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Chris Wade is an immensely talented musician; he’s recently added two EPs to the eleven albums that have been released under the Dodson & Fogg banner, all of which have been highly praised. That the first of those eleven albums only appeared in 2012 indicates that the Leeds-based musician must rarely sleep. When you factor in that he has also, during that period, authored over two dozen music or film related books as well as more than half a dozen books of fiction, it only confirms that impression.
We’ve made no secret of our admiration for the work Chris Wade creates; he has developed a sound all of his own on his albums and his books which cover artists such as The Kinks, The Incredible String Band and Lou Reed (to name just a few) are solid, informative reads, more often than not more entertaining than those penned by well-known music writers. There’s also Wade’s audio books and, not least, his website at http://wisdomtwinsbooks.weebly.com which is always worth dropping in to.
But it appeared that Wade had finally realised that humans are built to sleep occasionally, three months into 2017 and we’ve yet to hear a new Dodson & Fogg album, as welcome as the two EPs are they are really only the equivalent of one album and last year alone saw the release of three Dodson & Fogg albums as well as other projects from Wade. Maybe he was taking some well-deserved time off.
Then came notice that Wade had moved into filmmaking. ‘The Apple Picker’ is the name of the film he has ben working on and which is part of the official selection for the Sydney World Film Festival. Described as a darkly comic surreal drama the film is available for viewing free at https://vimeo.com/203832930; it lasts for just over an hour but will probably be one of those films that you will immediately want to view again; there’s depth to the film, it’s brilliantly put together, there are moments that are chilling and Wade’s unique sense of humour is never far beneath the surface. The fact that both Nigel Planer and Toyah Wilcox lent their voices to the film (and for me Toyah’s contribution pulled the whole film together, it’s a remarkable performance) proves that Wade commands the same respect for any new venture he takes on as he does for his music.
'The Apple Picker' is not an easy film to describe, it won’t be an easy film to watch for some but anyone who has heard Wade’s music or read one of his many books will know that ultimately it’s going to be worth an hour of their time. Wade has never yet failed to deliver in what ever medium he decides to use. It’s always a pleasure and entertaining to put a few questions to Chris Wade so we took this opportunity to ask him about his move into filmmaking and to get his view on what the film is all about. As usual Wade’s answers are full and fascinating. Thanks for your time, Chris, good luck with the film and we look forward to the next one!
PB: After your musical projects and books, all which have been highly praised, what promoted you to make this move into filmmaking?
CW: I've been a life long fan of film, and I've always wanted to make something that resembled one. I really enjoy doing the Dodson and Fogg videos, but I was really itching to try something longer and with some kind of plot. As a kid growing up, I was obsessed with films and music. I collected videos and the work of all my favourite actors and directors. Like music, it's a passion of mine that goes all the way back, like writing too. I hoped I would do something in film one day, but never imagined it would be this much fun.
PB: Is this your first film project or have you made other films that haven’t been made available to the general public?
CW: When I was around 16 and 17, my sister and me used to make daft short films on my step dad's video camera, which were really fun to do. But I haven't done anything like this. I've loved doing audiobooks, podcasts, albums, books and artwork, and I just had to try filmmaking one day. It was another box to tick and another way to get out some ideas.
PB: Was making The Apple Picker more challenging than writing or making an album?
CW: It was very different and was really fun actually. I got a new camera and started off by filming odd sights I'd see around the place, and then I got my father in law to do some basic stuff for me around his house, and it started to come on from there. The more stuff I shot the more it came to resemble a film with a purpose, so I carried on, in between recording music and writing books. More ideas came up and then I found they were fitting together, so it flowed that way, a bit like when I do an album really. The only really hard part was the edit, which involved filtering the colour, getting it to look otherworldly, doing the black and white effects, overlaying the music and sound effects. That part was a challenge, for sure, but I do love a challenge. It was really exciting to do. The edit took a while but it was worth it.
PB: The film was obviously made over a long period of time given that the various seasons are displayed throughout the story; how long did it take for you to complete? Was it fitted in around your other commitments?
CW: It was shot between November 2016 and February 2017, with a tiny bit done at the start of March this year, at the very last minute. I was shooting bits as I went along, getting new ideas and piecing it together. I did the editing in the middle of the night sometimes and wrote and recorded in the day. So a lot of this eerie stuff was edited in the dark with coffee in the stillness of the night. Quite fitting really. But the shooting was never in the way of anything, like family time or work. I might do a bit when I was at my dad's or out and about. People looked at us a bit odd sometimes, but otherwise it was just really enjoyable and satisfying. Someone tried to throw a net over me one time. Note: Last part not true.
PB: Where was the location for the film?
CW: There are a few locations actually. The old man's house is my mother and father in law's house in Leeds, other bits were done at my place and my dad's, and the weird "Danger Keep Out" place is down this long country road near me where there's a farm and some fields, quite a creepy place. Some of it was also shot in Wales too, and on the Holy Island and Anglesey. Whenever I went on a family break or a day out or something I would take my video camera with me and shoot. I was attracted to weird locations that might look they came from someone's nightmare or weird dream.
