I'm here today to highlight the wonderful documentary Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-1990) which is coming out this week on DVD and Blu-Ray via MVD Entertainment Group. In the next week or so I'm going to be posting a few things about the film and the DVD and offering 2 copies of the DVD as giveaways. More details on that giveaway below. But first, my interview with the very gracious director of Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-1990), Scott Crawford.
Void in a still used in the film...
Glenn, kenixfan: Salad Days manages to condense pretty much what many would say is the most important era in D.C. hardcore history into something that makes a tight, concise documentary. Did you ever feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of material you had in front of you?
SCOTT CRAWFORD: Yes, at times it felt totally overwhelming. But I knew the story I wanted to tell, so it was really just a matter of focusing on the main points and weeding out the geeky details that I have a habit of obsessing over. Doing that easily took 6 months -- because, well, I'm a geek.
Gray Matter playing a 1985 set on the rooftop of D.C.'s legendary Food for Thought...
Glenn, kenixfan: I started working in record stores in 1987 and one of the things I reflected on while watching Salad Days is that the inescapable Dischord behemoth in D.C. that I was a bit reluctant to fully embrace back then was largely a label and scene that had been shaped by Revolution Summer; what I thought of as "D.C. hardcore" was that post-Revolution Summer version. Salad Days makes things seem gleefully anarchic pre-Revolution Summer and a bit more focused afterwards. Can you speak a bit on how you look back now on the pre- and post-Revolution Summer vibe of D.C. hardcore?
SCOTT CRAWFORD: I can understand why you or anyone else might've been a bit hesitant to fully embrace something that at times may have felt a little exclusionary. Everybody has their own take on that and I wanted to show that in the film. However, I do recall feeling that at a lot of the “Revolution Summer”-type shows you knew you weren't going to have to contend with a lot of knuckleheads. They just weren't tolerated. At shows previous to that, things could get out of hand at times between the audience and occasionally, with the neighborhood residents as well.
Glenn, kenixfan: Salad Days is a labor of love and the results show that. When you watch the film now, do you see anything missing? Looking back on the making of this film, is there anything you'd do differently if you had to do it all over again? What are the lessons learned from the making of Salad Days?
SCOTT CRAWFORD: Oh sure. It's hard to watch it and not want to change little things. But for the most part I'm pretty pleased with it. I would've liked to included a few more voices that just weren't available for whatever reason. The lack of strong live footage for the early part of the decade was also challenging, but it's also a reflection of the technology of the time.
Glenn, kenixfan: What seemed monolithic at the time, seems more multifaceted and diverse now. Salad Days may concern itself primarily with D.C. hardcore, especially Dischord bands, but within that, there was a lot of variety, as the film shows. Did you feel the need as a fan to highlight certain bands, or draw attention to others that may have been neglected in the wake of the success of Fugazi, for example?
SCOTT CRAWFORD: I wanted to show a broad range of people and music, but it's hard to not have you favorites as well. There was so much powerful music that came out of that decade. Having said that, I wish I would've had more No Trend material to work with. I always liked them and Jeff No Trend's no bullshit approach was always kind of refreshing.
Glenn, kenixfan: In one of the deleted interview clips, Nicole Thomas of Fire Party makes a point about how people in that era were simultaneously moving among different circles and things weren't entirely as monolithic as they may have seemed to some of us. So what were you listening to back then that *wasn't* part of D.C. hardcore, or a Dischord act?
SCOTT CRAWFORD: I remember liking a lot of the SST stuff (Husker Du, Minutemen, Descendents, etc.) at the time. Bands like Naked Raygun, Big Black, Articles of Faith, Big Boys, Replacements, Squirrel Bait were in heavy rotation in the mid-80s. I was exposed to a lot just being a pest at the local record stores and hearing what they were into. I discovered a lot of the Brit-stuff that was happening by hanging out at Y&T [Skipp Groff's legendary Yesterday and Today record store in Rockville, Maryland] and listening to bands like Chameleons UK, Felt, The Mission, etc.
Brian Baker of Minor Threat, Bad Religion, and loads of other bands...
Glenn, kenixfan: Brian "Later, Nerds" Baker seems to be the antihero of Salad Days, articulating some points of view that gently puncture the Dischord mythos. And I can recall "back in the day" a certain cynical line of thinking that said, "If Fugazi are so good, why don't they sign to a major label?" But, when watching Salad Days, one doesn't get the sense that that was ever the point for Ian MacKaye. The film is really about celebrating people in a scene doing things their way, whether it was under the Straight Edge banner or not. Looking back now, how does that major label/indie label schism seem to you? The inclusion of other local labels like Teenbeat and Simple Machines in the film adds to the idea that D.C. hardcore is really about DIY more than it is about hardcore punk, on some level.
SCOTT CRAWFORD: Absolutely -- this was a town without any infrastructure when it comes to putting out music or booking your own shows. It wasn't just the punk scene that had to contend with it -- that's why the go-go part of the film was so important. I wanted to show that these 2 organic scenes both grew from a DIY approach.
Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat, Embrace, Fugazi, and Dischord Records...
Glenn, kenixfan: When we were watching the film at the premiere, my wife leaned over and whispered what I was thinking: how did you manage to get your parents to let you go to punk shows when you were only 12 or so? How did your family then feel about your "hobby"?
SCOTT CRAWFORD: My parents had split up and I think my mother gave me a pretty long leash because she knew I was really struggling to find my place. Many of the people in the film would give me rides to shows back then and would always let my mother know that they'd look after me. I think that helped tremendously. When I asked her this same question while doing the film, she said she'd never seen me so enthusiastic about anything before, and didn't want to deny me the thrill of any of it. Thanks Mom.
Glenn, kenixfan: Is there any story untold, one band not mentioned that should have been in Salad Days if you had to do it again?
SCOTT CRAWFORD: Lots of stories that weren't told (simply due to the 100-minute limit I put on myself). I would've liked to have had a bit more of the non-Discord bands perhaps.
Glenn, kenixfan: Can you tell me a bit about the process of selecting the tracks for the film and the miraculous job done by Archie Moore (Velocity Girl, Black Tambourine) in mixing the whole thing?
SCOTT CRAWFORD: I'd had this soundtrack running in my head for 30 years so I'd known which songs I’d wanted from the very beginning. Archie is brilliant, creative, patient and passionate -- working with him was a real highlight of making the film.
Glenn, kenixfan: I just wanted to say thanks again for letting me help out in a tiny way at the premiere back in December and thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview.
SCOTT CRAWFORD: Oh thank YOU!
Picture of Salad Days director Scott Crawford, yours truly, and John Stabb of Government Issue (and loads of other bands) at the premiere of Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-1990) back in December at AFI Silver in Silver Spring..
Now, here's your chance to win 1 of 2 free Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-1990) DVDs courtesy of MVD Entertainment Group.
Name one of the D.C.-area bands Dave Grohl was in before Scream. There is a film clip of one of the bands on the Salad Days DVD. Simply email me (kenixfan [at] gmail [dot] com) or Tweet to me on Twitter and send me your name and mailing address and I'll get the DVD out to you ASAP and post the winner's name here later.
Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-1990) is out now via MVD Entertainment Group.