Earlier than turning into a filmmaker, Leaving Las Vegas director Mike Figgis was a musician and performer within the experimental group known as The Individuals Present. Earlier than that, he performed trumpet and guitar within the experimental jazz ensemble The Individuals Band, whose first file was produced by Rolling Stone drummer Charlie Watts. He’s additionally the founding patron of a web based group of unbiased filmmakers known as Capturing Individuals. You possibly can say Figgis is a Individuals particular person, which makes him the right director to seize Ronnie Wooden within the documentary Someone Up There Likes Me.
Considered one of rock and roll’s most iconic guitarists, Wooden is nice with folks. He performs properly with others. He’s the Stone who’s by no means alone. Earlier than he started weaving guitar licks with Keith Richards within the Rolling Stones, Wooden helped form the British rock sound in bands like The Birds and the Creation. He was the bass participant to the guitar maestro in The Jeff Beck Group, which featured the distinctive voice of Rod Stewart on the entrance. They put out two albums, 1968’s Reality and 1969’s Beck-Ola, earlier than splintering simply as they have been to seem at Woodstock. Wooden and Stewart inherited the Small Faces from Steve Marriott and dropped the album First Step in 1970. They realized they have been too tall for the diminutive moniker and renamed the band The Faces. They launched the albums Lengthy Participant and A Nod Is as Good as a Wink…to a Blind Horse in 1971, and Ooh La La (1973), earlier than splitting up in 1975.
Wooden guested on albums by David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Eric Clapton, the Band, Donovan, B.B. King, and on Stewart’s solo albums. He spent a lot time flavoring different performers’ works, he didn’t put out a solo album of his personal till 1974 which he aptly titled I’ve Acquired My Personal Album to Do. Wooden additionally went solo for 1981’s 1234 and collaborated with Bo Diddley on Dwell on the Ritz in 1988, Wooden’s seventh solo album, I Really feel Like Enjoying (2010), featured visitor spots from ex-Faces bandmate Ian McLagan, in addition to The Crimson Sizzling Chili Peppers’ Flea, Weapons N’ Roses’ Slash, Billy Gibbons, Bobby Womack, and Jim Keltner.
Someone Up There Likes Me isn’t structured like most music documentaries. It’s primarily a dialog, and it veers from a lot of Wooden’s huge output. The hard-partying musician beat lung most cancers and candidly blames his extreme indulgences. He noticed bandmates, contemporaries and associates, like Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and John Bonham push previous the deadly limits of chemical reactions. Wooden himself remembers telling Keith Moon to take drugs, not bottles of them. Richards remarks within the documentary how the 2 Rolling Stones guitarists share sturdy constitutions. Wooden started recording with the Rolling Stones after they have been midway by way of their 1976 album, Black and Blue, and has been regular even as much as their current pandemic dwell stream.
The documentary additionally captures Wooden’s visible artistry. He was an artist earlier than he was a musician. His drawings have been featured on BBC TV’s Sketch Membership when he was a baby, and he studied on the Ealing Artwork School. Wooden did the quilt art work to Eric Clapton’s 1988 field set Crossroads. The 2-time Rock and Roll Corridor of Fame inductee continues to seize visions like Mick Jagger’s dancing in a Picasso type, in addition to the pictures in Someone Up There Likes Me of him capturing the grace of a ballerina on canvas.
Born in northern England, director Mike Figgis was raised on jazz and Jean-Luc Godard motion pictures. The inventor of the “fig rig” is aware of when to experiment, akin to he did in Timecode (2000) and Lodge (2001), methods to get drama out of romance, as he did with One Evening Stand, starring Wesley Snipes and Nastassja Kinski, and The Lack of Sexual Innocence. He’s adept at crime dramas, directing the “Chilly Cuts” episode of The Sopranos in 2004 and Inner Affairs, which starred Richard Gere. He additionally mines deep emotional schisms in movies like Mr. North and Leaving Las Vegas (1995) for which he was nominated for Greatest Directing and Greatest Screenplay Oscars. Figgis spoke with Den of Geek about cinematic jams and studio periods with Ronnie Wooden.
