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Thursday, July 24, 2014
If you are a genre fan, or even a fan of movies like HELLBOY (2004), the majority of people out there know the name Guillermo del Toro. I have been a massive fan of del Toro ever since I saw a vampire film many years ago that he wrote and directed called CRONOS (1993).    As I grew as a person and later as a artist myself, I followed everything that Guillermo del Toro put out, and I also paid attention to his words too.  Like most, I have been sucked into the vivid worlds that he has created for both the mainstream and the arthouse. I adored PAN'S LABYRINTH (2006), I was in awe of the giant robots in PACIFIC RIM (2013), and was just recently sucked into the literary and comic worlds of del Toro's  The Strain (2014-)

Guillermo del Toro has made a jump onto the small screen with the latest FX Network show, The Strain.  If you are not aware of this franchise of books and comics that involves a modern twist on the supreme vampire takeover, get ready for the television series because it is nothing like you've ever seen before.

Guillermo, as well as his writing partner Chuck Hogan, have brought their story to life with nothing but love for the genre.  The Strain offers us incredible cinematography, and vampires that are once again given love by a man who sees them as nothing but vicious, ruthless killing machines, and it's about time something like this came to television. 

In this EXCLUSIVE interview with del Toro , TV STORE ONLINE discovers the real inspiration behind The Strain... 

TV STORE ONLINE:  Guillermo, thank you being a part of this with me. And let me tell you without sounding like too much of a gushy fanboy, what an honor it is to be speaking with you right now... Let's get right to it and talk about The Strain.   My first question would be what is the most promising thing to you when it comes to portraying this epic story on the small screen?

DEL TORO:  Well, the thing I am looking most forward to is the Mexican wrestler that you probably know from the books. (Laughing) I am a Mexican geek, so I love the fact of watching a Mexican kick the ass of vampires.(Laughing) But I'm most looking forward to giving watchers of the show a chance to watch a fast paced, fun summer series that I think, or hope people will think fucking kicks ass!

TV STORE ONLINE: (Laughing) I think you achieved that goal with flying colors, sir! When it comes to FX, was there anything that was too intense in the literary world that you had to cut out, or have they been totally accommodating to the entire vision?

DEL TORO:  They have been great! In fact, the only censorship we had was from Chuck Hogan and myself. (Laughing) There was a scene involving Ephraim's wife which was described in the book series we just thought was too much. (Laughing) So that was the only problem we thought there was while FX wanted everything in the show.

*POSSIBLE SPOILER WARNING* 

TV STORE ONLINE: So they didn't have any issue with the scene where one of the characters d**k falls off and splashes into the toilet? (Laughing)

DEL  TORO: Well, we wanted to sow the dick as well as the balls drying up and falling off. (Laughing) FX was actually okay with the idea, so we even created scars where the dick was. Nothing worked! We did about three or four different versions of that scar. We made patches, none of it fucking worked. (Laughing) So we ended up with the "Barbie Doll" look you see in the episode.

TV STORE ONLINE: Yes, the effect did turn out to be very "Ken Doll-ish". But at least the sound effect of the plop into the toilet was left in, right? (Laughing)

DEL TORO: (Laughing)

TV STORE ONLINE: 
Upon reading The Strain book series and finally seeing their form in comics...Did you ever see any physical connection between the vampires in The Strain and BLADE 2 (2002)?

DEL TORO: I have made vampires for CRONOS, BLADE, and The Strain.  But the dimensions for each vampire are very different to me. These vampires are from notes I have had since I was fifteen or sixteen years old. The BLADE vampires I had taken from Filipino lore where they had elongated appendages (sidenote: commonly known as a Proboscis) which they used to ingest the unborn fetuses of pregnant women.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Holy sh*t! That's intense!

DEL TORO: (Laughing) Yeah. The BLADE vampires are taken from the Strigoi, where vampires had two barbs in their mouth to attack their prey.  At my "man cave", or my office (sidenote: called "Bleak House" located in Los Angeles) I have been reading about the vampire obsessively. I think I can compete with any vampire scholar on the subject. (Laughing)   

Blade 2 (2002)
The Vampire Tapestry book also has great, interesting vampires. When Bram [Stoker] writes about the vampire, he decides it is a killing machine who has romantic notions. I have never been into the romantic vampire, I have always liked the vicious killing machine, and that is what I wanted with The Strain.

TV STORE ONLINE:
I love every rendition of your vampire, but most of all I have to thank you for getting away from the fucking loving, sparkly set. (Laughing)

DEL TORO: (Laughing) Don't get me started on that.

TV STORE ONLINE: That's interesting that you touch on history. My next question was right on that same point... Would you consider The Strain to be an old world story told with a more modern technological edge? I definitely see shades of Van Helsing in the older character of Setrakian. Would you agree with that comparison?

del Toro at his "Bleak House" in Los Angeles
DEL TORO: I have to thank Carlton Cuse (Executive Producer) for that.  When Chuck and I wrote about him, he was more reserved. But in the show, he is sort of a hardcore motherf**ker, isn't he?  When Bram Stoker published 'Dracula', he was using voice recorders, telegraphs, stuff like that in the story. What Stoker was trying to say, was that his creature can come back to life in any modern age.   I guess in a way, that is true with The Strain, because as time goes on, it will be considered a classic as well. (Laughing) It's funny to think about, really.

When you realize that 'Dracula' is a modern novel for its time, it does make you think about time itself, and what holds true today won't be the same years from now when it comes to styles of horror and technology. But I am not trying to do that. The one thing I wanted to do with the show was give fans the feeling I felt when I watched shows in the '70s like Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-75) or Trilogy Of Terror (1975).  The fun of the series is what you go with, you know? Or, at least I hope it does. (Laughing)

TV STORE ONLINE:  Was there any doubt in your mind when it came to putting your vision on the small screen versus making feature films? And would you say that you only wanted to attempt this because there seems to be a "horror renaissance" on television, so to speak?

DEL TORO: I don't know if you know, but I first pitched the show in 2006. There were no horror series on the horizon at that time, and I was very much hoping that this show would happen back then. FX has been a channel where I have always liked most of their shows, and that is why Charlie [Hunnam] was cast for PACIFIC RIM.

TV STORE ONLINE: You're a Sons Of Anarchy fan? That is why you cast Charlie? That is just too awesome for words, man!

DEL TORO: I'm a huge fan of that! But with The Strain, we are starting by building the characters, and then I wanted to show in the first human kill how these vampires think of humans as food. And when they crush the head of the guy, it's almost like a box of juice. What do you usually do when you drink a box of juice? You crush it, right?  So, that is what I wanted to really show. That humans are nothing but drinks to these vampires. They don't give a shit about them, and I think crushing the guy's head shows that. (Laughing)

TV STORE ONLINE: I have to know about what's going on with IN THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS. I am a massive fan of yours, as well as the work of H.P. Lovecraft, and to just think about the possibility of you doing something that material really has me excited.  Is there any good news on the horizon regarding that project?

