Jan Crocker Interview
On the Occasion of the La Peste DVD
BGN - Youíve been on the Boston scene a long time.
When did you first get involved with the scene?
Jan Crocker - In or around 1978 I had a filmmaker friend visiting from NYC who lived on Broad St. He told me a loft was available to rent across from Cantones for $150.00 a month. I thought that was a lot of money but grabbed it anyway! I ended up living there for six years. So I sort of landed at ground zero of the Boston punk rock thing with all the bands playing at Cantones, The Space, and Mavericks. I was also working at a film resource center at MIT at the time and helped out teaching a documentary performance class at MITís Film/Video Section. Students would go into performance venues to film. I dragged many of them into the local rock clubs to film, some screaming and kicking, but Iím glad I did otherwise I wouldn't have any of this video. That nose dive onto Broad St. started my involvement in the Boston scene.
BGN -How did you get involved in film?
Jan - Well I was always interested in film and video. I took several film classes at UMASS Amherst as an undergraduate. When I finished up I applied to film graduate schools. I settled on Columbia University and was getting ready to move on to NYC. I moved to Boston in a transitional temp thing for the Summer and ended up landing a job at MIT. So I passed on Columbia and by the time I left MIT around 1982, I had learned more about film and video production than I ever would have learned at Columbia and it didnít cost me a dime.
After 30 years why did you decide to do this DVD project with La Peste?
Jan - I had shot the video in 1979 and it sat around in the can forever. I posted a clip of Better Off Dead on YouTube in 2008 and watched as 19,000 people watched it over a two year period. I also learned that La Peste had a web page on MySpace and it had a ton of traffic on it. It had somewhere around 32,000.00 profile views. Yup this internet thing was working. New bands were covering La Peste's music as well and their stuff was turning up in skateboard videos too. Felt it was time to bring out the La Peste footage again, clean it up, and make it available.
But there were issues with the video. It was shot during a brutal snowstorm with a twin bill including the Nervous Eaters. The crowd was small and the energy was low. The performance was OK but not a stealer La Peste effort given those conditions. It was also shot at a venue that allowed no dancing. Who the fuck sat in their seats when La Peste played? So I had to go to extremes to make this work. The audio track is from a dynamic show at the Rat. I had to synch all the video to this different audio from the Rat. It took forever. All the cutaways of kids dancing came from different shows at totally different venues as well. When you watch this understand that what you are seeing is pretty much a virtual club. You can see a sample video clip here:
BGN -Who involved with La Peste did you deal with in this project?
Otherwise, did they request a shoot or did you ask them?
Jan - Well I worked with both Peter Dayton and Mark Andreasson. Roger of course is no longer with us. We did dedicate the DVD to his memory. Peter provided a ton of visuals that he had saved and both of those guys shared directorial insight on where they wanted this thing to go and what it should look like. It was their band and music I just wanted to get it right. So thatís how we moved forward.
I still needed more visuals and had a ton of help from several friends who sent me some great pictures and art work. Shouts out to Bob Colby, Chip Dayton, Bill Drake, Michael Grecco, Jerome Higgins, Joanie Lindstrom, Richie Parsons, Philin Phlash, and Tommy White. A huge effort was provided by Marc English of Suede Cowboy fame and who also played with those frauds The Fabulous Billygoons. Marc did all the graphic design work on the project. Marc was a monster on this and he made the art look as sweet as the DVD is to watch and listen to.
BGN -What was your set up for the La Peste shoot?
How many cameras, etc. ?
Jan -Filming video of music back in those days was not easy. It was before all the hand held technology was on the market. MTV and VH1 hadnít hit the air. The hand held stuff and cell phone things we use today were pretty much science fiction back then.
We used MITís video equipment for most of the shoots and some S-8 for others. The video cameras were stock portapak modified by the engineers there. Since there was so much hardware involved the shoots took up to 8-10 people on a crew.
The La Peste shoot had two b/w cameras and one color camera. The camera signals were sent to a special effects generator and the director would chose the shots he/she liked and would switch between them. The audio setup included two ambient mikes set up to the left and right of the stage usually hung from the ceiling. The mikes were mixed with a line feed from the board with a portable mixer. The whole thing was recorded pretty much on the fly. These were MIT students doing the camera work and directing the shoots, many of them for the first time. There where technical issues with camera work and choice of shots by the director.
