Laura Tabor-Huerta was a regular fixture on the North Texas punk rock and new wave underground scene back in the 80s and 90s. She spent a decade documenting the bands, the musicians, the fans and the “scene” on video. Saturday night, Laura’s documentary, DFW Punk, screens at 1919 Hemphill in Fort Worth. It’s a safe bet that you’ll find some of those punk rock stars in attendance, which will make for a really interesting Q&A after the screening.
Speaking of Q&A’s, we caught up with Laura via e-mail recently to chat with her about the film, the idea behind it and more, as part of this week’s Art&Seek Q&A:
Art&Seek: How did you first get interested in punk music and especially punk bands based in North Texas.
Laura Tabor-Huerta: I was into rock and metal music in high school. Suddenly, on the radio, new wave music started to be played and a little punk, and I guess the genres won me over. Very little information was available about punk music and any tiny picture, clipping, article or rumor was appreciated during that pre-Internet time. I was a fine arts major at UT-Arlington in the early 80s, and by word of mouth heard of some local punk clubs. I started driving over to see the bands and experience the scene, which was bigger than just music. It was about experimenting. Some did it with drugs, fashion, art or music.
A&S: When did you decide to start documenting these bands and artists with video, and what was your inspiration to do so?
L.T.H: It was while I was still in college that I decided to make a documentary, but I was living the life too much and couldn’t really organize such a big project at that time. Later, in 1995 or so, I finally had a steady full-time job and started buying equipment and getting a crew together to work on it. I started by writing a list from memory of all the people, clubs and events that I could remember and started calling those people, which led to finding others. In 1997, I started interviewing bands and musicians on the weekends, which continued over the next year or two. My inspiration was that I knew it had been a really special time for me and a small minority of people. As I got older and more non-Texans began moving to Texas with the attitude of “all you hillbillies are behind the times,” I realized that many people did not know that a punk scene thrived here back then. I thought it would be an important, accessible story, because I lived it and the subject matter suited itself to a low budget, which was all I could afford.
A&S: How much footage was left on the cutting room floor? Enough for a sequel?
L.T.H.: Not so much a sequel as a big ol’ extras disc! Someone else can make a sequel about the later 90s to today’s Dallas scene. Of course, it might be a real tearjerker, because I’ve heard that it’s really a dead scene in Dallas now. I have a lot of interviews and old band footage that I think a niche group might really appreciate having. I even considered having multiple DVDs and offer them as burn to order. We’ll see. Some of the most compelling footage is an off-shot of the punk scene; the skinheads. But I have to find a way to protect them, because everyone has a right to privacy and making mistakes when you are young. I would want to show the essence of that time for them.
A&S: What is one of your most memorable punk shows?
L.T.H.: Well, one of my most positive memories of the DFW punk scene was not of a specific show, rather a feeling from all of it. An average night out to see a local band was such a comfortable experience. Walking with friends, drinking a six-pack and wandering around the Twilight Room area or Deep Ellum with the intent to have fun, meet some interesting people and find some band that you’ve never heard of before. It was really wonderful.
One of the most memorable negative memories I have was at the Exploited show back in 1988, I think. I remember going with a new friend, and he was wearing a jacket with a peace sign on the back. That was about the worst thing you could do, style-wise back then, and I remember skinheads standing behind him spitting all over his back.
A&S: How has the film been received at the various film festivals, and where has it screened?
L.T.H.: Each festival has been a little different. At the Dallas Video Festival, I screened a different version than the current one. It was not as tight but seemed well-received because everyone was starved for some footage and information from that time, I think. In Los Angeles, at the Don’t Knock the Rock Music and Film Festival, it was well-received by Allison Anders, who picked it to screen there, but I think attendance was a bit down because the listing for the screening had no image, so the two film listings (mine and another one) may have blended into one. The crowd, though smaller, was really appreciative. When it played at Alamo Drafthouse in Austin last August, it sold out by 9:45 p.m. on a Monday night, so that was a pretty incredible experience! It was amazing, too, that the majority of the audience stayed for the Q&A!
A&S: Who were the major players in the underground punk scene back in the early 80s and why?
L.T.H.: I was a bit younger than the original punks from the DFW scene. I was the second wave, as Charlie Gilder, owner of Bar of Soap, likes to say. So speaking for them, which is always a bad idea, Bobby Soxx seems to stand out. He seemed to be a guy you loved to hate. He died of alcohol poisoning a decade ago. He was well known for being so destructive. However, there were many standouts; members of the Nervebreakers, Stickmen with Rayguns, Fort Worth Cats and VVV Record Store. As far as the late 70s, you’ll have to ask someone from the first wave to answer that question. Some of the bands I liked in the early 80s and later on were Why am I, Sedition, Broken Promise, MC 900 Ft. Jesus and I was one of the first fans of Reverend Horton Heat. I got into the late 70s bands later, after I started making the documentary in 1995.
A&S: If you could bring back one venue and put together a reunion showcase, who would perform and where?
L.T.H.: I’m not big on living in the past. I would rather go back and live a random day at the Hot Klub and just see what happens. Seeing the Sex Pistols reunion tour soured me on the whole reunion thing.
A&S: Are you planning on working on future documentaries or films?
L.T.H.: I plan on doing small projects only, so no big documentaries, only music videos, weird warped animated pieces and small documentaries about a few people. That is about it for the next year or two. Plus, I make mosaics and draw, both of which I plan on doing a lot more.
The Art&Seek Q&A is a weekly discussion with a person involved in the arts in North Texas. Check back next Thursday for another installment.