“Some things happen for a reason only once in a lifetime,” recalls a song, ‘Crazy’, from ‘Love After Death’, according to one of the authors, Joe Lesté, the best album of Bang Tango. If this is true, then that time has finally arrived, as so far it has seemed too absurd and irrational that the history of rock hadn’t got the slightest regard for this totally unique band, which makes the original adjective a lame euphemism. But it’s also true that things happen even better when to support the events there is a massive deal of randomness and craziness. Two features Drew Fortier and Joe Placzkowski have been cultivating with their own money, time and devotion in the making of a documentary film that will come out in the next months. Without the claim to be a blockbuster, this film will certainly make the saga of this underground group more fatally epic. This is the story about a bunch of guys, unknown to the masses, some of whom crossed their paths only for a minute, while others are still fighting for the cause, a band that managed to melt hard rock, sleaze metal, acid funk, dark neo-romanticism in a single formula, and then to expose it through a morbid and sinister aesthetic. Formed in the womb of the mother/whore Los Angeles in 1987, they had for a moment the feeling that the world could get aware of them and that they could be understood in their lucid inspiration, but neither MCA, the record company that took these innovative and daring children of the streets under its custody between ’89 and ’91, realized their extraordinary proposal. For some, too alternative to appeal to fans of Guns N ‘Roses and Motley Crue, for others, too tied to the Hollywood rockstar stereotype, Bang Tango eventually opted for the dissolution after just a triad of masterpieces: ‘Psycho Cafe’ (1989), ‘Dancin’ On Coals’ (1991) and ‘Love After Death’ (1994). After several records, car crashes, story of ordinary madness and lineup changes, which saw musicians of extreme value pass the baton – among them, Anthony Focx, Alex Grossi, Mark Tremalgia – they managed to get through to today, with the last survivor, singer Joe Lesté and bassist Lance Eric, faithful and constant presence for over ten years, as well as Scott Laflamme on guitar and Trent Anderson on drums. Take this and read, then. This is a shared dialogue based on courage and enlightened devotion to the cult of Bang Tango or, equally, a ‘Dick in The System’…
Hello there! First of all, I want to go straight, who the hell are Drew Fortier and Joe Placzkowski?
Hey!! Well I(Drew Fortier) am a bartender from the southside of Chicago and I’ve been close friends with Joe Placzkowski since highschool and we always shared a huge love for films.
So, how did you come out with the idea of focusing a doc/movie on a superior, though unfortunate, music experiment that failed its ascent to the kingdom of success?
Well it all really happened on accident, I was bartending at this club at the time, and my boss comes up to me and says “Hey Drew, I’m having Bang Tango play here in a few months, ever hear of them?” and I said “Oh yeah! I remember those guys, my older brother would listen to them all the time when I was younger”
So I proceeded to pump money into the juke box, playing the whole Psycho Café album leading up to the show to promote it. The band still owes me 50 bucks for all the money I spent promoting that gig via jukebox! And then the day came, my boss had bought this zoom hqn audio video recorder and wanted me to walk around and interview the guys in the band about themselves and the club. So Joe Lesté shows up and sees me fumbling around with this recording device, he walks up to me and says “Heyyy man!! whats that cool thing in your hand?…. wait, first question should be, do you know where I can find some weed???”. And I couldn’t find him weed but we started talking more and became quick buddies, along with the rest of the band. We drank copious amounts of booze that night, I even opened up a bar tab for them, which came out to be like $250!
Then as the night progressed Joe told me that the band was going to be recording in Chicago in a few weeks at Johnny K’s Groovemasters for the recording of what would become “Pistol Whipped in the Bible Belt” and that I should be around for that to shoot a little studio documentary, I said “hell yeah!” and proceeded to order another round of shots!