PB: Have you had any training in filmmaking or was it just a case of learning as you went along?
CW: The only training I can think of was GCSE Media Studies, where we did study films a little bit. But I didn't learn anything worthwhile there. I think it's just from intently watching films in my teens. I really absorbed a lot of films growing up, so many different types of films, and liked to read about films as well. I always wanted to give it a go, and I felt that with watching so many films over the years and writing about them too, I might have the ability do it. It was a very organic thing really. I just kept shooting things, taking notes and gathering ideas.
PB: The Apple Picker is an official selection for The Sydney World Film Festival, was that a difficult process?
CW: I submitted it to two film festivals for fun and heard back from the Sydney one (the other festival organisers haven't got to their selection deadline yet) who said they loved it and that it was selected in their narrative film category. There's only 4 films chosen so I am really surprised and pleased. That was a real thrill for me. One of the jury on the festival also let me enter their own festival for free because they enjoyed the film, so there's a couple more festivals it could be selected for too. I'm excited to see what else will happen. That for me is just amazing, as a life long film fan, for people to have enjoyed it and taken it seriously enough to enter it in their festival. Really amazing.
PB: For those yet to see The Apple Picker can you explain what the film is about?
CW: For me it's about an old man who may or may not be in good health, looking either into the past or into his own mind, that depends on how you view it, and he goes into the darkest corners of his psyche; his fears, his insecurities, innocence, childhood, his marriage. So far a lot of people who've watched it have had very varied definitions. Some think he might have Alzheimer's and the film represents fractured segments of his mind. Basically it's a surreal jigsaw, with his shattered mind giving us clues, right until the final ten minutes which kind of explain it all. I would also like to think people can get out of it what they like. Some people might just see nonsense, but that's OK too. I know what I think it's about, but others will have their own theories. As it's a guy looking back, it is open to anything and anything can happen. He's looking at the moon like a child, both at the beginning and the end, but everything that's in between either happens or doesn't happen. The video tape might be his mind. My character might be him when he was younger, or his son on his way to see him. I think it might be fun for people to come up with their conclusions. It's basically about life. When the video I put into the screen/camera starts we basically see the start of life, from the tunnel to the pulsating embryo thing and the kid running in the grounds of the old house, then to the old man hanging off the lamp post, shagged out. It's about looking back on life, what you did wrong, where it went off track. It can be about anything the viewer wants it to be... in some ways.
PB: Although a dark, surreal film there are moments of brilliant comedy; the Seaside FM dialogue and the firework sequence are but two examples of the Chris Wade sense of humour we’ve heard in some of your other projects. Are there plans for further films, possibly concentrating on your obvious flair for comedy?
CW: Oh yeah definitely, I enjoyed this so much there's no way I can't do it again. I have the equipment, the camera, the editing stuff and the lovely people I know who enjoy farting around for me and waiting to see how it comes out. So I will definitely do another one. Comedy is a big part of my life too, so there will definitely be some humour in there again.
PB: I’m no film buff but had to watch The Apple Picker through three times; it wasn’t until the radio section on the first showing that it started to fall into place, I’ve replayed it a couple of times since and understood and enjoyed it more each time. Is there any concern that for those that are unable to take it all in within one showing that they will dismiss the film as being too out there?
CW: It doesn't really matter in some ways, because people who like these kind of things might watch and those who don't might not even press play at all. Also, I'd like to think the first viewing is probably quite baffling, the second might make more sense, and after that it might be more clear. I just put it out there and I will leave it for people to chance upon and maybe they might give it a go. For me though it's just about being creative, expressing myself and getting all the mad ideas and images out of my head in some way that satisfies me. It's another area to try out and experiment with. And a lot of my favourite filmmakers have made films it's taken me three or four times, sometimes over years, to really get them and start to enjoy them. I know it's probably a challenging film, but I myself like challenging films. I like to think about things and get my own theories. The Apple Picker, at first by accident and then purposely, started to build more layers as things went on, so there's plenty to see and think about, I hope, if you like films like that.
PB: It’s a very British film, made me feel quite homesick in fact for a place that is no longer there, and there are sections that will resonate with viewers even given the surrealism of the film; how much of Chris Wade is in there? Not just in the musical nods like the Dylan T-shirt and Lou Reed poster but in the actual screenplay?
CW: I think there's a lot of me in there but more by just how it flowed. But there wasn't a screenplay, just notes and ideas I had in note pads and stuff. I got my humour in there and the things I really find funny. Because it was just a natural thing that started to come to life as time went on, there was a lot of spontaneity. I'd be doing a scene and as a lot of it is silent, I could give verbal instructions to my dad or my friend Shawn or whoever was in the scene and even improvise new ideas on the spot. Other stuff, like the ending, was more planned out beforehand and had a point to it, but there was a lot of material in it that came from nowhere. That was the fun part. The real work was done in the editing, piecing the film together and moving scenes around in different orders, experimenting, the same as mixing a song in some ways. And it all looks exactly like how it looked like in my mind, so I think there is a lot of me in there for sure.
