A Former Kansas City Punk Returns With A Film About Musicians Who Taught Him To Rock
Jason Blackmore, front man for 1990s hardcore band Molly McGuire, is back in Kansas City this week. Instead of rocking out, though, he’ll be screening his documentary.
Growing up in Kansas City, bands like Fugazi, My Bloody Valentine, Swerve Driver and Government Issue influenced the sound of Molly McGuire, for which Blackmore was the lead guitarist and vocalist. Now, Blackmore has spoken to his musical heroes and created two documentaries based on those interviews: “Records Collecting Dust” volumes one and two.
“A lot of these people had a really big impact on me and changed my life, and it’s essentially me talking to them asking them about the bands and the records that changed their lives,” Blackmore says from his home in San Diego, where he’s lived for nearly 20 years. “What bands, what records, what songs made them pick the path in life they chose?”
“Records Collecting Dust I” was released in 2015, and the final screening of volume two, released earlier this year, takes place at recordBar on October 4.
Steve Tulipana, recordBar owner and lead guitarist and vocalist for the band Season to Risk, toured a lot with Molly McGuire a couple of decades ago. He says Blackmore is uniquely positioned to produce these documentaries because he’s not only an excellent musician, but a devoted fan of hardcore and punk.
“There are certain people you see in documentaries over and over again, and I think he’s had a couple of those people, but he really digs a little deeper and gets some people you’re like: 'I always wondered what that guy thought,’” Tulipana says.
“It’s really underground stuff. Even the people I would call superstars are pretty underground-type figures in the music world,” he adds.
The first volume of “Records Collecting Dust” focuses on the West Coast punk, hardcore and post-punk scene. The second is similar in format, but all about the East Coast scene.
In the films, one after the other, the answers to Blackmore’s questions come in a narratorless montage — surprisingly mainstream answers from people who create a sound that appeals to a specific kind of fan. First influences they report loving include the Beatles, the Partridge Family and The Who.
In “Records Collecting Dust II,” Tom Lyle of Government Issue reveals that he loved the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” album the most: “I just listened to this and stared at the cover of them on the back and on the front and listened to the record over and over and over again.”
Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat and Fugazi talks about singing “Home on the Range” in his kindergarten class. The teacher taught them harmony and, he says, “It’s as if my brain exploded and poured out of my ears when I heard the harmony. I couldn’t stop thinking about the harmony of that song.”
Because the film focuses on musicians and their collections and influences, anecdotes about their professional trajectories will be relatable to fans of any musical genre.
But what is it that draws some people from the melodic sound of the Beatles into primal, anti-commercial primal hardcore punk?
“I think some of it is youth and angst,” Blackmore says. “For some people it was salvation or rebellion. Rock and roll has always been that way from what I gather.”
Blackmore was about 12 when he ran across punk rock for the first time.
“For me, hearing Sex Pistols and Black Flag, that was it,” Blackmore says. “It was perfect timing because I was an only child. My parents split up, and I discovered punk rock. It was just perfect. It was the perfect soundtrack to what was happening in my life. I was confused, I was angry, I was frustrated and I was an adolescent.”
Aside from wanting to explore musical influences, Blackmore says he also hoped to encapsulate a component of musical fandom that’s all but died with the advent of digital music.
Now that every song is at everyone’s disposal any time of the day or night, most people don’t interact with music the way they did when they saved up for an album, went to the record store, and then purposely played it where the audio equipment was.
“I don’t think people appreciate music as much as we did back then, because you invested in this and you owned this piece of property, this record. The whole experience, too, of the ride home being super excited to get home and peeling the plastic off and putting the record on,” Blackmore says. “You would sit there and you’d listen to side A, side B, over and over.”
Though he has no formal training in film, he says he decided to make these documentaries because he had energy and needed to “fill a void.” He liked the do-it-yourself aspect of figuring out filmmaking. He says if you’re passionate about something, you’re going to make it happen.
“Coming from the punk rock world, that’s what it was all about. You don’t need to have a background or an education. I don’t call myself a punk rocker, but in my heart and in my blood there’s a lot of that flowing.”
“Records Collecting Dust II,” 7 p.m. Thursday, October 4 at recordBar, 1520 Grand Blvd Kansas City, Missouri 64108. Tickets $10; 18-and-older show.