WELCOME TO THE AMERICAN UNDERGROUND (Pt.4)
Chris Taylor talks with Kyle Kruger about 'Hair I Go Again'.
In Part 4 of the series ‘Welcome To The American Underground’ Kickin’ Valentina’s bass player and specialist of the American underground music scene, Chris Taylor talks with Kyle Kruger. It has been thirty years since his up and coming Florida band Tryxx called it a day but the singer has remained so obsessed about reforming it that he and rhythm guitarist and director Steve McClure even made a movie about it. ,,Don’t let the word ‘Hair’ in the title of the new documentary ‘Hair I Go Again’ fool you. While the music and the musicians featured in this movie are primarily from the hair metal genre, the story behind this movie goes much deeper. This movie is for anyone who has ever had a dream, and depicts the sheer determination to make it come true. Even though we all grow older, it doesn’t mean our dreams have to fade away.’’
Kyle Kruger and Steve McClure
Hi Kyle, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. For those that don’t know the premise of the documentary ‘Hair I Go Again’ what is this film about?
,,In a nutshell, ‘Hair I Go Again’ is about two lifelong friends who, while experiencing a collective mid-life crisis, decide to throw caution to the wind and take a shot at becoming rock stars during middle-age.’’
You took the idea of making a “music documentary” in a completely different direction from anything I have seen before. What sparked the idea, and how long did it take you to finish it? And did you ever want to throw in the towel during the process?
,,As are most good (and bad) ideas, this one was conceived on a bar stool after about 8 or 9 pints! My partner and I, director Steve McClure, were at the tail end of working on another documentary that tonally was very dark and emotionally draining, especially having taken nearly ten years to complete. We were just looking ahead for a project that would serve as an antithesis and one which would infuse a bit of levity into our world. We initially came up with the idea in 2007, but didn’t decide to roll with it until January of 2010. After months of initial rejection, we subsequently filmed our first artist interview on July 4th of that year and continued filming through May 22 of 2015. We then spent the next nine months in post-production and recently executed a limited release of the film on March 10th. As of today, we are two dates away from wrapping up the first leg of the ‘Hair I Go Again’ U.S. Film Tour.’’
You have been touring the country showing the movie in independent theaters. How has that been going, and what kind of feedback are you getting?
,,The feedback has been phenomenal. I don’t know that I was expecting as visceral a reaction as we have been receiving. In fact I am quite shocked that we have managed to strike such a nerve with the many that have seen it. So much so in fact, that people can’t seem to stop talking about it, which is a very good problem to have! Conversely though, ticket sales in general have been a bit lackluster, which is not a reflection of the film, but rather the challenge of getting the word out with very little in the way of an advertising budget. And when I say very little, I mean none. So we are left with only social media and word-of-mouth to promote and as expected the release is shaping up to be a slow-burn. Still, I have designs on keeping myself and ‘Hair I Go Again’ out there through summer 2017, ticket sales and subsequent finances permitting.
You have a lot of rock stars in this movie. Tell me about some of them, and was it difficult getting any of them interested in participating?
,,How much time do you have? [Laughs] We have over sixty artists and industry professionals in the film not to mention the over two dozen artists that are featured on the soundtrack. Early on we were rejected by many artists, simply because we were just starting off with only an idea and didn’t have much to show for it in the beginning. We also made the mistake of going through managers, publicists and record labels who were seemingly more concerned with what was in it for them. So instead, we took to reaching out to these rock stars personally via email and social media as well as ambushing them at their shows! We never had much luck landing many “A-listers” for the reasons stated above. I should clarify “A-listers”, as those bands who were extremely well documented, and had a bit more prolificacy to their careers. This letter “grade” (or lack thereof) is in no way a reflection of talent but rather a barometer of enduring activity. So you won’t see a Def Leppard, an Iron Maiden or a Whitesnake represented in the film. Instead you’ll see Tesla, Queensrÿche, KEEL, Y&T, Warrant, Kix, etc. of which most of these bands we used to see as feature and opening acts back in the day, who may have flirted with some success, and who are seemingly experiencing their own sort of re-invention or new-renaissance. Collectively these artists serve as sort of “life coaches” as we progress (or some instances digress) throughout the journey. The great thing about having these rock stars is that each one brought a unique perspective to the table. For example, Frankie Banali brought the business sense. Jack Russell gave the film heart. Lorraine Lewis gave us encouragement. Terry Ilous infused philosophy. Stevie Rachelle balanced us with pragmatism. The guys in Warrant gave us levity and Ron Keel brought the work ethic and motivation.’’
