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INTERVIEW: Director of Quiet Riot Documentary Regina Russell & Frankie Banali of Quiet Riot

INTERVIEW: Director of Quiet Riot Documentary Regina Russell & Frankie Banali of Quiet Riot

“I will always regret
that Kevin’s gone, but it’s out of my control. Regina helped me to accept the
fact that he’s not coming back, and to enjoy what we had. There’s value in
that.”-Frankie Banali, Drummer of Quiet Riot

Regina Russell’s solid and impressive directorial debut “QUIET RIOT: Well Now You’re Here, There’s No
Way Back” is a compelling journey into
the history and heavy metal heart of legendary band Quiet Riot, and how the band’s drummer Frankie
Banali picks up the pieces after losing his lead singer and lifelong best
friend Kevin DuBrow to a drug overdose in 2007.

This film is an enthralling ride that seamlessly weaves rock
and roll glamour, grit, humor and drama from start to finish, while
transcending all subcultures and musical genres to expose the rawness of loss.
It explores Banali’s personal challenges with anger and regret during his
ongoing search to find the right singer who could help to keep the band’s
legacy alive.

Although unforeseen in the production’s beginnings,
Russell’s process as a filmmaker gives Banali the opportunity to process the death
of his best friend and move on.

In a fascinating and candid conversation, Regina Russell and
Frankie Banali share how they first met over thirty years ago, the gifts and
challenges of making a film together while being in relationship, and the power
of film to heal, through the scope of Banali’s personal experience:

How did you meet

Regina: In 1983, I
was still in high school and had braces on my teeth. I was this skinny little
girl in South Carolina, and Quiet Riot, one of the biggest bands at the time, came
to town. I had a friend who knew them, and she actually set us up. I was a kid,
so he didn’t put the moves on me, but I hung out with him and went to three
shows on their tour bus. For a high school girl who was playing their album
from back to front until it wore out, that was a really thrilling time. I moved
to New York, and didn’t see him again for twenty-seven years.  We reconnected again in 2009.

So the idea of the
film came long after you met?

Regina: We had
been dating for about a year, and it was around that time when he said he was
considering meeting with Kevin’s mother to get her blessing to go on with the
band. I thought that sounded like a documentary, and he said “No! That’s going
to be a lot of trouble,” but I talked him into it and started following him
around with a camera.

Frankie: (Smiles)
Yeah, she followed me around like I owed her money.  

Did you want to make
films prior to this?

Regina: I had
been an actress for twenty something years, so I had learned how to make movies
from being on film sets for my entire adult life. I had always wanted to make a
documentary. I saw “Roger & Me”, and thought this is really my genre. I
tried out a couple of things, but never had a good story. This sounded like
such a great story.  

(To Frankie) So you
resisted the documentary at first?

Frankie: Being
Sicilian, I don’t like people peering into my life. I don’t like being followed
around, but after a while, I just ignored the camera. It was just something
else that was in my office, in my car, or at a show. And I’m so committed to
Quiet Riot, that I’m way too caught up to really pay attention to that. It was unimportant
compared to the everyday functioning of the band and how do I get from point A
to point B. After a while, it just didn’t exist anymore and I stopped caring
that she was filming. 

Did you use a lot of
hidden cameras?

Regina: The band
was hard to film, because they were either frozen or hamming it up. It was
really hard to get them to be natural and just ignore the camera. The night of
the show when Mark Huff had train wrecked (shown in the film), I knew they were
going to have an argument in the dressing room. I setup the cameras while they
were finishing the show, and stayed out of the room so they could have their
argument without being guarded. 

Frankie: Yeah,
she got me on that one.

Regina: I had the
camera turned on for some of the stuff filmed in his office, but would leave the
red light off. He had no idea it was on.

Frankie (He says with
a grin):
Yeah, she’s sneaky. That’s why I have good attorneys… There’s
stuff in the film that I didn’t know about until I actually saw it, stuff that
happened long after I thought we were no longer filming; I’d blow up about
something or make a cynical comment, and yeah, she got it.

How did the filming
affect your relationship?

Regina: It was
hard on our relationship. Imagine when something is going wrong, and he’s
exploding and freaking out. I would have this look on my face, like, “Oh god,
where’s my camera? How come he never says this stuff when I’m filming?” I
always had that on my mind. 

He would say, “Why do you always have that look on your face
like you wish you could film this? Why can’t you be sympathetic to my

I just didn’t care, and I would say, “I’m sorry for what
you’re going through, but I really wish I had my camera, because you don’t say
this stuff when I’m filming. This is what I need for that spot…”

Did you ever expect
the film would take four years to make?

