interview: writer & director gorman bechard

automatic for the joshua tree: tripp

Back in November, I was sending a raft of pitch emails, and one of them was to the general email address for a documentary about the Replacements, after seeing shaky but amazing video of Jesse Malin covering “Alex Chilton” for a tribute show after a screening of that documentary up in NYC. I promptly forgot I’d sent it, and then the week before Christmas, I got an email back — not from an intern, or a publicist, like I thought I might, but from the director, Gorman Bechard, directly, and not offering me a screener, but offering me a screening — Gorman said, I’m going to be in NC in January, do you want to arrange a screening? Hell, yes, I did. Gorman and I got that screening together, struck up an email correspondence, and he was kind enough to answer some questions for me.

Behind the jump are questions and answers about the ‘Mats, filmmaking, why Gorman loves Archers of Loaf, and what show he’d use his time machine to see. And the screening? The screening is Thursday, 1/12, at the Nightlight. 8:30 screening followed by a Q&A with Gorman. $6. Get your asses there if you have any love for rock music at all. If you believe in rock music the way some people believe in God. You need to see this movie. Do it.

How did you start when you conceptualized “Color Me Obsessed”? What was your impetus to make a fan-driven film about a band?

The film actually fell into my lap.  I was in the original version which was being made by Hansi Oppenheimer.  Which was about fans, but also included music and the band.  I was interviewed in 2005.

Then a few years pass, it’s 2008, and she contacts me and tells me she can’t finish the film, but she knows I can.  So I start thinking about it. I was lying in bed one night and the thought occurred to me: I don’t believe in God, but I believe in The Replacements.  So I started thinking, can I make people believe in the band without ever seeing or hearing them.  I became obsessed with this.  As a filmmaker it turned me on.  I told Hansi I’d take it over, but we’d be doing it my way. But then I saw her footage.  Ended up using none of it, not one frame, and started over from scratch.  But it really was this crazy, fucked-up idea that drove me.  Also, I felt it was appropriate for this band who had turned in a 4 minute clip of a stereo speaker as their first music video…IN 1986!!!  When MTV was breaking bands.  It was the ultimate fuck you to MTV.  And in a way, my film is the ultimate fuck you to the way music docs are made.  I’ve always like biting the hand that feeds me.

[Ed. note: Gorman’s novel The Second Greatest Story Ever Told is now available in a Kindle edition; what does this have to do with Color Me Obsessed? The ‘Mats appear in the book as fictional characters, and it’s the reason Hansi contacted Gorman for the initial interview. Go check it out!]

Did you learn anything about the fan-artist relationship, making the movie, that you didn’t know before? Or that really surprised — or didn’t surprise! — you?

That a band really can save your life.  I’ve always felt this personally.  That music sometimes keep one from slicing the old wrist. But in doing this film, I found many who seemingly felt the same way. And that also is what’s great about The Replacements.  The way they speak to people.  Make them feel less alone.  Here you have this bunch of losers making these great records.  They made you feel like less of a loser.  If a rock star could be unsatisfied, then it was ok for me to feel that way as well. One of the biggest surprises was how in 145 interviews, no one mentions them ever listening to Big Star, which is always such a big deal in the press.  I had 40 people talk about Bob being in love with the band Yes, but not one talking about Paul loving Big Star.

You interviewed a number of professional musicians who are fans, as well as “regular” people-on-the-street fans. Did you find a difference between how the musicians related to the ‘Mats, versus the regular folks who loved them?

No, I really didn’t.  Brian Fallon and Dave Foley were just as much of a Mats geek as any of the fans.  Which is sort of great.

What’s your own most enduring Replacements memory?

Wow…I have a few…but I’d take the encore at a show at the Beacon in NYC where Paul came back out with a helium balloon, sucked in the air, and in a high pitched voice sang “Hello Dolly” a capella.  Then he walked off the stage.  Everyone eventually left the theatre.  As soon as the last person filed out, they came back on stage and did this rip-roaring encore.  Some people rushed back in. But the place was half empty because of the people still standing in front of the theatre on Broadway heard them.  Classic Mats!

You’re working on a film about Chapel Hill darlings Archers of Loaf right now. They were starting off when the ‘Mats were breaking up; can you talk a little about any similarities between the bands, or between the North Carolina and Mpls music scenes? What about big differences? What draws you to both of them?

Honestly, when the MPLS scene died out, the great music scene became NOT Seattle, but Chapel Hill. Archers of Loaf and Superchunk were the first two great bands of the 90s.  The similarities is the pure power. Balls to the wall, as someone says of the Mats in the film.  When I saw the Archers for the first time in 1993, they literally saved my musical life.  They were the band I was looking for after the Mats split.  The differences, well, the lack of self-destruction, which is probably a good thing.  But in terms of talent, Christ, Icky Mettle is the best album of the 90s, no contest.  And I have to say, to me anyway, “Web In Front” is the great song of all time.  It just fucking makes me happy.

You have a time machine and can go back in time to see any concert you didn’t see when it first happened; what is it?

As much as I’m tempted to say Hendrix or Joplin or the Doors or the Beatles, I honestly have to go with The Sex Pistols last show at the Winterland on 1/14/1978.

Top five bands besides the ‘Mats and Archers that you can’t live without: go.

They are one and two…but next five: Clash, Wilco, Elvis Costello, Rod Stewart and the Faces (circa 1972), young David Bowie.

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