SKUM ROCKS! FILM REVIEW – VultureHound

as posted on the U.K.’s VultureHound by Lee Hazell

“One of the most shocking, funny and outrageous documentaries I have ever seen”.

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“Somewhere down the road, Rock and Roll was hijacked by a bunch of musicians.” This is the philosophy of Skum. Read it, re-read it, memorize it. It will help the 77 minutes it takes to watch Skum Rocks! make a lot more sense. Skum was a punk band of loose definition made from the members of the William & Mary varsity soccer team. Starting their careers playing the student parties of their classmates at their college in Virginia, Skum set the scene for their future in the music business by making the entry fee for their parties consuming two shots at the door.

Their parties became so notoriously wild people started crossing the country or even the borders just to be a part of one of their nights. The parties turned into gigs and the gigs turned into professional shows, the first few of which were ended by police shutdown. Their reputation grew, their fan base became rabid and the PR machine that propelled them was fuelled by nothing other than their own determination and self-confidence. Theirs was the American dream made real.

Only one problem. They had no idea how to play their instruments. Skum loved the idea of becoming Rockstars far more than they loved the idea of becoming musicians. They wanted the girls, the fame, the lifestyle but none of the hard work that came from mastering guitars and commanding drums. All of the shows they played back in the 80’s? They only ever played one full song. The shots at the door? If you were drunk when the show started you wouldn’t notice the band couldn’t play. The police that came to their concerts? They were called by the band themselves who needed to get the hell out of dodge before they were required to play another tune.

The guitarist Hart Baur even described it as the greatest marketing move they ever made. An anarchic punk outfit dragged kicking and screaming by the local authority? After just one song? How punk is that? This exemplifies the idea behind Skum. That music was never the important part to a great rock and roll band. The experience of seeing them live, the theatrics on stage, the shenanigans off and the headlines in the paper the next day; they were all the important bits.greatestliarsscreenshot

The film documenting their rise and fall begins with a confession by the documentary makers that upon taking this assignment they had no idea what they were getting themselves into. This fades into a mischievous looking Alice Cooper, grin on his face and glint in his eye, saying that does he have a story for us. Immediately we are engaged. Tell us more oh hallowed rock god. Tell us of these strange days and drunken minstrels.

What proceeds is one of the most shocking, funny and outrageous documentaries I have ever seen. The way the film builds the story of the band in a straight shooting almost “Behind the Music” like fashion, only to waylay you with the truth once the band has been legitimized in your head.

The stories, backed up by archive footage, are a parade of unbelievable anecdotes that play buckaroo with your suspension of disbelief. Talking to my fellow patrons after the show each of us had a different point in the movie where we simply ceased to believe the film to be anything other than farce. These moments ranged from the opening five seconds to the end credit sequence. Personally the moment that had me thinking I was looking at one long con involved a made up publicist from Kingston. You can’t believe anyone would have the gall to get away with this shit, or the stupidity to believe it.

The film is made all the funnier by the director’s immaculate sense of comic timing. I thought this must be the way my elders felt like discovering This is Spinal Tap for the first time. Events almost feel scripted but the authenticity of the period detail and the fact that they are clearly not actors force you to accept the reality that the events are real. But while the editing may lead you to question the authenticity, it also raises the level of intrigue. What puts this film over the edge is that you are constantly trying to figure it out. It will leave with questions you will spend the next two weeks trying to answer.

But for all the bravado and deception, at the heart of the film is a strange core of optimism and a message of self belief. The band never had any reason to think they could make it as far as they did, but they went for it anyway. They ended up with a record deal and a series of sold out shows. It’s heart-warming in its own way. It’s a theme so strong it even permeates the way the film was made. Looking at the endless parade of celebrities the film showcases throughout you never really believe any of them have ever heard of the band, yet there they are talking to camera about them, bigging up their names and legitimizing their reputation. This is a film all about blagging and blagging is how the bulk of the film was made. Even when the shit hits the fan you never hear a word about regret and nothing can wipe the smiles off their faces.

