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SONICNET interview with Grant Gee, director of Meeting People Is Easy on 22nd March 1999

Goldberg: This evening we have Grant Gee, director of the new Radiohead film with us. I'm Michael Goldberg, Editorial Director of SonicNet. Also with us tonight is Gil Kaufman, Senior Writer at SonicNet. I want to welcome Grant Gee to tonight's Rock 'n' Roll Insider chat! Grant, tell us how you came to make a movie about Radiohead.

Grant Gee: I was hired to cover the launch of OK Computer in Barcelona and the rest of company had no idea what the material might end up being. I got along with the band during that week, got some good pictures, it was a very intense scene and process they were going through. So it hit me how weird contemporary rock life is. And when I got back the pictures were good, so I wrote a proposal saying that if it kept going that well, it would turn into a really good look into that weirdness.

SonicNetMod2: Gil: The movie definitely shows how banal life on the road can be, were you surprised by that?

Grant Gee: Being on little tours with bands before it was just the escalation of those pressures of that life. I was surprised how much media there is to satisfy, in the past five years, the marketing of bands has become much more efficient...I think it used to be a lot more loose, I was just surprised as how much like a job it is. The only thing that's different is they do get to make two hours of art every night on tour, but other than that, it is pretty banal.

SonicNetMod2: Gil: How much footage did you shoot?

Grant Gee: I think 120 -130 hours of tape and twenty hours of film. And then the archival stuff.

chat6898: Goldberg: Was there something about Radiohead that caught your interest, or could you have made a film about any number of bands?

Grant Gee: They're bright and they're quite sober....so it meant the things were experiencing. So the things they were experiencing they were experiencing with all their faculties intact. I think that most bands cope with that with drugs or alcohol, so their daily lives are mostly hungover and just reactions to the things they need to go through in a day. Not to say that they're angels, but they are bright and quite sober, like I said before. And the music's quite marvelous.

SonicNetMod2: Gil: Once you started filming, did the band want a certain kind of footage, or did they just let you follow them around whenever you wanted? Was there anything you couldn't film?

Grant Gee: I was never stopped filming anything When I started off we had some conversations about directions the film could go in...We decided it couldn't be a document on a band to find out who Radiohead are....It was going to be more about the process than the personalities.

Chat6898: Goldberg: What was the most difficult thing about making the film?

Grant Gee: Jetlag. I did quite short trips, America for three or four days and then back to London. Because there was only one or two of us involved in the shoots, it was physically strenuous. Plus it was quite embarrassing being around a rock band, especially when things started to feel quite personal or private. So that was hard.

SonicNetMod2: Gil: So many of us have those dreams of being rock stars, was there any moment during the filming when you said to yourself, "I NEVER want to do this!"

Grant Gee: I did as well, when I was a kid. But I think I've seen enough of it. I'd never want to do what they were doing. But after seeing who they are, they are very cool, cooler than you could ever imagine, so I could never see myself in their places at all.

chat6898: Goldberg: Like what aspects of the rock star life turned you off?

Grant Gee: Touring really. Hopping from city to city and not seeing where you are and not feeling rooted, that's very hard. If you're very young or rock 'n' roll animals you turn it into a blur. But if you want to do something with integrity to the place where you're going then it's very hard.

SonicNetMod2: Gil: How have the band reacted to the film? Would it be safe to assume that even they were shocked by how repetitive their off-stage lives have become?

Grant Gee: I think they're very aware of how their lives are like. As far as their reactions it was finished when they finished their tour, and they wanted to get on with the next portions of their lives, so by the end it was like "Yep, alright, OK."

chat6898: Goldberg: I assume you've seen a lot of the rock artist documentaris. Don't Look Back, C**ksuckers Blues, Gimmie Shelter, What have you learned from past documentaries that helped you with this one.?

