INTERVIEW WITH DREW FORTIER OF BANG TANGO
Date: September 18, 2015
Photos: Susan R. Bailey (1st photo), Alan Roy Carrington (2nd), Anthony Lucero (3rd), Mike Ellis (4th), Joel Walter (5th)
YOU NEVER KNOW WHERE LIFE WILL TAKE YOU AND THAT CERTAINLY HAS BEEN THE CASE FOR DREW FORTIER IN THE LAST FOUR YEARS OR SO. FORTIER IS THE CREATOR AND MAIN ARCHITECT BEHIND THE NEW DOCUMENTARY ‘ATTACK OF LIFE: THE BANG TANGO MOVIE,’ WHICH HAS YET TO BE RELEASED. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH THE POSITIVE THINKING FORTIER WHO PROVIDED IN-DEPTH AND CANDID RESPONSES TO EVERYTHING FROM HOW HE GOT INVOLVED WTH BANG TANGO TO WHAT IS HOLDING BACK HIS DOCUMENTARY FROM BEING RELEASED.
Sleaze Roxx: How did you first get involved with Bang Tango and in particular Joe Lesté?
Drew Fortier: Oh wow. It was absolutely unconventional to say the least (laughs)! In June of 2011, I was bartending on the southside of Chicago at this little rock club, and my boss tells me that we are going to have Bang Tango playing at the club soon. I remembered the name. My older brother was and always has been huge into that genre of bands. So I hit up the jukebox and remembered all the songs. I was excited. Plus I’m a huge Beautiful Creatures fan so I couldn’t wait to meet Joe.
The day comes and my boss hands me this little zoom video recorder. Joe and the guys show up and Joe walks straight up to me and asks me what the thing in my hand is, I told him it was a camera and he then goes into how the band is recording an album in Chicago very soon and that I should come by and shoot a little studio documentary. With absolutely zero training in film, let alone shooting or editing, I enthusiastically agreed (laughs). But that night, I hit it off with the band great and became quick friends. Joe found out I played guitar. My brother told him I play in a Led Zeppelin Tribute Band (Fools in the Rain) so Joe was like “What the hell dude? You play guitar too? You’re playing a Zeppelin song with us tonight!” So he brought me up to do “Bring It On Home” with them, and we get through the intro, but the rest of the band were like deer in headlights when the band was supposed to kick in (laughs)! It was hysterical — a super fun mess. Joe forgot to tell the rest of the guys what song we were supposed to be doing. It was a super fun moment. We all had the greatest time.
Sleaze Roxx: How did the idea for doing the documentary come about?
Drew Fortier: Earlier in the year with my tax return money I actually bought a nice camera and some film equipment. My close friend and producer of The Bang Tango Movie, Joe Placzkowski, and I knew we wanted to shoot something that particular summer. As the fates would have it, it would be a documentary on Bang Tango. So I showed up to the studio. I think they were all surprised I actually showed up (laughs)!. I had the most amazing time at Johnny K’s Groovemasters. It was for the recording of ‘Pistol Whipped In The Bible Belt.’
I really got to know the guys well at that time. Sitting and talking with Joe about the history of the band really intrigued me. I had no idea that Bang Tango had such a compelling story. So from there, I got a hold of Mark Knight (original Bang Tango guitarist) and that’s when the floodgates opened (laughs). Him and I became quick friends as well, and he gave me his run down of the story of Bang Tango. He also got me in touch with all of the other original members of the band as well. From that point, this studio documentary turned into a full on rock doc. Only thing was… I had no fucking clue how to make a movie (laughs)!
So then, I tracked down everyone I could for interviews, Howard Benson (their first producer), ex-bandmates, friends of the band, etc., etc. I even was able to make contact with Dee Snider to read the opening narration I wrote for the beginning of the movie. The true angel of this whole project was Anu Gunn. He helped produce and shoot a lot of the interviews in L.A. when I couldn’t afford to fly out there. I learned so much from him and it’s safe to say that without Anu, this movie wouldn’t be what it is today. Such a talented dude!
So early on, I realized I was okay at shooting stuff with the camera. Just figured that I would shoot as many things and interviews as I can and just give it to the band to give to someone to edit together something like a documentary (laughs). Early on, since I had all this footage, they asked if I could edit together a music video for them which turned out to be the “Live Life” video. It was my first attempt ever at editing and once again, I had no clue what the fuck I was doing (laughs)! The band ended up loving it! It had some great humour in it. Their booking agent especially loved it and since then, has had me do promo videos for all the bands on his roster, which has been a flattering experience to work with such influential and great bands. I ended up doing video work for Mark Knight — a few music videos for him. I ended up doing like five Bang Tango videos. And still… I had no clue what the fuck I was doing (laughs).
