Exclusive Blog: Felix Speaks - Part 2
Hello my fellow (Music) Fixers,
I hope my blogging finds you well. It’s been a productive week in Hey Negrita world, although I must admit that the amalgamation of radio sessions, photo shoots, secret gigs and the penetration of the Macedonian airwaves have left me a little groggy. That said, we were very excited to have songs featured on the cover-mount CDs of this month’s issues of both Word Magazine and Rock ‘n’ Reel, as well as getting one of our finest reviews ever from Maverick Magazine.
The movie, which is a rough-and-ready documentary about the New British Roots Movement, offers an insight into the inspirations behind a new breed of musicians, fascinated by a music that seems to have been torn straight from the bleeding jaws of rural Middle America. We wanted to delve deep into the dark recesses of the British music scene, past the faux glamour of pop fantastic to the piss-stained hovels of the working musician.
It all began in the usual way. I was staring into a lukewarm pint of Stella Artois, trying to figure out how I was going to get into the barmaid’s knickers, when Alex rocked up with an illustrious plan to make a documentary about the British underground roots scene that was brewing in the clubs, bars and music festivals of Britain. Having accompanied Hey Negrita on several UK and US tours and to numerous festivals, Alex – who was already enthralled with the alt country and Americana genres – had started to get interested in some of the British bands on the circuit.
Apart from a Channel 4 mini-documentary on our first American tour, though, neither of us had ever been involved in any type of TV project. That said, there were a number of factors working distinctly in our favour. Firstly, Alex – whose day job consisted of filming and editing corporate films for the NHS – was no stranger to using a camera and cutting together vast amounts of footage on his Apple Mac. Secondly, I already knew a lot of the guys we wanted to involve in the film and thirdly, and most importantly of all, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves in to.
So, armed with an earth-shattering budget of £400, a Sony HDV camera and enough bravado to sink a Glaswegian stag party, we set off to make our cinematic masterpiece. It was my job to track down the bands and commentators, by whatever means necessary, so that I could interview them whilst Alex operated the camera and our small radio mic. Although the initial response was pretty good, with people like Bob Harris, Sid Griffin and Tom McRae coming on board right from the start, it didn’t take long before we started to hit a brick wall.
So we did what we do best and turned the bullshit-o-meter up to eleven. I told people that Bob Dylan, Keith Richards and Eric Clapton were in the movie, that we had been asked to show the film at numerous film festivals and that distribution companies and terrestrial TV channels were already fighting over first dibs on a film that hadn’t even been shot yet. From having to smuggle large quantities of contraband backstage at a gig in Oxford to having our camera nicked in East London, no obstacle was too large for us to overcome. It was only when one artist asked us to pick up a small consignment of heroin in return for granting us a short interview that we graciously declined.
The dusty trail took us from Acton to Wolverhampton and from Oxford to Kentish Town. As well as Hey Negrita and our touring buddies Alabama 3, the film featured our good friends Kitty Daisy & Lewis (who have just returned from a US tour with Coldplay), Acton’s favourite sons The Barker Band and The Broken Family Band. Our Irish-born lead guitarist and acoustic blues virtuoso, Matthew Ord, ended up providing a large chunk of the film’s soundtrack, as well as featuring as a solo performer. Luminaries like Guy Clark, BJ Cole, Paul Barrere from Little Feat and a number of high-ranking journalists provided the commentary.
When we finished the film a few months later we were invited to premiere it at the prestigious SXSW Film Festival in Texas. The British Government even shelled out £12,000 to help pay for the bands to fly over and appear together at a showcase of British music, which doubled up as the official premiere afterparty.
After that things started to move very quickly. We got a distribution deal with Verve Pictures, enjoyed further screenings at the Philadelphia, Illinois, Cambridge and East London Film Festivals and even ended up winning the award for Best Documentary at the South Africa International Film Festival. When the movie was screened in its entirety as an exclusive on Daily Motion two weeks ago it racked up over 100,000 hits during the 72 hours it was available.
As well as having a riot during the eight months we spent putting the project together, I also learned a very valuable lesson: when you get stuck heading down the conventional road there is no limit to what a handful of well-aimed lies and a man-sized portion of bribery can do to get you where you need to be!