Not a Fish Tale
Director Bill Badgley Discusses the Making of Kill All Redneck Pricks: a Documentary About KARP
If you like loud and fantastic music and have never heard of KARP, you probably listen to Brokencyde or some shit and should go read MTV.com. KARP were great friends from Tumwater who became a great band. Then things fell apart. At one point, guitarist Chris Smith attempted suicide. Then in 2003, after they'd disbanded, drummer Scotty Jernigan was tragically killed in a boating accident. Jared Warren went on to form Big Business with Coady Willis (Murder City Devils), which also folded into the Melvins. I spoke with Federation X singer Bill Badgley, who had no filmmaking experience before he began Kill All Redneck Pricks, an unfunded documentary about KARP's story, a project that would take more than four years to complete.
Yeah, hey, Grant.
So I just have a few quick—
Hang on one second; let me get some pants on [one minute pause]. I never switched over from the European [premiere] sleeping schedule, so I actually started work at 5 this morning and just took a nap.
How many people total did you interview for the whole thing?
Who was the hardest to get ahold of?
Well, Chris was really hard to get, actually. It took me about a year to find him. When I originally started the project, nobody knew where he was, and everybody was basically like, "You'll never find him." And then an e-mail address finally turned up from an old friend.
How did you start the project?
When I started, I was just a band guy, so I started it and unfortunately I did Jared's interview first, so it was the only interview done without a professional camera. I basically filmed his interview and then realized I had none of the skills I needed to make this thing. I was living in Portland at the time, and I moved back to New York and took an internship with a documentary production company, and then I got hired in my third week and basically started learning everything I needed to know going on the shoots, and then doing story stuff and structuring things and learning all the office organization things.
What did Jared and Chris have to say about the film?
Jared saw the first cut, which was just god-awful, just basically a big, crappy rough. But he's such a nice guy, you know? I knew he was a nice guy when we started this, but after that I realized the extent of what a fuckin' beautiful human he is. So when he watched the rough, he was just kinda like, "Ah, yeah... well, I'm sure you'll figure it out, I'm sure you'll get it, I'm sure it'll be great." Then later on I was mortified. I was like, "Why the fuck did I show him that?" He was very nice, and I can't even begin to describe how thankful I am that he didn't lose faith in me. And Chris, too, who has more, I think in some ways, personally... well, I don't wanna say that, but I think you know what I'm getting at. When we first got together, he just asked me, "Why are you doing this?" And I was like, "Well, first of all, I've loved your band since I was a kid. And then I had my own band with my own brother-type guys that I spent forever with, and I love them, and I'll always love them. And I don't know if I'll always do this, and this is my way to kind of internalize all that time that we spent together that was so nuts, and just keep growing and keep being an adult." He was just like, "Okay, cool." And ever since that moment, he's really applied that same kind of understanding and trust that basically got us through the project.
So Chris, watching the last cut, I think that obviously he has some really deep emotions about everything that happened, but he really likes it, and I think he feels good about having it "done," in a way. 'Cause it's all been veiled in such secrecy, I think, and unspoken for so long. Those are my words, though. I don't know for sure if that's how he feels about it, but I know he's excited about it going on.
How much did this all cost to put together?
Well, it's really hard to quantify. I think the easiest way to draw or correlate here would be kind of like asking a relatively unsigned band, or a band signed to a small label after four years of being, how much time and money they've put into their band. I mean, you have to change everything about your life to do this as an unfunded project, and luckily my life was already like that from being in a band, so I didn't really have to change anything. In fact, I had to keep things the same, because when I started working in television and actually making money, I didn't move out of, like, a punk-house scenario, and that's a huge thing that kept the project alive.
A lot of my friends were doing cash projects and they weren't rockers and they just had no reason not to spend, you know, $1,500 on rent and live in a nice neighborhood and eat out all the time, but I wanted to do this. So basically, I would work for as long as I felt like I was learning something that I could put back into my own projects, and then when the job started to get redundant, or was cutting into time for the film—we work on a per-project basis—I would just not pick up the next project and live off that money for as long as I could. But still, the longest project outside of work had been like four minutes, and even inside I semi-produced one character of an hour-long show, which was only like 12 minutes. So doing a 90-minute thing was still way over my head.
So [when we got the rough], I realized that mainly it was tragic on a story level, so I took this job working for A&E doing episode pitches—researching those and drawing them up, taking them to meetings, redrawing them up, and then writing them out into scene outlines for each episode and then taking those to meetings, and then those get trashed and then you rewrite 'em. Basically it was like a story boot camp for three months, and then when I came back from that I storyboarded and put together the film you watched. So I would kinda stop and go back to work if [I needed to learn] something that I didn't know in depth.
We did have some help—donations from different people that were totally helpful. My thing during this whole project was like, I did everything, and when I couldn't do it, I found someone to do it, and hardly paid anybody for anything, and there was maybe like two or three things at the end that I just couldn't friend out. And so we ended up having people who would kind of vouch for those expenses, but I pretty much [bore] the brunt. You just kind of go monk or whatever, and just go underground when you're trying to buy time with your money rather than make money with your time.
Kill All Redneck Pricks plays Nov 25–Dec 1 at the Grand Illusion, Q&A with the director on Saturday.