Skum Rocks! looks like it was as much fun to make as it was to watch. Even if you’re never quite sure what is going on, whether too believe its crazy delusions or dismiss it as a sham, you can’t ever be persuaded to disengage from the ride. Skum Rocks! is never laughing at you but encouraging you to laugh along with it.

 

MFW INTERVIEW: Skum Rocks! Boys Just Want to Have Fun

Skum Rocks!: Boys Just Want to Have Fun
Posted on October 11, 2013 by Andy Markowitz on Musicfilmweb.com

Alice Cooper with Skum

Skum Rocks! narrator Alice Cooper with (from left) John Eaton, Hart Baur, Todd Mittlebrook, and Pat Burke of Skum.
Malcolm McLaren famously declared that the Sex Pistols couldn’t play, which (except for Sid Vicious) was patently untrue. Skum actually couldn’t play, and that was kind of the point.

Skum was launched in 1984 by Hart Baur and Todd Mittlebrook, soccer players at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. (Another teammate was Jon Leibowitz, who later changed his name to Stewart and tried his hand at comedy.) Lacking any musical background, they gained a regional following despite – or perhaps because of – their skill at not performing at their own booze-soaked gigs.

After graduating Baur and Mittlebrook moved the band to Miami, this time with some guys who could play. They partied with celebs, got courted by record labels, separated investors from their money, and flirted with actual fame – until the tapes of their would-be debut album, Lost at the Circus, were lost in an automotive mishap. By ’91 Skum was done, a footnote to the mad excess of the hard rock ’80s.

That’s the tale told in Skum Rocks!, a music documentary directed by Clay Westervelt that had its world premiere late last month at the Raindance Film Festival in London. And if it sounds implausible, Skum is back to tell you it’s all true, as Baur and Mittlebrook told me in a phone interview the day after the movie’s London debut.

The band – frontman Baur, “rhythm bass player” Mittlebrook, guitarist John Eaton, bassist Pat Burke, and drummer Tommy Craig – has remade Lost at the Circus, adding bonus covers recorded at the world’s two most famous studios, Sun in Memphis and Abbey Road in London. They’re looking for a distributor for the movie, which is narrated by Alice Cooper and features cameos from dozens of rock, entertainment, and adult-entertainment personalities of Skum’s acquaintance, including Jon Stewart, Kevin Bacon, Traci Lords, and members of KISS, Ratt, and Motley Crue.

And judging by their website and the media links dotting it, they’re not taking any of it too seriously and having a roaring time self-promoting, which seems to fit what Baur says has been Skum’s metier all along. He calls Skum Rocks! “a story about a bunch of guys who pursued the American dream in a very unorthodox fashion.” Cooper’s narration puts it more directly: “These guys may have been naive, they may have flat-out sucked, but nobody can say they didn’t go for it.”

MFW: When I first heard about this I was a little skeptical – I lived on the East Coast all through the ’80s and never heard of you guys. Now, I was in Maryland, and I understand you were mainly working Virginia to Florida, so maybe I was just a little too far north.

Hart Baur: We were a band that wouldn’t play clubs. We’d play our own events. We always wanted to be in control. We would book our own shows where we would get a yard, get a couple of bands to open up for us, put the money up for the kegs, and then suddenly you’ve got a thousand people and you’ve got a huge night going on. In the early days we never even really wanted to play. It was a lot better to be the headliner and then have some reason not to play, because we weren’t that good back then. It became more of an urban legend, did-you-actually-see-them-play thing. That completely countered anything that a real band would try to do. A real band would try to actually get there and play. We wanted to get on the bill, headline, and then not play.

Which begs the question, why be a band?

