In the beginning…
The whole thing started back when Hell Razah and I first met back in ’97. I was working at a record company, doing PR as a publicist at the time while I was playing music. I was a big Wu-Tang Clan fan and Red Ant had signed Sunz of Man, one of the first of the Wu-Tang offshoot groups when Wu-Tang got big and exploded. They all did these solo deals and signed these groups. Sunz of Man had put out some singles, I was a big fan of those and I heard we were going to do the record. I asked to be the point person on that project. I met them while they were recording the official album The Last Shall Be First. We were shooting their EPK so I actually went in the studio with them when they were recording with Earth Wind & Fire, and Wyclef Jean and Ol’ Dirty Bastard in Ocean Way studios, this gorgeous recording studio. I was there when they did all the video shoots, and on a lot of their West Coast tour dates at the time. I saw them at Rikers Island perform in front of prisoners, which was crazy.
From the West Coast to the East Coast
My boss at the time was Robert Juster. We had done an episode with Razah. Then I heard about his brain aneurysm in 2010 and later that year I went out to visit him. He was way worse off than I had imagined and way worse off than he was leading on to the public. He had enough unreleased raps so he was continuing to put out music, but all that stuff was recorded ahead of time, so he was kind of fooling people for a little while. Between 2012-2015 I kept shooting and going back to the east coast as much as possible and shooting guys out here on the west coast, it was a long haul.
The other hardest part was the fact I filmed for so long and there was so much content, at some point I had to kind of skinny it down, a lot of cuts about his religious journey, the nation of Islam, a lot more history of his career, but I had to kind of keep my eye on the project. I’m a huge fan of all this music, but not everyone that watches the movie wants to know about every single each member of the band recorded. I do, but I couldn’t assume that everyone was going to be knee-deep in the culture the way that I was, or the way that a hardcore Wu-Tang fan was, so there was some stuff I had to consolidate a little bit to make it easier to digest. I didn’t want to make the movie for Wu-Tang fans, so I had to make the movie for people who want to see an interesting story about a talented guy losing everything and having to rebuild, rehabilitate and reevaluate.
Also, one thing I had to be aware of, was that if you’re not a fan of these guys, it’s a lot of crazy names being thrown here you know Prodigal Sunn, 60-Second Assassin, Killah Priest, Hell Razah, Cappadonna, if you don’t know who all these dudes are and you’re not familiar with that world it can get a little confusing.
I’ve written eight books, all but one have been published. There’s one that has not been published and unfortunately has a super sad story to it. It was a book about the company Lip Service, a goth rock n roll clothing co, where Drew Bernstein the guy who hired me to essentially tell his tale then committed suicide. That one was fortunately finished but never came out. Besides that dark tale, I did a Ramones book and I worked with Dave Mustaine of Megadeth on what became his first book. I did a Van Halen book with Neil Zlozower, a Phil Spector book. I did a book with Walter Iooss Jr. a big sports photographer, of football of all things, then I did a book From Dude To Dad and a book called Diaper Dude. It was a hard left but since I was a single father that raised a now 16-year-old daughter, the other thing I know besides music was how to raise kids, so I got involved with that and those books did very well.
On The Road with The Ramones
The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs have been around since ’95. I was doing the Cheetahs when I first met Hell Razah back in the day. We were signed by Bomp Records with Greg Shaw, and then we were on Triple X Records doing a Detroit New York-style kind of MC5 chainsaw rock ‘n’ roll vibe. The band did about a 10-year run, broke up for a decade, then got back together. When we originally were touring we were part of the whole scene with Turbonegro, Nashville Pussy, the Supersuckers, and the Hellacopters, and all those Sweedish and Norwegian rock’n’roll bands that were coming out here at the time, and a lot of the American garage rock bands like Reverend Horton Heat, Zeke, New Bomb Turks. I toured constantly, lived in a van, cut my teeth playing every punk-rock shithole in Europe and the United States. We would do about 150-200 dates a year for 10 years straight. I only stopped when I had a kid and decided I didn’t really want to raise a kid from the back of a van or just not be there.
The thing I kept doing throughout my entire career that sort of ties it all together was writing. Writing the books, working on movies, music, it’s all writing in some way shape or form. The Cheetahs did a bunch of records from about 1995-2005 and then we broke up. In 2014 or so we got back together and did a tour, had a blast, made a single, and we decided not to break up again and we’ve been doing it ever since.