Filmmakers document Green Bay’s punk history with ‘Green Blah!’

green-bay-blah-1 By A.C. Kruse-Ross

riginally from Green Bay’s Astor Park, friends James Baker and Chris Pretti have set out to document Green Bay’s earliest days of punk rock with “Green Blah! The History of GB Punk Rock … the first 10 years or so.” As the project nears an end, Baker and Pretti are launching “A Reunion of Sorts;” a promotional benefit show at Phatheadz on Dec. 28. Baker was kind enough to play some Q & A regarding the project and “Reunion” show.

Scene: I must assume you’re a punk fan, can you tell me about you earliest introduction to punk or when you were hooked?

James Baker: The two of us were introduced to punk rock via bits and pieces of television programs, like the Clash on Tom Snyder and DEVO on SNL in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.

Chris’ friend’s mom worked at WAPL and had promo copies of the Ramones, Clash, and strangely enough, Black Flag. We were both arty oddballs and got hooked during our first punk shows at Northside Bowling Lanes.  We soon formed a band with Rev. Norb & Queeve from Suburban Mutilation called “A BUNCHA MORONS.”
We have both played in many local bands, had radio shows on WGBW (The UWGB Student Radio Station) and I was a show promoter for many years.

Scene: What’s your experience in filmmaking?

JB & CP: We have zero filmmaking experience. Zero!  We are doing this in true punk rock DIY fashion. However, we do have an experienced filmmaker that is very successful and is coaching us along the way. He will be editing the film to its completion.

Scene: Why create a film documenting the genre’s history in the area? How strong of a punk movement did this area support and how does that history relate to the current punk scene?

JB & CP: There are several documentaries covering punk rock and punk rock scenes in the most obvious of places: New York, L.A. and London. But punk rock happened in small and geographically insignificant places like Green Bay as well. We’re taking a look at how it played out in a smaller Midwest city and how it grew from modest beginnings to a destination point for some of the biggest punk / independent bands of the time.

The scene that still exists in Green Bay has a direct lineage to this original scene. We highlight the main players and characters in the Green Bay punk rock history and spotlight many of the anecdotes and stories that made Green Bay a special place.

Scene: I understand Bart Starr may have had an impact on the area’s punk history, is this true?

JB & CP: Very true, we would have to say the Green Bay punk rock scene paralleled the Green Bay Packers in several interested ways …
you will have to watch the film to see the correlations and hear the interesting stories.

Scene: Without ruining anything that might turn off potential viewers, has your delving into punk’s history divulged anything unexpected or anything that has shocked you?

JB & CP: We were unaware of the connections that existed between the early punk scene and the subsequent transition to the hardcore punk scene that came a few years later. If anything, it shows how everyone who participated in the scene is linked together. We think anyone who will view this film will come away a bit surprised as to what little old Green Bay has to offer to the overall punk movement.

Scene: If I’ve heard correctly, it sounds as if this project has been taken on and passed off by several people, is this so, and are you the one left carrying the torch or were you involved since the inception of the idea?

Chris Pretti: We are the original people involved in this project. Jim approached me with the idea back in 2008. I had just met a guy named Brad Warner (Hardcore Zen author) who did a documentary of the Cleveland, Ohio scene, and he based the film around a reunion show. I really wanted to participate, so Jim and I became partners in the venture.

We held a Green Bay punk rock reunion show in Dec ’08.  We got nine of the original bands back together.  They each played short sets and fun was had by all.  The intent was to start the interview process during this period, but the plan fell through as we could not do both the show and film at the same time. Personal issues on both our parts shelved the film until last year.

Scene: How near to completion is the project at the moment?

JB & CP: We’ve interviewed nearly 70 individuals involved in the Green Bay and the NE Wis. punk scene. We have collected audio, still photography, posters, flyers and miscellaneous memorabilia related to the Green Bay Punk Rock Scene. We’re nearing the point of building and storyboarding the film before editing.  We are getting closer every day … we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

green-bay-blahScene: Best case scenario: what do you hope to achieve with the completion of your film? And that completion is scheduled for when?

JB & CP: Honestly, we want to do this for the scene and our friends, including those friends who have already passed, as a monument to what we all created. Every one of us were equal members in this scene. And we’d like people to see it, be entertained and find out what the Green Bay scene was all about. The film will be completed by this time next year.

Scene: You’ve scheduled a fundraiser of sorts to help with the expenses involved in your filmmaking, where and when is this taking place and what’s in store for attendees?

JB & CP: We have a fundraiser/benefit/promotion show for the film set up for Saturday December 28th 2013.  It is a “REUNION OF SORTS” and the bands include many current musicians that were original players in the early Green Bay punk rock scene.  The show is $5 and the bands consist of Rev. Norb & the Onions, Scrap Heap Kings, Perfume and a Milwaukee band named the Hullmen.  We have a few tricks up our sleeves and may have some cool promotional stuff on hand related to ‘Green Blah!  The History of Green Bay Punk Rock.’  It takes place at Phatheadz on Clay Street in Downtown Green Bay … within several blocks of some of the original Green Bay punk rock venues.

Scene: Has the financial aspect of this project been the most difficult to overcome, or have there been other issues along the way?

JB & CP: Financially, this has been difficult, but we make do with what we have. Probably, the most difficult challenge other than that has been the logistics and time setting up interviews and capturing all the film footage.  Living in different cities a few hours apart has made things challenging as well.  We have to plan weekends to work on the film and do not have the liberty of getting together and working for short periods.

Scene: What sort of a release are we hoping to have for the film? Are the masses going to be allowed to participate in the debut?

JB & CP: We will have a Film Premiere in Green Bay with a location and date still to be determined. In addition to the film, we will be doing a Green Bay punk rock reunion show that will feature many of the original bands that are documented in the film.  Yup, get ready, the old bands will be back together 30 years later!  Something you do not want to miss.

Scene: Is there anything else that folks can do — aside from turning out for the fundraiser — that could help you with the project? Are you perhaps interested in photos, stories or paraphernalia that may be out there for use in the project and if so, how can folks get in touch with you?

JB & CP: We are on the lookout for photos, music, video or anything else related to the early Green Bay punk rock scene. We will have a Facebook page and website set up for people to contact us if they have anything to contribute or have questions regarding the film.

Scene: Anything and everything you’d like to add that we haven’t touched base on?

JB & CP: The Green Bay “Scene” was anything but boring and trite.  Check out ‘Green Blah!’ and see what other stuff, besides the Green Bay Packers and paper mills put GB on the map!

We look forward to seeing you at the December 28th show, the film premiere and the reunion show.

For more information check out Even Santa Gotta Skank! on Facebook.

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