Saturday 24 June 2017

An Interview with Connor Matheson - Director/Producer of THE DOOM DOC

I'll let the following synopsis explain everything you need to know about the forthcoming
documentary -THE DOOM DOC

"Made on a crowdfunded, shoestring budget, this film offers a visceral look into a hazy black hole that lies at one extreme of the musical spectrum.

Doom is a style of heavy metal that’s all about crushing riffs played at sluggish tempos through huge amps, and the foundations of the genre were laid on Black Sabbath’s debut album in 1970.

Doom’s experienced a resurgence in popularity of late, and in this documentary, local filmmaker, Connor Matheson follows the story of Holy Spider Promotions.

They’re a DIY collective who put on doom gigs in Sheffield but they’re constantly up against it, vying for space and attention on behalf of an extreme and polarising form of music.

Through the lens of doom the film explores issues such as drug use, mental health and gentrification, and Connor speaks with luminaries from the scene, including Bill Ward (original drummer of Black Sabbath) and members of Conan, Crowbar, Primitive Man, Slabdragger, Wet Nuns, Kurokuma and more."

I caught up with Connor Matheson - Director/Producer of the The Doom Doc and he kindly agreed to do this interview.

Hi Connor. Thanks for doing this interview. Congrats on the new film. How did you come up with this crazy idea to film a documentary on the UK Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal scene?

Connor Matheson (director/producer): We came up with the idea when we went to film our friend, Joe’s band, Kurokuma at a DIY venue in Sheffield called the Lughole. I'd only recently started making music videos because I was kinda frustrated with my job at the time and I wanted to get back into something creative. I did photo journalism at uni and in the past I have documented different subcultures through photography and film and I'd been really wanting to get my teeth into a new a big project. 

I was inspired by that night at the Lughole - it had such a unique vibe and the DIY atmosphere made it feel like we were really witnessing something special. It was in the taxi ride home me and my friends, Ryan and Perch decided we were going to make a doc on doom metal. 

Was that the first idea for the documentary that you had? Did you have any other ideas for the documentary - any that you would like to share with us all?

Connor: We didn’t really have a solid plan. It just snowballed over time. We originally wanted to make a small film following Holy Spider, Joe's gig promotion group, but then we ended up getting some quite good interviews with big bands in the scene and this kind of spurred us on to take it further. About a quarter of the way though the project we had a hard drive melt down and lost almost all the footage. When this happened we felt pretty demoralised but we decided to carry on and made a crowdfunder to fund some new hard drives and get the production back on track. We smashed the target in 7 hours and the positive response from the doom/stoner/sludge community really encouraged us to push us forward and take the film to the next level. 

What can people expect from The Doom Doc? Just in case not many people know about the film.

Connor: The film is an immersive look at the doom/stoner/sludge scene today. It follows Holy Spider as they try to put on a doom all-dayer at the same time as the more mainstream Tramlines festival in Sheffield. From that we shoot off into deeper themes such as drug use, gentrification, mental health and escapism. And through interviews and live performances with leading people in the genre we explore the doom scene, all the way from underground bands playing in house parties and DIY venues up to metal icons such as Bill Ward and Conan. There's some high quality live footage from Primitive Man, Kurokuma, Slabdragger, Conan and more.

Did you discuss it between friends and bands before you started filming? What was their reaction to the whole project? Did they give you any helpful advice or advise you not to  go ahead with this film?

Connor: Not really, we just dove in head first and started filming at gigs. I would record gigs and interviews on my camera whilst my friend, Ryan took the sound from the desk. Overall people were really supportive of the project and things just naturally developed as word got around of what we were doing. 

It looks like the worldwide scene has embraced this project. Did it surprise you how many people were interested when you announced the project? As you’ve received worldwide help filming the documentary?

Connor: Yeah, it was really surprising the positive reaction we got. At first this was just something going on in my bedroom for a few months. To see that so many people were hungry for a doc exploring doom was really encouraging and to get help over in Los Angeles with filming one of the interviews was exciting and unexpected. Shout out to Hugo, Liz and Billy from Doomed & Stoned!

How did you decide on the final list of people to interview, especially with your limited production budget?

Connor: We focused on what was accessible at the time, choosing to interview bands that were visiting close to our region, as well as travelling whenever possible to see bigger shows and get band interviews. The money we raised through the crowdfunder helped with transport costs. We didn't really set out to interview anyone in particular, apart from Bill Ward - we knew we needed someone from Sabbath in there basically. Everyone else just happened naturally, friends of friends etc. and a lot of them are just people from bands Holy Spider has put on.

Are there people/bands that you’ve interviewed who don’t feature on the final version of the documentary?

