Anyone looking to go to the movies this weekend? Ghost Rider looks promising. Or maybe you feel compelled to give more money to George Lucas for something you don’t want. Some young girls told me The Vow is a thing.
Or if you live in New York or Providence, you lucked out. You can go see a screening of Kill All Redneck Pricks, the KARP documentary. I got a chance to see it when it screened in Brooklyn last month. It’s really good. So good that I bought a copy of the movie I just watched. Then I went home and bought up the band’s discography.
I’m a little ashamed to say that I wasn’t super-familiar with the band before seeing the film. And if you’re not either, don’t worry. It won’t detract from the film at all. The really cool thing that separates this from other band bios is that it focuses more on the friendship and struggles of the band members. The fact that Jared, Chris, and Scott were in KARP is almost incidental.
It’s also very relatable (even if you’ve never toured the world in a rock and roll group). It’s told in a down-to-earth way that makes you feel like you know the guys. I’m assuming if you’re in a position that you’re watching a documentary about KARP that you probably had a larger interest in some sort of rock music when you were in high school. The film captures the goofiness of youngsters starting a band and balances it with seriousness of addiction and death. The final 30 minutes almost feels like entirely different film, but the tone shifts seamlessly giving a really beautiful kind of outcome.
After the screening I caught up with film director William Badgley and discussed the film and the band.
First off, how did the making of this documentary come about, and what are your connections to the band?
I grew up in the early ‘90s in Yakima, Washington. We could go to Seattle or we could go to Olympia. And we usually went to Olympia because what was going on seemed a lot more tangible. Seattle was already established as to what it looked like and what it sounded like. Olympia was the total opposite. It didn’t sound like anything and was more defined by heart. There was a spontaneous artistic explosion. So you got this scene that ended up being a really incredible grab bag that contained bands that (looking back) were leaders of their own enclaves all playing on the same bill. Out of the bands I was watching, KARP was the immediate favorite.
After KARP broke up I started Federation X and that’s how I got to know Jared. We played with all his subsequent bands. I knew him through that. Scott passed away in 2003 it was the first time it occurred to me that maybe this is a story that could be told. And then when Jared and Cody started Big Business was when I pretty much decided to do it. But it didn’t start until 2007. The cherry on top being when they were asked to join the Melvins which KARP idolized as youngsters. I finished it October of 2011.
The film focuses more on the friendship than the band. Was that a conscious decision or did the footage kind of dictate that?
Definitely a conscious decision. Usually you have to know a band personally to know if they’re cool. You didn’t have to with KARP. You knew that they were cool from watching them play. There was a quality in their friendship. They were doing so much sketch comedy between songs. But it wasn’t planned out. It was just tomfoolery. Their relationship was kind of pure in some ways that it was always going. When you first see it you think that they’re doing it for you, but then you see them continue it off the stage. It is the band. You realize that it was going on all the time.
Years later when it became an issue to make a film it seemed a pretty obvious road to go with it. You always have to pick the storyline within the context of whatever you’re covering to follow a thread. This was the obvious one from the very beginning. You can kind of guide the interview subjects a little bit, but you make it easier if you make a thread that makes sense and has a natural flow into the topic.
There’s a line on the DVD: “KARP is the biography of a friendship…because ultimately the sound a band makes is the sound of their friendship.” It’s kind of a hokey statement but I kept it because I felt it was pretty functional and communicated that idea pretty clearly. It’s something that’s incredibly important to me, and it’s something very important about the Northwest. It’s such a beautiful culture that isn’t defined by who can play this well or hired guns or whatever. These albums are really documentations about these friendships and families.
It’s very relatable to people that were maybe outsiders or just really into rock music during high school.
We showed it in eight (soon to be nine) countries, and the overwhelming comment that we’ve gotten is that because of the way it’s structured you don’t have to know or even like the band or that kind of music to enjoy the film. That was something I was hoping for from the very beginning.
It was a film about loving the thing that you do and loving the people that you do it with. Usually band docs are not terribly story driven. They’re usually a combination of exploratory footage organized around a topic. But there’s usually not a linear storyline.
And the Tight Bros From Way Back When are interviewed in the film but not really mentioned. Were there time constraints or did it just not fit for one reason or another?
I had a Tight Bros scene and it was kind of a stillborn. It just didn’t make sense unless you already knew about it. And I don’t feel that that’s a good way to make decisions. The film has to be like a survival kit and contain everything you need to understand it. You bring all your own experiences to dissect things and make it mean something to while logistically containing what you need.
Basically I felt that if I had content that would make those scenes make sense then I would put them in there. In my estimation it would have been stuff like, “It was really cool. Jared was continuing on but he wasn’t playing bass.” It was tangential to the storyline which was about what was going on between the three of them.
Does Chris ever do anything music-related anymore?
He becomes this separate storyline and Jared keeps it tied together because it ends up being about music. Scott doesn’t get that chance obviously to continue that path although it was very clear that he would have having given the opportunity. Chris continues to go in a very opposite direction even in sobriety. So that’s the way I portray it in the movie because that’s the understanding that I have.
Basically he explained it like this “In an alternate reality had I not done all of the initial crappy things that I did, I would still be doing that. It would still be what I’d want to do. Having gone down the road so far off, I’m not interested in treading backwards.”
How has the reception been in other cities? Brooklyn was packed to the brim.
It’s been really great. Usually the cities are about 60-100 people and the smaller towns are smaller groups. It’s been pretty solid and I’m pretty happy with it. We had a few that were much larger. Like 180-200 at one screening.
Are people familiar with KARP outside the Northwest? How about other countries?
Oh yeah. People who learned of Jared through the Melvins have just followed the timeline backwards to Big Business to the Whip to Tight Bros and all the way back to KARP.
After this weekend it’s playing some one-off shows around the country, and eventually going to Australia. So check out or their website or facebook page for show info. If it’s not playing in your city the movie’s available on DVD. It’s worth it. There are a couple live shows in the bonuses. And check back with the site in the future. There are plans to add a chronicle of the band to it.
The only rare KARP stuff I have was downloaded from this site a couple years back. It’s the original demo tape (as seen in the film). You can download it here.