Den of Geek: Over the course of the movie, you produced a tune utilizing nothing however your backings and an orchestra of Ronnie Woods. How was he to provide?
Mike Figgis: He was a delight, truly. We did many of the interviews and every little thing the place he was portray, he was in his personal house for that. Then the dialog, he’s very very witty and so forth. However on the finish of the day, the person’s a musician. Fairly in a while within the course of I mentioned, “Let’s go right into a studio and do one thing.” I feel the minute we acquired right into a studio it was completely different. For each of us as a result of I’m a musician too. It’s only a completely different form of actuality and the language turns into a lot easier between musicians and understanding the tools, the entire vibe.
Initially Mark Ronson was going to do a soundtrack for us which might have been implausible after which he simply acquired very, very busy as a result of we acquired late. I introduced him with a form of template of how perhaps may make a pleasant soundtrack, which is principally what we did anyway. So we did it with out Mark and Ronnie was very snug with that.
He very a lot left it to me. He added so much, clearly. He mentioned, “I’d like to do that as properly,” and so forth. So, we had a reasonably full couple of days in studio time. However he was nice to provide.
There are numerous musicians engaged on this moreover you and Ronnie. Rosey Chan did the rating for a portray scene.
Rosey’s my spouse by the way in which. She’s an outstanding live performance pianist and composer and musician in her personal proper. She’s releasing an album now. She’s a tremendous pianist, I simply wanted one thing to take us into a special zone, so I requested her to compose some piano items for that. Then I did some rating myself. Simply when he’s speaking about medicine. I put a little bit little bit of a bizarre rating on that one.
So is that this movie extra of a cinematic jam that you simply simply edited within the mixing room?
Yeah, I feel so. I feel that’s a great way of placing it, truly.
Ronnie additionally labored with Bob Dylan, Prince, David Bowie, Aretha Franklin. Did you enable the interviews to find out what elements of his profession you have been going to incorporate?
I truly needed to keep away from anyone else. I mentioned, “Let’s simply make it about him portray and us speaking.” I needed to make it so simple as attainable. That didn’t occur as a result of as quickly as you kind of uncover one little stone, you form of say “Oh, properly clearly we should always interview the Rolling Stones.” Then he began considering, “Properly, Rod’s round, we will use Rod.” Once I found about Damien Hirst, “Truly that will be an attention-grabbing, sudden one. That will be good, yeah.” So yeah.
It was form of natural, actually. It was all kind of scheduled based mostly in a way that, “When are you out there?” And, “When am I out there? When are these folks out there?” So, getting the Stones was truly the trickiest factor. You needed to go to Berlin and get them between gigs after they have been watching the World Cup. In between World Cups truly. Very particular.
I do know you’re within the Individuals Band which had an album produced by Charlie Watts. So, have been you in the identical periphery of the Stones as Ronnie Wooden again then?
No, the reference to Charlie was very attention-grabbing as a result of the Individuals Band was a free music ensemble. I imply actually experimental. Actually manner out. The drummer was this phenomenal percussionist, nonetheless is, known as Terry Day. Terry Day went to artwork faculty with Charlie’s spouse and he knew Charlie as a result of they have been each drummers, so that they acquired on actually, rather well. Charlie Watts has at all times been an enormous jazz fan. By means of Terry, it was a kind of moments the place Charlie says, “You understand, we will file you. We acquired a cellular studio. We are able to both ship the cellular to you wherever you’re taking part in.” I’m speaking about in these days, in ’68 or each time it was, the concept of a cellular multi-track was fairly wonderful. “Or you’ll be able to come to Olympic Studios,” which was the place they recorded Beggars Banquet and every little thing. It was a tremendous studio. And, “We’ll simply provide the studio and the engineer, and also you guys do what you need.” That’s how that happened and it was actually pretty.
Over time, on occasion I’d see Charlie and simply catch up, speak about drumming, actually. And jazz. So it was very nice interviewing for this one once more.
