INTERVIEW: Director Penelope Spheeris (Wayne’s World)

Published in The Music (WA, VIC, QLD & NSW) and on theMusic.com.au, July 2015

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SCENE CHANGER

Writer/director Penelope Spheeris still possesses the same passion and angst she had when she released her seminal documentaries in the ‘80s, but Daniel Cribb discovers changing laws have stunted her creativity.

enelope Spheeris not only changed filmmaking with her iconic The Decline Of Western Civilization punk and metal documentaries in the ‘80s, but also left a permanent mark on the scene, so it’s not surprising she’d rather be known for them than her efforts on Wayne’s World. “I think the first one definitely affected the development of MTV,” Spheeris begins from her Laurel Canyon residence. “I did that first one before MTV happened and I always hear, ‘How come you copied the shooting and editing feel of the MTV videos?’ And I’m like, ‘Wait a minute… it’s the other way around.’”

Though it’s been 34 years since the first Decline film dropped, it’s still an important piece of film history and social commentary, which is why a box-set release of all three is well overdue. “I guess they just struck a nerve, in the same way actually that Wayne’s World struck a nerve. I think they just captured a time where a lot of other filmmakers just weren’t making movies. I was fortunate that I was observant enough to make a movie about subjects that other people weren’t making movies about.”

It’s her passion that makes Spheeris’ work so engaging, but times have changed and even the Decline films would have been “watered down” had they been made today. “As a documentarian, my problem is the privacy laws right now,” she reveals. “I can’t make a documentary film. I would make a film about mental health in the United States right now, because it sucks. Right now, none of the government is supporting it, and people are locked away forever and it’s horrible… can I make a documentary on it? No, because of the privacy laws here. There’s no documentary I would make because I can’t do it.”

A large part of her pride in the Decline… films stems from how involved in them she was. Wayne’s World might have been more commercially successful, but that’s not something she’s as connected to. “When we did Wayne’s World, we had no idea that it was going to have the success that it did – none of us did. Mike [Myers] didn’t, Lorne Michaels [producer] didn’t, Paramount didn’t, and nobody knew. It was just kind of a fluke of nature and actually so were the Decline movies. I didn’t know that they would be significant 30 years later.

“I get scripts all the time from people, saying, ‘Here’s the new Wayne’s World,’ and I’m like, ‘Send them to Paramount care of Lorne Michaels – it ain’t me.’ If they did it right it would work; there are so many fans out there, but it’s so hard to do something like that right. They wouldn’t hire me, because they wouldn’t hire me for Wayne’s World 2, so screw them.”

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Show Review: Clarkson, Hammond & May Live 19.07.15

Published on theMusic.com.au, July 2015

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PERTH ARENA

There’s definitely a sour taste in the mouth of former Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson, as his new arena show, dubbed Clarkson, Hammond & May Live “for legal reasons”, saw himself, James May and Richard Hammond dish out overly sarcastic jabs at the show every five minutes. That seemed to take precedence as the trio went through the motions of playing up their trademark banter and bickering, but luckily a series of automotive-oriented games and opposing team of B-grade Aussie celebrities (among them Shane Jacobson, Steve Pizzati and Riana Crehan) levelled things out.

Given space restrictions, the floor space of Perth Arena was utilised remarkably for The Cr-Ashes, as the England household names tried to take down the Aussies through Motorcycle polo, V8 cricket, an NRL penalty kick-off, a running race and car lacrosse. They were fun events, but slightly too gimmicky, and it was when the “automotive pornography” section began that fans really got what they paid for — a series of luxury cars on the floor, being critiqued by the hosts. Team Australia may have won The Cr-Ashes, but Clarkson, Hammond and May walked away with a shit tonne more cash and new life injected into their egos.

Show Review: The Wombats 23.07.15

Published on theMusic.com.au, July 2015

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METRO CITY

Toeing the line between musical geeks and rockstars, dance entrepreneurs and indie maestros The Wombats were more than ready to bring a little Splendour to Perth. “Sweet, sweet spider monkeys, how the hell are you doing?” frontman Matthew Murphy began through a thick Liverpool accent, looking like he’d just awoken, as always.

