Finding Joseph I: An Oral History of H.R. from Bad Brains

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How low can a punk get? It obviously depends of course on state of mind, drug use, religious beliefs and fame and fortune to start with, but let’s digress for a second and introduce H.R to those who may not know him. Paul “H.R.” Hudson, aka Joseph I, is the unique frontman of the legendary and explosive hardcore band, Bad Brains, whose rise to fame in the 1980s saw them travel the world to perform their bone crunching music to thousands. H.R’s presence on stage is unforgettable. Whether he is screaming from the bottom of his soul to thrashing 200mph riffs or singing sweet dulcet Rastafarian tones over dope basslines, this enigma was born to emit electrifying energy to others that can be deeply infectious. Only a chosen few can say that they fronted arguably, the best live punk rock band of all time.

I’m slightly biased here, as my 16 year old self decided to travel to the Marquee Club on Tottenham Court Rd in London back in 1989 to see them play on the ‘Quickness’ Tour. Bad Brains were the first legit hardcore band I had ever witnessed play live and their sheer sonic force and insane energy just ripped the place apart. Bodies flew off the stage all night long, beer was thrown everywhere, H.R was backflipping – someone even dived off the balcony. I had discovered hardcore from the kings of the scene, directly from the inner sanctum, instantly inspiring me to form my own band. They were that influential.

As Bad Brains grew in popularity, H.R’s erratic behaviour rose with it causing chaos within the band’s touring and recording schedule but his character was so compelling that his actions were not seen to be anything other than avant-garde to some. It took a while for those close to him to realise that maybe his abnormal social behaviour was actually out of his control and caused by a legitimate illness such as schizophrenia. This is the subject that forms the basis of this amazing documentary made by director James Lathos. As a lifelong Bad Brains fan, Lathos spent a lot of time with H.R in the US and Jamaica over the space of 10 years and decided to piece together this documentary without any prior experience of film making. A task that on reflection is an accolade in itself as his work sucks you in and turns you upside down revealing a detailed and personal inside view of the band’s struggle to keep their frontman focused throughout serious illness.

The film takes you through the early years of the Hudson family and their movements around the world from birth in Liverpool, England to Kingston, Jamaica, leading to various locations across America to their home in Washington DC, where the two Hudson brothers, Earl and Paul would meet guitarist Gary Miller (aka Dr Know) and bassist Darryl Jennifer. Strangely, both band members decided not to contribute to the documentary at all, leaving the sound bites to Earl Hudson, Bad Brains’ manager Anthony Countey, Positive Force founder Mark Andersen, Dischord’s Ian MacKaye, various members of Sublime, 311, Living Colour, Fishbone and many others, but for once, no Henry Rollins or Dave Grohl! In fact many key hardcore luminaries who we thought would be present in this flick discussing the good old days were not present.

In reflection though, Lathos’ followed H.R’s journey as a solo singer in the many collaborations and reggae projects that he formed around the US that toured Europe during the late 1980s and 90s. A mission that wasn’t all about survival, but a quest to find inner peace and happiness through leaving behind the somewhat negative, in-your-face force that punk rock is famed for. H.R struggled with this aggression and much preferred the more heartfelt, soulful Rasta vibes of reggae and dub leading him on various paths to write music with many other musicians within the genre.

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The director depicts H.R as a Shaman who drifted in search of new musical directions without managing to pay a single electric bill in his life. A deeply religious man who only needed a bed and bible but whose illness eventually lead him to homelessness. Sadly, his schizophrenia became so unbearable that one questioned whether he knew if he was actually on stage performing or not. Lathos’ goes deep into the dark side of the singer’s mental instability in true documentary form making uncomfortable viewing with H.Rs personal archive of self filmed footage confirming that he was stuck in his own hallucinogenic world. But from the depths of despair there is always light and the scene that explains the purchase of a white limousine, his wonderfully bizarre outfits and that unforgettable grin are quick to soften the blow!