While you have been asking Rod Stewart about Peter Grant, he kind of in the reduction of and he turned the younger man that was bullied.
He did, didn’t he? When he mentioned, “I’m defending my fingers and my face.”
The gangster facet of that mid ’60’s interval, particularly with Peter Grant, how did that have an effect on the musicians and the working? Do you suppose it truly in some methods was good for it?
Properly, you understand that comes about from a really unusual coincidence which was kind of touched on within the movie. However, fairly a number of years again, Malcolm McLaren was wanting to provide a movie. A function movie about Led Zeppelin and on account of that, he and I went and interviewed Peter Grant which is the place that footage comes from. I did an enormous quantity of analysis into Led Zeppelin and Peter Grant on the time, and spoke to and interviewed numerous the individuals who have been concerned with their success. I didn’t interview Johnny Bindon, however he was a key determine. Johnny Bindon was a form of very violent prison. In London. Superb trying. He turned an actor for some time. Had wonderful sexual legends constructed round him involving royalty and every kind of issues, and was a part of a form of modern gangster scene. The craze and all the remainder of it. The London gangster scene.
Form of turned modern as a result of folks went to all their golf equipment, and frolicked with them, and David Bailey photographed them and all that. So there was a form of a zeitgeist about gangsterism. There’s an extremely good guide written about it known as Leaping Jack Flash which got here out two years in the past. Bindon turned one of many brokers for Led Zeppelin and famously beat up any person so badly on one among their excursions that was hospitalized. He was a really imply particular person.
The entire affiliation with Led Zeppelin was very a lot gangsterish due to Peter Grant and his associates who had these tales and so forth. In order that was a form of one facet, and likewise numerous the administration have been pretty crooked in London at the moment. There’s a little bit of a homosexual mafia and all the remainder of it, so a part of the folklore of that interval of British rock and roll could be very gangsterish, and really a lot a part of the story.
At any time when I take into consideration gangsters and British rock I consider the film Efficiency. While you’re filming conversations within the second, are you saying in your head “that is filmic?”
Not consciously, no. I settle for it as being a part of the material, truly. I attempt to make every little thing filmic anyway, so I’m at all times attempting to get as distant from any form of documentary really feel. I like issues to have a dwell aspect to it.
I liked Peter Grant’s Gene Vincent story. Within the Beatles Anthology, George Harrison tells an analogous one. What did Gene Vincent imply to younger British rock and curler’s that everybody’s acquired a narrative about them?
Oh, as a result of he was there, he was round. A little bit bit just like the tales about everybody remembers Huge Invoice Broonzy and everybody remembers Sister Rosetta Thorpe. Most important cause for that’s they have been part of a really small group of musicians who have been allowed to go to the UK in the course of the Musician’s Union ban on touring. We have been principally disadvantaged of numerous American musicians after the conflict, and the one cause Broonzy acquired in and Sister Rosetta Thorpe, was people musicians have been allowed in versus, say, Louis Armstrong.
All of them got here in as people singers though they weren’t. I imply Broonzy was a fully-fledged Chicago blues musician and so was Sister Rosetta Thorpe. However everyone is aware of that. Anyone that was anyone round at the moment would know these names. And Gene Vincent has grow to be a form of UK legend.
Do you see Ronnie as a really diversified painter?
I needed to seize a sure facet of his artwork which was the road drawing. After we first began speaking, I checked out all his artwork books. He does enormous canvases with numerous shade, that includes the Rolling Stones, et cetera, et cetera. I used to be much less focused on these. These promote for some huge cash apparently and folks actually like them.
However after I noticed his line drawing, his very fast drawings. Line drawing could be very, essential. Sketching is essential in the identical manner that once you hear a really fundamental demo from a musician, there’s a sure reality about that. Then you’ll be able to produce it and over produce it, and you may make it tremendous subtle. I used to be within the bit that leads as much as the way in which that he began producing. I needed to arrange conditions the place I’d simply see his line drawing. His means to manage strains, that was wonderful.
