October 2003. You usually don't find this many miscreants in the parking lot of Jugheads on a Sunday morning. You've got some rough trade in spiky leather jackets, a crying Indian, three-card-monte hacks, a pair of trailer-trash beauties, a tow-truck operator with Wolverine sideburns, a pool shark with a nasty temper who flashes some unwanted butt crack every time he lines up a shot, and a guy from Edinburgh, Scotland, named Pringle, who was actually an extra in Braveheart and will soon weave a similar dervish (sans blue face) in the mosh pit. They've all come shockingly early to support local band Greenhaven -- and to hear the band play the song "Southbound" repeatedly and act infomercial-pleased, as if they're hearing it for the first time instead of the 20th.
Yes, Virginia, they're making rock videos again.
What's that you say? Using a video to demonstrate the appeal of a hard rock band has about as much likelihood of happening again as Americans giving the metric system another chance? Bah!
Scheduled to open for Monster Magnet, and Bongzilla on Friday, September 10
Theories abound as to what exactly killed off the video star, but the bloodied shoeprints lead to the doorsteps of MTV, who gave it life in the first place. After killing off glam metal with grunge, the music channel rushed the alternative cycle by pushing electronica, a genre that produced no stars whatsoever. This dynamic carried over into its next incarnation as reality TV arbiter that plays videos as often as the obstructed have bowel movements. And it had a catastrophic effect on the record industry, as not only killing off this built-in promotion but also jump-starting the music-downloading phenomenon. When Michael Jackson, the video vanguard of the last century, had to beg Sony to release a second video off his last album, the rule became the exception again.
But try telling that to Greenhaven singer Matt Strangwayes, who plowed ahead anyway and pulled in a lot of favors to make this video happen. An outfit called Industrial Discord is directing, but the storyboards adhere to the tale of trucking repo revenge that Strangwayes envisioned when he wrote "Southbound" and fleshed out the visuals with friend Dan Stone, who plays the video's laughable heavy. (Stone recently gained notoriety for having shot the downloaded-the-world-over video of North Side Kings' Danny Marianino and punching clown Glenn Danzig.)
The "Southbound" clip effectively demonstrates that Strangwayes, drummer Bill Schumann, guitarist Jay Hofer and bassist Uncle Dave have the considerable musical chops to warrant the fan devotion that their over-the-top rock posturing seeks to lampoon. For those expecting a reprise of the stoner rock Strangwayes perfected with his previous band Windigo, forget it. This is full-out, balls-to-the-floor rock, played as if this were the Motor City instead of the Valley of the Sun. This clip and the others to follow recall the halcyon days of early Van Halen's inexpensive videos, when even speedy guitar solos can be milked for cheap laughs.
Recalling that first video now, Strangwayes says, "I was going to film school for years and tripped back into what was once my primary thing, with Dan Stone and Eric Braverman. It's almost better to be doing videos now than the early '90s, when every video was glass breaking or pouring water in slow motion, and it was no longer a novelty."
Braverman, who heads up Killing Time Productions, had tapped Strangwayes to scout locations for his next horror short, The Peephole, kind of a Rear Window on a much smaller but bloodier scale. Strangwayes wound up assuming the lead role in the film, and the band contributed the song "Supernature." Much of the crew and extras for "Southbound" are carry-overs from this mini-gore flick.
March 2004. Almost three years and no Greenhaven buy-product besides the stickers that drummer Bill Schumann makes and the tee shirts bearing the likeness of the band's much-loved bassist Uncle Dave. That drought ends with the release of a seven-inch of "Southbound" and "Supernature," which was delayed because, according to guitarist Jay Hofer, "We got one pressing that had bits of paper and corn in the grooves." Since most people don't own turntables, the band decided to bundle each copy of the single with an enhanced CD that contains the video and both songs.
"We've entered it in a couple of music video festivals," says Schumann. "It's on the Web, on our Web site, nonemoregreen.com, and we're in the process of mailing it to video channels and video Web sites. All underground channels, basically."
"Since the music industry with the Internet has changed," adds Strangwayes, "people don't have 100,000 in their socks to tell a band 'Go, here, make a video,' like it was maybe five or 10 years ago. I would say it's coming back a bit, with alternative outlets like Fuse and Much Music. But certainly not like it was in the '80s. You've gotta hustle."
When Greenhaven is nominated in the 2004 New Times Music Showcase for Best Hard Rock Band, a category it ultimately wins, the group decides to use a shoot for its Showcase profile photo as the basis for a second video for the song "Waterloo."
"We did a casting call of hot models, and it kind of morphed into a video shoot as well, with Dan Stone filming fun footage of frolicking nymphs all over the place," says Strangwayes. "The opening shot is the band in a hot tub with no chicks. And one of us turns to the other and goes, ÔWe should start a band,' and it goes to live footage interspersed with chicks doing full flips. We basically re-created Cannonball Run 2."
Uncle Dave, who wears a loincloth some of the time and went drunkenly berserk during the rest, can't remember to this day what happened, and shuns looking at the raw footage. "It's my Waterloo," he says.
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August 2004. Still no full-length album from the band, although its method of recording two songs at a time with a break for a video seems to have become the norm. "Videos are too much fun to make," says Strangwayes, who promises the band's CD will be finished by spring 2005, enhanced with three, possibly four videos.
Right now Greenhaven has yet another video in post-production for a song called "Throckmorton Express." It's being assembled by Stone, who interrupts shots of the band playing in its rehearsal room with stock footage from a construction site safety film called Shake Hands With Danger.
Before filming could begin, Uncle Dave received a large chunk of glass in his right wrist and had to be rushed to the hospital when some homemade beer that was stored in the band's rehearsal room exploded from internal pressure. Naturally, the band intends to re-create this accident for the cameras. "Breaking glass, liquids and videos," nods Strangwayes. "They all kinda go together."