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More horses, more guns, more bullets… making The Price of Death

With the release of 6 Bullets to Hell still pending (May 9th), a bunch of us went back to Almeria’s desert to shoot yet another bloody (and dusty) western.
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Aaron Stielstra (center) as Dick Dixon takes his gang out for a stroll.

Believe it or not, it looks like Almeria is slowly becoming once again the European Hollywood, as it used to be called back in the 1960’s. The lasting economic crisis that almost brought Spain to a total collapse and the resulting poor salaries turned out to be the keys for the return of cinema to what was once one of the poorest parts of Spain. Films and TV series like Assassin’s Creed, Risen, A War, Game of Thrones, The Promise, Lost in the West and more recently Penny Dreadful have been filmed in the area since we shot 6 Bullets to Hell in 2013.

Yes, two years had gone by since our last rendezvous in Almeria, and truth be told, we were all itching for a new adventure. So, armed with a new script written by José Luis Villanueva, Aaron Stielstra and myself, and a cast that included 6 Bullets’ vets Ken Luckey in the role of Kidd Coffin, Crispian Belfrage as Harry Skinner and Aaron Stielstra as the infamous Dick Dixon, we all felt pretty confident we were going to do a good job once again. After all, we owe it to the late Frank Braña who once told me “you have to make an impacting western”.

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Ken Luckey and Crispian Belfrage ride again.

The film deals with a bouty hunter (Ken Luckey) that accepts the risky job of transporting a known criminal (Crispian Belfrage) across the territory, but unbeknown to him a gang of criminals lead by a psycopath (Aaron Stielstra) are after the outlaw and the loot he has hidden in the mountains.

The cast also included the great Al Matthews (Aliens, The Fifth Element, 007’s Tomorrow Never Dies, etc), Ray Gange (star of The Clash’s movie Rude Boy), Richard “Dudanski” Nother (101’ers and P.I.L.’s drummer), Nick Reynolds (Alabama 3’s harmonica player), Daisy Hughes, Daniel Jordan, Almeria’s own Elena Cruz, model Erica Lawrence and our dear friend (and everybody’s) Mike Schnapp (aka DJ Uncle Mike) amongst many others.

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Official Barfly. Al Matthews as Williamson in need of a beverage.

So we were back in the desert with a great cast, a limited amount of shooting days ahead of us, a tight crew and the mighty task of having to shoot a hundred plus scenes… Thank God we had the amazingly energetic Paola Rowid in charge of the art department (Arte!!!), the multi-awarded stuntman Juan Manuel Torres in his roles of stunt director and horsemaster and a crew that included sound recordist Toner, local cameraman wonderboy Christian Pujola and London’s extraordinaire Lucy Yang operating the second unit and also appearing as one of the saloon’s soiled doves. She wasn’t the only member of the crew that became part of the cast for a day (o two). Producers, assistants, drivers, the chef, even me, we all get dressed up in period gear at some point and play a part, however small it is. Anybody hanging on the set doing nothing might get to become a townsman or a prostitute for a minute. It just makes the experience more enjoyable and memorable for everyone involved. Actually, we even had a couple of tourists who stumbled upon the shoot become a pair of Amish girls for the day.

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Soiled Doves Lucy Yang, Daisy Hughes and Erica Lawrence.

Sergio Leone’s Mini Hollywood became once again our home for a few days, and the filming began without inconveniences except for the moustache I had grown for two months to play a Pinkerton agent for five minutes that was bothering me to no end. Despite telling all the cast and crew to grow facial hair nobody else had grown a proper 19th century looking ´stache and of course, I ended up being the only fool walking around the set twisting the end of my whiskers. But besides that, day 1 was great, we had good weather, the extras looked amazing and once we were done with the hangman scene it was goodbye to that silly moustache once and for all.

The following days we continued shooting on set until the exteriors began and that’s when the fun really started.

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Crispian Belfrage and Aaron Belfrage exchange pleasantries in the desert.

Getting to the deserted ramblas of Gador was an adventure in itself. It´s all dirt tracks full of rocks and sandy spots and one has to be very careful when driving down there. The 4×4 and the truck carrying the horses made it without problems but of course a car broke down and even my wheels got stuck in the mud much to the amusement of part of the cast and crew.

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No one here gets out alive. We turned our chef Sonny aka ‘Little Dallas’ into a Dirty Mexican for a day.

