All Posts,Old Music — Dan on April 22, 2009 at 5:57 pm

A year or so ago some friends of mine asked me if I wanted to help out on this movie they were working on, a documentary focusing on the no wave cinema scene that emerged in NYC in the late 70s. I talked my way into becoming the “music supervisor” of their movie, Blank City, and began suggesting music to use. I didn’t realize how serious the project was until I finally saw the rough cut, which was about 8 hours long. The film was beautifully shot, excitingly edited, masterfully directed…and covered so much more than just no wave cinema. While the no wave film of the late 70s and the cinema of transgression of the 80s are the focal point, the movie goes further back to discuss influences in NYC and underground film, from Warhol and Jack Smith through the punk films of Amos Poe. And in discussing the scenes, they paint a more expansive picture of the times, the artists, the musicians, the lifestyle. So while the focus is certainly on the movies that were made, the movie should interest anybody with an interest in that time period.

I haven’t seen the final final cut yet, so I don’t know if all my favorite parts and all my favorite music made the cut, but movie goers will likely hear selections like imPLOG!, Glenn Branca, Ut, Patti Smith and tons of other great stuff.

The movie was accepted into the Tribeca Film Festival as part of it’s Encounters programming and has gotten great advance buzz. The festival site for the film is here, and you can purchase tickets here. The premiere, this saturday, is already sold out, but you may be able to get tickets to showings on Monday April 27th or Friday May 1st.


  1. Hey Dan,

    Thanks very much for including music by The Dance in Blank City. We really appreciate it — and look forward to seeing the film.


    Comment by Steven Alexander — April 24, 2009 @ 11:03 am
  2. Thank you…big fan of Model Citizens, The Dance, Chandra etc etc. Great stuff!

    Comment by Dan — April 24, 2009 @ 11:18 am
  3. I just saw the listing for this in Time Out NY and got that sinking “god, I hope this isn’t like ‘Kill Your Idols'” feeling. Reading about your involvement and the approach the director seems to have taken, however, has moved it up to a must-see. I wish I lived closer to NY!

    Have you heard anything about Mandy Stein’s CBs doc?

    Comment by Andrea — April 26, 2009 @ 10:35 am
  4. I actually never saw Kill Your Idols, though I DJ’d the premiere party for that as well, with Nick from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I saw the premiere last night and it was great. I think there’s still a bit of tweaking to be done, though while still plenty long and informative, definitely more concise than the longer version I’d already seen. For what it’s worth, the people involved get to have their say and tell their stories. I imagine in directing and editing a film like this, decisions are made to make points or create narratives, but nothing comes across as forced or false. If there’s a ridiculous point, it’s one made by the artists who are the subjects, and often shared by them. There are great quotes from great personalities, John Lurie and John Waters probably have the best lines. But it’s definitely deep and definitely serious. I don’t think even the most die-hard “no wave” or whatever obsessives could watch this and think “oh I’ve heard all of this before”. And if you’re a fan of the period, certainly some of the story and attitudes are familiar, but there’s plenty more. Meanwhile the clips of the original films are amazing and inspiring, I’ve seen so little of that.

    Many of the subjects of the film were at the premiere, and some came to the after-party that was held which I got to DJ. FIrst James Chance selected funk records and I assisted him on the turntables, then I DJ’d. The initial part of my set was all period NYC stuff and after an hour or so of that as I was running out of that material and shifting into disco, some guy came up to me and told me to stop playing such bad music and that I should play music related to the film, “you know, the no wave people in the movie”. He walked away before I asked if he’d rather dance to Helen Fordsdale by Mars or Branca’s Lesson No. 1. I don’t know why I let people like that get to me so much. First of all, I’m a fan of the Lester Bangs article where he talks about going to a party and taking the Stooges off and putting on Stevie Wonder or something, because it was a party. In any case, EVERYTHING I had played up till then related to the scene. Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight with it’s video directed by the Bs, the Coati Mundi song the appears in Downtown 81, Fab Five Freddie’s Change le Beat, Lizzy Mercier Descloux’s Fire, Contort Yourself, Dinosaur L, Talking Heads, Bush Tetras, Liquid Liquid, ESG etc etc. And earlier before James Chance’s funk selections, I played Del Byzanteens, 3 Teens Kill 4, etc etc.

    The other DJs who were gonna play but didn’t end up playing were going to play more soul I think. Excuse the rant, it was the one sour note on a pretty fun evening. You’d think as a DJ I’d have thicker skin, and god knows I’ve suffered worse while DJing, but I definitely needed to get out this frustration in public about DJing Arthur Russell to a dancing crowd while wearing a freaking 99 Records T-shirt for the after-party for a movie I helped out on and being told my music sucked and that I should play some of the music from the movie!

