Friday night at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, Robert Patton-Spruill’s Do It Again: One Man’s Quest to Reunite the Kinks played to a packed Fletcher Hall. Patton-Spruill and his film’s titular character, longtime music reporter Geoff Edgers, took the stage afterward for questions. Edgers asked audience members to record the proceedings with their smart phones and email the videos and photos to him so he could pass them on to his wife, Carlene—seen extensively in the film, she is nearly full-term with the couple’s second child.
Edgers also revealed that his film’s music licensing cost $25,000 and that he lost $15,000 on an interview with Paul McCartney that the Sir Paul later blocked him from using. Then there was a short set with local tribute band The Kinksmen, who were joined by local jangle-popsters Peter Holsapple, Chris Stamey and Mitch Easter.
Here is the full text of Indy writer David Klein’s interview with Edgers, which was published in abbreviated form in our print edition.
Independent Weekly: It kind of struck me as almost a benevolent rock’n’roll Roger & Me…Ray & Me.
Geoff Edgers: I wasn’t trying to be Michael Moore. I mean, this is the Kinks, it’s not GM There’s no wrong for me to fight for, for the people. It’s really just about a fan wanting to get a band back together.
I just meant the setup of one person’s unlikely quest to reach someone who’s really hard to pin down.
But I think you’re right though. Morgan Spurlock or Michael Moore, very similar in many ways. One big difference: I didn’t direct this movie. I had somebody who directed it.
Was it a hard sell, getting this director [Robert Patton-Spruill] who is not a Kinks fan, or did he just see what you were getting at immediately?
No, it was not a hard sell. He was into following me, while I was into the Kinks. And so the fact that we couldn’t get the Kinks to cooperate in a typical way meant that we had to figure out a way to make a compelling movie. And Rob is a storyteller, and he was equipped to do that. And it’s not like we didn’t use Kinks music. And I paid the licensing for that stuff. We used more Kinks music than any other movie I know of.
Were permissions hard to get?
Licensing is a really difficult thing. Licensing involves…you have to nag people. You have to come up with money. You have to beg. You have to fill out charts. It’s really a nightmare. I wouldn’t ask anyone to do it except if they were trying to do what I was trying to do, which is you wanna share music with the people watching your movie, and you can’t do without it, so that’s when you press. And there were some people who were really generous. Like, Zooey Deschanel’s licensing was cheaper for me than it maybe would have been if I’d just not begged and pleaded. And the Kinks licensing? I mean, I got it. It took a long time and it took some money.
Was it slightly torturous for all the various record deals?
They are on a lot of labels but that’s not the problem. It really all goes back to Ray’s office. Everything gets funneled there, so you have to wait for that to work through. I’m a reporter. It’s not that hard for me to find the names of [various licensing companies] they’re just part of the game. Everything about maikng a movie on your own is torturous, and everyday you think you’re gonna be doomed and you’ll fail and it won’t ever be seen, so licensing was just one piece of the nightmare.
You’re a reporter at the Boston Globe. You have a wife and a daughter. Yet you went on a mad quest—I gather this isn’t typical behavior for you. What do you attribute it to? Is it all down to that so-called midlife crisis?
Frankly, I didn’t know what it was it at first, I just knew I wanted to do it, and I think later as I was doing it I realized that it had more to do with this desperate attempt to try to do something great. When I was in college in my creative writing classes I thought oh, I’ll just write novels or write for Rolling Stone, and then you get older and it doesn’t come together. You have a family. And things don’t always work the way you think they would. So while on the outside I may look perfectly successful; I’m at a newspaper, I’ve written a few children’s books. I didn’t think I had ever done anything great, or special. This was nagging on me all the time. And I think as I’m reaching this milestone, 37, 38, 39, I was feeling it even more. And all I needed was a little push. I had the idea. I had a guy who was very interested in me, which is very flattering, obviously, and I felt like I couldn’t stop. You don’t want to use the cliché but it’s like an out-of-control train.
I mean, I could have given up after the first day, but once I got Robyn Hitchcock or once I got Sting, how could I give up? I had footage of these guys, I needed to use it, right?
The Kinks’ history of “fucking things up” is alluded to but there is very little chronological/historical context given. Was this a conscious decision to avoid the typical rock-doc trappings or was it more of a time constraint thing?
I think at a certain point you have to decide what your movie is. And once we decided that it wasn’t a typical rock doc, we had to make it a movie and not, like, Gandhi. I would have loved to use other songs. I hope that a film gets made about the Kinks, like that Julian Temple film about Joe Strummer. With all the clips you can’t get anywhere else and all that insider stuff? But that’s not what this is. This is a different thing. We had all sorts of stuff we shot… I had an interview with Kenny Jones, the Faces drummer, and we just didn’t use it in the end. At a certain point you have to decide, what’s your movie? I mean, how much time would it take you to talk about their union battle? It would take a while! Another thing is, about the music and clips and history, a part of me watches Robyn Hitchcock doing “Waterloo Sunset,” and I just want me to shut the fuck up. I just would to like to hear Robyn Hitchcock play “Waterloo Sunset” just straight through, and yet the movie has to have that kind of dynamic and comedy and the back-and-forth that we’re doing, and so you constantly have to figure out how to make the movie right, as opposed to doing something that might be for an obsessive fan.
