Arizona State University film student Chris Calzada needed a subject for his final project.
The 29-year-old Yuma native, who's been a punk rock fan for years, initially reached out to The Venomous Pinks, who he had seen at Yucca Tap Room a few months ago. Calzada knew an all-female punk band was exceedingly rare and thought the group could be an interesting theme for a documentary. He contacted band member Gaby Kaos who convinced him that he should think bigger. Why not attempt to create a documentary on the punk scene in the Grand Canyon state over the past few decades?
"She had suggested that there are probably enough people in Phoenix bands, old and new, that have probably stuck around for a while," recalls Calzada. "There's probably enough to make a 60-minute documentary out of it. Challenge accepted!"
Gaby introduced Calzada to Mikey Kaos. Together they run the DIY punk resource AZKaos.com. Last Thursday, they put out a call on Facebook and the website inviting anyone who's been involved with the scene for the past two decades to share their knowledge and help get the project off the ground.
"It was meant to be a feeler just to see who'd be interested," Kaos says. He tagged a few people he's known over the years. Next thing he knew, people were tagging each other and the thread began to grow and grow. "People just kept throwing stuff out there that I hadn't thought about in years. It brought back some memories. It started this whole discussion."
Now, instead of wondering how to begin, they're deluged with so much material that Calzada is left wondering where he should start first. Calzada is fresh to the punk scene and sees this as an opportunity to become more of a participant in the underground aspect of it. His passion for local music is very apparent.
"It's just a lot of fun," he says. "It's always good to start running into the same people at one show and other shows and get to know them more on a personal level. I'm just not a part of it yet. By making a documentary, that's my indoctrination right there. I take it very personally when discussing Arizona music -- Phoenix specifically -- because not much comes from Arizona. There's a negative view of the state and its politics. A lot of people don't want to come here to tour."
Kaos is just as passionate as Calzada and has proved to be an excellent point of reference for the project, recalling how the punk explosion in Southern California in the late '70s and early '80s bled into Phoenix.
"Things that happened there would resonate a lot quicker here than in other places," he says. "[Phoenix] is a major metropolitan city. It's not like Flagstaff, where people stop in for fun. A band comes through, the kids see the show, and then they start their own band. Next thing you know bands start popping up in Phoenix like the JFA, which was one of the more popular punk bands to come from Arizona. They eventually left Arizona and moved to California. Now people consider them a California band.
"I don't want to say we operate in a bubble, but the Phoenix music scene has had to sustain itself. It just kind of keeps going every couple of years where a different group of people start a different group of bands. I think the perspective of the full 60-minute documentary will show that we've had this explosion here. We've had these bands pop up here and there. There's the Res kids, the punk bands out on the reservations. It would be a crime to ignore them because they're operating in even more of a bubble within their own community. They're really DIY."
Calzada and Mikey are hoping to hear from more people, especially the father figures of the Arizona punk scene, those who played a part during the last 20 years to help it survive. If you would like to share your memories, connections, or knowledge with the project, please fill out the form here before September 26.
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