DEL TORO: No, nothing to say on that. But stay tuned. I am working very hard on making the movie happen.

TV STORE ONLINE:   That is so good to hear. And my last question involves your book, 'Cabinet Of Curiosities'...  I own it, love it, and swear by much of it when it comes to creation and advice regarding the film industry. You have so many great things to say, so I was wondering if you can leave the readers who want to get into this crazy, hard, worthwhile world of filmmaking or other forms of entertainment any advice?

DEL TORO: The book was done as a very candid book. I talk about a lot in that book, and got into trouble with some of the things I said, you know? (Laughing) Not everyone was happy, I mean I write about family in that book too.  When you are growing up and want to be a filmmaker, the best thing to have is someone who tells you the truth. You need to talk to someone who has made a film, someone who had succeeded at it, and someone who has failed as well. That's what I did with the book. I showed you my successes, and where I f**ked up too. (Laughing)

If someone gets something from that, it makes me very happy. But I think you just have to go for it, and be willing to make mistakes. Not everything is going to be good, and you need to be able to have that ability to f**king fail, and also succeed.  I wish everyone luck if they attempt to get into the world of movies.

TV STORE ONLINE: Guillermo, this has truly been nothing but an honor, and you're such a cool guy to just talk about everything with. Thank you so much for doing this.

DEL TORO: Thank you for watching the show and the love of my work. I wish we could talk more, and I look forward to talking to you again in the future.

You can catch The Strain Sundays at 10 PM EST / 7PM PST on FX

This interview was conducted by Rob DiLauro.  Rob is a Georgia based filmmaker, author, screenwriter, and podcaster.  His work can be seen on such websites as Dread Central and Horror News.    You can follow him on Facebook HERE:

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Friday, July 18, 2014

2nd Asst. Cameraman Peter Robinson
slates The Grady Twins in THE SHINING (1980)

Camera Operator Peter Robinson talks with TV STORE ONLINE about working with Stanley Kubrick and the making of the 1980 film THE SHINING.

TV STORE ONLINE: How did you come to work on THE SHINING with Stanley Kubrick?

ROBINSON: Well, I was working as Second Assistant at the time and when I started work on THE SHINING they had been shooting the film for something like 12 weeks by that time. I had taken over for a gentleman named Danny Shelmerdine.

There had been a hiatus in the shooting of the film at the time I started as there had been an insurance claim filed because Jack Nicholson had gotten injured or something or other. I had been fortunate enough to know someone who had known [Director Of Photography] John Alcott, and as you know, the film industry is all about having connections. So that's how I got onto the shoot.

 TV STORE ONLINE: What was Stanley like to work for?


ROBINSON: Well, Stanley did value everyone that worked on the film, but he prized loyality as well. For that reason, Stanley would get quite nervous when someone who he wasn't exactly familiar with started to work on one of his films. Stanley would use a specific group of people that he trusted on every film that he made, and frankly, I was also surprised by the fact that someone of Stanley's stature wouldn't be comfortable working with someone new as they came to the shoot. Every chance Stanley got, he would grill me about what I knew. He would ask me if I knew what I was doing and he would ask me how I knew that the way I was loading the film into the magazines was correct. You could go onto Stanley's set being the utmost confident of your skills and training and he could just destroy you. He could say something like, "How do you know that the lens is going to remain sharp between 2 foot and 5 foot?" It was just brutal, but then after 6 weeks of that he finally became your friend. He was quite remarkable from that point-of-view.

I can remember being called in to work on off days and when you'd get there Stanley would come in and have a chat with you in the camera room before you started. He was quite wonderful to work with once you gained his trust. Those first six weeks were complete hell on that shoot, but after that, Stanley really takes you into the fold and once you're in, it sort of makes your career. 

TV STORE ONLINE: So how did long did you end up working on the film?

ROBINSON: I worked on the film for about 40 weeks. And by the end of that time Jack [ Nicholson] had already left and went back to The United States, and not long after that. I ended up leaving the shoot with [Camera Operator] Kelvin Pike and the two of us started work on THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980) together. Shelley [Duvall] had also left by that time as well. We had all left and Stanley and those that remained with him stayed on for many many more weeks after that, and God knows what they were shooting. (Laughing)

I remember, there was one day on EMPIRE STRIKES BACK where Kelvin and I were having a problem with something technical with the camera, and Kelvin said, "Why don't you go over and ask Stanley about it." So I went over to the soundstage where Stanley was working and asked him about our problem. He pretty much shut his production down to help me. He went over to the phone and called Arriflex in Zurich to get an answer...I mean, it was incredible. (Laughing)

TV STORE ONLINE: What was a day shooting on THE SHINING like?

ROBINSON: Well, it certainly wasn't typical I can say that. Usually we would finish with the actors about 5:30pm and then we'd go on to shoot all of these different camera tests. We would test the sets. For example, we'd go over to the Gold Ballroom set and we'd test shoot using various different filters on the lights. We'd shoot it empty with all kinds of different lenses as well. He wanted to test the look of the set. He wanted to get that all out of the way. That way Stanley could focus on the actors during any scene that he was shooting.

TV STORE ONLINE: As we see in Vivian Kubrick's documentary which examines the making of the film...Was Stanley really that difficult on Shelley Duvall during the shooting of the film?

ROBINSON: He was quite hard on her at the time....At the time I wondered if he was doing that because of the era in which the film was made because there was this whole macho thing going on, but in retrospect, I understand that he was pushing her so in the film because he was trying to craft a performance out of her. He wasn't a misogynist as some would believe. He lived with all women and he welcomed and adored his time with his daughter Vivian on the set of the film.  She was there making a documentary that eventually aired on the BBC I believe.

TV STORE ONLINE: What do you remember about shooting the scene in THE SHINING where Jack puts the ax through the door?

ROBINSON: You know, it was just another day for me to be honest. I think that everyone else would probably say the same thing that worked on the film as well. I do remember shooting quite a bit of stuff for the film around that bedroom set. I remember one day, we were standing around waiting for Shelley to cry and she couldn't quite get it. So she ran off for about twenty minutes and then came back and she was in a zone. Stanley was standing there and I noticed that he had looked over at [Gaffer] Lou Bogue. Stanley said to Lou, "What's the temperature of the lights?" Lou said, "Plenty, Governor." Stanley just laughed. That was pretty much the overall atmosphere of the shoot for THE SHINING.  

There was just so much film shot on THE SHINING that at a point I started getting concerned as to whether I could even keep up with the unloading and the loading of the film magazines because it was a constant cycle. Stanley went through so much film on THE SHINING.

TV STORE ONLINE: I think you guys shot 1.3 Million feet of film on THE SHINING...