Todd Mittlebrook: If you lived in Maryland you’ve probably been to Williamsburg, Virginia. [William & Mary] is a great academic school, but it’s a boring town. There wasn’t even a damn bar. We were pretty close on the soccer team, and we wanted to meet more girls, and the way to do that is to form a band. The drummer, Hart, and myself formed a band, and then we quickly realized that we needed some help in the guitar area, so we brought on another guy by the name of Jon Tarrant. The band was around for eight years, and there’s a clear delineation. For the first three years in Virginia it was kind of a college band, a house band. We had a great time, got bigger in sort of a grass roots fashion.

HB: When we’d play it would be an event. We’d spend four or five weeks promoting the event. It would have a theme. Some bands play every weekend, three times a weekend – that defeats the purpose. We had a show. It was like, “Oh my god, they’re actually gonna play!” We might not play because the cops came and broke it down, or something would happen. Things would happen that would go wrong before the show, or after the second song the power would get cut. It was all planned out to get out of actually playing.

Did that piss people off?

HB: Not really. The band was fun. There’s no pretension, there’s no egos, there’s no “we’re writing songs that are gonna save the world.” People who would go see our shows had a freakin’ blast, whether we played or not. They’re there, they’re getting beer. We had some shows where we had a two-shot cover charge – you didn’t have to pay, but you had to take two shots at the door to get in. People were getting laid, it was just crazy. And we took that attitude to Miami when we got the real musicians.

Hart Baur (left) and Todd Mittlebrook in Skum’s early days.
There’s footage in the film of some of those shows. Did you guys shoot stuff? Was it just sitting around in boxes?

HB: It was all on VHS tapes. We dug through, we found it. It was amazing, all the photos we found. I was thinking, how in the hell did someone take all these pictures? I didn’t have a camera. There are some tapes of stuff that happened, I’m watching the tapes – oh my God, my wife’s in the next room, I’ve got to get this off. It’s like some orgy thing that we filmed. I didn’t even remember that being filmed.

It sounds like there might have been a lot of stuff going on that you wouldn’t remember.

HB: Oh, yeah, yeah. That’s what I’m saying. You went to the show and we didn’t play, but you woke up and you’d scored with a hot chick. “Man, I’m coming back. [Laughs] I don’t know what happened but I’m coming back. That was the best rock show I’ve ever been to.”

But at a certain point you guys did have actual musicians and started writing proper songs.

HB: Correct. A lot of the songs we wrote in the early days were restructured a little bit. We wrote them and we didn’t know what we were doing when we were writing them, but when John Eaton came in, he’d say, “This is a great song, let’s put this bridge here, let’s move the verse here.”

We’re really proud of [Lost at the Circus]. It’s a really good rock album. From a musical standpoint, it stands on its own in terms of hard rock, a punk, funk, poppish kind of sound. John Eaton is a brilliant guitarist. Tommy Craig is probably one of the best unsigned drummers in America. He session-ed with Duff [McKagan] and Slash a couple of times out in LA. When Steven Adler was getting run out of Guns ‘n’ Roses, he was in the pool of drummers to possibly replace Adler, but they went with Matt Sorum. But he’s at that level. And Pat Burke, the bass player, is just a straight up – he’s the quarterback of the musical team.

Todd, you’re credited as rhythm bass player. What’s a rhythm bass player?

TM: It’s a bass player who’s not too good but still wants to be in the band, so the band needs a better bass player to function.

Why did you decide that you wanted to become an actual band, as opposed to this performance art project of putting on gigs but not playing?

TM: That’s a good term, “performance art project.” I think the answer is, we were always the same people. We have always been friends first and a band second. We were always just a fun group of guys. But as soon as we started playing in Skum, the perception of who we were changed. Suddenly we were, for some cosmic reason, a lot more interesting to speak to. That’s pretty addictive. We wanted more.

The fact that you guys went to Florida, and primarily Miami – is that where you came into contact with all these celebrities who are in the film?