Connor: Yeah there is quite a lot of great footage we just couldn’t fit in due to time constraints or other reasons. Oozing Wound, for example. But there will be awesome content to be released either on YouTube or on the DVD once we have finished the cinema screenings of the doc. This will include live gigs, interview outtakes from Bill Ward and Kirk Windstein, and a sick live session from Slabdragger. 

Does the film feature Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal from different parts of the UK scene? Obviously you can’t capture every town, city or region within the UK. Have you featured bands from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales?

Connor: The doc primarily focuses on the north of England, particularly Sheffield and surrounding areas, such as Manchester. But we did venture as far as Cardiff for Red Sun festival last summer and London to film at Slabdragger's studio. We fully accept we've focused on certain areas and missed out getting to know all the different scenes in the UK. And it's not like we're trying to say Sheffield is where everything is happening. We hope we've shown it as representative of what's going on around the UK. The doc is quite story-driven and needed that focus on one group of people really.

Craig and Joe from Holy Spider Promotions

Did you learn anything important about the UK Sludge/Doom/Stoner Metal scene in general that really opened your eyes?

Connor: The biggest thing we learnt is the amount of passion and determination band members, promoters and fans put into maintaining a thriving doom scene, even when the odds are against them with venues closing down, gigs being cancelled, etc. The DIY scene really keeps this going. We hope the film pays tribute to this kind of attitude.

Did you watch any other documentaries on the Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal scene to prepare you before you made the film?

Connor: I watched Such Hawks Such Hounds when researching for the doc and Joe's seen Slow Southern Steel, but I personally drew most of my inspiration from old punk documentaries such as Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies. Our doc is much more involving and less just talking heads like a lot of music docs can be.

Obviously you had a limited budget to make the documentary. Wow. And it looks like you delivered something special going by the recently released trailer. Did you wish more for more money on the project?

Connor: More money would always be great but I’m a strong believer that limitation breeds creativity. Some of our best ideas came from having a really small budget and the problems we faced because of that. When the odds are stacked against you it forces you to be creative to come up with unique solutions and ideas. For example, when we were filming the first Lughole gig I was the cameraman and Perch was following me round with a bedroom lamp to create enough light. There was actually a review in a local mag of that gig saying we spoiled the gig! And it's not been plain sailing with equipment failures and the like. I'm really proud we've managed to squeeze a quality piece of film out of a shoestring situation. Also this is a DIY film covering DIY music and we really wanted the making of the film to reflect the content.

How excited are you for the forthcoming premiere in July?

Connor: I’m very excited about the premiere. I’ve got to admit it has been a little daunting as it's the first film I’ve made and I wasn’t expecting such a huge response. But it's going to be something really special and I’m looking forward to showcasing the best of UK doom. The cinema have been really helpful and encouraging which has been great. We've already sold over 100 tickets so things are getting real now and we actually have to deliver.

Can you give more details where the premiere is happening?

Connor: The premiere is happening at one of the UK’s best - and Sheffield's only - independent cinemas, the Showroom on July the 9th.  It’s going to be a really special night with some of the key figures in the UK doom scene attending and people from the metal press. The film's followed by a Q & A with myself, Joe from Kurokuma and Rob from Wet Nuns and Drenge. We’ve even got an afterparty organised in the city centre which is open to everyone with a premiere ticket free of charge. We actually sold out on the original screen which means it's been moved up to a larger one, which is quite exciting but it does mean if you really want to go you need to buy your ticket as soon as possible through the Showroom website to avoid disappointment. There's a chance there'll be no tickets on the door on the night.

The documentary has been rated 18. Nice. How did you feel when you heard you’ve received that rating from the BBFC?

Connor: Well it was only rated by the Showroom, but we really did expect nothing less than an 18 certificate as it's got a lot of drug use and swearing in it - it's definitely not one to bring the kids to, unless you want them going round swearing and smoking bud.

Will you be showing this film in film festivals across the world or other parts of the UK?

Connor: After the premiere we will be submitting to a bunch of film festivals including Doc'n Roll in London, Sheffield Doc/Fest and SXSW in Texas. But we won’t know if it actually gets in any of these until later next year. 

Will the film be released on home media anytime in the future? Digital download, DVD or Blu-Ray?

Connor: The film will eventually be released on DVD but this won’t be until after the festivals at some point early next year. This is because when you submit to these festivals they often want exclusivity. So the only chance to see it for most people this year will be at the premiere. 

If this film is a major success, will you be making anymore documentaries on the metal scene?

Connor: Possibly in the future. I’m not planning to start another big project like this too soon but then again I didn’t plan for this one, so who knows? 

Words by Steve Howe and Connor Matheson

All photos kindly provided for promotional purposes by Connor Matheson.