ROBINSON: It was unbelievable. Once we started on any day, I would be constantly going back and forth from the set to the loading room. What people don't realize about Stanley and his crews was that he always used a small crew. It isn't like today where there is more than one camera unit on a shoot. There was just one camera team on THE SHINING and that meant that the loading and unloading was all in my hands. An example of this would be the scene with Scatman [Crothers] and the little boy, Danny [Lloyd]. It's the scene with the two of them sitting at the table together on the kitchen set... I can't remember the exactly amount of takes that we did for that scene but it was something like 130 takes. That scene went on for like 10 minutes and that was 1 roll of film I remember, so essentially I had to unload and reload the camera 130 times! It went on for like three days! The total film shot for that scene was like 130,000 feet of film! (Laughing)

TV STORE ONLINE: Right, and why do you think that Stanley went 130 takes for that scene?

ROBINSON: To be honest, I don't know. Scatman did have trouble often with his lines over the course of the shooting, but I thought that 130 takes was a bit much. That was Stanley though. He would go and go until he was completely satisfied with the scene. He was an absolute perfectionist. He was also looking for something in the scene. I don't know if he knew what he was looking for in the scene but apparently he found it somewhere in the end.

TV STORE ONLINE: He had a penchant on THE SHINING of shooting a scene, watching the dailies, and then going back and re-shooting it to his satisfaction...

ROBINSON: Oh Yes. We did quite a bit of re-shoots indeed. He'd see the dailies and he decided that he wasn't happy with something and then he'd want to go back and fix it. I mean, he had the power to do that. Warner Brothers certainly wasn't going to stop him from doing it.

TV STORE ONLINE: One thing people don't seem to understand about Stanley either is just how collaborative he was with his crew?

ROBINSON: Yes, he was. The end of the film was open to suggestion. He threw it open and allowed anyone to offer suggestions in regards to how he should end it.

TV STORE ONLINE: Are you referring to the ending of the move which features the camera moving in on the photo of Jack Nicholson?

ROBINSON: Right. I can't remember who suggested it now, for all I know it just may have been something that Stanley himself had come up with. But I do remember that we did that about 30 times, and it was actually done in reverse, meaning, that we started in a close-up on the photo and then moved back from it.

TV STORE ONLINE: Did you have anything to do with the shooting of the elevator of blood stuff?

ROBINSON: I did. That went on for a quite a long time and we did that near the end of the shooting. Stanley would be unhappy with the way the lights hit the blood, or he would be unhappy with how it came out of the elevator. It wasn't very enjoyable to shoot. We talked about it for months in advance before we even shot the damn thing. But that happened with everything on THE SHINING. There were days, when we didn't even know what we were going to shoot, even though there was a schedule. You would move all over the studio! You'd look at the schedule and you knew you were supposed to be on Stage 4. You'd go to Stage 4 and no one would be there and you'd wait. Then you'd get a call from the First A.D and he'd tell you that you needed to be over on Stage 6. You'd pack your gear up and head in that direction and then you'd run into someone and they would say, "We're over on Stage 9 today." So you'd start going in that direction and you'd then run into someone else that would say, "We were told to go over to Stage 4..." There were many days on THE SHINING like that. (Laughing)

TV STORE ONLINE: What's your favorite memory of working on THE SHINING?

ROBINSON: We all worked together for such a very long time, and it wasn't like a normal film set where you show up and you sort of bury your head and don't interact with a lot of the other crew members. We all interacted with each other and Stanley, once he got to know you and trust you, he liked you to be on the set with him. Stanley adored his crew. In that way, it was like being part of a family unit.

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung     

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014
New York born actor/director Gregg Daniel talks with TV STORE ONLINE about his character Reverend Daniels on the final season of the hit HBO series True Blood.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Boy, that sure was a great episode with you a couple weeks back...That monologue in the church with Sam Trammell was just great...


DANIEL:  I'm so glad to hear you say that... I'll tell you...After we finished shooting that  I sent an email off to the writer of the episode and thanked him for that.  It was the first time that I had done that, but I felt like I had to email him to thank him.    When we were doing the table read everyone was saying, Wow...Gregg's got this great speech."    So I wrote the writer and told him thanks for the speech and for caring about 'Reverend Daniels'.   It's pretty rare that a character like Reverend Daniels gets such a moment on primetime television.   I came onto the show during Season 3, and for him to go and reach back into that character's past and give him a back story really meant a lot to me.   The quality of that scene too...The fact that Reverend Daniels taps into his past and gets to his pain....I, as an actor, was just thrilled to get that.   I have a theater background, and for me, that speech was like having something to say from a Eugene O'Neill or Tennessee Williams play. 

TV STORE ONLINE:   I saw that your audition tape for True Blood just popped up on the internet recently...

DANIEL:  I saw that!  (Laughing)


TV STORE ONLINE:    Looking back at that audition tape what are you thoughts on it now?

DANIEL:   Well, when I made that -- I never thought that I'd get the role.   When the Producers contacted me I was in Cape May, New Jersey doing a play.   The Producers contacted me and said, "Can you put yourself on tape?"   The first thing you think of is -- Okay, who can I find that will film me?  It wasn't like I was in New York City proper.     It's always better to be in the room with the Producers for something like that because they can feel you and you can feel them -- there's a great alchemy in something like that.      I really loved the simplicity of the scene I was given for that too.  I didn't want to approach the character as a typical fire-and-brimstone southern preacher.  I thought that that would have been too histrionic,     and when I sent it to the producers I didn't think that I'd get the role.   It was about a week after I sent them the tape that they called me and told me that I had gotten the role.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  The Reverend seems like a patient and wise man and I really like where the show writers are taking the character and "Lettie Mae" as a couple...

DANIEL:  Yeah, it's been wonderful.    I'm very pleased with where it's going.  We know that the Reverend has endured loss and he's suffered, just as much of us have in our lives.  Now he has to figure out a way to save Lettie Mae and how does the Reverend save a community that is losing their faith?   Those are nice, big questions for an actor to get behind.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Being on the set for True Blood down in New Orleans...Does the set or the costume help you find the character?

DANIEL:  The sets are amazing.  So, Yes!  Every time I walk onto a set...You wouldn't believe the detail that goes into those sets.  These sets and that environment aren't one that I visit every day.  Costumes, sets, and lighting help a great deal, especially when you as an actor give yourself over to it.   I still remember the first time that I visited the set for Lafeyette's apartment.  I said, "Wow!  Have I ever been any place like this before!" 

TV STORE ONLINE:  I'm sure you're getting questions from fans about what is going to happen throughout the rest of this final season of the show...But have you ever been tempted to just make something up when you're asked about it?   Have you ever been tempted to tell fans that the show is going to end in a big musical number and it's all a dream?

DANIEL:  (Laughing)  I love our fans.  They show up on location, and not only are they very respectful but they know everything about the show.  They know every detail about the True Blood universe.   If anything, I'm sort of hanging onto what they're saying about the show!  If anything, I tell them, "Keep the faith. There will be a ending.   There may be sacrifice, but you will have a sense of closure."  This is the final season of True Blood, we're on top and we're for sure going out with a bang.  

