Friday, April 24, 2009

Forged In Fire

For the record, Umlaut had an amazing Music Geek month of April! The exciting sequel to Metal On Metal!

As I posted a couple of weeks ago, the Anvil documentary is amazing; you do not have to be a Metalhead to appreciate its story of musicians driven by their passion to follow their hearts and play their music. That being said, I’m not going to explain the movie in detail here because I simply don't have the patience right now... but if you need convincing check out the review posted on the Movie Industry sounding board Ain’t It Cool News. 'Nuff said.

In a twist of good karma, Umlaut's old co-worker friend Jedi Pablo at Lucasfilm invited me to attend a lunchtime Q&A session with the film's director, Sacha Gervasi, at the company's Deathstar Compound in The Presidio, San Francisco. The session was a follow up to an employee screening of the film that happened the night before.

The session was held in the same theater where Umlaut saw Ken Burns give a preview of his World War II documentary The War a couple of years ago. Gervasi's session was hosted by a Lucasfilm handler who guided the conversation and also presented 6 clips from the Anvil movie.

As the session unfolded, my Inner Metalhead started to freak out because the more he talked the more I realized something: In addition to having a successful career as a Hollywood screenwriter (The Terminal) and as a filmmaker, Sacha Gervasi was ONE OF US: He was OLD METAL! Some random geek notes from the hour long session:
  • Gervasi told some great stories about his own history with Anvil and Old Metal. He first became aware of the band via a cover story on the band in the old U.K. magazine Sounds (R.I.P.)… and when he described the cover I got chills because I remember that issue!
  • After seeing Anvil on their debut U.K. Tour (including a Marquee Club show), he became a member of their road crew while still a teenager. The nickname the band gave him was "Tea Bag" since he was English and his story about bringing the band home to meet his Mum was hilarious (Mum: "They have to leave now!")..
  • During his conversation, Gervasi referenced ALL the right Old Metal things… NWOBHM.. Diamond Head... Riot… how his Iron Maiden shirts made him an outcast at school, etc.
  • He did a great job explaining how different things were in the early-80's with Metal vs. Punk.. In 1982 he attended a Clash show at The Lyceum in London and was punched by a Skinhead for wearing a Motörhead shirt. The Skinhead told him he couldn't "wear that hippie shit around here". Back then anyone with long hair was a "Hippie" to most people and the Metal vs. Punk thing was real, especially in England.
I’m still buzzing from what a huge Music Geek experience this hour was… The Anvil documentary is an inspiring story, but I find the director’s story just as compelling. Gervasi went from a Metalhead > Metal Roadie > successful Hollywood Screenwriter. When his agent told him not to pursue the Anvil project, he fired his agent and financed the movie himself! Gervasi wanted to pay tribute to his old friends, who are also his old heroes.. In the process, he also captured the essence of what it means to keep a fire going inside yourself that allows you to stay young at heart. In our case that fire is Old Metal.. Amazing and profound, man.

On top of the Old Metal war stories, Gervasi also gave some back stories to scenes in the movie... some of them were mindblowing.. but I don't want to spoil the movie for The Newbies.. but at least one of the stories gave me chills, man; so emotional. Hopefully alot of these details will be included in the DVD release of the movie later this year. He also noted that in the wake of the movie's success, the band are now represented by (1) Slayer's management, (2) Metallica's attorney, and (3) Coldplay's booking agent.. and they're being courted by no less than 3 record labels. A major tour is also being scheduled for later this year. METAL.

After the Q&A I was able to chat with Gervasi for a moment and I geeked out that I remembered the issue of Sounds he had mentioned… That I had bought Metal On Metal when it came out in 1982.. How his film really struck a chord with me, etc. etc. He seemed genuinely appreciative and I thought it was funny that his Lucasfilm handler said “OH WOW!” in reaction to my Old Metal outburst.

Old Metalheads: Gervasi > Umlaut

Afterwards, I had lunch in the Death Star Compound's food court / dining area.. Ironically, the Death Star Compound sits on pretty much the same location where Starfleet Academy will be built in the 22nd Century... Of course, this presents profound continuity issues for both Star Wars and Star Trek, right? Discuss amongst yourselves. A huge THANKS to Jedi Pablo and Jedi Frank for their hospitality.

“Metal on Metal.. It’s the only way..”