Paul Dougherty interview
First published Fodderstompf, September 1999 (first
published F&F10), updated December 2013
© 1999 F&F Publishing / Fodderstompf.com
Fodderstompf.Com: This interview with film and video maker Paul Dougherty was originally conducted via email for The Filth and The Fury fanzine in September 1999.
F&F: Since I printed the review of the mysterious PiL New York, Gildersleeves video in F&F5 I've learned that it was actually a proper video film and not a TV special as I had first thought. I managed to make contact with videomaker Paul Dougherty, who directed and edited the film, and took the chance to ask him some questions about the origin of the film...
PiL NY, Gildersleeves 1980 video tape: The Facts!
Dougherty: I just want to preface my answers by saying that I NEVER
released this video and I'm still not sure how it leaked into the bootleg
F&F: How did the film come about? Were you a fan, did you know PiL? Around the time there was a lot of talk about PiL getting into film and video. Were you brought in to work along with them on their video projects or was the film your idea?
Paul: My brother was/is a friend of Jeannette Lee. Both of us were huge fans of the band. Because of my brother's relationship with her I thought it worth asking permission to videotape the band. They said it would be ok. All arrangements were verbal. I thought my only opportunity to tape them would be at the New York's Palladium (aka Academy of Music) on 14th St. I recall the stagehand union at the Palladium required a $500 fee which I thought was prohibitive. (It was 1980 and I was 27, $500 seemed like a lot of money then and I was bank-rolling the project.) PiL decided to do an unpublicised gig a few days later at a heavy-metal club near CBGB's called Great Gildersleeves. I thought their decision to do this gig might have been influenced by a desire to be videotaped, but that is speculation on my part. Additionally two other things that made the whole project feasible. My friends Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong of 'Advanced Television' helped organise the production with their extensive contacts in the production world. I came from the editing world and was able to used the state-of-the-art editing rooms where I worked to put the program together.
F&F: Do you know what date it was recorded?
haven't been able to nail that. It was a few days after their first official
concert in New York at the Palladium. (Note: The confirmed date of
the Great Gildersleeves show is April 22nd, 1980)
F&F: Has the film got a proper title?
Paul: Not really, just the PiL Tape.
F&F: Did you get any feedback from the band about the video, did they like it?
Paul: I don't remember getting any. I sent them a work in progress and then the final version...
F&F: What did you plan to do with the film? Did you plan to release it commercially?
Paul: I tried to interest their record company in it but was met with silence. Though I think the project turned out well, it fell short of being a "commercial" quality video. I never heard back from the band as to whether they wanted to do anything with it. I did several screenings in the US and Europe (along with my other tapes) in the years that followed. I travelled with the PiL tape and it never left my sight, which is why it never leaked for close to 15 years.
F&F: You mentioned you were a fan of the band, had you saw them live before you filmed them, if so, what did you think? Personally I feel they are one of the most underrated bands ever, Metal Box is one of the finest records ever made...
Paul: No, I never saw them before 1980. I thought they were great, Lydon was in top form. I guess what I liked best about them is that they, almost alone, as an outgrowth of punk, left the teen/pop world of rock and went into uncharted waters. Most bands who do this get soft, not so with them. Yeah, 'Metal Box' is a milestone.
F&F: I've heard that there is another version of your film that incorporates news footage from Northern Ireland along with various other news footage, is it true?
Paul: I did a traditional live-coverage edit on four songs but decided to do something more ambitious with 'Careering'. By the time I did the PiL tape I had started to develop a reputation for making video-art with a musical connection. I had access to some exciting new tools that would facilitate repositioning and compositing various images and bits of footage with the performance. For the most part the result was meant to look as though it was projected behind the band. I'm generally happy with the way it turned out. At seven or so minutes 'Careering' starts to run out of steam (visually) towards the end. Also towards the end are some colour images I added that look cheesy to me now.
F&F: I know you must have done a few screenings of your film in the UK because I recently saw a b&w flyer from one of the screenings Did you do many screenings?
Paul: Not really. It premiered at NY's Kitchen on 26/1/81, I recall it being sold-out. Then I ran it again at the NY's Peppermint Lounge on 13/2/81. Also did a sold-out show at London's ICA on 11/10/81. All these shows included my other videos, which are described on my web page.
F&F: I've only saw four songs from the gig, was the whole gig filmed? What is the full running time of the film?
