“Without them, there is no Nirvana, no Green Day, no Archers of Loaf, no Pavement, no Pixies—any band that played guitars and had balls”: since the reunited ‘mats Riot Fest victory laps still fresh in mind, we decided republish our talk with the “Color Me Obsessed” director. Be very, very afraid, fans of Vampire Weekend, Foster the People and fun.
BY DANNY R. PHILLIPS
We all have things in our lives that could qualify as obsessions: Food, books, movies,women, men, vinyl records (that’s mine); the list could go on infinitum. However, for author and Filmmaker Gorman Bechard, the obsession is the Minneapolis, MN rock band The Replacements. That obsession led him to his documentary Color Me Obsessed: A Film about The Replacements.
Whereas most rock docs, follow the same formula: interviews with band members and people close to them, live footages, songs, still photos; Obsessed has little to none of those. (It’s reviewed here at BLURT.) No band interviews, no band participation in any way, no music, no concert footage, very few stills. This documentary is a story of a band that influenced the last 25 years of alternative music told in a new and refreshing way: by the fans. Whether it’s just Joe Blow from the street, Brian Fallon from The Gaslight Anthem, rock critics like Jim DeRogatis and The Village Voice’s Robert Christgua or odd inclusions Tom Arnold and George Wendt, the story of The ‘mats is told in a way that represents the legend of The Replacements in the only way acceptable: it goes against convention.
BLURT: How did you first get into filmmaking?
BECHARD: In 1981, maybe 1980, I was in New York, I saw a catalog for Parsons New School for Social Research, and there was a class on The Art of Alfred Hitchcock. It found it interesting so I took it. That was the first hook in my lip so to speak.
Are there any bands popular now that really get on your last nerve?
Oh my God! Are you kidding me? (laughs) There are more than you would imagine but of the new ones, it’s fun. Fun. Period? However the fuck you say it. Right before that it was Foster The People but the worst band in the history of sound is of course, Vampire Weekend. Vampire Weekend, to me, represent everything that is wrong in music today; a new wimpiness that is accepted lately. To me, they took rock, held it up by the neck and, with a butter knife, cut off its balls.
Why do a documentary on The Replacements?
Not only are they my favorite band of all-time but in my opinion also one of the most important bands of all-time. Being the age that I am, I’ve seen rock go in many cycles; I lived through the really horrible rock of the mid ‘70s when The Eagles and Billy Joel were considered rock. Then punk started and it was great for a couple years then around 1980, somebody introduced synthesizers and we got New Wave, punk lost its balls and became crap. Then out of nowhere, there’s these two bands out of Minneapolis, Husker Du and The Replacements, that were playing the kind of music I wanted to hear. I feel at that point they saved American rock and changed it. Every band that came after those two bands owes something to them. Without The Replacements and Husker Du there is no Seattle scene.
Did you approach anyone from The Replacements about being in Obsessed?
Nope. Never a thought in my mind. When I took on the project, I decided I wanted to do something different, very much in the grand tradition of The Replacements. Here’s a band for their first music video in 1986 (“Bastards of Young” from the Tim LP) as one of MTV’s “Breaking Bands,” showed a stereo speaker for 4 minutes. I really wanted to turn the music documentary genre on its ear a little bit. I knew I was risking falling flat on my face completely but I wanted no music, no band.
Did you have people beating down your door to profess their love and devotion to The ‘Mats on camera?
Yes including George Wendt from “Cheers.” (Below: the filmmaker)
The Replacements made a career of shooting themselves in the foot. The “Bastards” video, being banned from Saturday Night Live, the list goes on. What do you think was their biggest career mistake?
Throwing Bob (Stinson, lead guitarist) out of the band. Firing their manager Peter Jesperson and signing with Warner Bros. Those three things go hand in hand. We don’t really know what was going on because we’re on the outside looking in and Bob isn’t here to speak for himself (he passed away in 1996) unfortunately but I’d say firing Bob.
What part do you think Bob played in the development and success of their sound?
Bob was like the chaos, the musical chaos in the band. Someone in the movie put it perfectly when they said “Bob was good at playing the wrong note at the right time.” If you listen to his guitar solos, you feel like he’s literally strangling the neck of the guitar, hurting it even. Getting out a sound that no one else could get. It was just musical chaos.
You said signing a deal with Warner Bros., I believe that’s what killed Husker Du as well
Oh my God! When you see the Grant Hart, (he was the drummer/ co-songwriter in Husker Du) doc, you’ll have no doubt, no doubt about that.
Do you think Westerberg has written anything solo as great as “Here Comes a Regular,” “Color Me Impressed” or “If Only You Were Lonely”?
Yes. I think Stereo/Mono was literally the best record of the early 2000’s.
What do you hope fans or people just coming to discover The Replacements glean from Color Me Obsessed?
For fans that have seen them, they can sort of take a trip down memory lane. For non-fans or younger people, I really hope they can see how The Replacements affected so many people and get a sense of what they were like live and what made them so special. A lot of reviews are saying this movie is just for Replacements fans but I disagree. I think it is more for the non-fan because you’re getting this crazy story about a band you knew nothing about. Hopefully people will be like, “Holy shit! I have to check this band out.”
You released What Did You Expect?, an Archer of Loaf concert doc the same day as Obsessed. You mentioned the Grant Hart doc you’re working on. What’s next? A Husker Du documentary?
I don’t think I’ll ever do a full-band Husker Du doc. In fact, I’m taking a break from the rock documentaries for a while and working on one called “Dog Named Gucci.” It’s about animal welfare and abuse. We’re using this famous case in Alabama about a dog named Gucci that was squirted with lighter fluid, set on fire and the doctor that saved his life. Through their work, the animal abuse laws in Alabama were changed from basically nothing to a felony. We have a kickstarter program to raise money to get that film made. If you go to www.adognamedgucci.com , it’ll take you to the kickstarter page. After three rock doc we wanted to make something that would have a real impact in the world.
What’s your definitive ‘Mats moment?
Wow, umm, probably the first time I heard Let It Be from beginning to end and realized that, oh my God, rock n roll is still alive.
How do you think the Replacements have shaped rock n roll over the last twenty five years?
Again, I’m going to put them in with Husker Du because it seemed like they worked in tangent; one was The Beatles, the other was The Stones of American punk rock. What I think they did was that they showed bands that you didn’t need to wear tight leather pants, have big hair or an image you could just go up on stage and play. And they showed that rock n roll was supposed to be about chaos and a “fuck you” attitude. These two bands epitomized that; because of that, nearly every band that came out of the ‘90s is because of them. Without them, there is no Nirvana, no Green Day, no Archers of Loaf, no Pavement, no Pixies, any band that played guitars and had balls owe something to The Replacements, while bands like fun or Vampire Weekend owe something to Elton John.
Check our photo gallery and review of the Denver Riot Fest, which included The Replacements as one of the headliners: http://blurtonline.com/review/riot-fest-921-2213-denver-co/