Grant Gee: Never seen Gimme Shelter, but the first two give me a lot of inspiration and I'm a big fan of Robert Franks. DLB and CB made an impression on me and the REM Tour Film from 1989 is a favorite as well. And in all of those they are technically nothing special, but the immediacy of the filmmaker's technique makes it an intimate film. And you can tell that the filmmaker was not going in with preconceived notions. There was no spontaneity.

chat6898: Goldberg: What, specifically, what scenes or what aspect of those films, inspired you?

Grant Gee: I can't think of specifics...That scene in Cocksucker Blues with Keith passing out on a bench with someone....It feels like someone just looking, not like you were there, but realvision, but not much artifice between you and the subject. I can't really think of specific scenes, I think of more of the overall atmosphere....

SonicNetMod2: Gil: Has anyone else approached you since seeing this with offers to document their lives in a similar fashion? Any Hollywood types wooing you?

Grant Gee: No Hollywood types, erm, I work as a music video director, so I'm always talking to different people about different possibilities. But also because I've done this no one is going to say, let's do this, because it's already been done.

SonicNetMod2: Gil: Any videos we'll be seeing soon?

Grant Gee: I'm still making promo videos, I did the new Blur video for "Tender," but MTV don't like it because it's black and white and live. And I might be doing them a longer video, but not the fly on the wall type of thing, something else.

chat6898: Goldberg: You spent enough time to find out what the guys in Radiohead are like. Can you give us snapshots of them?

Grant Gee: It's weird, because I was always with them, but it was like being at work, so it was like a work relationship. I don't want to say that so-and-so's like this, they're all nice. What I truly know them is in the film, so what I know of them is in the film. I was working for them as well...

chat6898: Goldberg: So you want the film portrait to speak for itself.

Grant Gee: As far as what they are like, yes. You can see people behaving under pressure, goofing off, worrying, and that's it. As far as the actual personalities, I would like it to speak for itself.

Wintermute21: The original soundtrack--the instrumental tracks by Thom and Jonny in MPIE--will they be on the next album or released like Meeting In The Aisle as b-side?

Grant Gee: No I don't think so. Thom's thing was one really long thing and he has a Yamaha instrument thing like a sketchbook....I think that's kind of notebook stuff. Johnny sat down with a keyboard for a day and made ambient tracks. There are some things at soundchecks that may be on the album or some version of them might be on the album, but they don't know what the album is like.

navyseel: Grant, how has working with Radiohead changed the way you work/direct, if at all?

Grant Gee: It was the biggest and most intense project I've done, and I haven't tried anything so ambitious since, so I don't know what I've learned. Technically I learned bits here and there and that's the most noticebly apparent now.

planettelexmax: Grant - I was with Mel at the UK premiere of MPIE, and I noticed you couldn't even face sitting inside the cinema and watching the film - was it due to the weird type people there, or just nervousness about everyone seeing your film for the first time?

Grant Gee: Partly nervousness, I've tried to do it once before with a short film I made and I thought I was going to pass out. Plus it's an hour and a half long and I must have seen it thirty times and the only thing it makes me think of is what I could have done differently.

OKradioheadOK: why has the release of Meeting People Is Easy taken so long here in the states?

Grant Gee: I don't know, I'll ask the producer, hold on...Neither of us know. I think both of us want to do it right, this is off an actual film print, whereas in the UK it was projected off of a video copy. And it's coming out on DVD over here, it takes time to organize. In the beginning it was just going to be a TV program, so we're just making it up as we're going along.

planettelexmax: Grant - why the incredibly heavy emphasis on transport throughout the film? Was it something that came across with the band, or was it an intentional slant of yours?

Grant Gee: A bit of both. One of the main intentions of the film was to make something that was all shots of the real world and looked sort of like the album sounded. The first thing I ever saw of OK Computer was some of the art and the picture on the front is of Houston treated and then the first song Airbag, is transport. And then "Fitter Happier," it's all there in the album. I'm interested in modern urban imagery where everyone is moving.

chat6898: Goldberg: Do you think this is a good time for music? Is there a lot of stuff you like? Who are some of your favorite artists?