As fate would have it, earlier in the year I purchased a whole bunch of film equipment with my tax return money, because me and Joe Placzkowski knew we wanted to shoot something, and as it turned out it would be The Bang Tango Movie. Then from there it morphed from being a short youtube documentary to a full fledged feature film about the story of Bang Tango, which is a great story. And 2 years later I’m still working on it, I have over 40 interviews and 300 hours of footage to widdle down to an hour and forty five minutes. It’s been a huge learning process. But I love every second of it. Also I need to give a huge shot out to Anu Gunn, who is also a producer on this project, he has been shooting a lot of great interviews out in L.A. He has been a huge part of this project.
What the reaction of original/current members of Bang Tango was like toward your ambitious and flattering proposal? By the way, what happened to Kyle Kyle?
The current line-up were very flattered, and shocked that someone would take all this time with no budget to make a movie about them.
The original line-up at first didn’t know what to expect out of this, I think they thought I would be focusing more on the current line-up and having the original guys be an afterthought, but they learned my true ambition for the project to tell the whole story, and the truth behind the band. I became very close with the original guys, I even do a lot of video work for Mark Knight’s current band “Mark Knight and the Unsung Heroes” which actually features Mark (Original Bang Tango Guitarist), Mark Tremalgia (Ex Bang Tango Guitarist), Tigg Ketler (Original Bang Tango Drummer) and Reeve Downes (Rhino Bucket Bassist). The band is amazing and everyone should check them out.
And as for Kyle Kyle, he got into a horribly bad car wreck in the late 90’s, almost died. It’s a heartbreaking but inspirational story which is featured in the film. But since then he made a full recovery and currently has a project with Danny Parker (Ex Bang Tango Drummer) called “Mona Lisa Overdrive” which is absolutely kick ass.
Speaking of BT’s music, is the unavoidable condition of pure geniuses being relegated to the cult section of music history or the wall of brainwashing activity instigated by the corporate music biz is too high to climb over for the average listener?
Bang Tango were unfairly lumped in with the “Hair Metal” bands at the time when they first came out. Bang Tango were their own entity. Totally original and going against the grain of what other bands were doing back then. Their label, MCA did a horrible job at promoting them and believing in them as MCA didn’t know how to promote rock bands. But everything is covered in the film. It’s a dark story about the truth behind the music business in a lot of ways. There’s gonna be no exaggeration or holding back with what I have to say with this film. It’s the gritty hardcore truth and I can’t wait for people to get a good look inside what really goes on in the music business.
I’m completely aware of Bang Tango’s suggestive peculiarity and extraordinariness but, looking back at the late 80’s Californian rock scene, don’t you recognize they also represented a sign of the times in some kind of way?
I think they were a sign of the times, big time. When people were so closed off to so much familiar sounding music, Bang Tango were everything but familiar. They had their own sound, their own look, their own ominous mysterious presence. Almost like a Led Zeppelin. They had everything going for them.
In the movie preview I heard former BT’s producer Howard Benson talking about “the beginning of a trend that never happened”. I strongly assume there were many at the time. When it comes to L.A. only, I think about Kik Tracee, T-Ride, Circle of Soul, King of the Hill. All amazing bands that also had a wicked sense of funk in their blood. Maybe were there too many new trends going to come out at once back in the day?
At the time labels would sign a band, and if the band became a big success, they would sign 20 other bands that sounded identical to them. With the funky hard rock bands, I don’t think people were quite ready for that. I always put Bang Tango into the same style as Faith No More or Red hot Chili Peppers.
Which are your personal expectations from this movie? And how will people be able to get access to its view?
I hope fans of the band get to see it, but you don’t even have to be a fan to enjoy it. It’s a real story about real people and how you don’t have to be a millionaire to be successful. Bang Tango is almost of legend, a band that could have been something more and still can be. Everybody around them believed in them. They’re label did not. But I’m hoping to premiere the film in L.A. and Chicago before Fall hits, and then get it submitted to film festivals, then hopefully find a good outlet for it so people can see it.
Thank you for answering and… up with the Attack Of Life, then!
Thanks so much, brother!!!