But besides these issues, the first day of shooting exteriors soon became a real party because that was the scene we were shooting, a night party, where the Dixon gang ate, drank, laughed and had actress Elena Cruz dance for their entertainment. The best thing of all though was Paola Rowid’s idea of giving a bottle of bourbon to actor Declan Hemp, who plays a drunken Irish renegade and of course, he didn’t have to act much. He laughed like a pirate, sang the worst version of “Whiskey in a Jar” I have ever heard and almost fell face-first on the bonfire we had lit for the scene. Too bad the cameras weren’t rolling at that moment.

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Hangovers are for  pu**ies. Declan Hemp et gang relax after a hard day’s night.

Days went by as we shot in the desert and then we relocated to the nearby mountains of the Sierra Nevada. The majority of the cast and crew were all staying together in the little town of Abla where we shot the rest of the film. Days were spent horseriding, climbing, crawling, running, jumping, shooting, fistfighting and loving the local gastronomy and hospitality of the townspeople, who seemed to enjoy the company of the colourful and demented looking array of characters we had assembled for the occasion.

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Kidd Coffin rides into the sunset.

Two months after the shoot and while we were editing, we went back to Mini Hollywood for a day to shoot one final scene with German actor Dan Van Husen and local actor and stuntman Antonio ‘Pequeño Oso’ Ramírez. Dan started his career acting in Spaghetti Westerns in Spain and we all agreed it was a great that he decided to end his career appearing in our film, precisely shooting on the set where he had worked back in the 60’s in films like Enzo G. Castellari’s Cipolla Colt or Doc, appearing alongside Faye Dunaway and Stacey Keach.

 

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Dan Van Husen and friend (and extra) Joe Bowden relax between takes.

The Price of Death will come out this year… Stay tuned!

 

 

SHOOTING ‘SIX BULLETS TO HELL’ IN ALMERIA.

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They said we were crazy. And yes, it was hot, it was dusty, it was real hard work but it was also great fun to shoot a real Spaghetti Western with a bunch of great actors and a great crew right in the middle of July AND right in the hottest spot of Spain: the desert of Tabernas in Almería

Almería had been the European Hollywood in the 60’s and 70’s, a good number of films where shot in that area of Spain every year. Fifty years ago, there’d be a couple of movies shot there everyday. Everybody in the small town of Tabernas would be somehow involved in the productions: the shops, the restaurants, horse wranglers, drivers, electricians, carpenters, extras, etc.

The great Frank Braña (R.I.P.), who worked in Almería hundreds of times (even with the Master Sergio Leone in all his westerns) told me there wasn’t a single hotel in Almería when they started shooting there in 1964. The cinema industry helped that city grow big time.

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Saturno Cerra and Frank Braña in Sept 2011.

Now there’s plenty of hotels, but not enough films are being produced in the area despite the unique locations, the unique light of Almería and the fact that Spain is broke so filming over there is always gonna be cheaper than shooting in the US or Canada. That was the main reason why Leone, Corbucci, Tessari, Solima and all the rest went there in the first place. And that was also the reason why United Artists loved working there too. Even Orson Welles and John Sturges worked in the area!

Now, everynow and again they get the odd commercial or the whole Arabic world goes haywire and Ridley Scott ends up shooting a big film like Exodus over there and the locals get to play extras once again… But what about the westerns? Well that’s where Chip Baker Films and Silver Sail Entertainment step in.

We met the Texans Tanner Beard and Russell Cummings a year ago at the 2nd Almería Western Film Festival, where by the way, they won an award for Tanner’s film The Legend of Hell’s Gate. 

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Tanner Beard as big bad Bobby Durango in Six Bullets to Hell.

Tanner had already expressed his wish to work in Almeria, so when the chance came up, of course we all said: yes! As fans of the old Spaghetti Westerns, this was the perfect chance for all of us to shoot in legendary sets like the Oasys (aka MiniHollywood), Sergio Leone’s set, the very same set he built with Carlo Simi in 1965 for For a Few Dollars More (and was also used in classics like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Hannie Caulder, Doc, etc) and also at Fort Bravo, where Ringo Starr did Blindman and where greats like Lee Van Cleef, Jack Palance or Charles Bronson starred in great westerns like Death Rides a Horse, Chato’s Land, etc. So we were literally standing on the footsteps of giants.

