Last year, Ohio’s extreme metal label Hells Headbangers organized the second edition of their Hells Headbash festival and we were there to watch it unfold. Sadly, no words can ever describe the intensity and success of the event and the organizers knew that, therefore they hired film director James Turner to create a unique DVD for our enjoyment. We sat down with Turner to discuss in detail what can we expect from the concert video and more:
So, you were the one walking around the festival with a bunch of cameras and crew filming the festival. Have you done this type of film in the past?
Indeed! Yeah, actually I filmed quite a bit for the first Headbash DVD, but mostly for B-roll and some last minute interview footage. If I remember correctly, only the interviews made it to the final presentation. I should know, as I was the one that edited the entire thing, but that’s been well over a year now, haha. All the live footage was shot and edited by a wonderful production company out of Cleveland called Vidz-R-Us and sent to me to plug in all my stuff, assemble in the way we (Hells Headbangers and I) were discussing. The first is a tribute to the old infamous Ultimate Revenge VHS with Venom, Slayer, and Exodus. I shot as much similar B-roll content, animated the graphics the same way, everything down to the last detail from fonts to where songs appear in the final lineup. It was a dream come true to be asked to handle a project like that!
Based on the videos I’ve seen from the very first edition, last year was much bigger in every aspect, stage production, lineup, logistics, everything. What were some of the challenge this growth brought to you and your crew?
I have to say, as much as I like close and intimate shows, that media pit was a real lifesaver in terms of getting the shots we needed and I’m damn proud of the footage we got because of this. Most of what I filmed on my in in the first was just impromptu and from the sidelines or wherever I could find space. This time around, I hired the crew and went to the Agora Theatre where the fest was held a few weeks previous to scout and plot all the areas we were given access to, coordinate where the crew could move in and out of without disrupting anything because this time around, we were shooting in an old theater, not a warehouse. My prior experience was mostly in studios and just on location in documentary work so this was a whole new experience for me as well as much of my crew. It was mostly just trying to make sure we stayed out of the way of the performers, respectfully share space with photographers (wink), and cooperate with stage crew who were the most helpful souls I could have asked for. It was great getting to plot out the many perspectives we got this time around, like so many concert videos and films I’d seen growing up. I think the greatest challenge was just working for 12 hours straight, three days in a row in that boiling theater, each of us in the crew trying desperately to find time for water, food, a smoke, and file transfer in the 10-15 minutes between each set. By the last band of each night (who some might argue are a large selling point of the film), you are basically exhausted even sitting down at a tripod, but that’s when you have to keep as alert as possible to where the action is and where to point and adjust.
I was there last year and I was impressed by the ambition Hells Headbangers had with the whole event and it was an occasion that needed to be experienced to understand it fully. How can this DVD portray what we lived that weekend? is there anything setting aside this from any other concert DVD?
Glad you asked! As much as last year’s DVD was a tribute to Ultimate Revenge (by instruction of HHR), I planned out Headbash 2 to be more of a film than a concert video, and by that I mean in terms of feature length, the decision to film in 24 frames instead of 30, and trying our damnedest to capture as much of what we could was going on around us and not just on stage. Personally, it’s my love letter to a genre you don’t tend to see a whole lot of today, the concert film; things like Woodstock, Message To Love: Isle Of Wight, Hail Hail Rock’n’Roll, etc. I would say, more than anything, I was channeling my favorite of the genre, URGH! A Music War, a tragically underrated and seemingly little-heard-of concert film that was out to chronicle the burgeoning punk and new wave acts of the time that captured this amazing professional footage of the Police, the Cramps, X, the Dead Kennedys, Echo and the Bunnymen, DEVO, Gary Numan, and so many others. I had to buy a bootleg of it years ago, having never heard of it, from a dude selling a lot of bootleg punk/garage/glam videos of TV performances, etc. and I remember it had Lux Interior on the cover and thought, “Why the hell have I never heard of this?!? Why is this not one of the most celebrated films in punk/music of all time like the Decline of the Western Civilization films, etc?” I remember getting it home and finally seeing performances by Klaus Nomi and Chelsea for the first time and just thinking to myself “Thank the gods someone decided to put enough money up for a professional production crew to capture this!” as not only is it quality material, but being shot on film, it carries more of a sense of being important, a whittled out section in time and space that hopefully causes the viewer to look at it and say “I should have been there.” That’s exactly what I wanted with Hells Headbash 2.
You must love what you do, otherwise, you wouldn’t spend countless nights of sleep deprivation making this production come to life. But was there any particular part that stands out for you about this whole project?
