Joseph on Right with Bryan Karl Lathrop, Photo by Karen Kirchhoff
LOUD! FAST! PHILLY! the amazing event that chronicles the Philly Hardcore Punk scene through in-depth interviews, photos and footage is winding down with two final performances one at PhilaMOCA November, 22nd at 7:30pm and another November, 16th at 7:30pm at The Emerald Tablet in San Francisco, California. Joseph A. Gervasi the man behind the project that not only exists as these performances, but also a web archive of hours of interviews was kind enough to field a few questions about the event and what inspired this labor of love. Enjoy.
Most folks will probably recognize you as being one of the four founding members of Exhumed Films, another group of archivists. But what most folks don’t know is you have quite a history in the Philly Punk scene as well, mind filling in my readers a bit about that?
I think there’s a group of folks who know my past and now present punk-related endeavors, a group who knows Exhumed Films, and some people who know both. Hardcore punk was a lightning bolt that struck me shortly before my sixteenth birthday back in 1987 and effectively changed the course of my life. It showed me a whole new world of creativity, activism, engagement, and fun laced with danger.
Most importantly, it showed a kid growing up in a working class suburb of Philadelphia (Blackwood, NJ) that what allowed one to do anything one pleased was not a really expensive certification process that ended in a piece of paper and financial ruin, but the desire to just do it. Punk operated as close to a meritocracy as any subculture (or even dominant culture) I’ve ever experienced.
Thus, I spent many years celebrating this subculture. I put on shows first as Orgasmic Productions (along with my brother Bull Gervasi and Chris Fry) and later as part of the Cabbage Collective (with the same two fellows along with Sean Gustilo, Jen Langum, and many others). I co-edited the terminal stages of Philly Zine with Sean and went on to edit NO LONGER A FANzine. Even Bizarre Videos, which eventually became part of the foundation that is Diabolik DVD, came out of my active involvement in the punk scene.
Perhaps best of all, I met innumerable amazing people and got to travel all over the US and Canada with bands and friends.
LOUD! FAST! PHILLY! is a very ambitious project, what originally gave you the idea for tackling it? With the in-depth interviews and the footage you’ve collected it screams documentary to me, is that something you’re looking to pursue in the future? I know this next show at PhilaMOCA is going to be your last.
LOUD! FAST! PHILLY! was conceived as a sort-of “anti-documentary.” It was born out of a reaction to things that didn’t exist: then-forthcoming documentaries about the Philly punk scene that I felt wouldn’t capture the DIY ethos that, to me, is what makes this city’s scene of the past and the present so crucial. Rather than presenting my take on Philly punk in either the written word or a video documentary, I wanted to capture the voices and faces of those who lived and still live the scene. I didn’t want to distill their voices down to a few sentences that I felt best conveyed their story.
Rather, I wanted them to speak at length, unedited and unintimidated by a camera. I would then have them photographed by my partner in the first stages of the project, Karen Kirchhoff, and post their unedited and often lengthy audio interviews online. Here would be what I’ve termed a mosaic of experiences that, when pieced together, present the listener with a teeny-tiny part of the lives of truly creative people who do fascinating things with their lives. The project began in February 2013. As this year draws to a close, the L!F!P! site boasts nearly 48 hours worth of interviews with more to come (though at a slower pace) in 2014 and beyond.
There will be no documentary coming out of this project. What it is now is what it will always be. I work on certain projects for financial renumeration. I have a certain sybaritic lifestyle I like to maintain and thus work on many things that keep me living that way but don’t intellectually or emotionally stimulate me. For my creative projects, I like them to be finite. I don’t want to do the same thing over and over again. The main thrust of L!F!P! will wind down with a forthcoming zine version Karen is releasing and the two live shows (San Francisco and Philly) in mid- and late-November, respectively.
How did you choose subjects for your interviews? Are there any still on your wish list or you couldn’t get in touch with?
The most difficult people to interview were the ones who died before I could get to them. There were certain people who I respected immensely as a young person because they set the groundwork for what I came into as a kid. These were promoters, band members, DJs, and zine writers. There were also my contemporaries, those who took up the torch into the present day, and some people who weren’t super-punk but who engaged in DIY social and political activism that I felt could serve to inspire others to engage with their own times.
Action is the apotheosis of punk. Like certain key works that inspired a young me (Martin Sprouse’s book Threat By Example and a lot of radical works from the late ’60s and early ’70s that I found in used book stores; lyrics from bands like Chumbawamba, Conflict, 7 Seconds, Upright Citizens, Youth Brigade, etc.), I want these interviews to get listeners to get excited and active.
What do you feel were some of your most memorable chats in the series that folks should definitely check out?
This is always the toughest question for me, as so many people that I talked to were surprisingly different from one another in terms of how and when they were raised and how they’ve elected to live their lives, yet they’ve all been united by a love of this furious music. I’ve always been especially interested in talking to women because I think they’re often written out of histories of underground music and their contributions can be marginalized.
If I may reveal a secret wish, it’s that girls and young women will at some point listen to the voices of the women I’ve had the pleasure to interview and draw some inspiration from what they’ve done.
Finally, I know this project came out of your love for the Philly punk scene, how do you feel its changed over the years?
The Philly scene changes faces and venues, but what remains constant is the prelapsarian DIY ethos. Kids and former kids carve out whatever alternative spaces they can find and create a lot of noise. The book-reading me likes to think there is genuine thought and feeling beneath the chaos. The combat boot-wearing me is glad that people want to thrash around in a filthy warehouse or basement. Forget the permits, forget the sad and palsied hand of defeat doling out official permission. Push back. Do it. Do it. Do it.
Thanks to you, Dan, for the interview. If you, dear Reader, would like to hear the interviews and see Karen Kirchhoff’s marvelous photographs, it’s all at www.LoudFastPhilly.com. Tickets for the November 16, 2013 live event at the Emerald Tablet in San Francisco here:
Tickets for the November 22, 2013 Philadelphia live event at PhilaMOCA (which is run by Eric Bresler, who was tremendously helpful in putting together and presenting L!F!P!) are here:
Anyone who wants to talk to me can write to me through the L!F!P! site or at: DeadStare4Life@hotmail.com.