By Brendan Lee
Whoever you are, wherever you hail from, we all at the very least, have a vague understanding of Punk music as both a genre and an evolving movement. But when viewed from afar, the screeching skinny kids with mohawks may seem nothing more than unpalatable noise. The latest Crave documentary series, PUNK: A Movement in Four Parts, peels back the genre’s crusty skin, revealing an intricate heart still beating with vigor.
“We kind of equate punk music with being a room full of boneheads,” says director, Jesse James Miller, “but it’s actually completely the opposite.”
Miller joins consulting producer, Susanne Tabata, on a phone call with BeatRoute on a sleepy Saturday morning. Tabata has deep roots in the Vancouver punk scene, and was part of the series’ core creative team based out of Vancouver.
Each instalment of the four-part series (produced by Derik Murray and Network Entertainment, exec produced by Iggy Pop and John Varvatos) focuses on a particular era in the punk chronology, featuring interviews with the likes of Johnny Rotten, Iggy Pop, Dave Grohl and many more.
The city of Vancouver plays an integral part in the whole story, and, particularly, the third episode — a part that both Miller and Tabata fought for.
“Vancouver was a really big part of that west-coast express going up and down the I-5 highway,” reflects Tabata, who also produced and directed the Vancouver punk-scene 1977-81 documentary, Bloodied but Unbowed. “And then D.O.A., they were the biggest touring band, exceeding Black Flag at that time.”
Close friends with Randy Rampage (D.O.A), who sadly passed just as the project was getting off the ground, Tabata says she “worked on [PUNK] in his honour silently.”
When asked what it was like to sit across from so many legends, Miller seems humbled.
“It was an honour,” he says. “They’re all very sophisticated, very layered, very deep people and heavy thinkers.”
Punk music, at its core, has always been about more than drugs, sex and anarchy — although there’s a lot of that too. Above all else, PUNK showcases the menagerie of personalities who unknowingly became leaders of a movement that truly celebrates individuality.
“I keep learning about punk as I go through life now,” says Miller. “It’s more of a mindset, and when I first started working on the series I didn’t realize that.”
“It reinforces, in four episodes, thinking for yourself,” says Tabata, with a last blast of enthusiasm. “Being an individual, going against the grain, being your own boss, taking risks.”
Did You Know? Bloodied but Unbowed
It might be hard to imagine now, but in the late 1970s, Vancouver was home to one of the wildest, most influential punk scenes in the world. Director, Susanne Tabata, lived through each out-of-control house party and sweat-soaked basement show, time-capsulizing the era in the documentary, Bloodied but Unbowed. It’s a nutty nostalgia-trip chocked full of crazy stories, old Vancouver footage, and interviews with surviving members of local bands such as The Young Sticks, the Modernettes, and, of course, the almighty D.O.A. This all went down in our own backyard, and some of the crazy shit those kids got up to is peak punk rock.DOA, Jesse James Miller, punk, Ramones, Sex Pistols, Susanne Tabata