Then bodily watching him do that’s fascinating. I like filming folks taking part in their musical devices. There’s a sure reality about that, they get into their factor. And watching him draw I assumed was fascinating. His focus, absolute. Even within the interview with Damian Hirst. He’s so targeted on what he’s doing that he doesn’t actually pay a lot consideration to Damian Hirst. Form of solutions the query. He doesn’t decide up on any of the jokes. As a result of he’s actually targeted on what he’s doing.
Watching his dwell stuff, Wooden is a special particular person. Whereas he’s taking part in guitar, you see him and Keith joking round.
I feel that has one thing to do with the attention. As a result of I feel it’s about blues guitar. You possibly can see the finger reminiscence is basically, actually sturdy so I imply in that early footage he’s smoking on the similar time, proper? He’s smoking, joking round, attending to the microphone, late normally, for the backup vocals. And transferring round and having a good time. He doesn’t have to have a look at the guitar to do this. Nonetheless, if you’re drawing one thing, both you make that contact together with your eye, so creating the triangle between the topic, the canvas, and your eye. And also you’re fairly proper. Radically completely different physique language, and that’s attention-grabbing. There are two bodily sides of him demonstrated on movie, which you don’t actually have to clarify. There it’s.
Is Someone Up There Like Me a flip facet to Leaving Las Vegas?
Possibly. You understand, folks have had a life, have had expertise and are available by way of darkness and coming to mild and so forth. For me, it simply turns into 10 occasions extra attention-grabbing than individuals who’ve simply had a pleasant life and behaved properly. Look a little bit puzzled that they’re not kind of 70 or one thing as a result of it’s all been fairly peaceable, you understand? So there’s a form of turbulence there which I feel he says fairly properly when he says, “I see a fork in a street I take it.”
Like he says, “I’d do it with my eyes extra open now if I did it once more.” I form of admired that. It’s not like me. I’m rather more protecting. However I additionally liked the way in which he talked concerning the medicine. He talked about, “I’d by no means get to the purpose of shedding management as a result of I at all times knew.” As a result of he’s very formidable. “I at all times knew the place I needed to be subsequent and I by no means needed to be on the place the place I couldn’t management the place I needed to be.” I’m certain there have been a number of exceptions to that, however usually, that was fairly truthful.
You’re often called a really experimental filmmaker and I used to be questioning how you retain arising with other ways to look by way of the digital camera?
I acquired kind of uninterested in 35mm and began going again to 16mm after which when video acquired extra attention-grabbing, video. Then as video acquired smaller and XLR occurred, that radically modified the chances. Then because the world adjustments, like with originally of this dialog we talked concerning the coronavirus impact. And the way the Timecode precept, how that then ties in with what is feasible by way of filmmaking, actually.
While you have been making Timecode, do you know that you simply have been predicting pandemic filmmaking?
No, though trying again I can suppose the place it’d be actually helpful now.
The Rolling Stones streamed their efficiency early within the pandemic, is that this the way forward for leisure and is it an imposition?
I feel in a manner it’s. Clearly in some unspecified time in the future we’ll get coronavirus below some form of management. However there are dire predictions about what’s coming subsequent by way of the unleashing of the demons that come by way of world warming, et cetera, et cetera.
On the one hand, perhaps these variations of those situations will proceed properly into the long run. However I feel even when it was simply coronavirus, I’m speaking about making movies with varied folks proper now, it’s virtually like until you truly acknowledge the world as it’s in the present day and has been for the final six months, any movie that you simply make goes to have an air of unreality about it as a result of that is fairly positively a worldwide actuality now. The best way we’re speaking now and so forth.
I’m doing a masterclass in London on the movie faculty subsequent week and I’m going to be speaking nearly that to younger filmmakers. One of the best methods to go about making movies now.
As a jazz musician, what did you make of Jagger’s classification of jazz from again then?
