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)

Live Government Issue clip from Salad Days

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As the Washington DC hardcore documentary Salad Days premiere’s this month across the UK at the dates above, some new footage of Government Issue playing live from back in day has been posted online for your enjoyment tonight.

Head to Dazed for a simple Q&A with director Scott Crawford and here for the trailer.

Vans Propeller London premiere

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Let’s kick this off by saying that the hype surrounding this film before it aired at the Prince Charles cinema in London was completely justified. It’s an incredible production that has zero filler and parts that will leave your jaw on the floor. Greg Hunt obviously worked his socks off to get this completed at the highest level and left no stones unturned. It’s so damn good that it feels like everyone has the ender.

At the world premiere, Geoff Rowley mentioned that Propeller “is a raw video, like one you grew up with” and he’s spot on. Doused in fast moving rock n’roll, each section is peppered with incredible skateboarding, packing gnar and tech from a crew who broke bones to make it special. Let’s hope that those skaters who grow up with Propeller see full length production as the norm, and bring back the full length as a priority over web clips in the future. It’s night’s like these where you wished the internet never existed.

The premiere itself was packed to the gills and over subscribed with people who had travelled from all over the UK. There were no seats for us, so we were asked to watch it upstairs where we joined Sidewalk’s Horse, Henry from Grey Mag and about 10 others and watched it with a Rob Smith introduction instead of the full cast. I’m sure the atmosphere downstairs was electric though, as each part just takes the piss. No spoilers of course as you will have to downnload it and watch it on iTunes on May 5th when it drops worldwide, but it’s a ridiculously impressive skateboard video and one to keep.

Plenty of booze was consumed at the House of Vans afterwards, where Steve Van Doren made burgers for everyone and was joined by Lutheran, Zorilla, Hunt, Rowley, Trujillo and more of the pro team. At 1am, Steve Caballero and Christian Hosoi decided it was time for a bowl sesh. Enjoy this drunk cam footage and snaps from the phone. Go get Propeller as soon as you can.

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Salad Days DC Hardcore official film trailer

Embrace in ’86. Photo by Dave McDuff

Embrace, 1986 (photo by Dave McDuff)

If you follow this zine regularly you will know we have been chomping at the bit to see this Washington DC hardcore scene documentary come to fruition, but now it’s a reality. The funding via Kickstarter reached its target and the film, put together by director/writer Scott Crawford and producer/editor Jim Saah, will be screened in December at the Black Cat venue with Soulside and Moss Icon playing live and then released.

Watch the official trailer for “Salad Days: The Birth of Punk in the Nation’s Capitol” right here and look out for the likes of John Stabb, Ian Mackaye, Henry Rollins, Dave Grohl, Alec Mackaye, plus many more and get hyped.

Element Europe ‘Hold It Down’

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Skateboarding has a great quality to it which is innovation and change. Why it doesn’t compare to most sports is because it doesn’t have any rules or governing bodies that dictate winners and losers and classify everybody into leader boards and leagues. Well, actually there is some of that in skateboarding but it’s best left ignored. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that skaters will naturally progress and this progression moves in tangents. At one end you’ll have the simple but gnarly skaters, whilst at another you’ll have the technical wizards and in between everything you have style. Older generations have always been aware that times were a-changing but I think we can safely say that times have changed but only for the better.

Element have been supporting European skateboarding for quite a while now and even if the riders from the old continent don’t necessarily have their names screened onto the decks they ride, their actions speak louder than the words the much sought after vinyl transfers could provide. Nassim Guammaz, Karsten Kleppan, Ross McGouran, Madars Apse, Phil Zwijsen, Michael Mackrodt, Jarne Verbruggen, Ruben Rodrigues and Guillaume Mocquin are all great skaters. You won’t be disappointed by what you see in their new feature length web video ‘Hold it Down‘.