Follow Gregg Daniel on Twitter HERE: 
True Blood airs on HBO Sundays at 9pm EDT.
Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung

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Friday, July 11, 2014
Actor Stuart Whitman gives us a couple minutes about the shooting of AN AMERICAN DREAM (1966), a film directed by Norman Gist based on a novel by writer Norman Mailer...

TV STORE ONLINE:  What can you tell me about shooting AN AMERICAN DREAM (1966)?

WHITMAN:  That was a long time ago...Let's see if I can pull it up on my memory banks here....That was with Janet Leigh and Eleanor Parker..

TV STORE ONLINE:  Right, and Murray Hamilton, Les Crane and Barry Sullivan...

WHITMAN:  That's right.  With Eleanor Parker...I remember there was a nudity shot that was to come at the beginning of the picture and she was very touchy about that, she didn't want to do it and she tried talking the director out of doing the shot.  She said, "Okay...I'll do it.  Give me ten minutes to get ready."  She came out and she was really nervous about it because she didn't feel like she had big enough bosoms...The director said, "Don't worry...We'll shoot you from the back."   You know, you have me thinking about this now and I don't even think that I saw the the film once it was finished.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Where did you shoot the film?

WHITMAN:  We shot on a soundstage at Warner Brothers.  I remember that it was based on a book by Norman Mailer.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Did you ever meet with Norman Mailer about the book or the character?

WHITMAN:  Well, my agent sent me the script but I had never read the book, but I went over to Warners and I met with Norman.  I thought that I should probably read the book.   I thought Norman was very brash and cocky and I showed him that side of me at the meeting as well.

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung



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Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Next up in our 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY Interview Series....

PART 2: Producer Ivor Powell (Alien, Blade Runner) talks with TV STORE ONLINE about his first job in the film industry....Working for Stanley Kubrick on 2001: A Space Odyssey... 

 TV STORE ONLINE:   Did you get to experience the centrifuge set?

POWELL:  Of Course. Absolutely.  It was stunning.  I can remember that the iron work was built in South Wales by a company called Vickers.  I remember when it shipped out and I remember when it arrived at the studio.   When it was assembled on the soundstage it weighed over 90 tons.    We were on that set for so very long.   We had hired a crane and normally when you hire a crane on a movie you have it for a couple days and then you get rid of the thing, but that wasn't the case here.   That crane, and it was the biggest crane known to man, sat in a corner of that soundstage for a very long time.  It sat there for as long as Stanley wanted it to be there.  I also remember the pod bay set and we worked on that for a very long time as well.   We had some members of the Press visit the pod bay Discovery set as well as some foreign dignitaries.   I remember when Louella Parsons came to the set, and she was one of the oldest film critics in America.  I was like a lamb thrown out to slaughter because I had to have lunch with her and she just didn't have a clue about anything associated with science or Science Fiction.

TV STORE ONLINE:  That centrifuge set would actually turn while the actors were working on the inside of it....

POWELL:  That's right, and when that thing was turning it was incredibly noisy.  There were 16mm Bell & Howell Projectors mounted on various spots on the outside of it and those would project the screen read-outs that you see on the computers on the ship in the final film.   When you went inside of the set and stood there you would feel nauseous when it would start to turn.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Where you around on the set of 2001 when the Studio Executives from MGM came to watch some of the footage from the film?

POWELL:   Yeah, I was.  I sat in during that.   In fact, I got to walk around with Robert O'Brien who was the head of MGM at the time and he was asking me all kinds of questions about the production. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  What was their reaction to the footage?

POWELL:  I thought that they were happy with it.   You couldn't help but walk away from seeing any of that footage and not having been captivated by it.     There was a day when the press came and I remember all of them standing on the pod bay set and [First Assistant Director] Derek Cracknell was standing in the back with a microphone saying, "Okay...Open pod bay door number one please Hal..."   Then the door would open up.  It was amazing because it really felt like you were on a ship.  Stanley really spared no expense on the film, and it was the same on all of his films as you could imagine.     If something was required to be stainless steel on any of those 2001 sets,  then it was, and it wasn't spray painted silver or anything like that to save a few pounds. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  What do you remember about shooting on the Hotel Room set with Keir Dullea?

POWELL:  I was acting as Assistant Director on some of that...If you want to talk about hot film sets...That set was intensely hot.  There were these photo flood lights under each of those tiles on the floor that you see in the film.   Those lights would get so hot that they started to warp and melt those floor tiles of the set.   We had to do a take with Keir, kill the lights, and then re-set everything, turns the lights back on and go again.  Those lights couldn't be on for very long whatsoever.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Do you remember seeing any of the shooting of any scenes that didn't make the finished movie?

POWELL:   Sure.  One would have seen a great deal of that being privy to all of the numerous screenings that Stanley would have asked all of us to attend over the course of the making of 2001.   I have a clear memory of watching the Dawn Of Man sequence with the Tapir as it was set to Mahler's Third Symphony.  I was quite taken with that sequence when I saw it for the first time and I ran right out and bought Mahler's Third because I hadn't been familiar with it.  I remember seeing all of the helicopter footage that was shot for the Star Gate sequence over the highlands in Scotland.   

TV STORE ONLINE:  Do you remember seeing the scene of the kids at the painting lesson on the space station that was cut from the film?

POWELL:    I don't remember seeing that particular scene, but I do remember the scene that was shot with the Bush Babies.   Roger Caras, being an animal expert, acquired some Bush Babies from somewhere in England, I sincerely doubt that quarantine would have allowed them through from the States at that time. 

I went over to Roger's flat and walked in and there were these Bush Babies living in the main room of his flat. Roger asked me to look after them when he had to leave.  My wife and I spent a few days at his flat and these things were beautiful but they'd shoot all over the room like a ping pong ball.

I also spent quite a bit of time with Martin Balsam when he came to London to see Stanley about voicing Hal for the film.  I remember meeting Keir Dullea at the docks in Southhampton when he first arrived by boat to work on the film.   He arrived with his brand new Mercedes-Benz and I remember him driving us back to London in this incredible car. 

TV STORE ONLINE:   Why do you think that Stanley decided not to use Martin Balsam's voice for Hal in the film?

POWELL:  You know, I'm not quite sure.   Very early on during the making of the film, we were all shown the Canadian short film UNIVERSE (1960) and Douglas Rain did the commentary for that.   I'm sure it was just one of those things that was in the back of Stanley's mind where he always knew that he was going to use Douglas Rain for the voice of Hal, but he was also interested in Martin Balsam and brought him over to London just to see what he was like in person.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Do you remember Nigel Davenport being considered for the voice of Hal?

POWELL:  I do remember that, but I don't remember now exactly how far that idea went.

TV STORE ONLINE:  After the shooting of 2001...Were you asked to work with Stanley again in any capacity?

