A film about 30 years of underground music in Toronto
Colm Hogan wants to take you back, to a time before cell phones and mp3 players, when you were likely to know, or at least recognize on sight, everyone in your city who shared your taste in music. For six years, Hogan has been working on Sketched Out, a film history of the punk, hip hop, house and techno scenes in Toronto, and the end is in sight - if only he could get more money.
In a pub near Yonge and St. Clair, Hogan explains the inspiration for his film. "I think when you're talking about punks, hip-hoppers or people in house or techno, you're talking about the same thing - kids that cannot identify with anything happening in mainstream contemporary culture, and they're looking to break out, they're looking for something new, they don't fit in anywhere else, they need to forge their own identify and find something new for themselves."
Hogan was a first time filmmaker when he started working on Sketched Out, but completed Matatu Express last year, a 22-minute film about youth in a slum in Nairobi, Kenya. The film gave him a chance to buff up his resume, but he still needs money to pay for archival footage and music rights for Sketched Out, which is described on its website as a 90-minute feature.
"Initially I really wanted it to be a film," Hogan says, "but I think it would work as a TV series, too, where you could focus on one genre per episode. The problem is that TV networks are in bad shape right now, but if any of them approach me of course I would - I just want to have it made."
He's got 35 interviews in the can, ranging from journalists like Daniel Richler to performers such as Carole Pope, Crazy Steve from Bunchofuckingoofs and rapper "Maestro" Wes Williams, to club promoters, DJs and scenesters. Tracking down subjects for the punk and hip hop segments was relatively easy, but the techno and club scenes proved more elusive, as many of the participants had either moved on or gone to ground.
"I was lucky in that I had a bit of a background in the scene and knew some people involved," Hogan recalls. "My producer used to run a rave company of his own, and he started up a great blog, thecommunic8r.com, and it gives a very in-depth history of what happened in the city. Thanks to technology it's easier to find these people - Facebook's a great research tool - but some of them really drifted off the radar. It's natural - you get older, you get married, you have a family and sometimes you want to leave it behind. But there's some people who are still spinning every weekend."
While there have been plenty of films about punk rock, and lately a renaissance in interest in Toronto's punk scene, the city's early hip hop scene is only vaguely remembered, while the house and techno scenes are almost entirely undocumented. A fan and observer of them all, Hogan thinks that the only film he can think of that connects punk to dance music is Michael Winterbottom's history of Manchester's Factory Records, 24 Hour Party People. Uniting the whole project is Hogan's desire to show a common thread running through twenty years of music, uniting punk rock with raves.
"There is a real artistry to mixing beats, and as a participant in it you're really going on a journey during the night. And I'm telling you there is no difference between going to see a band or going to see a DJ, you're there for the journey, for those pieces of music, and what I'm trying to capture is that feeling that gets them through the door and gets them to come back. It's the music but it's also the community that you have, the people that were there."
Lately it seems that technology has dissolved the sense of community that once brought together musical subcultures, since we live in an age where you don't need to physically be in a place to experience a record, or a performance, anymore. Hogan is more optmistic.
"There will always be communities. Back then it was based around a record store, a physical place, or an infoline that you'd call. Now you have websites, which is just a different form of community. Sure it changes it in that you don't see the people in person. Having said that, this was a moment in time, and that was why I wanted to do that. It's really a love letter to that time period, and you're right - because of technology I'm not sure we can really go back to that. But I like to think that there will always be kids out there wanting to do something new, and create something new, and that's never going to change."
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