Grant Gee: I'm an old punk really and that was supposed to be the end of rock 'n' roll, it's very strange to see that its limped along. I like the Blur record, Sparklehorse, Lambchop, lots of country. But it all goes out of your head as soon as someone asks you what you're listening to.

arookiecrisp was explaining to the band their schedule... it seems that they have NO time to relax. Was the majority of the tour like that? or only the U.S. tour?

Grant Gee: An awful lot of it was, in fact most of it was. Yea, they have sort of one day off a week, during that day one member of the band gets to take the day off and other members of the band have to double up on interviews, etc. etc.

easy_meter: Isn't the film supposed to make a statement coinciding with what OK Computer is felt to stand for?

Grant Gee: Yes. It is meant to be a parallel product. I tried to make something which had similar feel and imagery to some of the imagery on the record. The first verse of "Letdown" is the key one for me.

chat6898: Goldberg: A parallel product?

Grant Gee: I'm not saying it's directly about being in a rock band, but it does stand that way for me.

wsilence: What is the title of the song Thom is soundchecking in the film (besides Life in a glass house, how to disappear, etc.). It sounds a lot like the midlle of paranoid android.

Grant Gee: I really don't know, because Thom would go on before anyone at soundcheck and play really raw bones of songs, sometimes without lyrics. Most of them don't have titles, they're just sketches. I think I know the song you mean, but it is very beautiful, I don't know the title though, but I don't think he does either.

spacegirrrlZ: do u expect to hit a variety of crowds with the movie or are you expecting only radiohead fans to go see this?

Grant Gee: Don't know really. I don't think about who it's for....I'm the sternest critic and it had to pass the tests first and I'm trying to make me happy, so I don't know who would watch it.

planettelexmax: When Stanley D. first saw this film he said that he'd understand completely if Radiohead never toured ever again after watching the film. Do you share his view?

Grant Gee: I could imagine that, yes.

stephen_dedalus80: Did you purposely leave material out of the film in order to accentuate the banality of life on the road? Or do you think this is as accurate as you could have made it?

Grant Gee: Banal just means everyday, so if you're shooting something that happens every day, so of course it's going to be that way. I didn't leave out any really funny or touching scenes. We didn't set out to show how banal it was. What I could have done was show people talking to girlfriends in the corner, but that's their private life, but that's not what I was interested in.

SonicNetMod2: Gil: What did you find most challenging about editing an hour-and-a-half long piece versus a three minute clip? Any scenes you were dying to include but just couldn't fit in?

Grant Gee: Yes, it was very difficult to do that. I think the truest version of the events was eight hours long...I wanted to feel through it, and see what was best and then the next version was six hours long. It's completely different than shooting a promo clip when you're trying to fill up those three and a half minutes, rather than whittling down this chaotic life.

spicysalmonroll: Did the band have any input on what you chose to put in the film and what to leave out?

Grant Gee: In general sense we did talk about general principles. We agreed it was not going to be a personality profile, but other than that there were two half scenes that when it came down to it....One came down to political reasons, and the scene at the end of the No Surprises video shoot originally went on for anther minute and another ten takes, but other than that, no, they were very good about it.

Storme_yorke: Did it get too intense to bear when Thom went off on one? There's a clip when Jonny, Ed and Thom are sitting around and Thom starts talking about not wanting to "do it anymore"...

Grant Gee: Yes it was very difficult, that came near the end of thing about me. I learned to melt against the wall and that one was difficult to shoot, because it hard for me to be close to so personal. It's a strange job to poke your nose into someone's business when they're feeling something so strongly.

chat6898: Goldberg: If you could get the funding to make any movie you wanted, what you do?

Grant Gee: The things I'd really like about a British social movement in the 1930s and some film about architecture or cities. The mass observation film is really the one. Have a good one.

chat6898: Goldberg: Hope you get the chance. It's been great having you on the Rock 'n' Roll Insider Grant! Thanks so much for coming.