TM: Miami used to be a small town. When we moved down there South Beach hadn’t happened, there weren’t that many places to party. There was a place called Fire and Ice that was off the hook. We played a lot there. When people were in town they came there. It’s not like we went out to find these people. We didn’t seek some of the porn stars, we just became friends with them.

So everyone who’s in the movie is actually someone who did see the band or knew you guys back in the day?

TM: That’s right. Obviously we were closer with some people than other people. When people came into Miami, they came to Fire and Ice, and that’s how we got to know everybody.

HB: We had connections with a company called Cellar Door Productions [a major East Coast promoter in the ’80s and ’90s]. We had an in with one of the guys who worked with them, he would get us backstage passes to all the shows. We almost opened up for a couple of big acts. At the end it didn’t go through, but we’d be backstage, hanging out with these guys. It was a lot different back then. Now all the acts are a lot older. They get offstage, get on a bus, and go. Back in the ’80s it was a party. Backstage was backstage. People who hung around our group had fun, and that was really what the thing was all about. It never was about the music.

So how did it end? And what happened to the album?

HB: The tapes were being taken to be mastered. The guy who was driving ‘em, he never – his car was stolen, and the tapes were [supposedly] lost. The band at that point, people were like, it’s time to get a real life, time to get jobs. It wasn’t as driving as it had been two or three years before. You get older and decide, I’ve maybe got to be more realistic here.

Why did you start up again?

HB: It was the tapes. This guy called me, I guess it was five years [ago] now, and said, “I have a box with a bunch of shit in there, and your name’s on the side of it.” I go, “What’s in the box?” “Well, there’s boxes in the box.” “What’s in the boxes?” He opened them up and said, “Looks like there’s tapes.”

Was this the guy who had the car that was stolen?

HB: No, no – they’d put the tapes in the wrong car. It was a clusterfuck. This guy drove around with the box in his car for, like, 10 years, and he sold his car and put the box in his bathroom. Then one day he cleans his bathroom and he goes through the box – what’s in this thing? You know how boxes accumulate, it’s just there, you don’t ever look in it. So we went and looked at ‘em, and yeah, those are the tapes all right. The tapes were not in good condition. Pat, being the quarterback, said, “If we’re gonna do this we’ve got to re-record everything. If we’re gonna do it, let’s do it the best we can, because this is now our legacy, this album.” So we re-recorded everything, and we did the Sun studio thing, which was cool, because we’d never recorded a cover before. The only cover we ever did live was, we played a federal prison in Miami and we opened the show with “I Fought the Law.”

How did the movie get rolling? Whose idea was it?

HB: We started to film the remaking of the album. Someone got wind of that out west, then Clay Westervelt got wind of that. He started doing some research. He picked this up, we had a long talk, he read a lot of the old press clippings. He was like, this is really, really interesting. He started realizing who we knew, and from that it kept growing and growing and growing. It became much bigger than any of us expected. But we are guys who just sort of roll with it. As long as it didn’t interrupt our real world and our real lives and our families, we loved it and embraced it.

From the stuff I’ve seen on your website and the trailers, you guys are almost pushing it as a comedy.

HB: It is a comedy. We poke fun at ourselves. We revel in the fact that we were basically, from a musical standpoint, a bunch of fuckups who had a good time and didn’t take it seriously. It probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do from a professional perspective, but it was what we did.

Are you going to try and make it stick now that you’ve gotten back together?

HB: Well, we’re gonna release the album. There’s talk of a TV show in the US, we’ll see what happens. I’m not gonna get on a tour bus, [do] 50 shows. Unless they throw an incredible amount of money on the table. But I’d love to play a couple shows here and there, and go from there.

Skum Announces Pre-Screening Party at Walkers Rock & Roll Bar

Skum is having a party!  Skum announced they will host a pre-screening party immediately prior to the global premiere of their film, SkumROCKS!,  at the Raindance Film Festival Piccadilly Vue Cinema on Thursday, September 26th.