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The classic Sheriff’s office of MiniHollywood.

With Belgium’s Olivier Merckx as Director of Photography and steadycam operator on board and a crew and cast that included several nationalities, we assembled a tight multilingual unit that was exactly what they did back in the day, when the leading guy (usually American) would say his lines in English and the rest would deliver theirs in Italian, French and of course Spanish.

Besides Tanner and Russell being casted as Bobby Durango and Sheriff Morris respectively, the main cast was made up by a bunch of talented actors like Crispian Belfrage, Ken Luckey, Magda Rodríguez, Jack Queralt, Aaron Stielstra, Norberto Morán and of course the impressive local stunts and extras who did an amazing job.

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Ken Luckey as ‘Two Gun’ Joe.

We also had the chance to work with Antonio Mayans, another great actor with a great history and an impressive resume and also with Tymon Dogg, Joe Strummer’s mentor and friend who happened to be in the area on vacation and came along for a cameo.

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Tymon Dogg as the Man by the opium den.

We also got to spend time with our favourite DJ in NYC, the one and only DJ Uncle Mike, who nailed it as Deputy Johnny Green. And of course, I even got to play a little part as ‘Son of a bitch brother’ and I must say it was fun to die again like I did when I was a kid playing Indians and Cowboys.

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Two dead sons of bitches.

Thanks to everyone who helped us out during those two weeks in hell!

On the road to Nawleans!

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By late February I was back in the US for the last leg of interviews for the Johnny Thunders film: Looking for Johnny.

Thanks to Phyllis Stein we were able to interview the likes of Lenny Kaye, Richard Lloyd, Peter Jordan, Nite Bob, Cynthia Ross, Rachel Amodeo and Joe Sztabnik.

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Phyllis also shared with us some personal stories that revealed key information about both Jerry and Johnny. During those days we also visited Bob Gruen in his studio where he gave us yet another great interview.

After the NY chapter we were on route to New Orleans via Philadelphia, Richmond-Petersburg and Atlanta.

In Philly we hang out with our buddies from The High Five, who kindly put us up for a few days. In exchange we shot a cool video for one of their songs that should be ready pretty soon. While we were there we also interviewed fashion designer Kim Montenegro (of Very Bad Horse), who met Johnny Thunders in 1982 and remained friends with him until his death in 1991. You might recognize Kim’s car from a photoshoot of her and JT sitting on her beautiful 1956 Buick.

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After spending a few days in Philadelphia we headed down to Richmond to meet the legendary ‘Mighty’ Marty Thau.

Marty was staying in Petersburg, where we managed to see the man who discovered the Dolls and talk to him at lenght about those years. Marty was a complete gentleman and he kindly responded to all my nosey questions about contracts and this and that and the other.

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After travelling from NY to Richmond by bus we flew to Atlanta to meet Sylvain. His was probably the longest interview I’ve done for this project and he basically revealed everything one would want to know about the New York Dolls from day zero until their break up in Tampa, Florida in 1975. Another great interview in the can. Cheers Syl! And Thanks to the guys at Wuxtry Records for letting us shoot the interview right there!

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The day after Sylvain’s interview we were on our way to New Orleans (or Nawleans as they say down there). The last stop for Johnny and for us, as there we shot the end of the film.

According to Tennesse Williams “America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland”. Having been in the previous two I couldn’t wait to visit the third.

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Being in New Orleans was a total trip and thanks to Jeff, our man in the French Quater our stay was both instructive and fun. We went to the Inn on St. Peter right away and started to trace Johnny’s last steps in the French Quarter. Unfortunately, Leslie Carter, the woman who discovered JT’s body didn’t want to talk to us but the manager and the staff at the Inn were cool about letting us film the premises.

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48 hours later we were back in Louis Armstrong airport on our way to NY. Our last stop before heading back to Spain to edit Looking for Johnny.

But before we were out of the city we managed to meet up with Marky Ramone and Frank Infante (ex Blondie) who were both really cool sharing their personal stories of JT.

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We also managed to crash a party to promote Richard Hell’s brand new autobiography I Dreamed I was a Very Clean Tramp. We waited outside The Bourgeois Pig (the little bar on 7th street were the event was taking place) for ten minutes when I spotted Richard Hell walking tall down the street and into the joint. Leee Black Childers arrived five minutes later and helped us to get in and proceed to drink some of the free beer that was available at the bar.