It was fairly correct, truly. I’d completed the blues documentary with Martin Scorsese, the historical past of the British Blues, Crimson, White, and Blues. So, I lined that interval and I used to be fascinated by that distinctive British interval anyway, which is why in a manner Marty and I acquired on so properly too was as a result of in contrast to America, the publish conflict British music scene was closely into conventional jazz after which bebop. Then people music, and skiffle, and all these issues. All of them mixed. When you speak to anyone, Eric Clapton, anyone, they’ll all make the identical references. Huge Invoice Broonzy and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, after which Woody Guthrie, and so form of everyone was listening to all these influences and folks have been popping out of conventional jazz after which making fairly dynamic choices about this, that, and the opposite.
However the Trad increase was, the industrial facet of the British jazz motion was very industrial, and instantly commercialized. There are some nice musicians, however not the hippest style on the planet, so Jagger’s commented fairly rightly if you wish to be a younger, horny, occurring musician, you’re not going to base your type in your grandfather’s style and the remainder of it. It was a form of good perspective. I liked it when he mentioned, “I just like the MJQ due to the way in which they seemed and the way in which they performed. I’m unsure I used to be loopy concerning the music or one thing like that.”
And I liked that he mentioned, “We could be like that or we could be one thing completely different.” I like that second within the movie the place you truly all of a sudden see the Stones form of go, “Yep.” That’s fairly completely different from these two decisions. That was, you’re creating a brand new style there. And I’ve to say, my respect for the Rolling Stones went very, very excessive in making this documentary. I at all times just like the Stones. I most popular extra principally a blues band and I used to be listening to much more sophisticated pop musicians and jazz musicians.
I learn that you simply’re doing a Okay-drama concerning the #MeToo motion. Would that be within the Okay-pop trade?
Yeah, I turned focused on Korean movie in fact like most filmmakers. After which on an impulse, two and a half years in the past, I purchased a ticket to Seoul and I went and stayed there for 3 or 4 weeks, and simply went round assembly folks and simply attempting to get a deal with on their movie scene, initially. Then, I form of acquired hooked on Okay-dramas as properly and began to satisfy the actors. That’s was a challenge that’s been in growth for a couple of 12 months now. It’s going actually, rather well, however arising with this sequence of situations. Form of loosely across the #MeToo motion, actually however simply to do with the Korean social pop leisure scene. And that’s what that was there.
I didn’t know that the Stones had initially thought of asking Ron Wooden to exchange Brian Jones. As a musician, you mentioned they caught to their weapons. Do you suppose that will have been extra true had they disregarded Mick Taylor and gone straight to Ronnie Wooden?
It was attention-grabbing as a result of that interval, as a result of clearly Jagger comes from a really a lot blues background. However by that point he was a megastar and the Stones have been very a lot “Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones.” He was making motion pictures, he was hanging out on the golf equipment, he was the hip man. So clearly his horizons have been increasing and he mentioned that having Mick Taylor within the band actually expanded his horizons as a songwriter as a result of the voicings that Mick Taylor used. Mick did extremely lyrical runs because the guitarist. Not a straight down the road blues participant by any stretch of the creativeness. An excellent blues participant, however that’s not all he did.
So, I can think about at that interval, it will have been completely comprehensible in the event that they’d continued to go in a special route. I feel what occurred when Mick Taylor walked out, there was a form of apparent reason behind motion to go to Ronnie. That in all probability then put Keith in a extra snug zone by way of the two-guitar factor as a result of I’d think about that with Mick Taylor within the band, Keith’s position will need to have been positively not a lot the two-guitar factor as a result of they’re performing at completely different ranges. In all probability in a manner, again to a form of grassroots degree by bringing Ronnie again in.
Additionally, he appears like them. They have been like brothers at that time. There’s a form of a, all of a sudden a cohesiveness to the band as a band differently. Mick had a wider vary by way of songwriting and efficiency. A special method to go, however I feel he was very happy to return into the form of grassroots journey that they’d been on.
It’s very attention-grabbing how one musician can radically alter the future of the band, the most lasting band in rock and roll historical past principally now.
Ronnie Wooden: Someone Up There Likes Me shall be out there as a Digital Cinema launch at www.ronniewoodmovie.com beginning Sept. 18 operating by way of October. It will likely be launched on DVD, Blu-ray and deluxe hardback guide launch on October 9.
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