One of the films the STRIKE crew is pretty excited to catch at the upcoming South Texas Underground Film Festival is SubCCultured: the Rise of DIY Rock in Corpus Christi, a documentary detailing the vibrant punk and metal scene of the sparkling city from 1985 to 1995. Here, STRIKE talks with Richard Guerrero, the filmmaker, as he details the ups and downs of the project, what fueled his desire to undertake it and what he has planned for the future.
Strike Magazine: First off, how long has this project been in the works, and how much research, info-gathering and compiling did you have to go through? Did you have any help?
Richard Guerrero: The project first began as a blog series for a live music blog that I launched in the last few months that I was employed by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times in 2006. After several months of collecting email responses to a questionnaire I wrote up about the late 80s hardcore/thrash scene from about 40 participants, I published the first installment of a five-part blog series called “Do It Yourself: The Rise of Hardcore Punk in Corpus Christi” in January 2007. The blog series was published in real time, meaning I published as the subsequent installments were written, and so the last chapter was published that summer. Here are the links:
DO IT YOURSELF: The Rise of Hardcore Punk in Corpus Christi, Part I:
DIY: The Rise of Hardcore Punk in Corpus Christi, Part Two (1 of 2 parts)
DIY Series: A scene comes alive, 1988-1989 (2 of 2):
DIY Hardcore Series: Stranded at the Crossroads:
DIY HARDCORE: Rebirth of White Noise cool:
Although I originally planned to focus on the hardcore/crossover scene, my conversations with music-makers and fans alike very quickly convinced me to broaden my focus to include the city’s metal scene. I missed the boat on a lot of the thrash bands from those years as I was pretty caught up in the punk music of the day but I quickly learned just how amazing some of those bands were and how determined some were to make a mark on the national thrash scene.
I began interviewing participants on weekends and vacation breaks in 2008 and to date, I’ve probably interviewed about 50 people for the documentary. It’s amazing that after just 20 years so many details can be lost and that turned out to be my biggest problem. So I had to keep looking for additional participants who could fill in the blanks for me when the details were too sketchy.
Strike Magazine: What were the most difficult parts of completing this project?
Richard Guerrero: The most difficult part of this project was finding the time to record interviews and then in post-production, making sure I had enough time to edit a whole sequence at a time. I’ve got a full-time job and a family and also try to stay active musically so this project was on the back-burner for a few years. But I never stopped working on it. And so here we are.
This doc has a pretty unusual history. In 2012, I at last felt that I had enough material to pull together a “Rough Cut Edit” so I announced a final cut-off date for participants who were dragging their feet on photos and videos. I got the House of Rock to agree to host a screening on Dec. 26 and told everyone that I would stop taking their videos/photos in mid-December. The truth is I think I was still getting emails three days before the RCE screening. I spent a full week pulling together the Rough Cut Edit and presented that version to an audience of about 300 on 12.26.
I think that was the catalyst for the participants who were still dragging their feet to get moving on sending those contributions in to me. The official edit, which will appear on DVD in December, will closely mirror the edit that I will present at the South Texas Underground Film Festival. But as this is a historical project, I reserve the right to keep editing as quality artifacts continue to surface. And believe me, I keep finding new items under rocks every so often. So it goes.
Strike Magazine: What drew you to undertake the project, and how did you know where to start?
Richard Guerrero: I started my journalism career as a zine writer when I was in high school. Gerald Alvarez had a zine called “Blood and Guts” and so I contributed a few reviews to that before he decided to hand the editor job over to me. I think I published one or two issues before I called it quits. We were both in The Krayons, a crossover band that quickly went punk, and we stayed pretty busy doing that. I’m also a bit of an archivist so I had some of the old fliers and zines from that era. And then there were the VHS tapes of old shows that I had collected. So all of that source material was reason enough to consider the project even if I was missing more than half of the materials produced during that fertile period. Since I pretty much experienced the entire era referenced in the blog series and the movie, I used my own experiences as a starting point but asked participants to give their recollections or share what they remember hearing about a specific event or band. I was amazed at how different some of those recollections were compared to my own.
Strike Magazine: Who is covered in the documentary? For those of us who were not born yet or were just wee ones in the time period covered, what sort of insight does the documentary give on the scene at that time? What were you hoping to capture, and do you think that was achieved?
