Aye, the Melbourne International Film Festival’d be on again, hapnin from Jul 21- Aug 8 2004 (see www.melbournefilmfestival.com.au ), wiff another plethora of fine feelums. Could-be-standouts include a new Lars Von Trier piece, Breaking News(Hong Kong), a doco on the Yes Men, A Page of Madness (Japan) featuring live score performed by In The Nursery (UK), Coffee & Cigarettes by Jim Jarmusch, The Adventures of Iron Pussy (Thailand),a Gibhli studio animation showcase (Japan) and Haack : The King Of Techno – a spirited doco about Bruce Haack, the prolific composer behind a huge span of wildy creative, emotive electronic music from electronic childrens songs to satanic music, as well as being an inventor of weird musical instruments ( full list-o-weirdness at www.brucehaack.com ). Philip Anagnos shot, directed, edited, animated & produced the doco, and was happy to yak from LA about his labour of love:
How’d you get so hooked up into the world of Bruce Haack?
I did a lot of partying in the rave scene, and got really turned onto electronic musichaack.jpg… at some point I was looking to take it to the next level and started investigating the culture’s history – which is where I found Bruce Haack’s work.. there was something totally unique and intriguing about it – children’s music made electronically… I found it resonated a lot with what I liked about rave music – pushing boundaries and being made in a really fun way. A DJ friend at a moog conference in Los Angeles played me a whole album – Electric Lucifer – and I was hooked.
That was a concept album about heaven and hell wasn’t it?
Yeah and it was his most successful album, the only album to really get radio airplay. That was actually part 1 of 3, part 2 was released in 2001 and we’re remastering part 3 now for release at an appropriate time. It’s such amazing music. I’ve been doing DJing sets of rare and unreleased work of Bruces after film screenings – would love to do that in Australia if possible.
An artist with such a prolific output, yet so little visual record must’ve presented some doco_challenges?
Yeah – I tried to round up all the footage I could find, and tried to really milk everything, I used just about every image I could find from all the friends in his network, and his two appearances on classic early American TV shows, but in the end I had to rely a lot on the interviews and animations I made from his songbook. The documentary only shows a limited story of Bruce – there are some extremely dark and melancholy aspects of Bruce that I couldn’t cover with the documentary – it was too dark – so I feel almost responsible to tell the full story – so I’m writing a screenplay to turn it into a feature.
What was so dark about him?
When you hear the music you can tell straight away this in an intriguing person, and must have an intriguing story behind them… Half-way into the research for it I began to uncover and realise his darkness wasn’t going to be appropriate for the doco … and so I started treating the doco as a first step towards getting a feature made about his life and music. He had an intense life from birth on… claimed he could hear folk music in his head, he took peyote at the age of 12 on an indian reservation, then eventually ended in New York and entering the entertainment world which he grew to despise… eventually turning to harder and harder drugs to cope. The screenplay has been mapped out, and now we’re just looking at people to attach to it. In an ideal world I’d love Philip Seymour Hoffmann to play Bruce, I think he’d be great… and Sofia Coppola’s people have shown some interest in the project, but we’ll see.
There’s an impressive list artists contributing covers or being interviewed in the film – Beck, Money Mark, Mouse on Mars, Anubian Lights, Tipsy, Dj Me Dj You. Were they tough to nail, or all keen to be involved?
As a first time director it was tough to get some of the bigger names, but they were mostly very willing once you got through to them in person. I was disappointed I didn’t get a chance to interview Beck, although I hope he might appear on the DVD.
And you did the animation yourself as well?
Yeah, 98% of the animations in the movie are from his songbook which he never published – only gave to friends… it’s a cut n paste collage thing he made with pictures for every song…. so I’ve taken lots of these and animated them to his music. It actually helped because I didn’t know where to start with his mammoth musical output, so I ended up using whatever music had pictures in his songbook.