POWELL:  Yes, I was.   He had asked me to be the Location Manager for BARRY LYNDON (1975), but he wasn't paying as much as I thought that he should be, and also I was just getting ensconced into some work with Ridley Scott.   When 2001 was over, I went on to work on a film called THE ADVENTURERS (1970).   We shot the film in Rome.   Victor Lyndon, who I had worked for on 2001 had gotten me the job on that.    Andrew Birkin, who had worked for Stanley and helped me on 2001 went on to work for Stanley while he was preparing to do NAPOLEON.   Andrew had come to Rome to do some research for Stanley.   My wife and I went to see him and have dinner with him.   Our casting lady [Isa Baralini] on THE ADVENTURERS was also working on WATERLOO (1970), which was a film about Napoleon that featured Rod Steiger.     For whatever reason, and this is something I did that was very stupid,  I had asked her if I could read the script for WATERLOO and she got me a copy of it.    Andrew took the script back to Stanley and he was so angry at him.  Stanley wouldn't even touch the script.  He kicked Andrew out of his house with the script in hand because he was terrified that if anyone knew that he had seen the script that he could be accused of plagiarism. 

Did you miss Part One?  Check it out HERE:
Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung in 2011

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Next up in our 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY Interview Series....

Producer Ivor Powell (Alien, Blade Runner) talks with TV STORE ONLINE about his first job in the film industry....Working for Stanley Kubrick on 2001: A Space Odyssey...  

TV STORE ONLINE:   How did you come to work on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)?

POWELL:   It's one of these famous and slightly incestuous stories...I had always wanted to work in the movies but it's never been easy for anyone to work in the movies.  It's even harder today than it was back then around the time that 2001 was made.  You had to have a Union ticket in order to get a job, and in order to get a ticket you had to either have been offered a job or have had a job on a film.  

I had being working in the theater for a while and my aunt was a famous film critic.  She wrote for the Sunday Times in London.   She had gotten me a job working with the New York cast of West Side Story when I was 17-years-old.   From there I worked on various documentaries and then I got a job with the BBC when they first launched BBC2.   My aunt then got me a interview with a man named Roger Caras.   Roger was a publicity man with Columbia Pictures for a time and he went on to work with Stanley on DR. STRANGELOVE (1964) and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.  I got the interview with Roger and he hired me to work as his assistant.   When he hired me, 2001 was being called "Journey To The Stars".    Stanley Kubrick was my hero because I had absolutely loved SPARTACUS (1960).   I was also Science Fiction mad too so getting the job on 2001 was really like manna from heaven.  I ended up working on the film for over three years.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What was Roger Caras like to work for during the production of 2001?

POWELL:
  Roger was a very sweet guy.  He was larger than life.   Roger wanted someone who could write and even though I hadn't done much writing by then, he wanted someone who could write up things for the publicity for the newspapers.  So I did a bit of that for him.   My official title on the film was "Publicity and Art Department Liaison".   

I was working at MGM, and I know that they paid me more than I probably should have been paid.  I think Roger liked me and at the time I was doing a bit of moonlighting for the BBC doing some photograph modeling.  I was doing quite well doing that.  When Roger interviewed me he asked, "How much money are you making now?"  I told him that I was making about 60 pounds a week and from there Roger took me up and I was interviewed by a gentleman named Victor Lyndon who was working for Stanley and he asked me as well about the amount of money I was currently making.  Victor and I went on to become long time friends and I regarded him as one of my closest friends at the time that he passed away.    I told Victor that I was making about 60 pounds a week and he said, " What would you be prepared to work for?"  I said, "16 pounds a week", but he thought that I said 60 pounds.   On a film set there are no secrets, so when some of the other people in the Art Department found out what I was making they got quite angry because it was much more than some of them were making and they were many times my senior, and I was working under them.  

About six months to a year later on 2001, Stanley had gotten wind of this and he sent off a memo to Roger Caras that said, "This isn't CLEOPATRA.  Why is Ivor Powell getting paid so much money?"    And I think at that point Stanley tried to get rid of me, and he hadn't even said so much as two words to me over that last year.   I did end up figuring it out because I decided that I would go and talk to Stanley.  So I went to talk to him. I found him both charming and terrifying, but the situation managed to work itself out.   Stanley put me up in his office block.   He put me in charge, and I was one of three guys working on this...I became one of those guys that was in charge of the three shifts of special effects cameras that were going at any given time on 2001.   Those cameras were shooting 24 hours a day. It was my job to know exactly what all of them were doing at any given moment.

Stanley put me in this big room with Con Pederson and Brian Loftus.  It was called the "chart room" and the room was covered in these flip charts.   I couldn't draw, so I had to find people that could draw these little pictorial representations of each special effects shot.  They would draw them and then we would name them and put them up on the wall.  On any given day Stanley would come in and ask about any of them.  He would come in and ask me, "What's going on with Dawn Of Man 4-A?"  If I didn't know or if I wasn't for certain exactly where the shot was at work wise, then I would sort of waffle in my response and he would nail me with those sort of cold black eyes of his and say, "Ivor... Answer me yes or no..."  I kind of learned not to waffle in life from my time working with Stanley...laughing

TV STORE ONLINE:  Did you become friendly with Arthur C. Clarke during the shooting of 2001?

POWELL:  I did, because I was working in the publicity department and Arthur was working closely with Roger Caras.   I spent quite a bit of time with Arthur.  Stanley would say to us, "We need you to research monkeys.  We need pictures of monkeys."    Arthur and I would get in a chauffeur driven car and go up to Twycross Zoo.  The zoo had a big collection of monkeys and apes and we would take loads of pictures and take them back to Stanley.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  Do you think that Stanley and Arthur had a good working relationship on the film?  There's been some things written about Arthur sort of taking the proverbial back seat during the production of the film...

POWELL:   Well, 2001 was inspired by Arthur's short story and they did work on the script together even though it wasn't much of a script in the traditional sense.   I know Arthur was frustrated somewhat because he had wanted to publish the book that he had written in conjunction with the film and Stanley wouldn't allow him to do that when he wanted.  Stanley kept pushing back everything and I remember Arthur being quite frustrated by that, but while they were working together during the shooting of the film their relationship carried on wonderfully.

TV STORE ONLINE: Stanley had originally thought that he would open the film 2001 with a 10 minute prologue of interviews with various scientists....I know that Roger Caras conducted most of those interviews for Stanley, but I was curious to see if you went along with Caras to assist on any of those sessions?

POWELL:  I went out with Roger on some of them.   I have a vivid memory now of  being there for the interview that Roger did with Bernard Lovell.   I know Roger also went to Russia to do an interview but I certainly didn't go with him for that one.  

TV STORE ONLINE:   Roger also had you working with companies like IBM and Pan-American as well for the research that Stanley had asked him to do...