Paul: We taped the whole show but I decided to edit 5 songs that had the best coverage. Songs are 'Careering, Public Image, Another, Low Life & Bad Baby'. The whole thing runs 25 minutes.
F&F: Are there any plans for you to release the film officially? I certainly hope so because it's such a great gig! Footage from that era PiL is extremely rare and they were such a great band, I'm sure it could do well.
plans for a commercial release, that's something Lydon & Co. would
have to bless.
F&F: If you do release the film will it be the version including the news footage or the version that just features the gig?
Paul: I repeat, there are no plans for a commercial release but I suppose an "underground" commercial release might include 'Careering'. As I have no rights to the images and old footage I used, it would not be included in truly commercial (hypothetical) release.
F&F: Have you any idea how the bootleg videos of your film surfaced? The amazing thing is that until a couple of years ago no one even knew PiL had played the gig, let alone knew that it was filmed!
Paul: I have a strong hunch how it leaked but I'm not certain. Because I know all to well how easy it is to copy videos, I was able to keep it bottled up for over 15 years.
F&F: Were you involved in any of PiL's other proposed video projects, if so, what were they? Were you involved with the 'Riot at the Ritz' stuff, were you there?
Paul: No. Though they talked about exploring avenues beyond making records and touring I suppose that allowing me to videotape them would be an example of their independent efforts. In interviews around that time they described themselves as something like a 'communications company'. Yet for all these ambitions they had a reticent, reclusive profile. I liked that about them, but it also kept me from pressing them about the video. They held back from the standard industry self-promotion. Granted there was a lot of interest in what John Rotten/Lydon would do next, so he/they could afford to be a tease about it. This reticent quality seemed to inflame media interest. I'm fascinated by the idea of a person or outfit, that is the subject of media interest, being disinterested. As time goes by it seems more and more revolutionary. (A good example of this can be found in the book Ringolevio by Emmett Grogan.) There is nothing new about "playing hard to get" as a way of spurring interest. Sometimes its just a strategy (I would not apply that to PiL). But it seems increasing impossible for people to be genuinely disinterested in media attention. When it happens it's almost headline news and can drive the media mad.
F&F: In the end it might not of amounted to much, but at the time PiL's fascination with film & technology was seen as crazy, whereas now it's bog standard for bands to be involved in video or interactive computer projects, stuff like U2's Zoo TV for instance. What do you think of todays music/video crossovers? Do you feel that your stuff was revolutionary?
Paul: Music/video/computer crossovers are inevitable and somewhat standard now. Lots of media technology is used to obscure the fact that many recording artists are not good performers. So one side of me (the editor) likes a truth-in-advertising approach that shuns tarting up a performance when no-frills coverage would convey (somewhat transparently) a kick-ass performance. This is not a holy grail for me but it is rare in music videos. I guess some of this preference goes back to the lo-fi, primitive roots of punk. But in real life, it's the job of the record company and the army of specialists they hire, to make the recording artists look good by tarting things up. When computers and video are part of a band's palate and not a service provided by their record company, things could get juicy. Zoo TV was a step in this direction. As if to contradict what I said earlier, I don't mind going to the opposite of representing live performance. That's to say, forget about attractive performers, fake or otherwise. Make music videos without performances, like little movies or art-films with cool soundtracks. The Chemical Brother's video with the dancers is like this. I think the PiL video was revolutionary in one small way. Because I was employed at an editing facility, my boss (God bless him) let me play with the technology. For that reason I did not have to watch the clock or count the dollars. That allowed me to pursue the efx treatments in 'Careering' that would have been too costly otherwise. In those days only a superstar would be given that kind of license.
Today thanks to computer media technology people can do this at home, so more work will enjoy this luxury as time goes by. Though I would not have proposed it, taken together my video work might have some revolutionary qualities. (Go to my web page and judge for yourself http://avideolife.wordpress.com). If it does, its because of the licence allowed/exercised in this individual/personal form of television. Though things will change, "personal television" remains an oxymoron...
F&F: I first heard of the bootleg version of this video in 1997 when I saw it on a US video dealer's list. Did anyone have it before that? If so, in what part of the world? Has anyone any "chain of title" stories about how it surfaced?
2013 Update - the offending leaker has been identified, case closed.
Picture Credits (Thanks to Paul Dougherty)
Video tape screening flyer (NY Peppermint lounge 1981)
Gildersleeves Video Grab 1980 (x2) © Paul Dougherty