Leee introduced me to Richard and of course I told him I was the mofo who had been trying to contact him for months and he’d never replied to my emails. He was cool about it and just said he tends to say always “no” to anything related to either The Heartbreakers or music in general, I can’t remember which.

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Hell was really nice actually (contrary to what I had heard) and I told him so, to what he replied: “I’m glad you think that way”. Unfortunately we only had 48 hours left in NY and he was really busy promoting his book so we couldn’t make an interview happen but he was kind enough to sign one of his books for me and wish me well with the project.

I read his book but unfortunately didn’t find a lot of new information about Johnny and those early Heartbreakers days, but on the other hand there’s great stuff on Television as well as The Voidoids in there.

Also attending were the lovely Wendy James, Tom Tom Club’s Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, Marcia Resnick, Roberta Bayley, John Holmstrom from Punk Magazine, actor Will Patton, DJ Uncle Mike and photographer Bob Gruen.

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That’s all folks! Stay tuned for more updates!

DG

(c) Danny Garcia

Hanging out in Paris with Henri Paul!

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Just a couple of days ago I was in Paris with Henri Paul interviewing him for Looking for Johnny, the film I’m producing on Johnny Thunders.

Henri was Johnny Thunders’ French connection and guitar player for The Living Dead and JT’s Cosa Nostra amongst other formations. He’s also the guy behind the “Hurtin'” riff. “Originally it was called “Flirtin'” but I couln’t pronounce it, so Johnny said: ‘can you say hurtin’?’ I said yes, so he changed it. I recorded all the guitars and Johnny did the vocals. Phil Lynott played bass and Mike Kellie from The Only Ones played the drums” remembers HP.

Henri met JT and the Dolls in 1973, when he was 12 years old! “I was a fan before I met them” he says. Henri  looked up to Johnny. Played a TV yellow (which “sounded better than Johnny’s”) and looked so much like Thunders, it’s Henri Paul who’s photographed in the cover of the “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory” single, not Johnny. 

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HP still lives nowadays in his beloved Pigalle, the same area of Paris where Johnny lived on and off when he stayed with Henri and his mother back in the late 70’s and mid 80’s. 

He’s a classic of the Parissian scene in his own right, not only he’s played and recorded with Johnny Thunders, Phil Lynott, The Only Ones and all the cast of guests of So Alone (which included Steve Marriott, Chrissie Hynde, Steve Jones and Paul Cook from the Sex Pistols, etc) but he has also recorded with MInk de Ville (“I did Savoir Faire, check the credits!”) and played live with Iggy Pop, Stiv Bators as well as French groups like Les Rita Mitsouko and his own band: Intouchables.

These days HP is getting a new band together (Henri Paul’s Cosa Nostra) and writing new material while recovering from his own wounded knee that’s kept him quiet in the last few years. 

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Stay tuned for further news on Looking For Johnny and Henri Paul’s Cosa Nostra!

DG

(c) Danny Garcia

 

“This is a load of Bollocks”…Everything you always wanted to know about Bernie Rhodes (but were afraid to ask)

Bernie Rhodes

Here’s published for the first time probably one of the shortest interviews in history. OK, it’s not everything YOU wanted to know about Bernie nor everything YOU would have asked him… anyway, after a few lengthy phone calls Mr Bernie Rhodes agreed to respond to a few questions via email. I truly thought Bernie would respond to them according to his intelligence and sense of humor, but instead he went silent for a few days, and only after I told him  that I expected no bullshit from him, I got this response…

Mark Helfond told me the real reason behind Topper getting fired wasn’t his heroin addiction. What was it then?

Bernie Rhodes: Joe, Mick and Paul fired Topper. Go ask one of them if they are around!

What involvement did you have in sacking Mick? Did you know that would be a fatal mistake?

B.R.: None.

83-09-10 NME Mick sacked

As somebody who’s so aware of class origins. Why did you hire three middle class kids for the Clash II job?

B.R.: These guys were hired by Joe etc after extensive auditions had been carried out, regardless of Class. Perhaps at this point the group should have been renamed The CLASS.

Why were they so badly bullied?

B.R.: Are they baby-boys or grown men?

The Clash II

Some people believe the real reason behind Mick getting fired is the fact that you were going in for thirds with Joe and Paul. What do you say to that?

