Thursday, July 21, 2005

Don Letts' "Punk: Attitude" and Variations of Irritants

Here's more punk film stuff, this from The Age:

Want to talk about punk? Filmmaker Don Letts is your man. He was there in London in the 1970s, not just watching the counter-culture unfold, but living it, feeding it. Back then, the dreadlocked Letts was an influential DJ at London's famous Roxy club, spinning hardcore dub reggae for the punks because it was all he had.

"Turns out that the punks loved it," laughs Letts. "It was very anti-establishment, they loved the emphasis of the bass lines. They didn't mind the weed, either." A close friend of the Clash (he made the celebrated documentary on them, Westway to the World, and a member of post-Clash band Big Audio Dynamite with guitarist Mick Jones), Letts is also widely credited with the dubby reggae that infiltrated the Clash's material. [Bastard! -JH]

...Letts has dedicated his latest film, Punk: Attitude, to Strummer. "I felt like he was looking over my shoulder the whole time," he says.

..."It came to me that this over-emphasis of the late '70s incarnation of punk sort of trivialises the bigger idea, and that is that punk didn't begin and end in the '70s," he says. "It's part of an ongoing dynamic that is counter-culture."

..."It wasn't a nostalgic look back," he says. "As far as I'm concerned, punk isn't something to look back on, it's something to look forward to." So Letts' film also features artists active in the post-'70s punk boom that he saw as championing counter-culture: Nirvana, Sonic Youth, even the emergence of hip-hop - that was a "punk-rock moment", he says.

There were people Letts wanted to interview who were unavailable, such as Patti Smith, who was on the road, and Iggy Pop, who was shooting a BBC documentary. "And Lou Reed was just Lou Reed - I'll leave it at that," he says crisply.
As I've written before, part of being Advanced is being an irritant. Lou Reed (surprise) is probably the best at this. But to my knowledge, he never crosses the line to being offensive or petulant, and I think that staying on the right side of that line is the difference between the Overt Irritant (Oasis, for example) and the Advanced Irritant. (I should add that Britt Bergman, the other founder of the Advanced Theory coined the phrase "Advanced Irritant.")

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