Here are a few reasons why the guys in this video are worth 24 minutes of your attention deficit disordered lives:

Karsten Klappens manages to take every single spot that could have had real potential and makes it a reality. Example: that curved ledge would be great to skate but there are two great walls stick out at either end. No problem for Karsten, he’ll just pop over and pop right out.

Ross McGouran (above) is a very gnarly pint size bastard who’s not afraid to fling himself far and wide in the pursuit of happiness.

Madars Apse and Phil Zwijsen share a part that combines Madars’ laid back approach to Phil’s. Jarne Verbruggen is a perfect example of today’s generation that can annihilate anything that sits in their path. Big transfers, a bit of ledge flippery and applying old tricks to new heights makes Jarne really fun to watch.

Nassim Guammaz (above) definitely chomps more than a fair share of rails in his part but when you see how easy he makes it look, you’ll be wondering why you don’t have a go yourself.

Check the credits for a straight and simple thanks to Mark Gonzales, John Cardiel and Pontus Alv. That list might sound way too easy command street cred among viewers, but when you see the talent and approach a lot of the skaters have you can see that those three legends are the real inspiration and thankfully so.

Ralph Lloyd-Davis

Cuatro Suenos Pequenos by Thomas Campbell

cuatros-suenos-pequenos_thomascampbellIf you read our French Fred interview in his Exposed feature a few week’s back you would have noticed he was working on a new Visual Audio Experiment with Thomas Campbell.

Cuatro Suenos Pequenos (Four Small Dreams) is their new 16mm film project that has appearances off and on board from Madars Apse and Javier Mendizabal.

There will 4 dream scene scenarios across the 20 minute video feature that will drop this summer, but for now, watch this to get you in the mood for what’s coming.

The film captures Javier Brushing his teeth, slobbering on his pillow, bedding down with a beautiful brunette, running into Madars Apse in his dream, they skate over volcano’s, thru the woods and into cities of Spain, the Canary Islands, Mallorca, The Basque country and California. It’s beautiful work.

*Kickflip firecracker at speed* cough…

Ambig: Modern Art

ambig-modern-artAmbig Clothing’s latest visual endeavour is a short promo rather than a full length with only three riders releasing full parts, others taking up smaller montage roles and a flow rider section tagging on after the credits. The length of this flick didn’t bother me though, as the 16-minutes of footage delivered banger after banger.

Clive Dixon opens the box with a wide range of skating. I was really digging his part but the wailing soundtrack almost made it unbearable. My dog wasn’t too pleased with the music selection either. However, the skating made up for it tenfold, especially his FS bigspin lipslide that came out of nowhere. JT Aultz and Sean Conover then assault anything hand rail or hubba shaped. Sean even does a 360 flip 50-50 which is a total beer spiller. Moose then follows with his third video appearance of 2013, making him a good contender for the hardest working am this year. The Deathwish ripper shows us just how good he is at flipping into grinds, and once again delivers a solid section.

Next, we witness one of Ed Tempelton’s loyal pawns, Matt Bennett, who gets tech on some schoolyard tables. He shows us his legendary Bennett grind, taking some to handrails, and doing variations on picnic tables. This part (that also has a Dan Lutheran appearance) will make most people look forward to another Toy Machine video. Fingers crossed on that, especially as they have just acquired the services of Blake Carpenter.

The ender is closed by Birdhouse’s latest pro, Clint Walker. This part actually got leaked 4 weeks ago, leaving the internet in meltdown. He skates fast as fuck to Holograms’ ‘Monolith’ track and isn’t afraid to take a full tilt slam either. His all-out approach in this video makes it an instant classic. There are a plethora of tricks to mention from this section, but a the ollie body-varial down the huge triple set and his 50-50 down the weirdest triple kinker ends this on a huge high. This part will be up there as one of the very best at the end of the year and beyond. Sick stuff.

Watch it in full here with some extra’s from Walker’s section or even better, track down the DVD as it will be one to keep forever.

Dominic Hynard