On that subject, you played a Kinks song with nearly every musician who sat down with you. Was that an aspect that just evolved or was it something you knew you wanted to do?
Rob really pushed it. From the start, I always wanted to make something different, something special. To me, there’s this whole thing that happens with rock documentaries. I’m so sick of like seeing Tom Petty sitting there with a guitar behind him, on a wall, saying, you know, “Brian Wilson…he’s our Beethoven.” So I really wanted to do something to kind of shake it up. I’m also am really fascinated with the way that our stars, whether its movies or music, are kind of pampered and prepared and put in positions where nothing special happens. Nothing unpredictable. And I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to see these people who are so particular in most cases about what they do, suddenly asked in the middle of an interview by a guy, ‘Hey would you play a song with me?’ I mean, it seems ridiculous. What could happen? I was hoping that some would say yes, I was hoping that some would say no. I was hoping some would say no in a colorful way. I was hoping we’d get some great performances. I don’t think I could have asked for anything more than we got in the end.
Well, you certainly got the colorful rejection from Paul Weller.
There’s a little glint in his eye when I first tell him that I want to do it, and he just kind of leans back in his chair and you can see him just chuckle and say, “Is this guy out his mind? I’ve already told him he’s not doing this.” And look, I am so glad he gave me a little bit of a beat-down. I deserved it. I mean, he was agreeing to interview with me and I was told right before the interview that he wouldn’t do it, and yet I go and I hide the guitar and I still ask him on-camera. What an asshole. I deserved to be slapped around there. Maybe it was uncomfortable at the moment, but I think a part of me also knew in the moment, as someone who’s trying to tell a story, that it was basically kind of movie gold.
I think that negative reaction added a key element. Everyone else you interviewed was so gracious. Sting, for example. I was a little surprised to see him though, because you had so many cool-type musicians and then this one gigantic rock star.
He’s a good guy. I think people think he’s super-scary because he does good things for the world, humanitarian things, and I think because he’s in good shape. They think that he’s stuck-up. That guy is not stuck up. You saw him. He was like the most generous person we could have had.
The Dave Davies segment is the one that really got me. Even that song you sang together, “Strangers,” such a poignant song, it was the perfect accompaniment. How hard was it to finally get with Dave?
It was very hard. I established an e-mail relationship with Dave for months. I had asked him to commit to sitting down with me for a long time. He never would. I just had to go on faith that when I got to England, that he was going to make this time for me and work it through. I mean, you saw it: The movie wouldn’t be the movie without Dave.
No, you needed that. And what he said about the three years of Ray’s life that he was happy [the three years before, he, Dave, was born], that was really unexpected. Talk about movie gold; that was really it.
Seeing Dave and talking with Dave made me feel peaceful about failure. It made me feel that I didn’t have to be obsessed anymore with my goal, that perhaps the success of this movie would be the movie itself, not necessarily getting those four guys in a room together. That’s what it felt like with Dave. It really was unlike any reporting experience I’ve ever had. It was very emotional. We talked to him for a couple of hours. We hugged after it was done. I just felt… Dave, he was just special, you know?
It really put a face on this sibling conflict that was a given from the start of the film. It brought us closer.
I mean, when I’m at that club and Ray’s there [Davies makes an appearance in the film at the yearly gathering of the Kast Off Kinks fan club], I’m this sort of voyeuristic, obsessive fan. When I’m with Dave, it’s something like I’m in the family and he’s telling me the truth, and I need to now deal with that.
You’re a stable guy with a good job, a wife and daughter. Your wife was the voice of reason, forcing you to tally your assets and figure out how you could afford this project and hold onto your job. She seems like a realist. Did she not stand in your way because, as a realist, she knew it was just something you had to do? Or did it take a lot of convincing?
She didn’t stand in my way. Carlene is a writer and a reporter, she’s a teacher now. That’s what she does. She knows that our lives are built around passion. You have this, I’m sure. There are people who don’t write, or are not in this business, and they wonder, why are you working on that at 5 in the morning. Carlene’s not like that. She understands. She never even brought up the idea of not doing it. In fact, I had to get some investors for the movie and when I would be fighting with them—you know, I’d be getting offers from them I didn’t think were fair as far as the amount they wanted to buy of the movie for the money they were giving—and Carlene would just say “fuck ‘em. You do your thing. And we’ll get it any way we can.” She was not irresponsible, but she would have found a way to make that happen no matter what.
What she found difficult, I’ll tell you, is she never signed on to be in a movie about me necessarily … and so I think she at times found it jarring when she would find cameramen in our house when we’re gonna have dinner, and someone would be sticking a microphone on her shirt and she’d be being asked questions. And at a certain point it was like, ok, enough already.