    Haven’t heard anything about the CB’s doc…and speaking of movies, I still have that DVD of the no wave loft video to send you. Send me your address again via normal email.

    Comment by Dan — April 27, 2009 @ 12:12 am
  5. I can’t wait to see the film. I spoke with Jacqui last night and she was also quite enthusiastic about how thoughtfully the film was compiled and how comprehensively it told the story. I’m certainly less familiar with the films than the music —I imagine it will be eye-opening in some aspects while enforcing some of my already-formed ideas about the scene.

    You shouldn’t let one jerk ruin your evening. He’d probably been drinking all day and was ready to impose his superior ego (sarcasm) on someone —ANYONE— in the immediate vicinity.

    Oh, yeah! I’d forgotten about that. Email forthcoming!

    Comment by Andrea — April 27, 2009 @ 5:16 pm
  6. I was disappointed in the film, though the music is obviously great, so kudos for your influence, Dan. I walked in expecting something on par with KILL YOUR IDOLS actually. But whereas, KILL YOUR IDOLS actually reads like a no wave film (bratty and scrappy and funny…which were all aspects of that movement), BLANK CITY just reads like another nicely shot jerk fest. Just walking in there Saturday night and watching everyone mugging for each other…I don’t know…it just made them all look ridiculous. Pitifully bowing to tardy applause. Greedy for their place in history…the same history they supposedly reviled. Victims to the same ceremonies, the same vanities they mocked and fought against. I can’t imagine still discussing some idea and having the same dialogues I had 30+ years ago. Christ, I can’t imagine tolerating the same discussion I had 30 DAYS ago! It’s all rather bleak and embarrassing. As an artist, I wouldn’t want to happily surround myself with people who are catching up to me 30 years after the fact. And that’s what this film seemed like. I want to be around contemporaries. To be among equal minds. We still haven’t got a film JUST on no wave, but I mean really, what would be the point? It’s sort of insulting to have another 2-hour eulogy for something that stood in opposition to the reunion mentality. I know everyone wants to walk out feeling good and inspired like a good fan…but that’s all missing the point. KILL YOUR IDOLS was much superior in that aspect. It actually jostled you a bit and had some present purpose. Something I was hoping BLANK CITY would do. And it didn’t. I just don’t buy the ‘wah wah wah Reagan forced us all to stop creating’ for the 80’s set and the ‘wah wah wah the yuppies forced us to sell out’ for the 00’s set. It’s all excuses. If you have a strong soul and a strong mind, you create. If you don’t, you write manifestos. And then pretend that you didn’t ignore those manifestos when they come to quote your legacy in some movie 30 years later.

    Comment by Christina — April 29, 2009 @ 6:56 pm
  7. Just noticed something odd in the Tribeca book and on IMDb. BLANK CITY and KILL YOUR IDOLS apparently have the same executive producers? Starting a franchise, I guess. Know anything more about the connection, Dan, since you were involved? They’re vastly different films.

    Comment by Christina — April 29, 2009 @ 7:12 pm
  8. I see where you’re coming from, but I think there’s a place for discussing, reevaluating and even lauding culture from the past (i.e., reissue record labels!). I wouldn’t expect all artists to still act like they’re 20 years old and its them against the world. Some of what they fought against is valid, while some maybe is just being young. With the passage of time its easier to put things in perspective, and maybe everybody deserves their day. While on one hand I think the film tries to point out some degree of influence and impact those movements had, it also tries to point out that much of it has been forgotten and is worth revisiting.

    This discussion definitely keeps coming up….I was at the Teenage Jesus reunion show and I remember around then everyone thinking about how ridiculous a concept it was. It pretty much was, though I enjoyed the opening band, Information, much more, as their music has, I think, a more lasting and timeless appeal separated even from it’s no wave context.

    Comment by Dan — April 30, 2009 @ 3:21 pm
  9. oh, and as far as the same executive producers…I don’t know the background for either movie really, but clearly those folks are fans of the period/music, but I don’t think they instigated this movie. More like the filmmakers were looking for help and they got involved probably. To confuse matters more, there’s another film/documentary about the no wave film scene thats just coming out now called, wait for it…Lick Your Idols.

    Comment by Dan — April 30, 2009 @ 9:23 pm
  10. Ha! That’s ridiculous.

