Interview: This Is Noise Pop Writer, Tony Saxe
The culmination of ten years of volunteer filming and production, This Is Noise Pop covers the historic indie rock festival in all of its splendor. Bay Area Bourgeois sat down with writer and editor, Tony Saxe to learn more about the film and his take on the Noise Pop festival. Interview after the jump.
You can catch a screening of This Is Noise Pop at the Roxie on Wednesday. Director Adam Werbach and Tony Saxe will be answering questions after the screening.
Where did the idea for the film come from?
Adam Werbach, the director, had the idea for the film almost ten years ago. And he originally just had started filming and had gotten some volunteer film makers to start filming shows. And he put a list of general questions together for interviews. So the volunteer crew would ask them questions about how they got started or indie rock and things like that. It’s been a volunteer project and so the quality of the the film is all over the place. There are professional people and non-professional people. And so the footage kind of is what it is. And Adam kept getting crews together and shooting the shows. And later there’s a producer, the third person on the This Is Noise Pop team, Jason Thomas. And he’s part of what made this actually get turned into a film. Jason started to handle shooting the festival in a more professional way. So it was HD and it was covered off and things like that. It just felt like different footage. And we said we should actually go through these stacks of tapes that Adam has and see if there’s anything in there worth doing. We probably started that about four years ago. To actually go through stuff and see what was there. It hadn’t been being catalogued the whole time. A lot of it was literally just tapes sitting with the names of shows on them.
What’s the structure of the film?
It was a bottom up thing. So in terms of narrative, it started out with nothing and then what held the whole thing together is we were really talking a lot about what indie rock is and the life style that is associated with it. How do you make a living? What happens to indie rock people when they turn forty? And how has that changed over the last twenty years or so? So the narrative is very loose but the themes that we’re talking about with all of the artists are the same.
Did you start work on This Is Noise Pop hoping to dispel preconceptions about life as an indie musician?
I think that that’s right. And what’s interesting is that I’m not even quite sure what the preconceptions are. I’m not sure that people have well developed preconceptions. We interviewed Bob Mould and I’m not sure if Bob Mould’s really wealthy or if he’s really broke. You just don’t really have any sense of where they are. I think a lot of people are really just curious about how do you do this. Do you have a day job or not? I don’t even think the musicians know. I think that’s one of the things that’s interesting about what’s happening with this period in indie music and This Is Noise Pop, that we just happened to be in production when all this was getting covered. It’s really when the internet exploded and there are all these different ways of musicians being able to distribute and control their own music. And so, yeah, it raises a lot of interesting questions about whether that really changes anything fundamentally or not. I’m not sure that we come out and solve all of that. But you see a lot of different people and see what their sense of it is.
Tell me about your personal relationship to Noise Pop and how working on the film has changed that relationship.
I’m an editor, generally, so I try to not be involved and not be on set. So This Is Noise Pop was the other way around where it really developed for me, and I think this is the case for Adam too, out of being a fan. So it started out as having an excuse to go and have passes to all the shows and go hang out on stage and sit and talk to Wayne Coyne. It’s definitely changed my relationship to Noise Pop to cross that barrier of going back into the green room or the backstage at Bimbo’s or Great American just seemed like this realm. And now it’s really sort of changed. I’m so much more comfortable around the artists and I’m used to walking in and figuring out the run of the place.
And more than anything, with all the stuff it’s just, I guess, like you were saying something before about perspective on it. And I came to this from being like, I’d gone to Noise Pop a bunch of times and if I had any, you know, musical talent it would have been like some day, I want to be in a band that plays in Noise Pop and that would totally be it for me.
Do you think a lot of people who work in the music industry or music journalism still get starstruck?
I think the backstage at the show thing is one that changes. You realize the extent to which it’s a job and work and there are people running around and that really have things to do. We’ve been interviewing people backstage and in terms of the wow-ness of it to see and meet people whose work you respect, I don’t think that ever totally goes away. We ended up not doing it for the movie but we were going to interview Isaac Brock and [Jason Thomas, producer] said ‘I’m too scared. I don’t want to, I’ll be too freaked out.’ But some of that is this really pleasant surprise. We interviewed Lou Barlow a couple times and he has this reputation for being really crotchety and difficult. And he was just like the sweetest, nicest guy of everyone that we interviewed. It just sort of brings you down to earth a little bit, too. I think Bob Mould is the one example for me because I had Husker Du posters in my bedroom before I even really knew what Husker Du sounded like. I just knew they were so cool and I wanted to be like that. So to actually meet Bob Mould and he is, in some sense, just this normal guy. There’s the starstruck-ness of it that’s really cool but also with most of these guys and women they’re very working class and normal people. And it’s really refreshing that they’re not a bunch of pompous assholes because they’re rock stars. They’re just generally good people.
What’s next for This Is Noise Pop?
We’re done with the film. Adam and some of the other people who are involved with it have been talking to distributors. So we’re just kind of trying to figure out the best way to get it out. With distribution models and all these sorts of things is there’s so many different ways to distribute it. And it’s not at all important that this is on a DVD or seen in a theater. So it’s really conducive to getting out in different ways. It’s super fun for me to be able to have this thing that has these people in it. And Adam and I keep talking about, you know, when we’re older, this was the scene. This was what was going on for a period of time when we were running around, going to shows and stuff so. It’s fun that that exists. It’s fun that there’s a record of it.
If you could only go to three shows, which ones would they be?
The Yo La Tengo one. I really want to try to go see the Admiral Radley show which is the night of the screening. Because, actually, Jason Lytle who is in Grandaddy was like one of those people. Ben Gibbard and some other people talk about how crazy they were about Grandaddy and I was nuts about them. And we didn’t interview him. So he’s one of the guys that I actually really want to meet. And I’m almost sure I’ll go see the Aesop Rock show. Just because that’s actually one of the things about the festival, the documentary ends up being such an indie rock thing. And it was just sort of outside of the limits of the film to get into that. But you know the Bay Area hip hop scene and the electronica, like Wavves, even that’s in the festival this year, that doesn’t get covered as much in the film as it probably should. But like I was saying to Jason, maybe they’ll do another film starting in like 2007 and it’ll kind of cover that music a little bit better.