your movie is about so much more than that, and I know that personally if there's a movie that's billed as 'hilarious', one I know it's usually not funny, and two, that it's definitely not intelligent! And so it's like a little disheartening. But again it's like they do their job and we do ours, and you make that decision when you sell the film and you just have to go with it at that point. But they were open, if we saw stuff we didn't like we'd tell them and they'd try to switch it and so it was a push and pull in that sense. But definitely as far as the posters were involved we definitely got our hands into that, and the trailer.

Sarah: They actually cut the trailer, and we were preparing to cut a different one ourselves if we didn't like that, but actually they did a good job. That was pretty good. The only thing about the freakshow thing is that's not how we feel about anybody in there. I don't feel that any of those guys are freaks! I feel like they're my friends and neighbours. And they're just mid-Western, and we are too, and that's where we live.