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DANNY GARCIA: PUNK ICON FILM-MAKER INTERVIEW BY TEDDIE DAHLIN
Last year saw the release of the full length documentary film The Rise and Fall of The Clash, by Spanish filmmaker Danny Garcia. The film tells the story about the last two years of the legendary band, fronted by Joe Strummer, before they disbanded. There is a great deal of good live footage and interviews with Pearl Harbor, Anthony Mingay (Rude Boy director), a couple of the The Blockheads, Viv Albertine and more.  The film includes interviews with former Clash members Vince White (guitarist recruited to replace Mick Jones), Nick Sheppard (guitar) and Pete Howard (drums). The Rise and Fall of the Clash was well received and currently travelling the world, being shown at film festivals and some cinema’s across the globe.

I’d never heard of Danny Garcia until last year, and suddenly his name is on the lips of some of the biggest makers and shakers in the punk music world. Who is this guy who seemed to come from nowhere and suddenly starts digging into punk rock history, rattling skeletons, and asking awkward questions? He has just returned from New York, where he had been filming his next documentary movie titled Looking for Johnny a film about the iconic Johnny Thunders. I caught up with him when he returned to his native Spain and was getting ready to edit the film, which will be released later this year.

TEDDIE: You started out in commercials and animations in film. Tell me how you got into it.

DANNY: I didn’t actually; I used to write for magazines and I started working with friends who were doing music video’s. After that I started doing films for the local TV in Barcelona.

TEDDIE: You are the co-founder of the company called Chip Baker Films?.

DANNY: Yeah this is a company that I created with a couple of my partners and I’m still actively involved in it.

TEDDIE: You made The Rise and Fall of the Clash, which is your first full length documentary. How did you come to make it a full length film, and why The Clash?

DANNY: They were one of my favourite bands when I was a little kid, so it was just an obvious choice I supose. I came across Vince White’s book Out of Control: The Last Day’s of the Clash. I don’t know… I just wanted to create something. I was always really curious about the last line up of the Clash. There was no information about them and stuff so, as I was pretty curious about that last two years. I thought it was a great subject and I got in touch with Vince and he said ’yeah’, and he told me he’d do an interview, so thats how I started originally. I thought I’d do a little documentary, and people started to get involved and thats  how it grew and became the way it is.

TEDDIE: What made you decide to make the documentary for cinema and festivals as opposed to TV?

DANNY: Well that just depends on what sort of rights you obtain. I have rights for TV as well.

TEDDIE: You obviously want to make something new and exciting in your films, how do you work and whats your method….?

DANNY: Yeah, you have an idea what sort of thing you want to do. Then you have to research once you have decided where you want to go. The thing is that these subjects; The Clash, Johnny Thunders etc. are pretty familiar to me because I grew up listening to them. When I was a little boy I would listen to the Clash and later when I was a teenager I found out about Johnny Thunders, and I learned everything there was to know about it. So now, twenty years later, I’m making the film about Johnny Thunders, I already know about where he came from, so it’s not like I have to start from zero. So the research is that I’m reading and talking to people and finding  out more detail.

TEDDIE: Did you find it easy to get people to talk to you about the Clash?

DANNY: Yeah, a lot of people wanted to talk. It was kinda fairly easy I would say. There were a few people who didn’t want to talk like Kosmo Vinyl, Bernie Rhodes and Paul Simonon.  But I did get in touch with a lot of people.

TEDDIE: So have any of the Clash members and associates regretted not collaborating after the film was released?

DANNY: I don’t know what to say to that (laughs). The members of the Clash didn’t ask for this film to be made. They were really happy the way things were. The last line up had been hiding stuff for years, so they weren’t very excited originally when I came up with the idea.

TEDDIE: How was the documentary The Rise and Fall of the Clash received?

DANNY: Pretty good. I’ve been travelling around with it doing film festivals and the fans like it.

TEDDIE: You are at the moment working on your next film about the legendary Johnny Thunders.What made you want to make another documentary and why Thunders? I know you said you were a fan, but are there things that attract you to things unknown, because there is a controversy about Thunders death.

DANNY: While I was working with the Clash documentary I came up with the idea of doing a Thunders documentary because there isn’t really one out there besides what Lech Kowalski (filmmaker) did, which wasn’t officially released. Besides that attempt there isn’t really a Johnny Thunders documentary film about his life, his career, his music etc., so thats what I wanted to do. I wanted to treat him like I would treat any artist regardless of what their habits were. Charlie Parker, Keith Richards, Hank Williams all these people have addictions with the substance that Johnny had problems with… I don’t see anybody talking trash about Charlie Parker or Hank Williams.

TEDDIE: So you feel people are talking trash about Johnny Thunders?

DANNY: Well I feel he was very mistreated by the press back in the day. Charlie Parker used heroin and I don’t see anyone talking trash about him.

TEDDIE: There seems to be a sort of notion that the heroin explosion in the 70’s in London came with Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan when they arrived. The drug became very popular without them really knowing what the effects of the drug would be over time. They didn’t really realise how addictive it was.

