Scott Crawford’s 2014 film, Salad Days, is an in-depth look at a decade of the Washington, D.C. hardcore scene, covering many of the bands and stories which made history. Be it luminaries like Ian Mackaye and Henry Rollins, or simply scenesters, zinesters, and hangers-on, the documentary covers the D.C. scene’s historical heyday. However, there were so many more stories Crawford wanted to tell, which is the reason for his upcoming book from Akashic, Spoke: Images and Stories from the 1980s Washington, DC Punk Scene. The book features images and stories from many of the people in Salad Days, but divided up by band, allowing for deeper investigation into many of the musical acts.
We spoke with Crawford by phone about Spoke and his upcoming book tour in support of it.
Cinepunx: How did Salad Days lead to Spoke: was there always a companion piece intended for the film, or did this evolve out of the film?
Scott Crawford: It just kind of grew out naturally. One of the frustrations for me, doing the film, was that I interviewed so many people and so many great bands – so many great stories – and you know, there’s only so much you can fit into 90 minutes. You get attached to one particular quote or scene and you’d have to chuck it, because that’s just the nature of documentary filmmaking: you just can’t get attached to any one particular thing.
So, I felt like, “Well, hell – this is a great way to include some of the quotes and the stories that I wasn’t able to include in the film.” What I did was, I broke the chapters down by band. I tried to create the arc for each of the bands which sort of explains them from the beginning to the end. Sometimes, that wasn’t there – I focused on the part of that band that was the most interesting, for lack of a better word.
For example: the Minor Threat chapter, it talks about their very first show, all the way to the end, when they broke up. It was just a way to include a lot of the folks I wanted to include in the film and wasn’t able to. It was another way to remind folks of these bands that some folks might not even be familiar with. I think, between this book and the film, it works really well together.
I appreciate the fact that this book isn’t just a coffee table thing. There’s motion to the images you selected. I can only assume there was a lot to go through, how did you pick which to use?
Oh, hundreds, and a lot of that work had already been done for the film. I had chosen some of those photos for the film, but a lot of them, no one’s ever seen. A lot of those came from some of the bands’ personal scrapbooks. Even if they weren’t in the film, I was aware of them, just from having scoured so many hundreds of photos, so I knew what I wanted to showcase in the book. In that way, it was made a little easier.
A lot of the photos came out of the woodwork after the film had wrapped, and people heard I was working on the book. That was really cool. A lot of the photography captures the energy of the time, but I really wanted to have photos that only showed the bands when they were at their best – when they were playing live – but those kind of candid, behind-the-scenes moments when they’re all sitting around laughing, being goofy – being kids. I don’t think you normally see that as a much as maybe you should.
There’s a picture of Soulside I keep returning to – where they’re in the mountains, just kind of staring off. It really brings to mind that – for as hallowed as the D.C. scene of this time now is – these were a bunch of kids.
That’s what I tried to say in the intro to the book: let’s not forget how important this music is, but also, let’s remind ourselves that the people making this music were kids – which is a whole other conversation, when you think about it. The fact that that these “kids” were able to create this kind of music, and the level of musicianship they were able to do it at – lyrically speaking, as well – speaks volumes.
But, yeah: they were kids. I don’t know how old they were when they took that picture, but I knew when that tour was. So, 19? 20? I don’t know.
As you put the book together, what were the differences and difficulties between the filming and writing processes? A film has an overall story arc, but the book has a lot of little arcs for each of the bands.[Spoke] was just easier – because I’m of course looking at the big picture in terms of that period and of the kind of impact that was made – because you’re looking at chapters, instead of weaving together 90 minutes’ worth of stories to create this coherent piece of work. I just had to create 20 chapters’ worth of coherent stories, and they were all self-contained. They were just about the bands. There’s no transitioning between bands, other than chronologically, since it goes from the earliest to the latest. Other than that, they were all self-contained, and that made my life a lot easier, telling self-contained stories.
Who made it into Spoke as a major player, but didn’t really factor much into Salad Days?
I don’t know about most important, but I was really happy to get this guy named Tesco Vee, who was in D.C. in the early ’80s, and part of a band called The Meatmen, but moved back to Michigan early on. I was happy to get his insights, because he was there and a big fan. There were some pretty cool Thurston Moore quotes that I put in the book, because I thought they were pretty memorable. There were just a ton of people who weren’t in the film that I was happy to see in the book.
Spoke is out from Akashic Books on Tuesday, February 7. Scott Crawford will be doing a book tour to celebrate the release of Spoke, and will be hitting the cities and locations listed below. Click the links for details.
Thursday, 2/2 – WORD. Brooklyn, NY
Friday, 2/3 – Cindergarden. Philadelphia, PA
Saturday, 2/4 – Politics & Prose. Washington, DC