Getting your old band Tryxx from Tampa, Florida back together is what this movie centers around. You guys were together at the height of the 80’s glam scene, and back then, every region had its own sound, style, and twist to the genre. What was different from the Tampa scene back then, as opposed to somewhere like LA or NY?
,,Great question! First let me say that Tryxx was nothing special. We were no different than any other band with similar life experience. We were simply an underaged skating rink band that wasn’t all that good, but had a lot of potential…and a dream. So in that respect we were like a lot of up and coming bands just starting to cut their teeth during that era. That said, coming from the Tampa area proved to be an amazing tutorial and I think what set our area apart from others was, perhaps, diversity. It’s probably not a secret that Tampa is recognized as hallowed ground, being the Death Metal capital of the world – Death, Obituary, Nasty Savage, Morbid Angel, Deicide…the list goes on. Even for a more “glam” oriented band, we couldn’t help but be influenced by these bands on some level. By the same token we had our share of power metal bands such as Savatage and those which would eventually morph into Iced Earth and Kamelot. These bands raised the bar as far as structure and technique. On the progressive side was Crimson Glory who raised the bar vocally and arrangement wise. Representing the more image conscious and showmanship realm were bands like Roxx Gang and Julliet. Then you had bands like Stranger who brought the genuine, kickass, organic, no frills rock thing (ala Tesla), to the table. We were also lucky to have witnessed a lot of the best touring club bands of the day, who weren’t from the area per se, but spent a lot of time in Tampa and ones who would eventually find their ways into bands like, Scorpions, Kingdom Come, Slaughter, Pantera, Warrant, Jackyl and Lillian Axe., to name but a few. Finally we had some of the best venues on the planet; Club 19, 49th St Mining Co., Tampa Power Club, Killians Live, ML Chasers, London Victory and of course the world famous Rock-it Club. So yeah, Tampa was an incredibly rich and diverse market for a young band to be weaned upon, and we were certainly fortunate for having originated from there and for being exposed to so much talent.’’
There are a lot of great bands on the soundtrack. Some of them were fairly popular, and some I had never heard of. How did you go about selecting the music?
,,Well, our initial choices for the soundtrack were financially unachievable. With bands such as Ratt, Tesla and Cinderella we just couldn’t afford the licensing that is typically dictated by a record company who controls the master rights. Whitesnake alone commands six figures for use of their music, so we had to come up with another plan that financially, would be in alignment with an independent film such as `Hair I Go Again’. Keeping with the plethora of next tier bands featured in the film, we decided that the soundtrack should follow suit. So we reached out to artists such as KEEL and Lillian Axe and they obliged us material of which they controlled the rights to. Next, we happened to have run across FNA Records out of Nashville, who are a prolific reissue imprint specializing in 80’s era rock. It was through our quest to include a Roxx Gang track that we forged a partnership and where we were exposed to an incredible roster of artists, It was mutually agreed upon that their vault would be a great source to further expose some known and perhaps some not-so-well-known artists by including their music from the era, as underscore, instead of entirely composing a soundtrack from scratch. It was also important that we pay proper homage to our hometown, which inspired us to include tracks by Powersurge, St Warren, Uncle Sally and Nova Rex among others. This was also a way for us to remember a number of our friends and local heroes, many of which were members of these bands that we included in the film, and who have since passed on. We also felt compelled to feature a few up and comers such as Xander Demos, Bullet In The Chamber and a great band out of Atlanta called Kickin’ Valentina…perhaps you’ve heard of them?’’