You combine that with some libations and that left some cleaning up to do. During the final edit for the DVD I cleaned up all the bad ass crap that the students and I created in the first place. The final result I must say looks pretty solid right across the board.
BGN -I want to ask, ...why did you focus on filming punk?, but I donít know Ödid you film other things during the 70ís?
Jan - There was just so much energy in the Punk music scene. Thatís what attracted me to it. I thought it was a great thing to capture for live performance. I mean it was more interesting to watch Richie Parsons hanging from the pipes above the stage at the Rat as opposed to someone playing the oboe in a classical setting. But I was a good soldier and worked on other shoots from dance performances, theatre, and one of my favorites Dizzy Gillespie at the Strand Theatre. I stopped filming live music pretty much altogether after 1982.
Most people donít know, but I joined the ...Professional... film/video ranks and did all sorts of interesting things in the museum field. I have hundreds of interactive video exhibits on display all over the globe from Boston to LA and from the old Soviet Union to Singapore and Australia. That other side of myself and work can be viewed here:
What other music projects have you done?
Jan - Over the past four years Iíve focused on doing music stuff again. I worked with Element Productions on NOT A PHOTOGRAPH a feature-length documentary following the rise, fall and rise of Mission of Burma. They used footage I shot of MOB at the Space in 1979 and when they opened for The Cure at the Underground in 1980 on Robert Smith's 21st birthday. What a wild night that was.
I completed editing another DVD for Human Sexual Response that I filmed at Streets in 1982. This was a 3 Camera shoot with 3 Ikegami color cams and a remote audio truck handling the sound. Looks and sounds great. Itís in HSRís hands now I donít know when they plan on releasing the DVD. They did tell me to look for a reunion show in Boston sometime soon.
Then back to Mission of Burma a second time working with Rick Harte from Ace of Hearts records and Matador records in NYC. This was for Matador Records The Definitive Edition project. I did a ton of editing and my video work was packaged in the re-release of the bands earlier work with Rick on a DVD. It featured several songs I shot of MOB at both the Underground and the Space. Several of those clips can be seen if you go to my website at KINODV and search around a little bit:
BGN -Any other projects in the pipeline?
Jan - Right now Iím working on, believe it or not, a DVD of La Peste V2.0. The second version of La Peste with Ian Kalinosky who joined the band after Peter Dayton moved on to start his new projects. I shot a show at the Bradford Hotel Ballroom where the new band opened up for the Buzzcocks in 1980. Nice raw power and the audio and video is very nice. Hey I need more still imagery for this project so if anyone out there has anything please let me know! This DVD should be done by Spring time. Iím also laying the foundation for doing a compilation DVD of several of the Boston bands that I have shot. Iím trying to figure the best approach for this. Iíve given thoughts to a documentary approach with an interactive feature where viewers can just go to the music if that is what they are interested in. A documentary of that whole scene does intrigue me. This is in the what should I do stage but I should get to this before it might be too late.
BGN -Is Kinodv your site? Or connected with MIT?
Jan - KINODV is my site. MIT would quickly distance themselves from it. Hey I canít provide them with any military research contracts. The website was born five years ago shortly after I did a screening of my videos at Bostonís First Night Celebration. I was hesitant to do that New Years screening thinking after 25 years who would come and see this stuff? To be honest with you I was shocked at the size of the crowds that turned out. I didnít know 90% of the people that came to that screening. But I recognized my friends and the locals from the scene that came by to watch. After that event I just thought it would be a good thing to create a website so people could view the videos I have 24/7 whenever they wanted.
Things are so different now then they were when I was filming those shows 30 years ago. I spent a good amount of time getting the site recognition on various music user groups and blogs on the net. Now I have people from all around the globe who visit the site on a regular basis with lots of website hits from Japan, Russia, Europe and of course all around the Boston area. Just how crazy is that? In the old days I would have to lug a 25 inch TV up two flights of stairs to a loft in the middle of the night just so people could watch this stuff. Now you can just go to the website, or even dial them up with your cell phone, and that my friends is how it should be.
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