Once a band achieves fame, it becomes fairly easy to read a variety of articles about the members, or the music. If a band’s early days gets addressed, often those details are relegated to two to three paragraphs of a profile. So a while back comics creator Cully Hamner intrigued me, when he made folks aware that Greg Renoff‘s upcoming book, Van Halen Rising: How a Southern California Backyard Party Band Saved Heavy Metal, was to be released in October 2015. Renoff’s book title makes clear part of what he sets out to reveal, but the aspect that really hooked me into learning more was the author’s decision to focus on Van Halen’s pre-1978 days (aka before they were famous and successful). To get a glimpse of Renoff’s writing style (as well as a taste of his post-1978 Van Halen knowledge) be sure to read his recent Medium piece, which also features legendary photographer Helmut Newton. If that is not enough fun for you after reading this interview, please be sure to peruse Renoff’s Van Halen Rising website.
Tim O’Shea: This book was researched partially by 230 interviews you conducted. How long did it take to conduct all of them?
Greg Renoff: I did my first interviews in 2008. When I first started, I was spurred on by curiosity about Van Halen’s early days more than the idea I’d write a book. I talked to a LA nightclub owner who’d booked Van Halen in 1976 and then to a Pasadena drummer who’d seen the Van Halen brothers perform live long before David Lee Roth joined the band. Then about a year later, I had a break from teaching and decided to dig into the topic some more by doing more interviews. After I started hearing more tales of the band members’ wild days before they were famous, I saw that there was a great story here that needed to be told in book form.
…I can recall Carr running circles around me with Barry Allen speed, rasping like he’d gargled with Tom Waits’s mouthwash. He pushed me away from a patter (not false, but safe) that I’d been giving everyone who talked to me. He empathized. He cajoled. That way he wrote? Exactly like how he asked questions, pushing and pulling me along. I wish I’d taken notes on how he interviewed me, because he knew exactly how to get his story.
It has been almost a week since our return from Cayamo 2015 (the eighth edition of the Americana music cruise, hosted by Sixthman, and the fifth one my wife and I got to attend). So many musical highlights there is no chance I can list them all. But for me, the nicest moment was getting on an elevator only to find Buddy Miller on it, and getting to say “Thank you” to him for all the great music. The genius musician and producer is so modest he actually thanked me in return. Rather than trying to summarize the musical experience with any more words, I am going to merely opt for a sampling of social media photos from Cayamo 2015.
A week or so back, an artist I have respected for the past few years, LiShinault, shared (on her Facebook page) a work-in-progress photo of a wedding portrait she recently painted. Since I love seeing how a project comes together through its various stages, I relish getting to see photos like this one. As a result, I received permission from LiShinault to share the photo here, as well as some of the Decatur, Georgia-based artist’s other works. In addition to commission work, as noted in her bio she “primarily paints small to large-scale works across a variety of media that include mostly feminine figures and animals”.
One of these days hopefully I will be able to run an interview here with her. In the meantime, enjoy her work speaking for her.
This morning while running errands, I heard Eric Clapton’s 1974 cover of the song, Please Be with Me, for the first time. Despite the fact I was aware that the late Duane Allman’s daughter, Galadrielle Allman, recently released a memoir about her father of the same name (Please Be with Me–A Song for My Father) I did not realize Allman’s connection to the song.
Long before Greg Pak became known for his comics, he was a successful film director and screenwriter. He recently released a brand new short film, Happy Fun Room, which can be viewed on YouTube (as part of the Futurestates.tv storyworld). Pak happily indulged my curiosity to email him a slew of questions for him to answer regarding this latest project. Enjoy.
Tim O’Shea: In what ways do you feel more confident as a short film writer and director with Happy Fun Room, as say compared to your 2011 effort, Mister Green?
Greg Pak: That’s an interesting question. A number of smart people have said that directing is basically deciding. A director has to make dozens of decisions every day in order for everyone else working on the film to be able to do their jobs. If a director can’t decide, everything grinds to a halt and the film eventually falls apart.