Intervju med Sam Dunn!
Sam Dunn har verkligen gjort sig ett namn som dokumentärmakare i hårdrocksvärlden med sevärda och omtyckta filmer om Rush och Iron Maiden och är just nu högst aktuell i tv-serien "Metal Evolution" som sänds på tisdagar i SVT.
Jag lyckades styra upp en telefonare med denna upptagna kanadick och fick ett samtal om
bl a hans filmer, jobbet kring dem och vad han pysslar med just nu.
Sam Dunn: Hey Niclas, it´s Sam. How are you?
I´m good. How are you?
SD: Pretty good, man. Thanks.
How long did it take to put “Metal Evolution” together? How much research did you have to do?
SD: Too long and too much! (laughs) We started the writing and the research in October 2009 and the show premiered in November of 2011, so basically two years from the very beginning to the very end. It was a pretty long and painstaking process because each episode is really a documentary unto its own. Each episode is its own unique story and we interviewed the people that are part of each story and when you do it the right way it always takes longer. (laughs) We could´ve just put 20 people in a room and asked them all questions about all the episodes, but we wanted to create stories and actually talk to the people who were there.
Coming up with stuff like Dick Dale and stuff like that, was that stuff you read about or people telling you about it?
SD: We had a great writing and research team. Our primary writer was Ralph Chapman and one of our researchers was Martin Popoff, who´s a well known metal writer…
SD: Between them… we just wanted to go into greater depths than anything that had ever been done before about heavy metal and I think… we always want to take people back one step further in time and what they would expect, so instead of starting the story of American metal with like KISS, we went back to surf music, because the sound of the surf guitar was really the birth of that very fast kinda picking style that of course is a huge part of heavy metal. We wanted to give people a broader perspective on where heavy metal comes from.
Was there a lot of stuff that you learned yourself that you didn´t really know about?
SD: I think I underestimated the degree to which a lot of the early metal musicians were influenced by jazz music. For me, jazz and metal seem like the furthest thing from each other, in so many ways. I do like jazz music and I love metal music, but they´re very separate to me and yet when I talk to people like Bill Ward of Black Sabbath or Dave Lombardo of Slayer and many other musicians, they talk about how especially the drummers like Buddy Rich was so influential on them, the freedom with which they played. Just to take one example, that connection between jazz and metal surprised me.
Yeah, Buddy Rich is a name that comes up a lot, especially when you read about some metal drummers. I recently spoke to Mike Mangini of Dream Theater and he said the same thing, that there was something special about Buddy Rich and his style and just being wild.
SD: Well he was the first drummer that was like a rock star and he was actually like the focal point of the band instead of the guitar player or the singer. He was the first guy to put the drums at the center of the music and because metal is so rhythmic and so rhythmically demanding, that a lot of metal musicians are inspired of what Buddy did.
Looking back on when you did “Metal – A headbanger´s journey” up till now with “Metal Evolution”, what´s been different when it comes to putting it together? What have you learned when it comes to making films and TV-series?
SD: Ha… you know, for us it was a real challenge to make the transition from making a two hour film to do an 11 hour TV-series. I think… we wanted to bring the same level of quality to all the episodes that we would to a single movie and we realized that it nearly killed us. (laughs) We barely survived because the work involved and getting all the key people and taking the time in the editing process to get the story right, was so demanding. I´ve learned that there´s a reason why TV-shows have formulas (laughs) and we weren´t smart enough to find one. (laughs)
It´s airing today here in Sweden. One thing I was wondering about and I understand that you can´t include everything and everyone, but the episode about Detroit and Iggy and Alice Cooper, there was no mentioning of Grand Funk Railroad. Is that because they were not part of pushing stuff forward? They were huge in the States.
SD: I mean, because there were so many bands to consider in making this series, that we really had to zero in on the bands that were making important musical contributions in moving the music forward and Grand Funk Railroad is obviously a really important band with a huge fan base and was known for playing big arena shows in the 70´s, but when we started to zeroing in on the music we didn´t feel they were sort of pushing things forward as much as say the Detroit bands, or the performance forward. Alice Cooper and KISS, they totally revolutionized the stage show in rock music, so we kinda had to keep reminding us that the show was called “Metal Evolution” and it´s not just a list of bands that were popular. It was bands that played a key role in helping the music evolve.
The same goes for AC/DC I guess?
SD: Well, AC/DC… they´re fucking from Australia and really hard to figure out. (laughs) They were really challenging to get in, but we´re actually in discussions with VH1 right now about potentially doing four more episodes and the final episode would be what we´re calling the outsiders of metal and really all those bands that are nearly impossible to categorize and that we feel have been left out and certainly AC/DC is right at the top of the list.
Cool! Working with Iron Maiden and working with Rush, did they approach you or did you approach them and did you get total freedom to do whatever you wanted or was it restricted in any way?
SD: Right. We met both of those bands back when we did “Metal – A headbanger´s journey” and we interviewed Bruce Dickinson and Geddy Lee in that film and Rod Smallwood, Iron Maiden´s manager was someone who really supported us from the very early days of making that film and was hugely pivotal in getting access to important artists like Tony Iommi, Slipknot, Slayer and these bands, because no one knew us back then. But when it came to making “666”, we approached the band about doing something about their tour on Ed Force One and eventually they agreed to do it although they were a bit hesitant at first about having cameras around for the whole tour and with Rush it was similar. We approached them and went down to Texas and met them backstage before a show and Geddy knew us but we had never met Alex and Neil before. Geddy really liked our first film, so that really helped. I don´t think we would´ve been able to hang out with them in the dressing room if Geddy hadn´t liked what we´d done. (laughs) We just had a conversation and told them that we think they´re one of the great rock bands and certainly one of the greatest Canadian bands of all time and that we just felt that they deserved a film, so lucky for us the film did well and won a bunch of awards and Rush is having ongoing success and still one of the most popular rock bands out there.
