Punk Retrospective
5Aug/120

SPP Video Magazine, Vol. 1 Issue 8

Posted by ElDorkoPunkRetro

It's a big week in Sacramento...err...Central and Northern California:

30Jul/120

Interview with Sucker Punk Productions’ Benjamin Abel

Posted by ElDorkoPunkRetro

The internet is a double-edged sword. It makes some things increasingly easy, while making other things more difficult. Almost any kid in America can access the tools required to record and distribute a song for free, which is amazing, but there is now a feeling of entitlement that has risen with that ease...music is now considered to be free. Intellectual property is bullshit, according to a huge swath of the world's music listening public. So, easy as it's become to make a record and put it in front of people, for a person whose genuine calling in life is to be a musician, it's nearly impossible to focus in on your art without holding a "real job". Now, instead of releasing an album and touring to drive up record sales, bands record and release albums to drive up attendance at shows and sell t-shirts. This is a recipe to kill music, or at least the music of the underground.

I have had an overwhelming love of music since I was a small child, so supporting truly independent musicians, venues, labels, bookers, etc. is very natural to me. I don't need to be convinced of the importance of music in my life, so helping support the creators of music is a no-brainer. I know that every dollar I spend at a local event makes it that much more likely another event like it will happen. I know that my buying an LP, digital or physical, from Bastards of Young makes it that much easier for them to record another. Free downloads are great, but supporting what you love has to become the logical response as we step out of our self-centered collectors' mentality.

Over the last couple of years, we have all watched the music scene in the Sacramento region growing. Bands from Stockton to Reno, Nevada City to Davis, play shows in small and large venues ranging from the storage closet of Luigi's Slice in Sacramento to the awesome basements of Luigi's in Davis and the hip, new Haven Underground in Nevada City. There were a handful of promoters/bookers on the bill at Luigi's the other night...a show that worked out spectacularly, shiny walls and all. We're lucky to have such punk friendly venues.

Behind the venues, promoters and bands is another line of people doing promotion work on the internet. I do this in a haphazard, directionless way, but others, like Sacramento Punk Shows and Undie Tacos pull everything together to make it easy to know what is happening in town. A couple months ago I saw a note pass through the Sacramento Punk Shows Facebook page asking people to submit their flyers for a weekly video magazine. I was immediately jealous that I hadn't thought of this. It's the brainchild of Sucker Punk Productions...and I'm lucky enough to have had a couple of chances recently to talk to Benjamin Abel.

ElDorkoPunkRetro: Hello Benjamin…thank you for taking the time to talk to Punk Retrospective. I really enjoyed our conversation the other day and still wish I had recorded it. Hopefully we’ll be able to get into some of this stuff at near the same depth as last time!

Benjamin Abel: Thanks for having me and oh man, I gotta have you on a podcast at some point. It's those kinds of conversations that can really instill change in people. The more I learn about people doing similar things, the more it drives me to do more. It's amazing how something as simple as a conversation can seed the energy to really start taking action.

ElDorkoPunkRetro: Exactly! OK, cool, so...first off, can you tell us a little bit about you…give us your bio, how old, where from, etc?

Benjamin Abel: I'm 29 years old and I've been in and out of Sacramento over the last 20 years. I helped put together Sucker Punk Productions last year in the hopes of making some short films, movies, etc. Different parts of the company have kind of spun off and become their own giants, including our local music scene ideas. Which I suppose is what has gotten me here.

ElDorkoPunkRetro: At what age did you become aware of your love of art? I guess I’m assuming anyone who would devote as much time and energy to promoting other peoples’ music through their own art…anyway…You love music, you run around with a bunch of punks filming shows…where does this passion come from?

Benjamin Abel: I started writing around... Fuck... 10 or 11... The art of story telling, that's what hooked me. I got into poetry and song lyrics a few years later and guitar a few years after that. By 15 I was writing acoustic songs no one liked, and continued doing that for around 10 or 12 years. I played bass for a while, but no one seemed to like that either. All in all, I probably have enough material to come out with an album, but I don't think my mother would even buy it. She'd probably re-gift it to me on accident at Christmas. I've painted and drawn on and off for the same amount of time, but I've never been too good at that. What I'm really good at is script writing. I shut myself in for three days and wrote out my first script when I was 18. I never stopped. Last year, one thing led to another, and a bunch of other story tellers joined me as The Sucker Punks, and we began trading ideas about what we wanted to do. I think Tony Del Valle (from The Walking Dead) urged us to do a documentary about his band, but that idea soon fell to the side of an even larger idea Andy Harrison (also from The Walking Dead) pointed out. But we had all this footage of the band and Brett jordan and I didn't want it to go to waste. So I cut a video of it together of the live footage. And it made sense. We just kept doing it. The love of music was always there, we just never thought to apply our love of film to it.

ElDorkoPunkRetro: So, what exactly is Sucker Punk Productions? How many people are involved, who are they and what is the agenda?

Benjamin Abel: Sucker Punk Productions is a group of 5 individual artists whom help one another try and bring their film visions to life. We are all writers, directors, editors, videographers and idealists. When one person has something they really want to do, we rally around one another and do everything we can to make it happen. You can find out more about the crew at our web site, www.suckerpunkproductions.com. Our agenda is... To entertain. We push the local music scene because the scene itself seems to be an extension and an inspiration ot all of us, but we're much more than that. We do comedy (which is admittingly suffering right now), we have ideas for short movies, full length films, animated features, documentaries... Many, many things we want to do.