POWELL:  Yes, I was acting as a liaison for all of that.  Roger had first got in touch with the bigger fish like IBM for that.  I was acting as the assistant, Roger would give me a call and ask me to contact IBM for specific information.   Then I would call the contact Roger had asked me too at IBM and then ask the questions I was instructed to. Then I would take that information to the Art Department.   I remember when Stanley was shooting the Clavsis stuff on the moon....I did some research on some agriculture machinery.  We wanted to get information for as little payment as possible from any company that we were looking to for help. We would offer an exchange, where for information, we would try to give their company some sort of publicity.   I can't remember which company I had contacted now but they created this sort of crawler like caterwauler vehicle and they put a dome over it so it would look credible as a lunar vehicle. It never made it into the film though as I recall.

I spent quite a bit of time working with Bob Cartwright too.  He was a Asst. Art Director.  He was a set dresser.  He was very experienced at that and I spent a lot of time going around to various places with him.  He would, for example, set up a meeting with a company about the space suits in the film and then we would go for the meeting then I would execute the follow-up.  I would send letters out to companies ect.

TV STORE ONLINE:  In doing the research that you assisted with...At what point does Roger release the research to someone like Technical Advisor Fred Ordway during the production?

POWELL:   It would go to Fred and Henry Lange.  Fred came and went.  He would come by the Art Department and show us things that had came in from the United States.  He was there to make sure that everything that we were working on was as real and credible as possible.   He was around the production long before I was hired.  I started at the end of 1965 on 2001, in fact, I remember still quite vividly yet, the first day of shooting on 2001.  We shot at Shepparton Studios on H Stage. 

TV STORE ONLINE:   Right..I believe the first day of shooting on 2001 was on December 29th, 1965....

POWELL:   I believe so.  I'd have to consult my call sheet.  I still have my call sheet from the first day of shooting...

TV STORE ONLINE:  What was that Shepparton Studios set like?

POWELL:  It was the TMA-1 site with the Monolith down at the bottom of it.   Given that it was on a studio soundstage, we couldn't dig any holes in the ground, so all of that had to be built up into the air.   That set went about 20 foot up in the air.   It gave a great illusion that the Monolith was down in this pit.  I remember paying really close attention to Stanley as he was following the astronauts down the ramp with his handheld Panaflex camera. 

TV STORE ONLINE:   There have been rumors swirling around for years that Stanley was pursuing Pink Floyd to do some music for the film....

POWELL:  That would be news to me.  That's the first I've heard of that.   If Pink Floyd would have had any involvement in the film I would have seen something pertaining to them.  My office was down the corridor from Stanley, and next door to Stanley's office was were Ray [Lovejoy] was cutting the film and given that my office was so close, I was privy to seeing all of the rushes as they would come in and I saw many rough cuts or assemblage of sequences that they were working on.    Anytime Stanley had something to show anyone I was lucky to be included as one of the privileged few.  I remember one day...Stanley came down the corridor and said, "Come and look at this..."   He had wanted us to watch an assemblage, but before that he played us some music.   It was Stanley's wife, Christiane, I think that discovered the music of Ligeti for the film.   We had seen some assemblages of the space station sequence and of Floyd's trip to the moon, and when we first saw it, Stanley had different music on it than what was used in the film.   Some time later, he asked us all to watch the same assemblage again but this time he came in with this slight smile on his face and that was because he had put the "The Blue Danube" to the sequence.  

We saw the early assemblage of Dan Richter as "Moon-Watcher" killing the Tapir and throwing the bone up into the air and early on Stanley had put Mahler's Third Symphony on that before he went with "Thus Spoke Zarathustra".    I can't imagine though, that Stanley was really considering Pink Floyd for anything for 2001.  Where did you hear this?

TV STORE ONLINE:  There was an article some years back where Pink Floyd's Roger Waters mentioned that his biggest regret in life was that he was unable to score 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, and that some time after 2001, Waters went to Kubrick asking if he could sample 'Dave Bowman' on their album Echoes.   It's my understanding as through the internet and via various books written about 2001 that Stanley turned them down for such and that they were quite angry about it.....

POWELL: 
  I personally don't give that any credit.  I can see Roger Waters going to Stanley about the sample and Stanley turning him down certainly, as Stanley was very protective and possessive like that.    I mean, he went to great lengths on 2001 with the models and sets to make sure that they didn't end up in any other Science Fiction films.  He destroyed the models for that reason after a certain point.   I was quite pleasantly surprised when I called Stanley up while I was making BLADE RUNNER (1982) with Ridley Scott and he told us that we could use some of his outtakes from THE SHINING (1980).    I put Ridley in touch with Stanley and I think he allowed us to do that because he was a fan of ALIEN (1979) and of Ridley's work.    

I think if Pink Floyd was to have any involvement in 2001 I would have heard at least a whisper about it.  I mean, after Ray Lovejoy, I worked on 2001 during post-production longer than anyone else.   When the other crew members left and went on to other things I stayed around because it was my first job on any film and I was terrified that when it was over that I wouldn't be able to find any work afterward.   I had just gotten married then too, and I remember Stanley rather begrudgingly gave me two days off of work for that.   Stanley actually hired my wife to work on 2001 too.    He had thousands of stills from the making of the film and the original plan was to use these for the publicity for the film and then at the last moment he decided that he didn't want to use them, and to the disgust of all of us.  So, my wife and I had to go through the 60mm rough cut of the film and take out all of these little clips whereas stills from these clips would be used for the publicity of the film. I don't think we were using a 65mm print at the time because I don't think the soundtrack was mixed by that time.   We had to cut out these clips and then transfer each frame of the clip to a transparency so that Stanley could look at all of them and decide on which images he wanted to use for the publicity.  That was my final job on 2001, before they finally swept me out the door of the studio...laughing

TV STORE ONLINE:  Can you talk about the shooting of the Dawn of Man sequence from the film?

POWELL:  The set was very hot, and that stage was very huge.   To create the African belt one had to have an awful hell of a lot of light.   They were using the old-fashioned 10K Carbon Arc Lights for that.  John Alcott was the Director Of Photography for that sequence.  He had started out as just a technician but he and Stanley got on very well and at that point John had sort of taken over as DP.    It was extraordinary.  I can remember the shooting very vividly yet.  That was what was great about having the opportunity to travel around with Arthur C. Clarke to study the monkeys, because we saw the monkeys at the zoo and the baby Chimps that you see in the film were actual baby chimps from that zoo.   I remember Stanley bringing in all kinds of actresses to try to see how they would look in the ape costumes.  Stuart Freeborn and a gentleman named Charlie Parker worked very hard on those ape costumes.   One thing that always sticks out in my memory about working on 2001, Roman Polanski was working across the way on THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (1967) at the time, and he would visit the set and I remember seeing Sharon Tate around at the studio too.   I remember one evening getting an invite from Stanley up to his house at Abbott's Mead for supper and Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate came and Roman showed all of us a rough cut of FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS.    I remember that THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967) and WHEN EAGLES DARE (1968) were shooting at the studio at the same time that we were doing 2001 as well.