I really like that movie and the way it was put together, but then you did the live DVD as well, right?
SD: Yeah, “Time machine”.
What´s it like making a live DVD? You gotta end up with tons of footage to choose from?
SD: Yeah, well I mean, with “Time machine” wanted to do something in Cleveland because that was the city that broke them in the US. WMMX, the radio station playing “Working man” back in 1974 and it was one of the most important moments in the band´s history, so they really wanted to give thanks back to that city and they had never done a DVD in America before. It was something they really wanted to do and our approach to filming live concerts have always been to capture the personality of the band. I think there´s a tendency with rock and metal concerts that it´s all about presenting a band as being as big and heavy and intense as possible and of course that´s important, but we also wanna show what´s going on like behind the solo, you know? The glances between the band members and the communication that goes on stage and try and get a bit more of their personality to the show. That´s really what we wanted to bring and obviously Rush has an amazing live show and animations with Howard Ungerleider, their director who´s been with them since the 1970´s, so working with him is a real pleasure because he makes us look good because the lighting is always right for the moment. (laughs) It was a great project to work on and we´re really proud of the way it turned out.
Now that you´ve worked with all these big bands, do you get approached by other bands about making documentaries or live DVD´s?
SD: Yeah, now some people are starting to approach us about doing different things, but I can´t really name names because nothing´s really in the works. We´ve kinda gotten to that point where people are starting to approach us which is great. As I always like to say, it´s a great problem to have. (laughs) There´s worse problems to have in life. For us it´s just about making sure that we can maintain the quality of what we do. We´re not gonna jump out and do any cocaine shows anytime soon, but we are looking for ways to kinda expand what we do but keep the quality up and keep the “Banger style” going.
Are you working on anything with Slayer?
SD: No, but we did have some discussions with Slayer a few years back, but unfortunately it kinda just faded away. What we´re working on now is that we´re doing a documentary on Alice Cooper´s life from his early days as a child to the 80´s when he made his big comeback. We´ve started to do the interviews and collecting the archival material and the other film we have on the go right now is that we´re doing a modern history of the devil.
Yeah, I read about that.
SD: Yeah, it´s obvious the devil is related to what we´ve done because the devil´s a pretty popular guy, but we´re trying to do something broader and we´re looking on the influence of the devil in film and literature and music and pop culture from the 1960´s to the present day. It´s exciting for us because it´s a chance to do something new and kinda expand our horizons but still something that´s clearly to our past.
So that means you´re gonna spend a lot of time in the Norwegian woods then?
SD: (laughs) I´m not sure about that. (laughs) I´m not sure they´ll let us back. If we get the go ahead to do these extra four episodes of “Metal Evolution” one of the other ones will be on extreme metal, so obviously we´re gonna wanna cover the black metal scene in Norway. We love Scandinavia so we´re always looking for an excuse to come back. (laughs)
The Alice Cooper film, is that something that he approached you about?
SD: We approached him. Alice, again, is another artist that we interviewed back when we did “Metal – A headbanger´s journey”. I did two interviews with him for “Metal Evolution” and he´s a big part of two of the episodes in the series and again it´s one of those artists that´s been around for almost 40 years now and never really had a film made about his life. Again, like with Iron Maiden and Rush, so many people are surprised that these artists are still around and are still making records and are still really making an impact and gaining new fans, so we just felt that Alice is such a fascinating guy and he´s got a really amazing life story and we think it´s gonna make a great film.
Nice. You´ve done tons of interviews and met all the major bands and artists. Is there anyone that you still haven´t talked to that you would like to interview or have you been turned down by someone?
SD: There´s two musicians that we´ve tried time and time again to interview and they have not participated and that´s Jimmy Page and Richie Blackmore. Obviously two of the most important guitarists of all time in rock and metal, but both of them are just resistant to being involved in anything that´s related to rock and metal and unfortunately it doesn´t seem like there´s much we can do about it. We keep pestering them for every project so hopefully one day they might sit down and talk to us.
I think I read last year that Blackmore had actually done some interviews about metal and hard rock and not just the medieval music.
SD: Oh really! They´re lucky. I´d like to know what those guys ´magic formula is.
Right. How do you finance these movies and series? It´s gotta cost a lot of money?
SD: It´s a combination through distribution deals we make for DVD and broadcast deals with TV networks in various countries and then in Canada we have systems of tax credits and some government funding which support TV and film production, because we live so close to the US and Hollywood and they´re such a huge force in entertainment. In Canada we have some funds set up that supports Canadians to produce our own films and TV shows, so it´s really a combination of those things. That´s how we pull it together. We used to have to beg our parents to loan us money and thankfully we don´t have to do that anymore. (laughs)
Finally, are you still playing in a band?
SD: Sadly now. With all the work at Banger and I have a four month old son, so there´s not a lot of time to be cranking up the bass and working on new riffs unfortunately. Maybe one day I can get back into it. I´d love to.
Well, thank you so much Sam!
SD: Yeah, thanks very much!