(photo by Alaska B)
Working in music the last few years, I’ve had the chance to collaborate with some rad people behind the scenes: filmmakers, engineers, graphic designers, writers – those individuals whose art it is to facilitate art. I had the opportunity to sit down with La Blogotheque filmmaker Derrick Belcham before he sets off en route to establish a La Blogotheque HQ in New York. We met in a Toronto diner to discuss how he got to be where he’s at, what Jeff Tweedy smelled like up close (ok, not really), the myth of the “Moon Man”. Derrick emerged from the corporate world, returned to his experimental roots and gave up the handsome paychecks to invade the personal space of many of our favorite artists. I quickly realized that Derrick’s success can be attributed to a specific ethos: always be curious, always be in awe, and always be grateful. It’s a sentiment that permeated throughout his stories. His liberal use of adjectives will attest to it. He makes me feel like there is still life in these mediums, yet.
When did you get to film your first Takeaway Show?
When I moved to Montreal I was working with musicians that I already knew and then at a party I happened to meet Nora, who was a producer for Blogotheque, we had already been talking online we didn’t realize that until the end of the night. She was like, ” you should do the next one,” and I thought Oh My God, that would be an honor. So she calls me a week later and says, “First of all are you free? So we’re going to do Wilco.” And I was like, oh what? Oh fuck! It came up and all I had at that point was two wireless mikes and a zoom, my Canon camera, we just showed up and met them.
Have there been any surreal moments with artists?
Danielson. The story I wrote for Danielson, the article is all about when I first discovered the music that has kind of touched me in my twenties and early thirties. Danielson was the first record that I heard that was just like, out. It was a marginal crazy record and I just thought – how is this on a CD? And my friend, Nate Reycraft showed it to me, in the article I talked about working in the record store and everyone working in the record store gets a pick, and my pick after a day of Pavement and Stereolab and maybe Magnetic Fields was the new Tricky record. And I was like, oh man I love Tricky. And Reycraft got so pissed at me like, you idiot, what are you doing? Probably not that aggressively, but I remember it like that because I idolized him. He says, okay, I’m going to put on a record and you’re gonna love it – it was like that High Fidelity moment but it was the Danielson Family. They’re this crazy Chrisitan family band, this wild avante rock and Daniel sings in like Mariah Carey register, they were one of the first of the modern indie bands to pull Glockespiel and stuff and that was their sound. I worked with Daniel at Pop Montreal I guess two years ago without the full family, I talked with him and he’s a really intense guy… full of love though, you know?
When I did the Thurston Moore one that was the first interview I ever did in my entire life. It was just something I knew I needed to do with him, I just thought- this is the most important one I’ve done, for me, this is a historical document- he’s part of a scene that’s very important, it should never be treated casually in documentation. You should seek to go a little bit further. A lot of these things are about the performance happening in the now with bands just coming up- you have no idea about their significance yet. But Thurston Moore’s significance to history is assured.
What are your thoughts on the Takeaway style offshoots that have emerged in recent years?
There’s so much amazing video content out there, and you know, the style- pioneered as a music style by La Blogotheque. It doesn’t matter what the source is and who’s saying what about it, if the filmmaker is good and does their job – it doesn’t matter. On the other side, I never have taken credit for that particular style being anything that I had contributed anything original to – I just committed myself myself to learning it really well. The only thing I contribute to it uniquely is that it’s an incredibly manual endeavor for me, working with a camera that wasn’t meant to be handheld in a smooth way. Certainly I have my own insecurities when people step into the territory too close to me and when you work with somebody I want to work with, I’m definitely not okay with it! Hah! So it’s mainly petty or completely selfish. But the work itself, I think it’s amazing and I would’ve never had the chance unless they opened the door.
Do you ever think La Blogotheque will run it’s course? Is there room for evolution?
It’s an incredible way to get back to something like D.A Pennebaker, those documentarians that really did this fly-on-the-wall kind of thing. Letting the audience fill in the rest- it’s a cold medium, and a compelling figure that you learn more and more about, they just transcend strictly the performance aspect. I think that’s the evolution, because there’s plenty of people that can just go in and shoot four cameras as an artist plays and you just cut it up and it’s a valuable document- but there’s work to be done for filmmakers too. Creating a relationship with an artist is another story. Like, the Megafaun one was the most enjoyable because those guys are such saints and we spent like two days with them. It was just so much fun – that’s what led to it being such a romp of a video.
There seems to be a mythology surrounding Vincent Moon (Take Away Show co-Founder) -
Well, I admire him in a big way, and I still credit him and Chryde (Blogotheque founder) on all of my Take Away Shows. He’s become a friend after we worked together early in Montreal with the Luyas. It’s funny to call him Vincent Moon, because it was a name he invented, his real name is Mathieu Saura… though I definitely do it. Anytime you take on a persona, and people accept it en masse it’s strange. Like Justin Vernon, everyone knows him as Bon Iver- and they shorten it, to have like a friendly moment. Someone was like, has anyone seen Bon? You know, and just to have a moment like that must be really bizarre. That would be like someone calling Vincent Moon, Vinny or something like that. It’s this kind of hilarious thing. So I often call him Moon Man.
Who would be your dream artist to work with?
Some of them are dead, like Frank Zappa. Alive? Tom Waits was on the top of the Blogo list when I was working with Nora. For me, Philip Glass and Steve Reich in one world, Elvis Costello and Mark E. Smith in another. Someone classic like Etta James. Chuck Berry? The obvious ones are like Joanna Newsom, Bjork, Kate Bush. People I don’t even listen to anymore- Tori Amos. I want to work with everyone.