Watch for Part Two of our interview with Ivor Powell next week!
Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung in 2011

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Thursday, June 26, 2014
 Frontman Curt Kirkwood talks with TV STORE ONLINE about  The Meat Puppets and  Greg Prato's 2012 book on the band 'Too High To Die'

TV STORE ONLINE:   Thanks for speaking with me today....In my research on you I read a ton of interviews that you've given in the past and I want to let you know that I promise there will be no questions for you about Nirvana or Kurt Cobain...

KIRKWOOD:  Laughing...Alright, great.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I love listening to your records....It's fun to listen to your stuff like Meat Puppets II (1984) or Up On The Sun (1985) or the your newest LP Rat Farm (2013) and sort of pick and guess who are some of the musicians that have influenced you in your work...Gram Parsons once said that he played "Cosmic American Music" and I was curious to see if you thought that somehow The Meat Puppets fit in any way under that moniker or ideology?

KIRKWOOD:  Well, I don't think that we're all America in that sense.   We take influences and vibes from all over the place, but I guess its not a bad description for our music.  I think we follow that basic form for sure.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I read recently that you were a big fan of The Grateful Dead...What are some of your favorite Dead albums?

KIRKWOOD:  I've always really loved American Beauty (1970) and Workingman's Dead (1970) the best.   I've always owned those two albums.   I have Aoxomoxoa (1968) as well.  I think that's a great record.  I've always thought that their records are great but I've always thought that they were a better live band.

TV STORE ONLINE:  How do you think that The Grateful Dead influenced the music of The Meat Puppets?

KIRKWOOD:   Just because they always did exactly what they wanted to do.  I grew up playing in bar bands and while it's fun to play any kind of music, I noticed how bands like The Dead and The Allman Brothers would always go on the stage and just jam out and they didn't limit or encapsulate themselves while they were on the stage.  Eventually, they did get into that years later though when people started to expect them to play through these really "trippy" jams on the stage, but I think the way they influenced our band is just with their ability to play whatever they wanted and when.

TV STORE ONLINE:  One thing I've always really admired about The Meat Puppets is how you often reinvent yourselves on a per album basis...For example... There is that big jump musically from Meat Puppets I  (1982) to Meat Puppets II...Then there is that wonderful progressiveness and funk sound to Up On The Sun or the jazz and classical music feeling of Mirage (1987).  Was that something that was a conscious idea on behalf of the band over the years as you writing and recording?

KIRKWOOD:  Not really.  It was more like just what we had at the time.  I've never sat down and said, "I'm going to write this type of song..."   I usually just write songs until I have enough to put together an album.  I think the period that you're talking about was just a great period of growth for me and I think that we were just taking advantage of SST Records and their ability to just put out anything that they wanted.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I love how you hear musical remnants across your records too...For example with Meat Puppets I...It's a very hardcore punk album. Meat Puppets II has a couple of cuts like but the sound is radically different over the rest of the album and this seems to be a pattern across your catalog of work...

KIRKWOOD:   Most of the time those were left overs from the previous album and because we record very lean and very fast we just use what we have done at the time that we record.  I've never really been a very disciplined songwriter to be honest.  I don't lock myself away to write songs.   It usually happens when I'm just sitting down and playing the guitar.  There are some songs that I can't even remember writing now, but there are some that I can totally remember writing.  Some of that stuff is a little hazy...laughing

TV STORE ONLINE:   Can we talk about this "haziness"?    In Greg Prato's book there are some fun stories of the bands antics...In particular, I'm reminded of the story about the band "daytripping" during the recording of Meat Puppets I...

KIRKWOOD:  Right, yeah...laughing     It's funny, because I actually remember recording most of that album though.   We recorded it so quick and it was almost experimental in that way.   I think the haziness is more just part of my general nature.  I'm forgetful of certain things. It's really odd what sticks in your brain.  It is the same things with shows.   People will come up to me and say, "I loved you guys when you came here last year..."   And I have no memory of coming to that town or that venue whatsoever even though I was there just a year before.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Yet, we can't deny the presence of LSD in your work?   In the book there is a mention of you writing a few of the songs on Meat Puppets II while you were under the influence of hallucinogens....I think you wrote "Lake Of Fire" while on LSD?

KIRKWOOD:   I have done a few songs that way.  I wrote Lake Of Fire when I was really young and at the time I wasn't really aware of what I was doing.  It wasn't like I was always tripping on acid.  It was more of a experimental thing for me.   Most times, when I'd try writing back then... It would come out as total crap.  At the time you think it's really great then when you look back at it, you realize it's not good.  You say, "Oh...I was tripping."

TV STORE ONLINE:  On Meat Puppets II...What about "Plateau"?   In the book you mentioned about how you can't recall what that song was supposed to be about?  You've said that you can't remember who the talk show host is that is referred to in the song either...   But what about that incredible crescendo that occurs at the end of Plateau that leads right into "Aurora Borealis"?   Do you recall how that came about it?  Was that something planned from the start or was that something that just came in the spur of the moment in the studio?

KIRKWOOD:  I don't have an answer for you on that one either....That's just how I wrote the song.  It probably just came from listening to The Beatles as a kid and hearing the cool parts in their songs.  I think it might have just came that way.  I've always done stuff like that.   It took me a while to figure it out.  It is an odd part because it's not really a bridge or a chorus, so it must be an outro.  Sometimes trying that can be really awkward but that seemed to work pretty good.. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  Right, it can remind one of how The Beatles end "She's So Heavy" on Abbey Road (1969)..

KIRKWOOD:  Sure! Sure! There you go!

TV STORE ONLINE:  I'm a huge fan of your album Up On The Sun...I've mentioned earlier how I thought it was a major departure for the band, and I hate to suggest these types of labels... But where Meat Puppets I was a punk record, Meat Puppet II was a hybrid of punk and psychedelic country...Up On The Sun is this crazy funk progressive sort-of-hippie-dance-record....Where did that combination of sounds come from?   In particular the opening track on Up On The Sun...Where did come from!?!?

KIRKWOOD: 
Probably from The Who's Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy (1971)...Or The Who Sell Out (1967) era of the The Who.  Shit, Jimi Hendrix.  Then The Minuteman were an inspiration at that point as well.   Wire too.  Of course, Parliament Funkadelic.   It was a cool little riff.  I was trying to do more with harmony vocals.   I was really starting to understand harmonies outside of country music and that came to me from the music of The Who.  Then also through the music of The Eagles as well.  I was really working on that with Up On The Sun.   I was also working on overdubbing guitars on Up On The Sun too because on Meat Puppets II we didn't have any of that.  With Up On The Sun we had a full studio at our disposal...

TV STORE ONLINE:  When Mirage (1987) was re-released a few years back you guys put an awesome cover of Elvis's "Rubberneckin'" on the disc....So you're an Elvis fan?   Do you like '50s or '60s Elvis over '70s Elvis or vice versa?