What about you? You’re a reporter, but you’re not an actor. What was it like to suddenly be in front of a camera all the time?
I’ve got to say I was totally willing to do it at any moment. At first I didn’t really know what was gonna happen, but the first day we shot was the day where I was calling up and getting rejected from interviews, and I didn’t really understand how to be in a movie. And that first day, Rob shot it and then he made a three-minute clip of me just getting rejected, showed it to me—it was kind of like a screen test, I’d say—and once I saw that I was like, ‘you know what, I’m in your hands. Do what you want to do.’ I tried things that were stupid sometimes that we didn’t use. I certainly had my opinions—you know, this should go here, this should go there—but I put great trust in him because he’s a storyteller; as a director that’s his job. When he said, ‘clean your gutters when you talk about the mission,’ I did it! I didn’t know if it would work out perfectly, but I thought, it’s worth a try. It was frustrating at times. And when things started getting difficult, it was stressful to have a camera there, but I think we channeled it in some ways. You know, when I’m yelling about the union battles, I’d just had a big argument with Rob about something else, and I think he understood that I was gonna be angry. We used a big camera, called a red camera, but for that we used a flip camera that you just put in your pocket and they worked fine too…
Yeah, it didn’t seem jittery, primitive affair at all.
Our red camera is high-definition. It’s beautiful. You’ll see. You think you’ll come to the Full Frame thing?
I’d love to.
It’s gonna be a pretty amazing thing. We’re gonna have this band afterward. Did I tell you that? I lived in N.C. for six years. ’96 to 2001, so Full Frame [N.C. documentary film festival] started in ’97 as the Double Take documentary festival, and it became Full Frame. And we’ve been all over the country, I’m applying all over the world, and there are maybe five documentary festivals in the country that are really solid. Like, have a market. Full Frame is the real deal. We were psyched when we got into that. The film is playing on Saturday night [April 9], in Fletcher Hall, the 1,000-seat hall, and it’s one of two center-frame films they’re having. The other one is Steven Soderbergh’s documentary on Spalding Gray. And what’s great is they wanted to have a musical component, so I got these guys, The Kinksmen, they’re a local band led by a guy, Jeff Hart, and then, on a whim, I wrote to the three members of Carolina rock royalty. I don’t know ’em at all, and I said, hey, would you guys play with The Kinksmen and do like, a song? So I’ve got Chris Stamey, Peter Holsapple and Mitch Easter, who’re gonna be part of the 20-minute set. They’ll probably each take a song.
What about Robyn Hitchcock. I once saw him play songs from a copy of Ulysses.
He’s a genius, that guy.
So I’m wondering, did he have a surrealistic edge? Did he seem actually a basically down-to-earth guy?
Well, he’s the first guy who agreed to play with me. And that means a lot. I just saw him, he was in Boston and went up to him and I said, “Hey, what’d you think?” He’s like, “Uh, I haven’t seen it.” And I was like, “Why?” And he said “Look, I have a stack of movies that I haven’t seen.” And I said, “Yeah, but…that you’re in?” That [the Hitchcock interview in the film] was in 2008, and I really didn’t know what I was doing. I definitely played worse than I could have ever played. I practiced that song and I could have done OK on it, but I was so scared. He was like a total professional. He was totally game, and he did it. You’ve seen Robyn Hitchcock. He could be talking about a can of tuna fish and it sounds important. He has that way of speechifying that we don’t have.
Oh yeah. Because he’s English. And he’s Robyn.
He’s also a huge Kinks fan. You know? It was clear.
Absolutely. I’ve always been fascinated by him and it was great to see him in a slightly different context, as opposed to say, in Storefront Hitchcock, where he was being his stage self.
He’s got the same shirt though!
I knew it looked familiar. So now that you’ve done all this, did you get your ya-yas out, or are you just getting warmed up?
I think I’m so busy with this—I can’t explain to you how busy I am with this—remember, I’m applying to all the festivals, so we’ve already gotten into about 15 of them, and everyday… like today we got into Warsaw. Then we have to travel there, I have to be like, what kind of tape do you use? I do all the press. I approach everybody in every city. We’re going to Cleveland; I’ve got to call the Plain Dealer… It’s so all-consuming that I don’t have the time to be like, hmmm, I think I’ll develop this new project. And to be honest with you, my wife is gonna give birth on April 28, we’re having our second child, a boy, so, like, I’m OK with this being my thing for now… It’s not like I wrote War and Peace and I can now rest. This isn’t the Invisible Man. I need to do something more with my life. So for a year, I have this film festival life. You go to these festivals, you show your movie and people ask you questions, you hand out buttons, and it’s exciting, and I think you should also enjoy that a little bit. But beyond that, I mean, Full Frame has a market, they have buyers, they have directors, but you know what? I’m really looking forward to showing this film to my friends, and them hearing these killer guys play a bunch of Kinks songs—that’s gonna be fun! And I think I deserve a 20-minute set of Kinks songs.