Your Body Is A Weapon quickly set the scene before the band took an unexpected turn and pulled things back for a song that saw punters quite literally Jump Into The Fog.

The lights took over and spiralled into an epic seizure-inducing production as Murphy declared it was his birthday. Unfortunately the epic build up was cut short when Moving To New York’s twangy guitar intro stopped due to tuning issues. ”Who’s been a very naughty boy?” the vocalist said, looking to a roadie side of stage. What would have usually been filled with awkward banter or murmurs from a restless audience was taken over by the room bellowing Happy Birthday.

Greek Tragedy quickly got things back on track and with bass oozing out of the speakers, 1996 had the set back to its original pace. Dedicating This Is Not A Party to close friends who live in Perth was a kind gesture but perhaps not the best song to show affection. Regardless, it wasn’t a track that had any reflection on the vibes within Metro City, especially after a cake was delivered to the stage.

Things were pulled back once again for old hit Little Miss Pipedream, which the band admitted hadn’t been rehearsed before encouraging punters to sing their lungs out. When Kill The Director rolled around, no encouragement was needed at all.

Emoticons went wild for Techno Fans, and while some punters got their Wombats fix, others were left with severe Splendour In The Grass envy. Either way, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in attendance who didn’t have a good time when set closer Let’s Dance To Joy Division rolled around.

http://themusic.com.au/music/livereviews/2015/07/24/the-wombats-metro-city-daniel-cribb/

INTERVIEW: Graham Yost (Justified Creator)

Published in The Music (NSW, QLD, VIC) and on theMusic.com.au, Jul 2015

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Chemistry is key when it comes to long-running TV, and Justified creator Graham Yost tells Daniel Cribb how he sculpted the hit show to last six seasons.

After five years on the air, the final episode of Justified aired in April this year, and although famed director, producer and the show’s creator, Graham Yost, went through the motions in terms of putting together the final scenes, it doesn’t quite feel like a reality yet. “Walton Goggins, who plays Boyd Crowder, has been on The Shield for FX and that ran seven years, and he said the odd part was not so much the end of the show, but when you didn’t get back together the following season,” Yost begins, on the line from San Francisco, where he’s splitting his time between family and scoping out his next project.

“We do feel a sense of accomplishment and pride, and it’s nice to have done a complete thing. Most people in this business have a lot of experience working on shows that get cancelled, so it’s nice to be able to walk through ‘til the end. Now I’m sort of looking for what might come next, so meeting up with other producers and performers and studio people and reading things and watching things.”

It was while reading Elmore Leonard’s classic short story, Fire In The Hole, on which the show is based, that something sparked. “It was a couple things, but first and foremost it was Raylan Givens,” Yost recalls. “I loved the way Raylan would resolve things in the coolest possible manner. And there was one scene in the first episode, in the pilot where Dewey Crowe is outside of Ava’s house and he’s got a shotgun pointed at Raylan. And most cops and marshals you’d see on television or in a movie would yell at him to put the gun down or they would kill him, and then draw their gun.

“But there’s Raylan with his hand on his gun, saying, ‘Here’s how it’s gonna go: I pull my gun to shoot and I shoot to kill ‘cause that’s its purpose,’ and he just lays it out and he talks Dewey down. And I thought, ‘Well, that’s just about the coolest thing I’ve ever read, so if we can put that kind of cool character on television we might really have something.’”

Timothy Olyphant fitted the bill perfectly for deputy Raylan Givens. “He was very funny, and is a gifted comic actor – but again, not someone who’s making jokes, but just has that timing and that approach. He’s also undeniably, incredibly sexy and romantic, and works very well on camera with the women in Justified. And so we felt that he had all these things that were required for Raylan to work – and not every actor has that.

“We were blessed to get him. It was a hard part to cast. We thought of him very early on, but he was initially unavailable, and then we just decided to shift our production schedule on the pilot to just wait for him to be available.”

It’s one thing to see potential in a piece of written work and another to develop the characters and storyline for screen, but that’s where Yost shines – as evident in his work on Speed (don’t worry, he had little to do with its questionable sequel) and Broken Arrow. “Really, it’s hiring a lot of really great writers and spending a lot of time talking about things, and trying to come up with things that feel right for that character and are also very interesting and surprising. Elmore had a very specific approach to dialogue; his dialogue was often very funny, but the characters were never telling jokes – that’s just the way they spoke; it was entertaining.”