ElDorkoPunkRetro: We were talking about financial ‘problems’ on the phone the other day, but you seem remarkably calm for a guy who can’t really even make it to all the shows you’re actively promoting. You are a driving force in the local music scene, you encourage others to respect the music and bands by supporting shows and buying merchandise, but you do all of this stuff for free…I’m not sure what my question is here other than maybe…why?

Benjamin Abel: Well as much as I appreciate it, I wouldn't call myself a 'driving force.' I'm still new to promotions, and everything we do from the music videos to the video magazine to the podcasts... The popularity fluctuates from one episode to the other. We're still trying to get a foothold in the Sac music scene. We barely have an audience, and we're not sure how to get one except to keep doing what we're doing. Why do we do it? Why do I do it? It's ingrained in me. I have friends in the scene, and I want them to do well. I enjoy their music. At some point it became, “well, if you want them to do well, and you enjoy their music, lend a fucking hand.” It's the way I hope people think about me and the company. It's a thought I've applied to the people in the company, and in the scene. The scene isn't dead kids, you just need to get up and support local music. The bands are out there, you're not. And it's not because these bands suck, believe me.

ElDorkoPunkRetro: You mentioned working on a specific documentary film project the other day…are you ready for people to hear about this yet, or do you want to wait?

Benjamin Abel: No, we can talk about that a little. We can't really go far in depth with it until we get an LLC, but I can tell you we've already been working on a documentary about the local music scene, and we have an interesting angle we want to try utilizing many of the people promoting the scene. It's something we want to be good enough to send to film festivals and such... I'm not sure I should say more than that, but we'll have an LLC next month, so hopefully we can talk about it more soon.

ElDorkoPunkRetro: I told you a story the other day about a friend of mine who was harshly and unjustly criticized for floating the idea of a Kickstarter project to make physical product available from her record label. Then we spoke at length about each of our initial forays into mp3 collecting and our current beliefs about buying what we like after streaming a first listen. How do you view the internet as a tool for artists/labels/production companies, etc. and how do you think fans can best support bands and the continued creation of actual LP’s, EP’s, CD’s, DVD’s and films?

Benjamin Abel: I actually experienced this first hand today. We have a kickstarter for a short film, Fighting through the Zombie Apocalypse, we started a few days back. Some artists I truly deeply respect dogged me for 'asking for a handout,' and for a moment it broke my heart. I shot back with a comparison of bands asking people to go to shows and buy merch so they can continue producing art for their community, and how what we were asking for wasn't much different. Overall, they were just kidding, but that attitude is more of what I disagree with. Don't just say you support a band or project or idea. Do things that show that support. Sometimes it's as simple as a good friend saying “I'll check my wallet, but don't expect much.” Someone said that to me. Fuck if he even has a dollar to give me, at least he's showing with his actions and saying with his words, “you're worth me at least saying i'll try.” Yes buy merch, yes go to shows, no downloading illegally. That all goes without saying. But also, be what you want to hear in your own life. Be a pillar and a moral support. Tell bands you love them and you want more, encourage the things you love to persevere. Be the catalyst of difference in your community. That's what makes change, that's what changes ideas into actions. It's not standing on the sidelines heckling the players, it's being knee deep in the game.

ElDorkoPunkRetro: Let me just say…I’m a big fan of the SPP Video Magazine. I like Sacramento Punk Shows listings and the constant barrage coming out of Punch and Pie into my stream…I like Bows and Arrows and Undie Tacos, but there’s something about just listening to who will be playing that hits my brain harder…maybe it’s the background music…I don’t know, but thank you for sending that out! It looks like it must take hours…days…all those links! Thank you…invaluable!

Benjamin Abel: Thank you for being so supportive. I WISH I could reach the audience Sacramento Punk Shows has. Right now it's great to have so many bands and musicians watching what we'll do next, but we've yet to make it over that wall where we're drawing in real fans, the show goers and film lovers, people interested in everything we're doing because they stumbled upon us and we actually entertained them. I could seriously do SPP Video Magazine until I die because I love it so much, but it's a different story with our other shows. We have to find our own fans at some point, and that's the most frightening part for me. You can't tell if it's going to happen until it hits you.

ElDorkoPunkRetro: OK, so…I know we’ll talk again soon and that you will be contributing to Punk Retrospective…is there something I should have asked you that I didn’t? I feel like there is…but I just can’t find the question…final words on current music or some another project you have going?

Benjamin Abel: Yes! Keep reading Punk Retrospective because people like El Dorko give a shit, and want to see the scene flourish, and do everything they can to be an active part of that flourishing, And he's not even getting paid! So keep coming back, and share this page with your friends. And if I can plug our current project, find more information on Fighting through the Zombie Apocalypse at https://www.facebook.com/events/153284038128511/.

ElDorkoPunkRetro: Thank you again for visiting!!

Benjamin Abel: Anytime. Thanks for having me.

22Jul/120

SPP Video Magazine Vol. 1 iss. 6

Posted by ElDorkoPunkRetro

Sucker Punk ProductionsHey Sacramento! Here's the Sucker Punk Productions lowdown on this weeks shows!! Don't forget to 'like' the Sucker Punk Productions and Punk Retrospective FB pages: