KARP. It’s a powerful name. Iconic for music fans. The band’s been gone since 1998 but every year there are more and more Karp fans starting bands and rocking the fuck out.
Now director Bill Badgley (from Federation X, another rad Northwest band) highlights the insanity with a well-crafted piece of crowd-sourced cinema.
You know this explosion of creativity, alternative lifestyle choices, drug abuse, death, metal, and bromance has to be good. It is. Magnificently so. But what’s most remarkable is how universal it feels and sounds.
Kill All Redneck Pricks is the story of Karp (Chris Smith, Jared Warren, and Scott Jernigan), three young dudes who made out of this world music and then exploded like only the greatest rock bands seem to do. Despite the damage, there was a ton of love between them. A love that still flows amongst music fans everywhere whenever their name is mentioned.
Filmmaker Bill Badgley will be in L.A. for the Cinefamily premiere of K.A.R.P. this Tuesday, and he previews this tale of metal and madness thusly:
What were your favorite bands when you were young?
Nation Of Ulysses, KARP, Jesus Lizard, Mudhoney, Godheadsilo, Love Battery…
How did you first encounter Karp? Did you grow up with them in Tumwater?
I’m from Yakima, Washington which is about 180 miles from Olympia so we used to drive over to see bands once we were old enough and certainly once we saw KARP we were driving over much more often. KARP is still the band that I’ve seen the most times on purpose, not including bands that you’ve toured with, and each of those times included a 360 mile round trip.
What initially attracted you to the band?
Well straight away it was just this really fun loud, crushing thing that was also just so oddly joyous, so I think there was a layer of realization even at the time that it was a bit of a “have your cake and eat it too” scenario where you could get all this fabulous angst out but at the same time there was no ill will toward anyone and the whole thing seemed so oddly positive for the kind of mach evil form that the music often took.
How would you describe the feelings you felt when you first heard them?
Well when I first saw them it was the show they did with Beck and Lync at the OK Hotel that isnpired Beck to ask them to open the Loser tour for him… which they did a bit later (there’s a scene on the website about this). And we had no idea who Beck was, we just knew it was a top 40 guy who we couldn’t be bothered seeing ’cause we were snobby 16 year olds so we left after KARP played and sold our tickets to these screaming, infatuated girls outside. But the first time I saw KARP I actually didn’t like it, it didn’t fit in my young little mind and I was just confused by it, but I bought the single and the demo tape and a few weeks later I was hooked and we started making the pilgrimages to oly as often as we could.
What’s your favorite Karp record or song or performance, and why?
Obviously I like a lot of KARP songs but I think if I had to pick my ultimate favorite of all time would be “Freighty Cat” off of the first single on Atlas records. To me that song defines KARP in a lot of way and the intro is also one of the clearest times you can really hear them each individually playing together, each distinctly which is a little rare with KARP, often it all just sounds like one thing, which is great, and says a lot about who they were together.
What was the band’s highest point in terms of musical excitement and excellence?
That would be hard for me to say ’cause I wasn’t around them when it was going on… and I don’t really look at music in that fashion, that it was a peak and a bust or something like that… I tend to think of it more as an ebb and flow and each segment or part is just as important as any other and all necessary to where each one was as individual which of course informs that timeframe for the band.
What did you feel when they broke up? Did you know about the band/drug drama at that time?
Well the summer KARP broke I had started the band I was in for 13 years earlier that spring and our first US tour was that summer so I was kind off doing my own thing, but we were bummed. My bandmates, who basicaly became like my brothers, KARP was the band that we could always agree on and that bonded us together musically, so we were bummed but I always try to respect a band’s decision to do or not do something, as a fan it’s none of your business… and I always try to give a band room in my mind to make the decisions that they are making.
When Karp broke up, was that when you were inspired to start your own band?
See question before.
What did you think of The Whip?
They were great and it was really fun, we played with them a few times, but it was very different than KARP and I think right at the time it was really grabbing hold it was gone which was incredibly sad and unfortunate.
Why did you decide to make this movie? Was there a particular moment when you said to yourself, ‘This story needs to be told and I am the one to do it’?
Yeah, I mean if you combine the first two points along the journey which would be being a teenage fan myself, and then having my own band for many years and understanding a bit of that familial relationship amongst band members… when Scott died was the first time I saw that there seemed to be some finality being lent to the story and it started to seem like a journey that was taking some shape in the sense of it’s closure. Then when Jared and Coady started Big Business, which was this awesomely triumphant step forward and out of all the bogus things that had happened in the past it was really inspiring and doing something on the story at that point really seemed like a no brainer… and then certainly them joining the Melvins was the cherry on top.
Were you friends with any of the Karp guys when you started making the movie?
Yeah, I knew Jared from playing with The Tight Bros, The Whip, and Big Business. So when I started the project I started by asking Jared what he thought about it, and then he basically sent an email to chris along the lines of “Dude is cool, talk to him if you want” kind of things and then I got to know Chris… Scott I never knew.
How much video/audio/photos/stories/etc. did Karp fans hit you with when you announced you were making the movie? What most surprised you about what they sent you or told/showed you?
We got quite a bit of stuff over the years, a ton really and we have plans for when the movie is over to turn the website into an archiver where all the stuff is available for perusal.
What’s the deal with Chris? In your movie he goes to the state capital….I really didn’t get that part. Does he work for the state? What does he do now? It’s said that he’s ‘M.I.A.’….
During that section he tells us that he works at the Washington Sate Legislative Building as a proof reader and then does a bit of joking about the people he works with. I think the MIA reference is means in terms of his friends in the music community.
You avoided the details of Scott’s death in the movie—you only say it was a tragic boating accident. What really happened?
I’d rather not say… it was just a choice I made to leave it out of the movie so I’ll leave it out here as well.
How long did it take to make your movie? What was the most difficult part? What has been the most joyful?
The whole thing front to back took about 4 1/2 years. The whole thing was the most challenging, rewarding project I’ve ever been a part of, it’s an unbelievable amount of work… that requires an inextinguishable amount of focus and love for your subject matter.
How have the screenings been going? What was it like when you showed it to people who actually know and grew up with this band? Were there any criticisms?
The screenings have been really great so far. Since mid October we’ve showed it about 45 times in about 8 countries and about 3 languages and it’s been awesome. People seem to really be enjoying this story about three friends who met when they were very young and everything they went through together. The overwhelming comment I’ve gotten is that being a fan of KARP or even of this kind of music is not a pre-requisite to enjoying the film, a common reaction I’ve gotten from folks unfamiliar with the band is that the dudes are so likable and what they went through so crazy at times that they’ve found themselves bobbing their heads along with music they wouldn’t usually enjoy… and that’s been really an amazing thing to hear, since I felt pretty strongly from the beginning that if the story of their friendship was something that only KARP fans would enjoy then I had basically failed the subject matter, so it’s been really amazing to hear people reacting to it.
Are there any unreleased Karp tracks/music/albums/singles that we should be expecting to be released someday?
Not that I know of…
What’s next for your movie and for you?
We’ll continue to tour the movie for a bit, around the Unites States, a bit back in Europe and there’s a screening in Melbourne in March, but mainly starting early next month I’ll be trying to secure funding for the next project, which is something I didn’t even try to do with this one.
Having done all this work on K.A.R.P., would you do it again? What would you change?
Absolutely! in a heart beat! What would I change… hard to say, maybe a few little things, I’ve learned so much during the process, but I’m pretty happy with the result.
Any special L.A.-Karp connections?
I know they played a lot and were very loved at Jabberjaw.
One thing I didn’t know about KARP when I started…
That all three of their mothers names are Susan.
Don’t miss the screening:
Cinefamily & SEANCARNAGE.COM present the L.A. premiere of
“Kill All Redneck Pricks: A Documentary About A Band Named KARP”