The party will be at Walkers of St. James, 32 Duke Street St James, London, between 1800 and 2015 (that’s 6:00 pm until 8:15 pm BST — London local time — for you Yanks).

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Walkers of St. James is a cool, subterranean bar located in the heart of London.  Mat Knox (pictured below), is the owner of Walkers and a huge rock and roll fan.    “Rock and roll has always been a big part of my life and the walls of my bar are filled with music posters.  I am really excited – it’s a thrill to host Skum’s party for the SkumROCKS! premiere.  Spinal Tap is dead and Skum are the new kings!”

Mat Knox

Mat Knox

According to Skum’s rhythm bass player Todd Mittlebrooke, “Walkers is the ideal location for the pre-screening party.  Mat Knox, the owner,  is a huge music fan, so  Mat and Walkers are the perfect hosts for our event – it’s a match made in rock and roll heaven.”

The bar is ideally situated just off the corner of Jermyn Street between Mayfair and Piccadilly, and less than a five minute walk to the Vue Cinema Piccadilly where SkumROCKS! will premiere at 2045 (that’s 8:45 pm London time) the same evening.  This was an important factor for Mittlebrooke. “Walkers is only 150 yards (that’s 137 meters) down Jermyn Street to Regent Street where the cinema is located.  We want to make it easy for our fans.”

Mittlebrooke  says the pre-screening party for SkumROCKS! is more important than pre-screening parties for other films.  “Going to see SkumROCKS! will be like going to a concert.  You know, you want to get together with your friends, hang out, have a few drinks, catch up with each other and get pumped for the show.  Walkers is the place where that’s going to happen.”

The evening promises to be special.  Walkers will be playing never before heard tracks from Skum’s forthcoming album, “Lost at the Circus” to be released later this year.

To make sure you have a ticket to the global premiere of SkumROCKS! following the party at Walkers, visit Vue Cinemas to secure your ticket before the event sells out.

http://booking.myvue.com/Home/My-tickets/cinema/piccadilly/uid/07e72899c4/si/5255

 

 

CHERIE CURRIE TO APPEAR IN SKUMROCKS!

The film SkumROCKS! has gotten even better. cherie currieart561971_621413557901476_1514730799_n

Skum has announced that Cherie Currie, the rock and roll icon who sang lead vocals for the legendary Runaways, filmed a spot for SkumROCKS! on location in Los Angeles this weekend.  Director Clay Westervelt of Imaginaut Entertainment says he was thrilled to add such a well-regarded musician to the movie.  “Cherie is great.  She’s so busy it was a challenge to find time in her schedule to film her, but once it was organized, it all flowed easily.  It took longer to drive to the location than it did to shoot.  She nailed it.”

The movie already features a star-studded lineup that some are calling titanic.  To see the complete list visit IMDB at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2434688/.

Cherie will receive the “Prestigious Rock Legend Award” at the Malibu Music Festival and Awards Show on October 19th at Pepperdine University.  Grace Slick, Robert Hays and Jake Hays will present.  She will perform three songs for this event including “Air That I Breathe” from her upcoming album.  Congratulations Cherie!

Currie is the Californian beauty who fronted the first great all girls rock and roll band, The Runaways, who many consider the greatest female rock band ever. runawaysThe Runaways, with Currie in the lead, established themselves at the forefront of the music scene, headlining major venues and having such acts as Cheap Trick and Van Halen as openers — and all before they were eighteen years old!  It’s crazy to look back on that era and see the talent level the Runaways had — Joan Jett, Lita Ford, Sandy West, Jackie Fox — and of course Cherie Currie.  They left a lasting legacy that paved the way for so many female bands to emulate down the road.

Skum’s lead bass player, Pat Burke, commented, “I am thrilled that Cherie will be a part of SkumROCKS!  The Runaways are one of those iconic bands that belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  It’s an honor to have Cherie in our movie.”

Westervelt added that Ms. Currie would be the last artist added to the film before it makes its world premiere in London next week at the Raindance Film Festival.

