What inspired you to undertake this project? ^ I met John Felice and Billy Cole in 1980 when I was managing my first band, The Frantics, and John had formed the Taxi Boys, and both bands were playing Cantones and the Rat. In 1991 John and I put together the The Devotions, recruiting members of the Piranha Brothers, the band my agency (Miss Management) was promoting at the time.
Working with John on the Devotions was challenging and although it was an important step in both of our careers, neither of us was pleased with the results, and we didn’t have much to say to one another for several years. He wrote some great songs during that period, and when I first heard them on the radio (released on the Real Kids EP “Down to You”) I experienced a mixture of melancholy and elation. I followed John’s career as he did a series of Real Kids reunions in the nineties, and in 1999, I saw him play upstairs at the Middle East with a line up that included Billy Cole on guitar and Chris Barnard from the Queers on bass. I told Chris after the set that it was the best I had heard the band sound in years, and I said to John, “It’s time to do the film,” almost as a dare, and he said “Okay.”
At the same time, I was working on a memoir about my experiences in the Boston rock scene during the 1980s and 1990s, and I had loosely structured it around the deaths of significant figures in music: John Lennon, Johnny Thunders, Mitch Cerul (doorman at the Rat), and it became apparent that John Felice was a major character in my story, and I think it was that realization that led me to actively pursue the idea of doing a film with him. John and I talked about it some more and were ready to start shooting earlier this year when Howie left the band. We had planned to document the band recording a new album in the studio and going on tour in Europe. John was determined to find another drummer, and it was that determination, his relentless pursuit of his goals, that inspired me more than anything else.
What did it take to pull this whole thing together? ^ I am still trying to “pull this whole thing together,” actively seeking investors and funding. I found a great production assistant in Paris, Ben Cohen, through Jeff Grantz, one of filmmakers in Laurel Chiten’s guerrilla documentary workshop in BFVF. In May, I went to the club where the Real Kids played in 1983, Le Bataclan, interviewed the club manager, and then interviewed Patrick Mathe, the band’s manager at the time. Patrick gave me a copy of the live concert footage of the Real Kids Bataclan performance.
I used the Paris interviews and the archival footage to put together a trailer with the assistance of Vilma Gregoropoulos. I had worked with Vilma on Zack Stratis’ musical comedy COULD BE WORSE as a publicist. I also worked with Roland Tec on his feature film “All the Rage”, Helen Stickler on the documentary “Cherry Bomb”, and Kaylyn Thornal on her music documentary PAYOFF. I started working on local independent film productions about seven years ago, after being invited to attend John Pierson’s Cold Spring Filmmakers Workshop, sponsored by Miramax, in 1994. It was there that I met Roland Tec, as well as Kevin Smith, Michæl Barker from Sony Classics Pictures, Bryan Singer (“The Usual Suspects”,) and lots of other indie filmmakers and producers. I am hoping that my cumulative experience in the local music and indie film communities will assist me in pulling together the resources I need to complete the project.
To date, I have been very fortunate to have some really talented people working with me: Stephen Maing, an award winning cinematographer; Doug Cabot, a grad student at Emerson College, as Sound Recordist; and Morris Beverly of AV Presentations and Kevin Lawson of Bluetones Productions as technical consultants. In addition to being creative and professional, the crew members have all worked in the Boston rock scene and/or are musicians currently playing in Boston rock bands.
Are you going the digital video route or shooting on film? ^ I am shooting on mini DV now because it is relatively low budget, but I would love to shoot some footage on film if my fundraising efforts allow it and I can effectively integrate it into a broadcast quality production.
What are the elements that make the Real Kids story one that’s compelling enough to make a film about? ^ The Real Kids story works on a number of different levels: as a pioneering Boston band that never attained commercial success, the Real Kids are emblematic of the entire Boston garage/punk scene in the late seventies/early eighties. A passionate juxtaposition of angst and exhilaration characterized the music of the Real Kids and their contemporaries, including The Lyres, Mission of Burma, La Peste and The Girls. The Boston garage rock sound, born in the sixties with Barry and the Remains, perhaps culminating in the early eighties, survives today, virtually unaffected by changes in the global music market. Like a lost civilization, it remains undiscovered by a large segment of the outside world, and that isolation has helped to preserve the music’s integrity, making it as fresh, vibrant, and original today as it was twenty five years ago.
On another level, it is the story of the songs, which have had a truly international impact on music. Bands from around the world have covered John Felice’s songs, and he says every time he goes on tour, kids from new bands give him copies of their cds with Real Kids covers included. Parasol Records’ “I Wanna Be A Real Kid,” showcases the songs’ ability to stand on their own. So while the sound remains firmly rooted in its Boston based origins, the music seems to translate well in any culture. Finally, and most importantly, it is a character study of John Felice, a charismatic, complex artist, who at first glance appears to embody the rock and roll male archetype. Beneath the tough guy exterior is a romantic, a poet in the tradition of Baudelaire and Rimbaud. John says he’s still the same kid as he was at fifteen, and it’s that genuine, unaffected self regard that empowers him with so much charm. Felice is an enigma, personifying the clash between rock icon and real kid.
Get the rest of the interview in part three of BOSTON’S REAL KIDS ROCK ON THE BIG SCREEN>>>