KIRKWOOD:  There is no difference for me.   I love all of his stuff.  I have just about everything he ever did.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Yeah!  Me too...  I love that solo LP you put out a few years back called Snow (2005)...That has always reminded me of that stuff that Elvis did in the mid '70s where he's just singing all of these really just gut-wrenching and heartbreaking songs like "Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues..."

KIRKWOOD:  Thanks. That's a great song too.

TV STORE ONLINE:  On The Meat Puppets Mirage... I hear all of these incredible classical music types of things going on...For example in the song "The Wind and the Rain"....   The guitars are very Bachesque...

KIRKWOOD:  I'd say that's in there for sure.   We've always been interested in that stuff.  When my brother and I were younger we used to always mess around with this friend of ours and try to play some of that stuff on the guitar.    I took classical guitar lessons when I was a kid and I probably learned a few things like that here and there.   I don't know composers names per say always but I do like a lot of classical music.

TV STORE ONLINE:    The author of the book "Too High To Die" Greg Prato mentions in the introduction that his first exposure to the band was the band's LP Too High To Die (1994)...Given the mega success of that album and the single "Backwater"....How many fans do you meet today out on the road or wherever that tell you the same thing?

KIRKWOOD:  Quite a few....That was a big period of us as a band and that record sold more albums for us than any of our previous records.

TV STORE ONLINE:
  Where the hell does that album title come from though?

KIRKWOOD:  I think it was something that our sound man came up with or something.  It was just one of those things like "Party until the world obeys.."  It was just something that was floating around our tour vehicle.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Did the success of Too High To Die and Backwater take you by surprise?

KIRKWOOD: 
Well, I had seen how it worked before.  I didn't really catch me by surprise. I saw through friends how it worked.  I saw how it was built up through various components.   I always thought that it was different for us though because of what type of band we were.  We were quite the anomaly in comparison to the other acts of that time that were having success.   We were being pushed by that record label at the time.   We were lumped into a particular genre at that point, and by that time, it was like the fourth or fifth genre that our band had been lumped in with.   There was a trend happening at that time too, but considering who we were as a band I thought that it was really cool that it happened to us at that particular time.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Right!  (Laughing)  So how do we label The Meat Puppets today? (Laughing)   Are you "Steam-Punk" or "Emo"? ( Laughing)

KIRKWOOD: 
I know, right?  There isn't really much punk to us anymore, but there never really was that much punk to us at the start.   We just got lumped in with that because of the sound of our early records and people didn't really know how to take us.   There are so many little sub-categories out there.  I really don't even know what we are today.  As we're making new music today I'm often wondering, "What is this supposed to be?"

TV STORE ONLINE:  Then with Backwater....What was that song about for you?

KIRKWOOD:   Hmmm....Well, with Backwater...When I first wrote that song I wrote it on an organ.  I think I was trying to write a Gospel song.   I think I was just coming up with wordings and phrases that to me sounded like they were out of Gospel music.  


TV STORE ONLINE:   Did you ever record that slower organ version of Backwater?

KIRKWOOD:  I did, but I can't find it now!   We had a practice space in Phoenix and around the mid-to-late '90s we started to lose a bunch of stuff out of there.  I'd love to re-record it again that way someday.

TV STORE ONLINE:   I just love how Backwater is structured musically...The bridge to that song comes early at the 1 minute and :20 second mark which is really interesting...Do you think about experimenting and breaking the versus/chorus/versus tradition often when you're writing?

KIRKWOOD:  For sure.  A lot of times I'll say, "Well this is nice, but it's kind of repetitive..."  I remember when we were working on that song thinking that it just needed something different...

TV STORE ONLINE:  All these years later....I've read what you've said about that song recently and also what you said about it back when it was first released....Do you deny the inherent greatness of that song still?

KIRKWOOD:  Well, I think I'm just to close to the song.    I think it's a good song.  It's catchy.  Most things that get onto the radio are catchy, and when I'm writing a song it has to catch itself in my head in the first place in order for me to stick with it.

TV STORE ONLINE:   You joked a bit about the production on Too High To Die and No Joke (1995) in Greg Prato's book about the band....But both of those records just explode sonically for me...They do that unlike any records I've ever heard.  Your guitar playing on something like "We Don't Exist" on Too High To Die is incredible. It's like something you'd hear on a Megadeth record or something.... How did you guys get that sound in the studio, and what was the collaboration like for the band with Producer Dave Jerden and Paul Leary?

KIRKWOOD:    All of that was part of the co-production between us.  Paul always made sure that the guitars sounded good.  I did the arrangements and Dave mixed Backwater and We Don't Exist on Too High To Die for example.   Dave got what I was doing with the guitars. It was that old '70s rock thing where you put a guitar on each side and make it big.   We hadn't really done that before, but I saw that it would work really well for both of those songs.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  What about something like "Scum" on No Joke (1995)?  That's an incredible arrangement...   Do you write songs off of riffs more that anything else?

KIRKWOOD:  Not really. Sometimes I'll write around a riff but I usually start with the melody.  Scum really just came out of great '70s rock.  That's me remembering things like Black Sabbath or those great '70s British space rock bands...

TV STORE ONLINE:  One of the coolest parts of Greg Prato's book on the band is the chapter on your guitar playing and what your peers have said about your work....Was there anything in there that was said that just completely blew you away when you read it?

KIRKWOOD:   For sure.  It was all flattering to me.  There are some people in there that said some things about my playing that I know would never say that stuff to my face, so that was pretty incredible of all of those people to do that.

TV STORE ONLINE:   The Meat Puppets have paid some serious dues over the years...What do you think about the state of music and how the internet can produce a artist in five minutes after they get discovered on YouTube?   Also, how about the fact that someone can download the entire Meat Puppets catalog in 10 minutes if they are fairly smart enough and now how to use the internet?

KIRKWOOD:  I think it's fine.  I've never made much money off of our records anyhow.  I've always kind of thought of our records as calling cards.  There is always a hope that you can sell millions of records, and I think every musician thinks about that.  But the reality of it is that you have to go out and play shows.   I would rather go out and play shows than record.  I get bored pretty easily.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Top Five Albums?

KIRKWOOD:   Oh Shit...I don't know.  That's way too much!  My favorite album...I couldn't even tell you.   What have I listened to the most over the years?  Led Zeppelin probably.  

TV STORE ONLINE:   In Greg's book you mention that you've often thought about how your music has held up over the years...There's that early work that perhaps you're known for to the casual listener...But has there been anything that hasn't gotten the attention that you think it deserves in The Meat Puppets catalog?

KIRKWOOD:  Well, I always think that whatever I'm doing is really good and at the time I'm doing it I think that it should get notice.  Afterwards.... It has had its chance out there, so it is what is is...

Purchased Greg Prato's book on The Meat Puppets on Amazon HERE:
For more with The Meat Puppets please visit their official website HERE:
Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung

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