From the incredible unseen live footage to learning how H.R invented the word ‘mosh’ from his Jamaican patois chants, ‘Finding Joseph I’ takes you on an inside journey through the success and turmoil of H.R and Bad Brains confirming why they’re included for induction into the 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

For a debut production in the world of music documentaries, Lathos’ film will go down as one of the best you will see within the hardcore scene. I literally cannot believe we managed to see the very first screening that H.R himself has not even seen yet, so thank you Doc’n Roll Film Festival for the opportunity. Apparently there was so much archive interview footage that a book will also be published next January, but as the director mentioned on the night at the Q&A, it’s too early to tell what Small Axe Films will be doing in terms of releasing it online or on DVD yet but it will happen. For now, watch the trailer and get yourself some PMA.

Words: Zac
Photo: Zac (Unseen photo of HR backstage at the Astoria, London 2007)

Ian Mackaye and Steve Albini head to head interview

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It’s not often you will hear Ian Mackaye (Fugazi/Dischord/The Evens) in conversation head to head with Steve Albini (Big Black/Shellac) but it’s happened on Kreative Kontrol.

In part 1, listen to Albini slag off Rites of Spring, and the influence of Minor Threat on hardcore, punk violence, the Butthole Surfers, one-upmanship, record distribution, explaining Pailhead and how Ian came to work with Al Jourgensen from Ministry (softy dance stuff, ha!) and most importantly, they discuss in detail that ‘In On The Kill Taker’ recording session that never worked for Fugazi that Albini engineered.

In part 2, the pair discuss politics, Sylvester Stallone, the Urban Outfitters/Minor Threat thing, Henry Rollins, communication, anonymity and much, much more.

This is a great chat if you are obsessed by hardcore, make sure you find time to sit down and listen to it properly.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC

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We’ve waited a long time for this one. Crowd-funding for the making of ‘Salad Days’, a look at the incredibly fertile hardcore punk movement that exploded out of Washington DC in the early 80s, first started over four years ago when brief snippets and enticing trailers started to work their way across the internets. And now it’s finally here…

We live in an age now where so many bands, movements and artists are getting to tell their stories in film. Every week there’s a new music documentary to see, a story to tell, but Salad Days is something special. From the very start, the Washington DC punk scene documented itself. More than any other punk scene in the world at that time, the participants took care to photograph, film and record everything that was happening. They knew what they were doing was important and special and wanted it preserved. “I didn’t want to own the scene, I just wanted there to be one,” explains Ian Mackaye, who through his work with Minor Threat, Fugazi, Dischord Records and many more is understandably the lynch pin and constant through the whole movie. So the upshot of this is that there is a wealth of incredible footage in this film. It rushes past, much like the music, in a high-speed, high-energy blur. This is not any easy film to sit still and watch in a cinema, as each band and song crashes by, every moment made me want to leap out of my seat and explode.

Ph: Ian Mackaye of Minor Threat, Wilson Center, DC, 1983 by Jim Saah

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Film maker Scott Crawford has done an incredible job of capturing the spirit and energy of the time. Having been involved in the scene in DC from a very young age (he was just 12 when he started going to gigs and making fanzines), he was trusted to tell the story and help the various participants open up.

Running chronologically from when Bad Brains exploded onto the scene and everything went FAST with bands like SOA, Void. Teen idles, Minor Threat, Untouchables, Youth Bridge, to the mid-80s ‘Revolution Summer’ years with Rites Of Spring, Embrace, Gray Matter, Dave Grohl’s first band Mission Impossible. They then move onto the end of the 80s as the alternative rock explosion beckoned, and Grohl, fresh out of Dischord legends Scream propelled Nirvana into the mainstream, bringing Fugazi attention they never expected, Jawbox a major label deal and the rest is history.