PB: Were you inspired by the work of any other filmmakers? Again, I’m no film buff but early David Lynch, some of his short films and Eraserhead, come to mind while watching The Apple Picker.
CW: David Lynch is one of my favourite filmmakers. Eraserhead and Blue Velvet are two of my favourite films, so powerful and individual. They exist in their own universes. I like a lot of directors. I love Ken Russell, his classics like Women In Love, The Devils and Tommy, but also his later stuff, the films he made in his back garden when it was more low budget. I found him inspiring and wish I could have met him. I also love Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, the great Woody Allen and the directorial work of Dennis Hopper, especially a film he made called The Last Movie, which totally rips the film format apart. Very clever and mad. I also like Henry Jaglom, who did a film with Hopper called Tracks. I interviewed him last year and we kept in touch. He inspired me to just get a camera and give it a shot and put it online. So I was grateful for his advice. Ken's wife, Lisi, who I was in touch with for a book on Ken I am doing, also told me to just do it, so I took her advice too. I also love Stanley Kubrick's films, especially The Shining, and love how multi layered his films are. Plus Lindsay Anderson, who made If and O Lucky Man with Malcolm McDowell. But I didn't have anyone in mind when I was making this, though other people have said they see bits of Lynch in there. It must be like with my music, the influences are just there because I've been a fan of them so long. Oh, I also love Orson Welles, his films are brilliant. I like the scenes from his unfinished later works, like Other Side of the Wind and One Man Band. I suppose I like things that stand out as different.
PB: Some of the music sounds familiar, so am I correct in thinking that not all of the music was written specifically for the film? The original music I mean, not Duke Ellington’s ‘Admiration’!
CW: Yes, there's some Dodson and Fogg pieces in there, and also bits from an album I did in 2013 called Moonlight Banquet which was all instrumentals. I did some new electronic stuff for it to add to the mood. That part of it was really fun too. I was a bit of a lazy get using Dodson music, but some of it really fits so well.
PB: Apart from the handsome chap in the cap who appears throughout the film and who looks familiar, it appears from their names, although certainly not from their performances, that the other actors are new to filmmaking, how difficult was it to assemble the cast?
CW; I promised them all wine gums and mackerel. It was really easy actually. My daughter has a little cameo in it as the girl I see in the field, who then transforms into the drifter; he's played by my friend Shawn Dimery who I have known since we were six. I told him to come round and his partner drove us to this field and we did his scenes there and then. We had such a laugh that he didn't know how I was going to get anything out of the footage but I already had my ideas for him formulated at that point. (Cue Bond villain-esque evil laughter). My mother and father in law were up for some fun and they loved doing it. Jack, my father in law, pretty much did anything I asked him to do! Haha. And my dad Andy was game too. We've done a few comedy bits together before, like a podcast called Hound Dawg Radio. We had so much fun doing those films scenes, we were wetting ourselves with laughter. There is also my partner Linzi in there, who drives my character to Duck Lane, or to the mind of the old man, depending on which way you view it. I was lucky to have Toyah and Nigel. I'd done stuff with them before and they are both so open minded and cool that they agreed to do some narration for me. Nigel really gives it some humour actually and I was so pleased to have him on board. He's still a favourite actor of mine, always has been one of my faves, so it's amazing that he's involved. When he sent me back the VO recordings I was in fits of laughter. And Toyah is so brilliant that she kind of finishes the whole film off neatly. That end monologue needed to be done by a proper actress, someone who could carry the emotion in her voice, so for me that was very special getting her to do it, because she is so brilliant. Looking at her CV, she's worked with Olivier and Geilgud, and loads of the greats, so for me that is an honour.
PB: Now that you’ve made the step into filmmaking do you have any advice or tips for other budding filmmakers?
CW: I can't really give proper advice because I've only done one and I'm only two weeks into it going out on the internet, but I can tell people how fun it is to make a film. I would just say to anyone who thinks they might have a film in them, of any kind, just to do it. Get a camera, some friends, a few ideas and see where it goes. You never know where your imagination might take you. In my case it was some funny and also quite worrying places, but it was all so much fun. Though judging by some of the film I might need to go see a psychiatrist at some point...
PB: Thank you.
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Dodson and Fogg front man Chris Wade talks to Malcolm Carter about his directorial feature film debut, 'The Apple Picker'
Dodson and Fogg:Interview
Malcom Carter talks to singer-songriter and author Chris Wade about his 60's-influenced band Dodson and Fogg's sixth album and new concept record, 'In a Strange Slumber', which features a guest appearance from 'The Young Ones' actor, Nigel Planer
Dodson and Fogg:Interview
Malcolm Carter talks to singer-songwriter Chris Wade from 60's/psychedelic-influenced band Dodson and Fogg about his band's fifth album 'After the Fall', and his new group Rexford Bello, which he has formed with his brother Andy Wade
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