    And I totally I agree with your sentiment about preserving the history through the actual art with reissues and stuff. I’m just seeing the point less and less of making these commentaries on the art or the movements. Art IS a commentary. The music and the films say what need to be said. Preserve those things. And make new art. Maybe it was all exaggerated by BLANK CITY because it’s about film itself, but it just reads like a collection of DVD commentaries for those CoT films. Some interesting bits, but really, how much does it insult the purpose and value of those movements? I felt the same about the recent crop of punk related films like the Don Letts one, PUNK ATTITUDE (?), etc. They don’t really stand alone as pieces of art themselves. I’d say KILL YOUR IDOLS, does at least. I had an initial WTF?! moment with that film, too, though, what with including Gogol Bordello and the like in the family tree. But that was infinitely more interesting and made me consider what the value of and influence of No Wave really was. Someone can pick up a guitar because of James Chance and end making that weird gypsy hybrid shit. Unexpected point, you know? And less about the bands themselves than the actual concept. A documentary about an idea, not a thing. That’s what all good films (and stories) should be, be they fiction or fact. Particularly when it comes to art histories, the art should be more important than the legend surrounding it. I don’t need to hear, ‘and then this happened and then this and this’, to appreciate their output. I just need to see the work. Which is what reissues are great for. That’s what they should have done, actually. Worked to rerelease those unseen CoT and No Wave films included in the documentary, and instead of exploiting bits of those movies to make one of their own.

    Comment by Christina — May 1, 2009 @ 5:45 am
  11. kill your idols was a total piece of shit. sorry to break it to you.

    Comment by weasel walter — May 15, 2009 @ 5:45 am
  12. Weasel, darling, your MUSIC is a piece of shit, sorry to break it to you. Not saying KYI is my favorite film in the world, but I’m not surprised its point would be lost on such a lame, redundant no wave re-enactor like yourself. Feelings hurt by that film, much?

    Comment by Christina — September 24, 2009 @ 11:40 pm
  13. ha ha ha. yes, darling. that’s it.

    Comment by weasel walter — September 26, 2009 @ 12:48 pm
  14. the point was not lost on me that Kill Yr Idols was poorly made, boring, incoherent and failed to make any other point at all beyond that. all of the performance footage looked like shit, new and old. argue that one, know it all.

    Comment by weasel walter — September 26, 2009 @ 12:53 pm
  15. Christina, don’t take the bait. Weasel’s still going through puberty. Don’t take him too seriously…no one else does.

    I’m close friends with Lydia and many of the old guard. I was there. It’s the real deal. Let the woman who created the movement have the last word (let alone the numerous awards at major festivals that film won and its international renown and distribution through major studios and networks worldwide) : “KILL YOUR IDOLS is the only documentary that digs deep enough into the Underground to truly portray the intensity of New York’s No Wave movement and the impact it had on the future of noisemakers everywhere.” -LYDIA LUNCH

    Every word Weasel speaks is diluted with the sting of sour grapes. Seriously…let it alone. And Weasel: SHADDAFUCKUP!

    Comment by stephen — October 2, 2009 @ 10:55 am
  16. i was trying to see Blank City last night at MoMA and missed it. this seems to be the only discussion i found of it online; its homepage seems stalled back in may. anyone here know if it’s getting a proper release or did i miss my only chance?

    and ha! ‘weasel walter’! there’s a name i haven’t seen in a while!! every time i see that name i think of branca telling me years ago about this fan boy who used to write him letters whining that he couldn’t pay his rent and didn’t know what to do and didn’t know how to survive, begging him for help. guess who?

    Comment by JT — October 2, 2009 @ 11:17 am
  17. They’re still working on a final edit I think, that will be shown at the London Film Festival shortly.

    and hey, everybody’s got to start somewhere!

    Comment by Dan — October 2, 2009 @ 12:06 pm
  18. This looks amazing. What music did you decide to use for it?

    Comment by Blank Shirts — May 25, 2010 @ 12:30 pm
  19. I recommended tons of stuff, they picked from that, we went back and forth a few times. The cut I saw wasn’t the final one, but it’s a good mix of the expected classics, your Television and Patti Smiths, film and art-related bands like Del Byzanteens and 3 Teens Kill 4, Acute-related selections from Ike Yard and Branca, personal favorites like imPLOG!, A Band, The Dance, etc.

    Comment by Dan — May 26, 2010 @ 10:39 am
  20. don’t change the subject – “kill your idols” is a piece of shit. ad hominem attacks don’t change that, pussies.

    Comment by Weasel Walter — June 27, 2010 @ 3:19 am

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