Frankie: It just
went on and on. It was a surprise to her, and even a bigger surprise to me. I
didn’t hire the first singer we got just to fire him. It doesn’t make any
sense. I didn’t hire the second singer just to fire him. That also doesn’t make
any sense, but this is life. None of this was planned. It just kept going on
and on, but this is the reality of the film. 

Regina: When Mark
Huff was new, Frankie asked, “If I fire him, is this going to fuck up your
movie?” I said, “No, that’s just the story,” but I was thinking, “Yes, please
don’t do that.” At that point he (Mark Huff) was train wrecking, but I was
still trying to make a movie where there was a happy ending with him.

Frankie: I have a
pretty good sense of individuals and their moods. I take into consideration
what people say during the day, their mood, their body language, and I knew the
days when he (Mark Huff) was going to suck. And those were the days that I
didn’t want in the film. It’s not good for Quiet Riot.

I gave two different talented individuals the opportunity to
walk into this situation, to stand on the stage with an iconic band, and sign
the songs that Kevin DuBrow made famous. I gave them the opportunity, and they
threw it away, so I had no remorse about it. They did it to themselves. They may
blame me, because I’m the one who has to say, “You’re done” when they drop the
ball. I spent over three decades of my professional life with this band. I’m
not going to let anyone do anything less.

Things are great now. If there’s one regret that I have,
it’s that I don’t have Kevin DuBrow. He’s my best friend. I am never going to
have another best friend like that. I am not going to live long enough to have
a friend like that again. That I will always regret, but do I regret Quiet Riot
now? Absolutely not. I will not apologize for Quiet Riot going on. Absolutely
not. Never have. Never will.

Did you experience
any personal healing in the making of this film?

Frankie: Whether
it was intentional or not, Regina forced me to deal with Kevin’s death. Before
the film was all said and done, I can’t tell you how many mornings I would sit
in my office and thought Kevin was calling when the phone started to ring. She
made it possible for me to finally let go, not to stop missing Kevin, but to
let go and accept the fact that he’s gone. He’s not coming back, and although
he died because of his choices in life, I don’t fault him for that.

I will always regret that Kevin’s gone, but it’s out of my
control. Regina helped me to accept the fact that he’s not coming back, and to
enjoy what we had. There’s value in that. As expensive as this film has been,
it’s definitely been cheaper than therapy.

I always go to visit Kevin on his birthday, not on the day
that he died. I always celebrate his birthday. I don’t mark his death, and it
was during the filming when his birthday rolled around. That was the first time
that I could sit there and see it from a different perspective. I’m always
going to miss him, but at least I can frame it into something that I can
understand. Before, it was this illusive, foggy kind of thing that I couldn’t’
really get my hands on.

When did you realize
that you were helping Frankie to face Kevin’s death?

Regina: It was well
into filming. I didn’t know where the story was going, or what was at the heart
of it. I thought about the core journey; it couldn’t just be about hiring and
firing band members. It had to be about what’s inside. I got down to the fact
that Frankie was dealing with his loss, and a part of him having problems with
these guys in the band is that they weren’t Kevin. 

Did this process of
filming bring you guys closer?

Frankie: It has
because I know she’s got my back, but sometimes getting to that point was
really hard to accept. I come from a background where we don’t share our
emotions and feelings. Whatever is going on in the home stays at home. We don’t
put anything out there, but when you make a movie like this, you have to put it
out there. I’m not just putting it out there for her; I’m putting it out there
for the world to see. I understand it. She did a phenomenal job, but it’s been
a difficult process for me.

Regina: I didn’t
know that I was going to expose his life and emotions so much. It wasn’t what
he signed up for, and it was definitely a battle. It’s hard to be in a
relationship with the person you’re most connected to, and you can’t really
open up to them because they’re thinking, “how can I get this in the movie?” I
wasn’t really that good of a girlfriend at that point, but we have become
closer now that it’s done. 

Frankie: In
retrospect, I think it was easier to open up to Regina – even though the camera
was her evil second head – because I trust and love her. In that regard, it was
a lot easier to be honest and not put on a show with someone I didn’t know. 

Regina: (To
Frankie) You wouldn’t have talked openly with anyone else… He’s really

Frankie: Never.
The camera was not in the equation. It was Regina and I talking. The camera
just didn’t exist anymore. I would have never have said this, if I was
conscious of the camera…  We were at a
shit gig and I said, “Welcome to nowhere.” That’s not the image I’m trying to
show. The image that I’m trying to portray is that Quiet Riot is still on top.
I would never have said that, if I had been aware of the camera. Therein lies
the honesty of the film.

Regina has done a phenomenal job, in that she was able to
capture the beginnings of the band, even going back and touching on its
original history and legacy, to dealing with the death of Kevin, the band’s
continuation and how we just don’t stop. She has managed to capture all of it. 

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