Richard Guerrero: The bands and individuals that make up this documentary represent a pretty large cross section of active bands playing self-written material for audiences in Corpus Christi in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The movie makes the point that this was the beginning of the underground music scene in Corpus Christi. Prior to this scene, there was just a handful of acts making very different types of noise in obscurity in a hostile climate that favored cover bands or blues combos. So some of the metal bands include Final Assault, Devastation and Anialator; on the crossover/hardcore side, there’s Angkor Wat, Subversion, DMZ, Joywax and my band The Krayons as well as Brutal Poverty. The ’90s are well represented too with representatives from Loser, Right Turn Clyde and The Wrong Crowd setting the story straight.
In terms of what I was hoping to capture, I think I got about 95 percent of all that I remember from that time. Of course there were a few bands that I wasn’t able to include in the main feature but if you pick up the DVD, there will be additional content that might mention some of those bands.
Richard Guerrero: As I’ve said, I was pretty much there for most of this timeline. I first began playing live with a rock band in 1984 and co-formed The Krayons in ’87, which ran until 1995. So the timeline of the documentary is purposely meant to mirror my experience. I view this as an eyewitness journalism project in which I build on my experience and cross-check it with others to tell a more thorough story.
Strike Magazine: Was there anything you had to cut or that you wish you could have included but couldn’t find any information on?
Richard Guerrero: I will say that I was really heartbroken that I could not find any local photos of Milwaukee punk act Die Kreuzen’s one gig here in ’86 nor the video of San Francisco punkcore trio Jawbreaker playing a house show here in 1990. My pal Luciano De La Cruz shot a video at the JB gig and I saw it once so I know it exists. But now it’s MIA and so I had to make the movie without those elements.
If you saw the Rough Cut Edit, you might remember the Disco Kickers segment or the Basic Language sequence. Well I had to make some tough editing calls and so those two sequences do not appear in the final edit. They will appear as bonus features on the DVD though. I also had to keep info on The Hershey Squirts to a bare minimum since most of those guys moved on to other projects. And I do wish I had more photos and video of Brutal Poverty. I lucked into a seriously poor quality clip from their debut gig at the Galvan Ballroom in February 1988 but wish I had a better copy of it as well as later footage. Brutal Poverty played until the late 90s and so it’s a shame I wasn’t able to score something from their club days but I asked and no one spoke up. Oh well.
Strike Magazine: What has the reception been like from the screenings you’ve had for the documentary thus far?
Richard Guerrero: So I’ve had two screenings for the Rough Cut Edit. The first one was very well attended — 300 paying customers at the House of Rock — and so there was lots of support and praise for my efforts as well as honest criticism as to what the project lacked. Hopefully, I’ve addressed some of those concerns in the final film. The second screening took place at Zeros Hard Rock Club on a Sunday afternoon in February and while it was modestly attended, I got some really great feedback at that event as well. Most people know that I had zero budget for this project and bought everything as I needed it. Aside from a borrowed camcorder or two and borrowed video editing software, I bought everything as I went so I always warned my participants that the production value was going to be modest. Hopefully everyone will remember that when they watch the movie!
Strike Magazine: Are you satisfied with the completed work?
Richard Guerrero: Am I satisfied with my movie? Honestly, I’ll say that I’m happy with the movie I was able to make given the extreme conditions I was working under. As a mostly one-man show, I can own up to numerous dead mic problems that immediately rendered an interview dead in the water. So while my movie might have been a bit different had I had professional monitoring levels and metering for light throughout the whole process, I was able to fill in enough of the blanks by asking somebody else the same question.
Strike Magazine: With the DVD release at the STUFF screening, are there any other developments you have planned for the film in the future?
Richard Guerrero: I probably should have said this earlier but the project is a benefit for TFC Rehearsal Studios. My brother Roger opened TFC Rehearsal as an extension of his DIY record label, Twenty First Century Records, in 2010 so it’s a logical extension of the DIY principle that is expressed throughout the movie. So following the STUFF screening, we will create a FINAL edit for DVD and make them available in December. We hope to cram a ton of extra content on the DVD and what we cannot fit on the DVD will show up on a YouTube channel that I will build over time. So the work continues.
In closing, I’d like to thank all of the participants, the bands who are featured in the project and all of the supporting individuals who sent in photos, video and gave me access to their personal collections. I hope I was able to do right by all who were featured. And I would like to also acknowledge the work of numerous uncredited videographers and photographers who took the time to document the moment. Without your work, we would not have been able to create this movie. Thanks.
You can catch SubCCultured: the Rise of DIY Rock in Corpus Christi (1985-1995) at the South Texas Underground Film Festival on October 5th, 12:45 PM with the screening location at the House of Rock.
For more information on the screening, visit: facebook.com/events/556257257774930/
For more information on the documentary, visit: facebook.com/subCCultureddocumentary