by Justin Tucker
In the 70s and 80s, punk rock had tightened its grip on the bored, afflicted youth of America. Places such as New York, Minneapolis and Southern California became hubs with their own sound and attitude. The most visceral and radical sounds of this movement came from the DC scene. Spawning such groundbreaking groups as Minor Threat, Bad Brains and Rites of Spring, DC’s strict adherence to music and community was a revolution in and of itself.
One of the kids who was there was Scott Crawford. As director of the new documentary Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-90), Crawford, who founded the influential Metrozine in his teenage years, examines the heyday of the DC scene 30 years later. Ahead of its Chicago run, I was able to ask Crawford about the film and the community that changed the face of American music.
UR Chicago: What compelled you to make this film? Why does the story of the DC hardcore scene have to be told?
Scott Crawford: It's a story that I'd been wanting to tell since I was a kid and doing a zine. It started off as a book idea, but that type of format would lack one of the elements that made it all so powerful: the music.
UR: How has making the film changed your perception of the DC scene and its history?
SC: It was important to me to explore the landscape of the city at that point and how that played a part in the scene. During the 80s the city was in pretty bad shape with rundown neighborhoods and rampant crime—but that was our playground. Now so many of those areas are filled with expensive live/work condos, Starbucks and J.Crews. But the music and art was able to happen in a really organic way because the rents were cheap and the clubs kind of existed in areas where there wasn't a lot happening at night.
UR: Although you've been very embedded into the DC scene, was there anything new that you learned as a result of making the film?
SC: I think one of the things that I found most illuminating was just how different many people perceived the same event. I think you see a bit of that when folks are talking about Minor Threat's last show. Everybody that was at that show has their own version of how it was. As Ian [MacKaye of Minor Threat] mentions in the film, some people's opinions were more "sepia-toned" than others.
UR: Was there a particular artist you were excited to interview for the film? Was there an artist that took you by surprise?
SC: What made it interesting for me was to go back and interview many of the same people that I interviewed 30 years ago for my fanzine. That's three decades worth of perspective—and it was fascinating to me to see how that played out from person to person.
UR: I have no doubt making a small, independent film can be a difficult task. How have you applied the DIY ethic while making the movie? Were there any difficulties in obtaining rights?
SC: Every day had its share of challenges. But I was fortunate enough to have the support of most of the bands featured in the film, and they were willing to share their music in the movie. It was a very small crew—we shot where we could and in our spare time on the weekends and evenings.
UR: How does doing a zine compare to making a film?
SC: Both start with nothing but an idea and a passion for your subject—along the way you shed a lot of blood, sweat and tears. In the end, you end up with a document of where you were at the time. If you're lucky, a few people will take an interest. But ultimately, you do both because you care.
UR: What role, if any, do chroniclers have within a scene?
SC: A major role—I wish I had done more personally to archive my photos and notes. I don't have any of them anymore. In this town you have Dischord, as well as the DC Punk Archives and the University of Maryland Zine Library (of which Metrozine is a part of). So I think we're lucky here in that documenting DC music and ephemera has always been encouraged and a part of the culture.
UR: How has the film been received in DC by those who were there?
SC: The DC premiere was really important to me. Spending four years on the film wasn’t for lack of working on it. Jim Saah and I literally spent every day of that time working on it in some capacity. When the credits rolled after the premiere and people clapped and cheered, it made everything worth it. It was a really special night.
UR: What's next for you as a filmmaker? What other subjects are you wanting to explore?
SC: I'm always thinking of the next subject. I have a number of things I'm working on, but in the meantime I'm just trying to spread the word about Salad Days and hope that audiences enjoy it.
Visit the official Salad Days website — http://saladdaysdc.com — for for more information including screenings, photos, and merchandise. LIKE Salad Days on Facebook.