In-Edit Mexico 2015 Interview: Wes Orshoski Talks THE DAMNED: DON'T YOU WISH THAT WE WERE DEAD

Contributor; Mexico City, Mexico (@EricOrtizG)
In-Edit Mexico 2015 Interview: Wes Orshoski Talks THE DAMNED: DON'T YOU WISH THAT WE WERE DEAD

After making an excellent documentary about one of the most recognized figures in rock 'n' roll (Lemmy), director Wes Orshoski is back in order to explore a much obscure story but nonetheless important: that of the British band The Damned, pioneers of punk rock that have remained, in words of the director, "ignored."

Orshoski's second documentary, The Damned: Don't You Wish That We Were Dead, had its Mexican premiere at the In-Edit Mexico festival, where I had the fortunate to talk with Orshoski about The Damned and Lemmy.

ScreenAnarchy: Have you been in contact with Lemmy recently?

Wes Orshoski: Yeah, I've been in contact with Lemmy, I sent him a couple of messages some weeks ago. He seems to be doing all right; he's on tour right now in the United States.

You don't give a shit about The Damned and just want to talk about Motörhead, right? (Laughs) I'm kidding, it's fine, we can talk only about Motörhead.

No, let's talk about your new documentary. How was the genesis of THE DAMNED: DON'T YOU WISH THAT WE WERE DEAD?

After making the Lemmy film, Andrew Pinching (aka Pinch), who is the drummer in the current lineup of The Damned, called me and asked if I would like to film their 35th anniversary tour. I thought about it for a while, but I didn't really want to make a film about the tour. I liked more the idea of creating a full documentary. I took me four years to complete it.

Were you already a fan of the Damned prior the documentary?

I wasn't a fan of the band. The first time I saw them was in 2008, when I interviewed Captain Sensible and Dave Vanian for Lemmy.

Then what was the thing that really made you want to tell their story?

Well, you list to songs like "Neat Neat Neat" and "New Rose" (from their debut album "Damned Damned Damned") and you are interested immediately. That first record is emblematic, a landmark in punk history.

The most important thing is to point out that The Damned were there since the beginning, before The Clash. They are pioneers and have many great songs that remain almost unknown. It's a story that deserves to be told, because they are still with us. You can actually go and see them play live.

All the original members are still alive and could have a reunion to play again, while The Clash will never perform again. It's the story of a band that the world ignored, and I'm trying to correct that.

Also, my favorite part of the documentary is the scene that involves two members of the band getting cancer. It's something we all have to confront, and the most human aspect of the film.

Is there a connection between The Damned and The Ramones?

When The Ramones went to England and played a couple shows at a place called The Roundhouse in London, the future members of The Clash, Sex Pistols, The Stranglers, The Pretenders and The Damned were there. The Ramones' first shows in England were huge.

A couple of weeks ago I visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and they have a letter that Brian James and Rat Scables from The Damned wrote to Tommy Ramone after seeing The Ramones live. It's so cool because Brian says that maybe they hear about them someday, before actually doing real work with a band. So the letter is full of hope.

In the history of punk, The Ramones were a massive thing in London, but people don't remember that they were the opening band for The Stranglers. When they arrived to London, The Ramones were not yet kings.

What was the biggest difference of being with Lemmy and now with The Damned?

I think only Motörhead's greatness. I'm not sure people in the United States understand how big Motörhead is around the world. When we toured with them we stayed at fancy hotels and they played at big arenas. With The Damned everything is smaller; if I was traveling with them on the tour bus, I had one member of the band farting near me. Traveling with The Damned is harder, more punk rock.

Can you talk about the musicians that are present in the documentary speaking about The Damned?

I interviewed Duff McKagan, Lemmy, The Clash's Mick Jones, Buzz Osborne, and Dead Kennedys' Jello Biafra, among others.

Just like with the Lemmy film, I tried to expose the influence of The Damned on many musical genres. Probably many people were confused when they saw Joy Division's Peter Hook or Pulp's Jarvis Cocker in the Lemmy film, but Motörhead had an impact on them as well, not just on heavy metal. The same thing happened with The Damned. They were influential for the heavy metal world, the punk rock world, the grunge world and even the acting world. When the doc premiered at South by Southwest, one of the actors of The Walking Dead told me he was a huge fan of The Damned. It's also clear that Johnny Depp stole Dave Vanian's look for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

The most meaningful interview I did was with The Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde, because we both are from Ohio and she's a local hero for us. It was also difficult to get Mick Jones; I had to chase him for a year. But the most complicated issue was to get The Damned's Brian James and Rat Scabies.

There are two gangs among the band. There two original members in the current lineup: Captain Sensible and Dave Vanian. They don't get along with Rat Scabies and Brian James, the other founding members. So James and Scabies were suspicious about me, thinking I was representing Dave and Captain.

That would be all. Thanks a lot!

Come on, I know you have another Lemmy question for me. Do it!

Have you heard Motörhead's new record yet?

Not yet! They are going to play in New York, where I live, but I'm going to miss it due work. However, last year I went to the MotörBoat and it was an amazing experience. You should go this year!

Cross-published on Cinema Móvil.

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DocumentaryIn Edit MexicoThe DamnedThe Damned Dont You Wish that We Were DeadWes OrshoskiGaye AdvertFred ArmisenRoger ArmstrongJimmy Ashhurst

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