"Play like the music doesn't matter."
An apropos slogan for this band, who rose to popularity despite a complete lack of musical talent or knowledge. They didn't even know how to play their instruments, so their primary challenge was to devise new and inventive ways get off stage without having to actually play.
They'd book venues near hospitals, libraries, or residential neighborhoods where they'd hope noise ordinances would shut them down prior to their taking the stage. If that didn't work, they'd toss beers out to the college crowd and then call the cops on themselves to report underage drinking.
These guys were shameless, yet somehow they remain likable, and that's a story I can't help wanting to tell...
Who Am I?
My name's Clay Westervelt, and I've worked as a Cinematographer and Director since graduating from USC's MFA program in film. I'm currently shooting and producing a doc for HBO, and have done others for the Sundance Channel and National Geographic. I've worked on music-based fare in the past, shooting the pilot for A&E's hit Gene Simmons' Family Jewels , as well as the Grammy-nominated Johnny Cash's America. The last doc I shot (The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club) won an LA Emmy but I think this one has a bit of a different personality...
So here's the story. VH1's new series profiling imploding rock groups, Disaster Bands, hires me to direct the pilot episode showcasing East-Coast 80's sensation SKUM. Early research is confusing and contradictory, with some musicians praising Skum while others condemn them as hacks. The discrepancies eventually lead to one conclusion: These guys built their reputation on repeated, masterful lies.
It all comes to a head when we discover that the mansion in which we're filming does not belong to guitarist John Eaton, but in fact the bandmates had broken in to the house (lead singer Hart Baur had done some gardening there and knew the owner would be away on vacation), so they could perpetuate their rockstar personas.
After VH1's lawyers got the mess untangled, they advised cancellation of the entire Disaster Bands series. At that point, I figured we're on to something and I knew this would make a great documentary.
Disaster Bands Cold Open:
The crew had had enough and abandoned me in Miami (If you've ever seen the inside of the Miami jail you won't fault them in the least) even though I'd been able to secure rights to utilize our completed footage. This left me with an unfunded doc on my hands with plenty of determination but very little support. After finding young, hungry filmmakers to assist with the videography (Special thanks to Sunset Elementary's video class and Mr. Wiggins), I was able to track down the band members to find the truth behind their lies.
The story pieced together into the most horrifyingly hilarious tapestry of wit and irreverence ever encountered. Four soccer players thought they could get more girls if they were in a band and set out to prove themselves right, without the slightest thought given to learning how to read music or play their own instruments.
They concentrated instead on shopping at big and tall women's stores for their rock garments and on making inroads through the popular media. They'd throw their own parties with themselves as headliners, then hire well-known and talented musicians to open for them. Their challenge became inventing new and creative ways to get thrown off the stage without having to actually PLAY.
This story was bizarre and brilliant, and we got every bit of it on tape.
Word leaked out, and celebs started contacting US to appear on the record. A partial list of those included showcases both Rock and Hollywood royalty:
Paul Stanley (Kiss), Vince Neil (Motley Crue), Frankie Banali (Quiet Riot), Rudy Sarzo (Ozzy Osbourne), Matt Sorum (Guns n Roses), Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick), Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi), Debbie Gibson, Martika, Kevin
Bacon, Matthew Broderick, Chris Noth, Christina Ricci, Joyce DeWitt, Sharon
Lawrence, John C. McGinley, Gabrielle Anwar, Edie Falco, Jamie Lynn-Sigler,
Steve-O, Jon Stewart (Daily
Even more strangely, we've got Bob Barker (Price is Right) and Phil Donahue. I'm still awaiting a call back from Larry King.
Hall of Famer Alice Cooper, originally signed to do the narration for the Disaster Bands series, offered to come back on to finish the narration for the final film once he heard the story - he said these jokers did exactly what HE did back in high school - his original band was composed of guys from his cross country team.
It's time to put an end to filming though, and get this beast out there. We've got everything we need and our call is for the final $10k that'll get all this disparate footage patched together in reasonable quality. Some of the old stuff is terrible, and some of the new stuff is even worse (Sorry, Mr. Wiggins, but some of those sixth-graders did NOT deserve a passing score).
Please help us finish this film. We'll give you whatever we have to offer (see rewards). If the movie turns out great, you can pat yourself on the back for bringing it to the screen. And if it turns out to be an embarrassment, you can say that you too were swindled by those guys in SKUM... just like all the other celebrities.