This week, Soda Pictures are releasing the hard-edged rock and roll drama Powder to UK cinemas. We’ll let the film’s trailer do the set-up, then I’ll hand you over to Kevin Sampson, on whose novel the film is based.
I sent Kevin some questions by e-mail. Here are those questions, and his replies:
Are there any good ideas in the film that you wish you had for the book?
The movie is the book’s alter ego, in fact. When I sat down to write the novel, there was a critical choice to make: should the story follow the journey of one supremely talented individual whose compulsion to create, to perform, to transform is all- consuming? That dynamic – the driving force that makes musicians do what they do – was, and is, of huge interest. But in following one singular route, one story, I’d have to by-pass some of the splendid absurdity that befalls all bands on their way up, and as they sink back down again. Such inanity interested me hugely, too – and the madcap side of rock n roll is also dead entertaining. So, with the book, I opted for a kind of picaresque, in the end – a romp with a dark side. In basic terms it was the choice between a multicolour, pop-art jacket or a brooding monochrome. I chose super-vivid pop for the book, and the film is its moody half-brother. Same story, told through a different lens.
Will people with a good knowledge of the music scene find Powder to relate to the facts, to betray them or to simply stand apart from them?
Option three comes closest – it’s not really about the music business, as such. The book depicted that side of things very, very accurately – right down to phlegm-throated attourneys – but an Apprentice-style back story wouldn’t work in a fillum.
How do you think the film stands in the tradition of rock ‘n’ roll pictures? And were there any cinematic influences on the writing of the novel (either positively or negatively, things you wanted to hew close to, things you wanted to avoid)? And then again with the adaptation?
Ooh, ay, blimmin’ tricky question – and in three parts, too boot. Okay, honest answer to the first bit, I think Powder is occasionally brilliant. I think the definitive rock n roll movie is yet to be made, however.
In terms of inspiration from other movies, Dig was a big touchstone for me in terms of a band having everything they ever dreamed of – hits, fame, sex, wealth, international tours, sell-out gigs… yet the one thing they crave more than anything else continues to elude them. They’re not cool.
The more success The Dandy Warhols have, the more the cool kids love their former pals The Brian Jonestown Massacre. That was always an element in Powder – the way bands always seem to crave what their contemporaries have – but Dig inspired me to amplify it as a major theme.
Other than that, it’s more TV that’s been an influence – everything from Entourage to Flight Of The Conchords to, well, Glee if I’m honest about it.
Ha-ha! What does he want? Information. Almost. Keva, the singer, has the kernel of a beautiful song buried in his subconscious. This song will, when fully realised, say everything he wants to say about someone he once loved dearly, now deceased. It will bring closure. Yet the song remains locked away; all that exists is a few bars and a killer hook.
Why can’t he “find” the complete opus? Because doing so will open up a Pandora’s box of buried nightmares. To get to the place Keva wants to be, he knows he has to confront these demons…but to make matters worse, some twat from a hideous Goth-lite band has nicked the basis of his song and re-worked it as a horribly catchy radio hit. Oh dear. Maybe this is why wee Keva looks so how-you-say ‘thoughtful’ all the time.
I also read about the V-Festival audience’s reaction to The Grams as the filmmakers tried to get some performance footage. I’d love you to expound on this for us, because I know people will want to read about it. Is the scene in the film one of success, or of rejection? Can we see traces of the audience’s antipathy on screen in any way?
Here’s what happened. The Grams, a band that only exists in Powder‘s various manifestations, took to the real-life 4Music stage at V and proceeded to mime along to one of their catchily non-existent tunes. The crowd, awaiting what would transpire to be the last-ever appearance by Oasis, quickly grew agitated – and demonstrated their impatience by means of hurling a variety of projectiles at the band, namely: bags of poo-poo, bottles of piss and a Marks & Spencer’s rhubarb and custard sorbet.
This was inconvenient, as the scene we were seeking to capture on film was to be The Grams’ triumphant creative epiphany.
Understandably, it was something of a trial for our young thespians to affect believable levels of louche glamour while the contents of a plumber from Telford’s bladder ran beguilingly down their chins – but they stuck it out and we got some great shots.
Problem Two was the near-insurrection The Grams mimeage caused. Far from the sea of joyous young souls we’d hoped for, our film crew was confronted with a maelstrom of contorted faces, chanting and pointing angrily at my heroic charges. Not to worry. We simply filmed Oasis’s fans going doolally half an hour later and cut The Grams performance to the bacchanalian scenes of the Gallagher boys’ throng going nuts.
Of course there were hilarious hours in the edit suite trying to weed out the bile-stoked expressions (and the plumber’s piss bombs). Many is the time that we just had to leave stuff in, though. Air brushing the “anti” stuff out would have taken forever – and a fortune. At normal film speed you’d have to really be looking for it to spot the mad-heads in the crowd or the bombs in the sky, but one assumes that identifying same will be among the myriad joys offered by Powder on DVD.
Before we get to that, however, we’ve got Powder in our cinemas as the film opens in the UK this Friday.
Incidentally, there’s a competition to win tickets to next year’s V festival on the film’s Facebook page, should you have any surplus “poo-poo”, piss or rhubarb and custard sorbet you’re looking to offload somewhere.