The aforementioned character Dewey Crow was played by Aussie actor Damon Herriman and was only intended to be a short-lived asset, but the crew and audience fell in love with both the actor and character and that saw his tenure extend until season six. “Man, I can’t believe I talked to another Australian reporter and we didn’t talk about Damon. So let’s just talk about Damon from here on out. I love Damon.

“Damon is just a terrific human being and so much fun to just hang around with. We brought him into the writers’ room at the beginning of season three and put a bunch of story ideas up on the board, just to see if he’d notice – ‘Dewey gets abducted by aliens,’ ‘Dewey goes to hell,’ and he laughed when he saw that. We just had so much fun working with him and it was very difficult to kill off that character. That was one of the hardest choices we ever had to make on the show.”

Five years and six seasons on air is proof that Yost’s instinct was on point when it came to putting Leonard’s work on screen, and so it was important the final season went out in style, to honour the memory of the writer who passed away in 2013 aged 87. “He got a kick out of Justified, and that was pretty much the best review we ever got – the fact that Elmore Leonard liked the show.”

“Every character dies,” Yost jokes about the finale. “Our whole goal was to really bring the story back to the way it started, and focus down in the final season on Raylan and Boyd and Ava… I feel like we resolved it well. And we resolved it in the way that we felt was in keeping with the spirit of the show, and was in keeping with how we believe Elmore would’ve ended it.”

Show Review: Lennon: Through A Glass Onion 17.07.15

Published on theMusic.com.au, July 2015

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The melodies and lyrics of John Lennon are rivalled by few, so the result of sifting through his hits and extracting the best parts to place in chronological order to pay tribute and tell the icons story yields engaging and fluid material. While one might think that lead John Waters – who plays a convincing Lennon – had an easy task of piecing the stage show together, it’s the intricacy and carefully calculated timing that really makes the performance compelling.

Fittingly layered and complex – much like the band whose song the title is borrowed from – Through A Glass Onion showcases the best and diverse music of Lennon while detailing his relationships with fame, politics, Yoko Ono and McCartney.

With his gruff and earnest vocal range, Waters carried the story perfectly, singing and playing acoustic to backing vocalist and pianist Stewart D’Arrietta, who, although spending a lot of time in shadows, truly kept the rhythm alive. Having first brought the show to life together in Sydney back in 1992, their chemistry was evident, and it was when Waters and D’Arrietta voices combined that the power of Lennon’s work was done true justice. At its peak, Through A Glass Onion was immersive and, at times, might be just about as close as you can get to the real deal – that’s if you allow yourself to go along for the ride.

http://themusic.com.au/arts/reviews/2015/07/18/lennon-through-a-glass-onion-regal-theatre-daniel-cribb/

Show Review: Dylan Moran 10.07.15

Published on theMusic.com.au, July 2015

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In jeans and a suit jacket, armed with a glass of red, cult hero Dylan Moran stormed the stage with a cheeky, child-like grin in tow. For a man who made him a name for himself as a miserable drunk on Black Books, the infectious grin seemed somewhat out of place, but didn’t reduce the impact of sinister jabs and nearly everything and everyone — starting with the monotony of Perth and the “visionary” that is Tony Abbott, and continuing the topical trend by moving in on the bust of the mining boom.

It became apparent quite early that Australia’s current political climate has indeed made us somewhat of a laughing stock to the rest of the world, with the Irish-native pointing out his homeland somehow beat us when it came to legalising same-sex marriage.

At 43, his journey into middle age took precedence for a majority of the set, and anyone under the age of 25 took an onslaught of abuse.

Moran may have given up smoking, gone vegetarian and gained some weight (European fat, not US fat — he made that quite clear) since his last trip to Australia, but his dry wit and slurred domineer remain well intact, and if his demented take on 50 Shades Of Grey turns into its own best-selling series and film, god help us all.

http://themusic.com.au/comedy/reviews/2015/07/11/dylan-moran-riverside-theatre-dan-cribb/