DANNY: Hey look, some people say The Heartbreakers brought heroin to the UK Punk Scene. Maybe, I don’t know because I wasn’t there, but I remember talking to Jonny Green about this precisely not long ago. He said ’yeah man, of course. If it wasn’t for Johnny we never would have taken drugs’. You know, he was being ironic, obviously. It’s right, it’s not like these guys didn’t know about heroin.

TEDDIE: It seems like it was an epidemic at the the time!

DANNY: I think what the Heartbreakers are guilty of is being friendly or friends of Nancy Spungen. I think thats why they get blamed, because Nancy came to London looking for Jerry Nolan. So she is really the virus, the epidemic I think. Because after that, as we all know, Sid meets her and he comes onboard with the heroin and Sid became the image of punk rock. So I think thats more or less why they are blamed. They had a terrible influence on kids like Midge Ure and Billy Idol. A lot of people are still doing their thing today.

TEDDIE: Will the Johnny Thunders film go to the big screen as well or have you got different plans?

DANNY: It is also made for TV and DVD. We’ll do a few promotional screenings and  film festivals.

TEDDIE: When is it set to be released or do you have a release date already?

DANNY: No, but I’m aiming for July 15th, which is Johnny Thunders birthday. That would be great to do a New York premier for that date. Thats what I’m aiming for, but I don’t know if it’s going to be July 15th or August 15th because it’s not like an exact science. I have to do it and feel good with it.

TEDDIE: These were huge punk rock icons and you have told me that you decided to make films of these people because you were a fan, so are you saying we won’t be seeing a film with the Rise and Fall of Justin Bieber in the foreseeable future ?

DANNY: (Laughs) I think we are already seeing the fall of Justin Bieber. No seriously, I think you have to appreciate the artist that you are making a film about in order to feel something for it and want to work with that subject.

TEDDIE: So do you get excited when you are talking to these people and new details come out?

DANNY: Yeah, depending on what sort of details come out. If we are talking about Thunders, he was a real human being, you are dealing with the story of a guy. He was an artist, but he was also just a guy and yes he had problems. He had hardcore habits. He had a high tolerance and he could take loads of drugs and he needed them apparently to make him feel ok. To make him feel like he could keep living. So it is sad and we all already now the ending. When you talk to Johnny’s friends or Jerry’s friends they tell you really hardcore stuff, sometimes it’s not pretty, but thats life. You’ve just got to take it and keep working. There is a lot of great stuff people tell you because there is still love for Johnny, not only the fans but his friends and they miss him.

TEDDIE: I think there has been a sort of punk renaissance lately, like a revival!

DANNY: It’s like the new generation of kids who follow the Ramones life or Johnny Thunders, they never saw any of those guys, so for them it’s just like ancient history. Kids today they don’t have much substance around them. Life today in general; the lack of substance is sad. We grew up with Bob Marley around and John Lennon, all these popular icons. Today there are no icons for the kids. Who’s out there who they can look up to?... David Beckham?... Beyonce?. Society has shifted and changed to another side of the spectrum. I can understand why kids look back to the past for inspiration.

TEDDIE: We need a new punk era. Not the same as back in the 70’s, but a  new innovative period where people are making their own music, as opposed to being manufactured by the record companies. Some of the bands out there today seem to have been made in a factory. It’s just business.

DANNY: It’s kinda easy today to make music. You have all these tools around. It’s like you can become a photographer by just having a smart phone and a vocation.  Sometimes I feel like punk never happened. I feel these kids with beards, glasses and shite…beards were never cool. They were possibly cool 2000 years ago, but in rock and roll history, beards were never fucking cool. I don’t know what these guys are all about.

TEDDIE: I’ve been researching you and you seem to have evolved in your career.  You have made your way through film making commercials, music video’s and now full length documentaries. Whats the next step for you, will you venture into drama? What would you like to do?

DANNY: I would love to produce feature films, but I mean, right now I have so many ideas regarding documentary film making that I’m going to stick with it for now. But I do have other idea’s and stuff.

TEDDIE: Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline, after Johnny Thunders that you’d like to share with us?

DANNY: Yeah there are a couple of things. I’m very concentrated doing the Johnny Thunders film right now. I’m going to start editing this next week and for the next three months I’m going to live like a monk, working on this Looking for Johnny movie. There are a lot of fans out there that want to watch it. I want to watch it myself, so I’m just going to go straight into that and when it’s done I have a few projects in mind that should keep me busy for a while.

I'm already working on a documentary about Sid and Nancy, it's called Sad Vacation, another film about Sid and Nancy. I'm doing this because I like Sid and because I have this tendency to ask about him whenever I'm with people that met him, so I decided to start filming these conversations with my phone. I'm just interested and I think there's always room for more information. I'm not trying to solve any mystery or make another biography, that's been done a bunch of times. This will be a compilation of anecdotes told by a few people who knew both of them. There's also the obvious Johnny Thunders connection, Sid was a huge Thunders fan and learned a lot from him, perhaps too much. You can watch the trailer at our website:www.chipbakerfilms.com

We are really look forward to seeing ’Looking for Johnny’ and what you come up with on the Sid and Nancy film too. Thank you very much for the chat.

Interview by Teddie Dahlin
Photos provided by Danny Garcia

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