Are you planning on releasing the soundtrack anytime in the future? Where can everyone pick up a DVD of ‘Hair I Go Again’?
,,Aside from the Bullet In The Chamber material (tentatively set to release on June 10th), there are no plans to release a soundtrack compilation. The record business is so convoluted that it is near impossible to try and figure out who owns the rights to this and who is empowered to administer that. Bookkeeping to that end, would be nightmare and thus far no label/distributor has stepped up to the plate as of yet. Instead, we have included a soundtrack feature on the DVD 2-Disc Collector’s Edition which features select clips of each song from within the film. This lets the viewer put the 54 soundtrack cues and underscore into context. We also included a menu where people can access the ecommerce URLs, in order to purchase the music directly from the artists themselves. The DVD, Digital HD Download and Streaming are all centrally available through www.hairigoagain.com, and will soon be available via Amazon and iTunes among other platforms.’’
Have you ever done any other documentaries? If so, what are they called, and where can people find them?
,,Collectively to date, our team has produced six films. Steve and I produced the aforementioned, pre-HIGA documentary, entitled `Rain Falls From Earth’, which will see a new cut and release sometime in 2017. For the other titles you can check out our partner’s web portal at MikeDion.com.’’
In your career, you have created music and film. What are the biggest similarities – and differences – between the two mediums? As an artist, is either one more challenging, political, rewarding, etc.?
,,The trials and tribulations are nearly the same. You have to bring a team together and you have to keep them engaged. You have to fund the work and make sure that everyone gets paid. You have to brand, merch and promote. The greatest challenge shared between the two is getting the world to know about your work then having them buy into personally, so that they ultimately reward you financially for it AND importantly, they further the buzz by paying it forward to someone else. The differences of course lay in the price tag. From my experience, film costs a bit more to produce, distribute, promote, tour and exhibit. Imagine a band out on the road that makes the bones form a share of the door and merch sales, but also has to rent their own venue night after night. This is compounded by limitations of only being able to book a few dates at a time due to pricey venue deposits. In the end, I think film has lot higher risk and lower potential for reward as a result. On a personal level, music is more rewarding for me viscerally. I enjoy the personal creative process immensely, whereas filmmaking is pretty much a team sport that has its own collective reward. From a consumer’s perspective and with rare exception, non-cinephiles can only consume a film so many times before being kind of over it. Luckily for our film, there is so much deeply woven subtext that you really have to see it a number of times to fully appreciate the complexities, aside from the obvious ear and eye candy. For my money, music is more of an exercise in spirituality. I always manage to find something unique in each listening experience which ultimately invokes a very different emotional response, and which typically amplifies my current state of mind. Without argument, music is truly an experience like no other.’’
What’s next on your creative agenda?
,,We have upcoming shows with a re-tooled Bullet in the Chamber line up that we will be introducing soon. I am working towards putting together a more permanent line up; to first finish an album proper. We will then be readying the band for Phase II of the film release, namely joint screening and concert events beginning with June 9th and 10th in Denver, which will culminate in a show with Lillian Axe. We are also prepping the second leg of the film tour, beginning mid-June in Las Vegas, that will hopefully takes us through the southwestern U.S.; into the Midwest and throughout the northeast. As well we are looking to align ourselves with worldwide screenings, particularly in Australia, Japan, Europe and Brazil. We also have a rock ‘n roll themed travel and lifestyle TV show in development called `Rock Star Next Door’ which is a composite of Behind the Music, Cribs and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. There is also a potential follow up to `Hair I Go Again’ in the work…which may or may not result in another film or perhaps a docu-series of some sort. There are also some out there who have suggested that HIGA might be good source material for an original, full length narrative. Finally, we have been approached by a few name acts who are interested in having their stories captured in a documentary format, so we are working to that end as well.’’
Check out Hair I Go Again official website and Facebook page