There are so many magical moments in ‘Salad Days’ that it’s difficult to know where to start but here’s a few. The footage of Void is utterly off-the-hook insane and demonic, the bit where MacKaye talks about Straight Edge and how he still gets people, to this day, phoning him at the Dischord office and screaming “hey Ian, I’m drunk, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT!!” before slamming the phone down, the self-belief, politics and conviction that run through every band, the thought that they really believed they were making a difference and could change. Subject to change. The realisation of just how young everyone one was when this started…

“Salad days” is a Shakespearean idiomatic expression to refer to a youthful time, accompanied by the inexperience, enthusiasm, idealism, innocence, or indiscretion that one associates with a young person.”

That says it all.

James Sherry

You can pre-order the film on Vimeo as it will be Video On Demand from August 4th.

New DC Hardcore book ‘Hard Art, D.C. 1979’

A brand new book covering Washington DC’s infamous hardcore punk scene will be released this June. “Hard Art, D.C. 1979” has been put together by Lucian Perkins who spent 27 years of his life taking photographs for The Washington Post.

His iconic snaps of Minor Threat, Bad Brains and beyond whilst he was an intern there proceeded a career that earned him not one but two Pulitzer Prize’s for his sterling work shooting various wars and conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and much more.

You can pre-order this on through Dischord so you know it is legit for a decent price of $23. It will be a far better choice than the rip off project that the Vinyl Factory are selling to hipsters this month. Make sure you do your homework.

Bad Brains announce new album with ‘classic’ lineup

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Legendary hardcore band Bad Brains have announced details of a new album today, which will see the classic lineup of H.R., Darryl Jenifer, Dr. Know and Earl Hudson all back together with smiles on their faces.

We have heard the new album ‘Into the Future’ and can tell you that it has more in common with ‘Quickness’ than ‘Rock For Light’, ‘I Against I’ or their ‘self-titled’ debut and will be released on November 19th via Megaforce Records. Here’s a taste of what’s to come.

Bad Brains documentary to debut at SXSW

A documentary on seminal hardcore band Bad Brains will debut at the SXSW festival in Austin this year.

The film features the likes of Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye, Adam Yauch and Don Letts and has the following synopsis:

“Bad Brains are one of the most important and influential American bands still working today. They melded punk and reggae into an innovative style that has yet to be copied. Their impact and influence can be heard in groups like Beastie Boys, No Doubt, Nirvana, Jane’s Addiction and countless more.

Despite the troubles of an eccentric front man they have stayed together for 30 years without ever reaching the level of success so many think they deserve. Using rare archival footage and original comic illustrations the film re-constructs Bad Brains’ rich and complicated history.”

Check out the trailer below and get hyped.

Salad Days Washington Hardcore documentary

fugazi_dischordIf you are like us and grew up listening to the sounds of Bad Brains, Fugazi, Minor Threat and beyond, get ready for another dose of reminiscing the good old days of US hardcore.

Salad Days:The Washington DC Punk Revolution is the work of Scott Crawford and Jim Saah and is looking likely to be aired in 2013. The film is said to be half way to completion to date and will be covering the 80’s hardcore scene throughout a decade of music.

The usual names and faces have already been mentioned and associated with interview time within the film such as Grohl, Rollins, Mackaye etc so expect a comprehensive discussion looking back at one of punk rock’s most exciting scenes of music in the US from the fanzines, labels promoters and bands who made it all tick.

Bad Brains to re-issue Pay to Cum for RSD

Bad Brains fans may be stoked on the news that their first ever 7″ Pay to Cum that was originally released in 1980 will be re-issued on various coloured vinyl for Record Store Day on April 16th. 250 green, gold and red 7″s will be available via the Bad Brains store. In related news Bad Brains are said to be in the studio recording a new album for release this year. More news on this soon.

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Cerebral Ballzy return to London in May

cerebralballzyBrooklyn hardcore band Cerebral Ballzy have announced a live show at the Barfly in Camden, London for May 7th with Thrush Metal in support. If you like your old school hardcore a la Bad Brains, Adolescents, Black Flag then watch this video and get hyped.

Doors at 8pm -2am with a whole host of guest support acts and DJs planned. Tickets £6 adv from here.