Long before Ipods, Napster or even Miley's twerk feed, there was a groundbreaking movement in a dive of a bar where the music scene was often loud, crass and completely unforgettable. But as with any birth, there needs to be a father or at least someone who gives the kids a place to play. That man was Hilly Kristal and that bar was CBGB. Recently, Johnny Galecki, Richard de Klerk, Joel David Moore and the filmmaker duo of Randall Miller and wife Jody Savin sat down to discuss the making of the film following 30 years of Punk music starting with its infancy.
Billy Tatum: John, what made you create this magazine called punk about this largely unknown music genre?
John Holmstrom: I read an article in the Village Voice by James Wolken. It described the Ramones in a paragraph and I knew I was going to love them. Then, Lisa Robinson had done an article about the way they looked for Cream magazine, so there was an awareness about CBGB if you were a Rock and Roll fan.
Billy Tatum: With over 30 years of music history, how did you decide on which songs to use for the film?
Randall Miller: We wanted to tell the best story and that's the story of Hilly and how he started this club. We had Television and some of the lesser known groups. Even the Ramones were not known at the time. They just happened to have become big. It was about telling the journey of the beginning of the club. We don't just have the famous songs. We have some of the more obscure songs on the soundtrack. There's like 67 songs in the movie that people will discover.
Jody Savin: We do have peppered throughout, sort of an homage to all these bands that came later by putting them on the wall, even though it's out of time, out of period. Some of the religious punkers, it throws them off, but it is a movie, after all. We made some choices that weren't chronologically accurate, but sometimes the message of the song or the soul of the song was what we felt was right for the moment.
Billy Tatum: Were there songs you couldn't get due to licensing issues?
Randall Miller: At one point, we were going to have some more known Ramone songs, but we have two Joey Ramone songs in there and they're not known songs. It's always a give and take.
Billy Tatum: Was there any thing that surprised you about playing the character of "Taxi" and "Joey Ramone"
Richard de Klerk: The character of Taxi, the sound guy, is actually a mixture of four different guys that were sound men at the club. I spent a lot of time with Taxi. He's a very good writer and he taught me how to sound mix. As a Canadian kid, I didn't know a lot of the bands, so I had to learn all of these different acts.
Joel David Moore: It was tough to get into the mindspace and the realm of where we were. I grew up knowing some of these bands. I was a skater kid and skater kids liked punk. In fact, the first shirt I owned was a Ramones shirt, because my parents were conservative and they wouldn't let any skulls and crossbones in and it was just pictures of their faces. That was the first punk shirt I owned and the most rebellious that I had gotten as a child. (LAUGHS) Playing Joey was interesting, because he has a mixture of different accents. He was from Queens. He had a Jewish Queens accent off stage and then onstage, it was a faux-British Queens accent that developed into something else through time. So, picking with Randy which genre of Joey we were going to play was fun and creative. What we tried to do was create the essence of the Ramones for people.
Billy Tatum: What was most telling about playing the role of Joey Ramone?
Joel David Moore: Joey was a very awkward fellow. He did not want the spotlight. He didn't start as the leader of the group. He started as the drummer. They needed someone to sing and he couldn't drum and sing at the same time, so that was a problem. They were always fighting. They were never happy and so they threw him up to the front to sing and then he never did anything else. He was a very interesting guy, because he was the spotlight of that band, but off stage, he didn't want any of the spotlight.
Billy Tatum: Terry Ork doesn't play music but is integral to the birth of CBGB? What can you tell us about playing such a pivotal character?
Johnny Galecki: I play Terry Ork who was a band manager and music promoter. He's no longer with us, unfortunately. Desptie the fact that Terry was not a recognizable celebrity, it was such a gift and a luxury to have a blueprint of a character, as opposed to playing a character that's totally fictional. It was nice to look up and go "Oh, he had a beard. Oh, he wore a scarf." It alleviates you of a lot of insecurities that you may have as an actor of if you're right or wrong. Nobody can argue that's what Terry looked like. (LAUGHS) With that, comes a responsibility that you want to pay that person homage. I did track down some friends of his. I loved his passion for these artists and the support and generosity he gave them.
Billy Tatum: Johnny, what came to mind when you first heard of CBGB?
Johnny Gallecki: I'm a fan and follower of many of these performers. First of all, I harbored the same misconception of what a lot of people do about the club in general which was that it's this hostile, drug, spit moshpit kind of thing. In later years, it became more hardcore, but initially, I mean you're talking Patti Smith's spoken word poetry and things of that nature. It was a very diverse group of artists who were very supportive of one another. It really touched me as someone who likes to support his fellow artists. It was a very nurturing place, which suprised me.
Billy Tatum: You're clean shaven in "The Big Bang Theory," how was it having a beard in the movie.
Johnny Gallecki: The beard was no fun. It was about 105 degrees. (LAUGHS)
Billy Tatum: Finally, how much input did you get from people who had experienced the CBGB scene back in the day?
Joel David Moore: All of our guys have passed away, so there were certain people who were on set who were involved in the CBGB world that helped us establish the parameters of where we world. I remember making some decisions early on and Lisa saying 'Eh, I don't think he would've done that. We all discussed what to do with the smoking scenario. Everybody smoked back then, but nobody knew Joey as a smoker, because he had quit pretty early on before the Ramones got big, so we made those decisions as we went. The wonderful world of CBGB is so interesting and unique and something that was trying to bear a child of a certain genre of music that bore another genre. Between the collaborating of different artists was born punks roots, which I think is really cool.
CBGB is playing in theaters nationwide.