B.R.: This is a load of Bollocks.

Having used name producers in the past (Sandy, Guy, Bill, Glynn…) what made you decide to produce Cut The Crap yourself without having previous experience?

BR.: I produced the first Clash Album with Mickey Foote. I also remixed many Clash tracks under different tag names.

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Did Malcolm’s success with “Buffalo Gals” inspire you to produce?

B.R.: Clearly if you had researched properly on the periods and subjects you are attempting to document; you’d know that during my long friendship with Malcolm I turned him onto a liking for Jazz, Reggae and Hip-Hop. That he had a shop designing and selling clothing; whereas I ran a recording studio, arranging and producing records. Moreover Malcolm regularly made use of the studio as well as my vast recording knowledge and many great ideas. Fact is I was producing records using different name tags well before “Buffalo Gals” was thought of.

MALCOLM MCLAREN

After Joe left the band and Paul refused to be the lead singer, did you really think you could get away with a replacement for Strummer?

B.R.: I’m always interested in potentially great people, especially singers; aren’t you? However I didn’t pursue this under the name of The CLASH.

 

Photos by: Pennie Smith, Mike Laye.

(c) Danny Garcia

The Rise And Fall Of The Clash

The Rise And Fall Of The Clash is a documentary that explores not only the last years of the only band that matters but it’s also a look into the lives of over twenty people who at some point of their existence entered the circle of The Clash.

THE CLASH AT BONDS

Why another Clash documentary? You may ask yourself. It’s a fair question. After all there are over half a dozen documentaries on the Westway Wonders already in the market… the problem is that not all of them are that good and not many of them tell the story like it was.
My idea originally was to document the last two years of the band (83-85) but the lack of footage of that period and the difficulty of getting hold of the existing tapes made me rethink the initial plan.
And there was also another factor… the Bernie Rhodes factor.
Bernie was so pivotal to the whole story of the band that I needed to start the documentary in 1981 instead, reporting the return of Rhodes to the management of the band.

“On The Road To Rock & Roll there’s a lot of wreckage in the ravine…” Joe Strummer.

Entering the world of The Clash and meeting its survivors you realize how important that band was not only for its members but also for those around them, all part of that big dysfunctional family that ended up touching the lives of millions of fans worldwide.
“The Clash had their own juju” says often Robin Banks, “very much like the Stones”. Call it ‘juju’ or whatever you want, the truth is that the fast train which The Clash became left a few (sometimes visible) scars on those who jumped on board.
Send In The Clash!

The Rise and Fall of The Clash is a tale of success and excess, friendship and betrayal, high hopes and broken promises… “The definitive word on The Clash” says Robin.
It is also a documentary made by a fan for the fans that sheds a lot of light on the internal affairs and the final disintegration of the band.
Including interviews with Mick Jones, Terry Chimes, Tymon Dogg, Pearl Harbour, Pete Howard, Nick Sheppard, Vince White, Mickey Gallagher, Norman Watt-Roy, Tymon Dogg, Ellen Foley, Dan Donovan, Vic Godard, Fayney, Chris Salewicz, Jock Scot, Kris Needs and a few more…

I wanted to interview as many people related to the band as possible and specially those who had a lot to tell: Topper Headon, Paul Simonon, Bernie and Kosmo mainly, all of whom proved impossible to sit in front of a camera. But because The Clash camp are still pretty much a family, everybody knows enough bits and pieces of the soap opera to reconstruct the story and attempt to find out the truth of it all… even 25 years later!

Ignore Alien Orders

Other Clash related people involved in the making of this documentary are Rude Boy’s co-director David Mingay and the late Ray Lowry, whose Estate allowed us to shoot and animate some of the original sketches he drew of The Clash while touring the States in 1979.

So far the film has been very well received by the public and the press and we’ve attended Film Festivals such as Madrid’s Transmissions Festival, CBGB’s Festival, Leeds International Film Festival, Portobello Film Festival, Foyle Film Festival, Valley Film Festival, Don’t Knock The Rock Film Festival and the Coney Island Film Festival where we won Best Documentary Feature of 2012.

The film has been recently released in Japan and we’re still waiting confirmation for the release date in the rest of the world.

In the meantime, a book containing the original script is already out via Thin Man Press and can be obtained here: http://theriseandfalloftheclash.wordpress.com/

Stay tuned!

DG