by Amanda N. Nanawa
Scott Petersen’s music documentary, “Out of the Loop“, made its debut at
the 1997 Chicago Underground Film Festival where it won Second Prize for
Best Feature Documentary. The film focuses on various Chicago acts at
different points during their musical careers. Also interviewed were
rock critics Jim DeRogatis — formerly of Rolling Stone Magazine –,
Bill Wyman — formerly of Chicago Reader, currently Arts Editor at SF
Weekly –, Touch and Go Records‘ publicist Scott Giampino, and record
producer Steve Albini.
What strikes the viewer watching this feature is the “if you’re not hot,
you’re dropped” attitude of the music industry — i.e. at major labels
and press — and its ways of deconstructing a close-knit musical community.
Wicker Park was “in”. Artists and Repertoire people kept themselves busy
by luring naive, fame-struck musicians into their false hopes and dreams
by signing weak contracts.
Petersen wanted to prove that Chicago was more than a city with a
“scene”. It was a city brimming with talent from every facet of rock and
roll. Most of the bands featured started from independent labels and
worked from the ground up. What these bands hoped to receive from the
major label’s end was trust, protection, and growth. Instead, bands such
as Veruca Salt, Triple Fast Action, and Eleventh Dream Day have
witnessed everything but those three words.
indieWIRE: Before starting the project, did it ever occur how much the
music would cost? How did you prepare?
Scott Petersen: I was like, “You know, I’m gonna shoot these songs”. To
a certain extent, it became an issue. You’re making promises but in the
long run, I don’t think there was really anything that was significant
that was cut out for financial reasons — in terms of music rights. It’s
a dicey issue, you just have to sorta dance around it, figure out what
the hell’s going on. For the most part, it was okay, all these bands get a
certain amount of money and it’s not a lot, nobody’s gonna get rich off of it,
like I’m not gonna get rich off this movie. But in terms of what I’ve spent
on the movie, I think it’s fair.
That’s my least favorite part of the process. It gets into some issue
where you’re just like, “Man, this isn’t what it’s all about,” and “This
isn’t why I made this movie”. It seems to me that the problems come in
when other people get involved. I would much rather deal with the bands
on a one to one level for the most part.
There are still some things that need to be ironed out because you’re
talking about sort of a semi-theatrical release — colleges, underground
places in the country. Television, who knows — I’m working on it. And
then home video, which now I think I’m just gonna release myself, just
for the simple fact that I can control everything I want to do with it.
iW: Is it safe to say that the project is a response to how mainstream
media invaded Chicago?
Petersen: To some extent. Chicago has been left alone for many, many
years so it’s like these bands were left to develop on their own without
being in any sort of spotlight, which is probably good for the music
because there’s no pressure on them. I remember seeing that article in
Billboard and that was the big thing that came out. There was one little
part in it — and it would mean something to people from Chicago — and
there was a little map of Wicker Park and people were just like, “Oh,
man. This is ridiculous.”
There’s mistrust because you don’t know who the hell people are, where
they’re coming from, and what they’re trying to do. You get people from
record companies who are coming out and they wanna avoid paying a six
dollar cover charge at a club for some band that doesn’t have any money
at all. So, what happens is there becomes like a mistrust of other
people who are from the “outside”.
There is a little bit of distortion to everything. This movie is only a
scratch on the surface. I just wanted to go into how and why these
issues of fame come up and how these musicians deal with it. Whether
they’re gonna take the chance and have the possibility to become famous
or what happens when they don’t. Eleventh Dream Day had their chance
with a major label and they ended up not having the best relationship.
Now they’re releasing records on an independent label (and) they seem
pretty happy about what they’re doing now. It’s a tough call. What are
you gonna do when they start waving the checks in front of you?
iW: The interview with Veruca Salt looked to be the most honest and
forthright in their responses. . .
Petersen: The person who shot that did a fantastic job. I learned a lot,
just from the way he shot that interview. They are such a great
interview. I mean, they have done like a zillion interviews but at the
same time, they come across as being really straight. They’re smart.
They’re smart women, they’re articulate, and of course that’s why I used
so much of that interview because they come across so great. They’re so
interesting to watch and so engaging. And they’re great together because
they finish each other’s sentences and you’re like “wow, these two
really have something together” as band mates and as friends.
iW: Was that interview before they went on tour supporting “Eight Arms
to Hold You”?
Petersen: Yeah. That was actually the last thing I shot in the whole
movie. That was like the last day of production. That was funny because
I picked up Louise [Post] at her apartment and then we went down to Nina
[Gordon]’s place and she had a tape of “Eight Arms to Hold You” and she
was like, “Yeah. We just finished this,”