For more information on the SkumROCKS! Premiere at the 21st Raindance Film Festival, visit http://raindancefestival.org/films/skum-rocks/ .

SKUM WILL ROCK LONDON AT RAINDANCE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

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Media Contact:
Elliott Stares
ESPR
Tel: (305) 490-1985
Email: Elliott@esprinc.com

London Contact:
Todd Mittlebrook
Tel: +44 074 294 68711
Email: toddmbrook@gmail.com

“SKUM ROCKS!” narrated by Alice Cooper to premiere at Raindance International Film Festival

Date: September 26, 2013

Time: 8:45pm

Location: VUE Apollo Piccadilly Circus, Theater #5, 19 Lower Regent St, London, SW1Y 4LR

SKUM ROCKS! chronicles the unbelievably true story of SKUM, the band who gained substantial popularity on the East Coast of America in the 80’s despite the fact that none of its members knew how to play their instruments. An overwhelming manipulation of the media led to their rapid rise in popularity, such that their main objective became inventing new and creative ways to get kicked off stage without actually playing.

 Alice Cooper with Skum

SKUM treated their shows like parties, booking venues in residential neighborhoods or near hospitals and libraries – where they’d expect to get shut down for noise ordinances. If that didn’t work, they’d throw out free beer to the college crowd while calling the cops to report underage drinking. Either way, they timed their stage appearance moments before the sirens and flashing lights arrived, guaranteeing a “good show” for their fans.

SKUM founding band mates Hart Baur, Pat Burke, John Eaton, Tommy Gunn and Todd Mittlebrooke all tell their side of the story, an absurd tale of the quest for the American Dream – fame without talent, effort, or ability.

THE FILM

Directed by Clay Westervelt (producer of Popatopolis, HBO’s Miss You Can Do It, and other documentaries), SKUM ROCKS! attempts to sift truth from twenty-years of urban legend surrounding SKUM. A veritable Who’s Who of Hollywood and Rock royalty weigh in on the legend of SKUM, including Rock-and-Roll Hall of Famer Alice Cooper who appropriately narrates this bizarre story of fame before feat. Cooper’s narration in the film claims, “These guys may have been naïve, they may have flat-out sucked; but nobody can say they didn’t ‘go for it’.”

SKUM ROCKS! takes a hilarious look at everything that can go wrong when a group of guys with no real direction gets into a position of power. With an amazing ability to garner investors, combined with no ability to deliver on empty promises, their rock and roll train derails quickly.

This film is a sordid tale of a rock band growing bigger than it should have, scamming their way into the hearts and wallets of hundreds of investors. SKUM was a band that couldn’t be bothered with such musical banalities as “practice” and “learning chords”, yet they managed to make it to the cusp of fame and fortune… only to watch it implode.

TODAY

The filming of SKUM ROCKS! led to the band reuniting more than twenty years after they disbanded. They have recently appeared on the cover of US Rockstar Magazine (March edition), “Good Morning Phoenix”, “Big 105.9 FM Miami’s Paul and Young Ron Show” as well as others. They plan to finally release previously unheard tracks on a new album, along with brand new “comeback” tracks recorded at fabled Sun Studios.

DISTRIBUTION

All territories worldwide are available for this film.

INTERVIEW AVAILABILITY

The band will be recording a bonus track for their upcoming album “Lost at the Circus” at London’s Abbey Road Studios on September 25th. They will also be filming the pilot for their upcoming TV Show during their week in London. The band will be available for interviews in the studio during their recording session. Later that night they will walk the Red Carpet in support of Raindance International Film Festival at VUE Cinemas Leicester Square, London.

Pre-screening interviews can be arranged at either location or by phone with any member of the band and the director, L.A.’s Clay Westervelt.

Please make early interview requests for Abbey Road as these slots will fill up quickly.

www.imaginaut.com

http://www.raindance.org

http://raindancefestival.org/films/skum-rocks