I mean editing is always my favorite part, and it’s never been more true than with this project as, like I said, I spent 12 hours every day viewing the entire festival through the lens of a camera. Enjoying it, yes, but not as a spectator. The editing process was my first chance to really enjoy this, haha. I was there to see Acid Witch, Midnight, Bonehunter, Cemetery Lust, my good friends in the Lurking Corpses, Shitfucker, etc., but at that point was not a huge fan of most black metal and couldn’t have even told you what Bestial/War Metal was. As I said before, at the end of the last set, you’re exhausted and when Profanatica comes on, it’s a slow burn at the end of a long boil and you’re not able to really take it in as you’re concentrating on what shots to capture. During their set I was just praying for this band I’d never heard of before to be over so I could go to my friend’s condo and sleep, haha. I finally get the chance to edit their performances and I’m like, “Jesus….this band is amazing, I’ve never seen someone capture an atmosphere of seductive blasphemy like this before, where was I for this?!?” and they’ve since become one of my favorite bands. I think the most fun has been putting all the compilation stuff together like the trailers and the menu’s for the DVD, etc.
I’m sure you’re a fan of most, if not, all of the bands playing last year’s edition and maybe had the chance to interact with some of the musicians performing. Was there anyone you met or wanted to have the chance to meet that would’ve made your bucket list?
Well some of my favorite bands there I’ve already been friends with for years, having produced the Lurking Corpses “The Leech and the Worm” video and generally being pretty close in the Fort Wayne, IN scene for I dunno…12 plus years? I’ve known Dave and Shagrat from Acid Witch since (I wanna say) before they were even a band from attending a drive-in/horror film convention every April and October in Cleveland called Cinema Wasteland, since 2004. It’s always a great time getting to see all those guys, but honestly the brunt of my interaction with the bands was in post-production via email, social media, etc. I have to say I wish I’d hung out with some of the guys from Blood Feast more, they’re a good bunch of dudes for sure. King, of Deceased and Oct 31 is probably one of the friendliest souls you’ll ever meet, on stage and off, but I would have liked to have hung out with more of the black metal musicians I wound up in greater communication with later. I’m probably preaching to the choir with most of your readers, but it’s pretty amazing how warm a lot of those folks are off-stage, respectful, no arrogance. Voltaire of Deiphago’s a real straight-up dude and we’re currently talking about doing a full DVD of their set to be released on it’s own. I would have to say it was fucking awesome to drive around Cato from Deathhammer (easily my favorite band I had gotten into that weekend) to the WCSB station where he and Voltaire were interviewed the night before the fest, talk beer, music, play some old English Dogs, etc. Great times!
What would be your ideal Hells Headbash lineup?
Well I’m seriously glad to see Nuke playing at this one, Acid Witch and Profanatica returning, Hobbs Angel Of Death, and Toxic Holocaust, but I think it would be killer to see Ghoul, Destroyer 666, Savage Master, Gouge, Proclamation if they’re still active(?), fucking SATAN’S SATYRS, Night Demon, Raven, Crucified Mortals, Ptahil, and Death Breath to name a few.
Anyone creating any sort of entertainment expects to have a great reception from their product as it’s very rewarding to see all your efforts come to fruition. But is there a specific reaction that would make you reach nirvana and give you a higher level of satisfaction?
Honestly, from what I understand, home video is not a hot commodity as far as music world is concerned. I had no idea this was true. I’ve grown up collecting a lot of movies in general, but I’ve got cases of concert videos, home videos from bands, bootleg concerts, all kinds of shit from MVD and old Target Videos, Cherry Red Records, Music video compilations, etc. I love this stuff. I think really it’d be great to know the film helped in any way to give this format a rise in popularity again, esp in an age where everyone’s got the iPhone out and footage of nearly every show is seen within 5 minutes of it happening on Instagram, Facebook, etc. Actually a moment I had like that during post-production was when I shared Inquisition’s footage with Dagon and his reply:
“I may have to contact you in the near future and put some Inquisition in your hands…I was never interested because YouTube made the live scenario so over exposed that I feel live material like this lost its magic, but after seeing this it actually proves we need more of this…”
Oh that’s definitely a great reaction, particularly from someone like Dagon. They have a new album coming, which I will not even attempt to name cause it’s pretty long, as usual. Have you heard the new singles they released? They’re pretty different, particularly on the vocals.
Speaking of iPhones earlier, I don’t know if you’ve seen what some companies are trying to do to remedy this issue, like Apple’s patented device to block off the recording features or the pouches that other companies have made. What are your thoughts about people filming entire concerts with their phones? As a filmmaker, I’m sure you have particular outlook on the matter.
Is this the only project in your plate until the next Headbash or are you planning on working on other festivals?
When are we expecting to get our hands on Hells Headbash II DVD?
I’m actually mailing the master discs out to HHR in the morning and assuming there are no errors, I would imagine they’ll forward it to the pressing company and it should be ready for sale by mid August.
Anything else you want to add?
Yeah, GO TO HEADBASH 3! Samples of some of the footage from the film are up on the Hells Headbangers YouTube page, for sure, and I think more are or will be available on their Bandcamp soon.