So at the end of shooting, I ended up with over 400 hours of footage. I sat down one day and attempted to go through everything to try and put a rough cut together and it almost made my brain explode. I was learning how to do all this literally on the fly and by trial and error. I let the footage sit for the longest time and just started cutting together trailers for the movie every couple of months just to show that something was still happening with it. Finally, I decided to put my sanity aside for about six months and sat down and edited together what would be the rough cut of the movie. Edited the whole thing myself. I do NOT recommend anyone to try and do this. I definitely died a little bit on the inside and burnt out the part of my brain that was once capable of simple math (laughs).
But the rough cut was insanely dark and mean toned. It was a little bit too brutal on everybody involved. So I recut it, shortened it up, tightened it up and went through everything with a fine tooth comb and finally called it finished. It was a strange moment, finishing something like that. It took four years of my life to make and probably shaved off 12 years of my life in the end (laughs). But I showed everyone the final cut and everyone absolutely loved it. It was a super strange and flattering moment, because once again, this guy had no clue what the fuck he was doing (laughs). But everyone was flipping out over how well the story came out.
So throughout that whole four year process, I learned how to make a movie as well as how NOT to make a movie. Triumphantly — in the end — I finally learned what the fuck I was doing (laughs).
Sleaze Roxx: I have to say that I thought that it was a great move to have Dee Snider involved in the movie. What made you think of reaching out to Dee Snider for the film?
Drew Fortier: Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed what he did for the movie! As for reaching out to Dee, I actually wrote out the narration with him in mind. I wrote it out and just thought, man, Dee Snider would be so perfect for this… and figured… “You never know unless you ask!” So I sent his management an e-mail with the trailer for the movie, then next thing I know I get a phone call from his manager and he tells me “Dee wants to do it.” It was definitely a pleasant suprise! He did a couple of cold reads and his manager sent me the file. It was so perfect. During one of the reads, he added his own two cents. It was hysterical so I kept it in the movie. That part where he goes off on a tangent was all him. It was brilliant (laughs)! I am so fortunate that he wanted to be a part of this. I actually never met him or spoke to him. I would love to shake his hand and thank him one day!
Sleaze Roxx: You mentioned that your first cut of the film was just “too brutal.” How was the first cut of the film “too brutal” compared to what the final version turned out to be?
Drew Fortier: Oh man… It was straight up “Sex, Drugs & Rock N’ Roll.” The stories shared were very X rated, and just came off very negative on the band’s part, which was unfair to them and wasn’t what the band was all about. There was a part where there was a meltdown on stage a few years back. It was just all very negative and really was unnecessarily mean toned and really didn’t truly depict the band properly. Also the rough cut ended abruptly (laughs). It just kept on getting more and more intense then BAM, it ended — and the viewer would just walk away super depressed with no resolution. So I re-cut the movie, paced it better, tightened everything up and actually shot a new ending, which is the ending you saw in the movie. Originally, the end was supposed to be the opposite of what you saw, but what I captured was absolutely perfect and made total sense with the theme of the movie. Which is no matter what, the torch will be carried despite what people may say or think. There will always be Bang Tango and Joe will always be sailing the ship.
Sleaze Roxx: You were able to interview just about every member of Bang Tango for the documentary. Were some members or ex-members more difficult than others to entice to participate or work with, and if so, who were they and what were some of the issues?
Drew Fortier: Everyone was all for it suprisingly. It was just a matter of scheduling interviews, which Anu Gunn helped out with a lot. Everyone who I contacted about the movie was mostly surprised that someone was actually taking the time to make a Bang Tango documentary of all things (laughs). I have made a lot of great friends throughout making this movie too. Everyone involved and in the movie are genuinely great people and it’s an honor to know them.
Sleaze Roxx: Funny enough, you are now one of the guitarists in Bang Tango. How and when did you end up joining the band?
Drew Fortier: Oh man — that’s a fun dream come true moment for me (laughs). Being involved with the band for four years, I always said “Hey…. you knoooooow…. if you guys ever need a rhythm guitar player just let me know!” Back in April of this year, I screened the movie in Chicago. The band was in attendance and it went amazing. Everyone loved it — even Joe! Then they played a gig in Chicago that same week and I played rhythm guitar with them for fun. It meant a lot to me — great moment. Then they take off and continue their tour. Then that Friday, Joe calls me up in the morning. First thing he says is “Hey Drew… Question… How would you feel about playing in front of 20,000 people with us at the M3 Festival tomorrow?” I then quickly replied with “I’m renting the car right now! I’m on my way!” So I then drove 12 hours straight from Chicago to Maryland. Still had my work clothes on too, which was a black suit (laughs). I get there. We do the gig and it was amazing. I guess the band really enjoyed having a second guitar at the Chicago show, especially Rowan who is an amazing lead guitarist and felt more comfortable and had the freedom to be more creative with his playing with a second guitarist. Since M3 I have officially become a member of Bang Tango. It has been such an honour and flattering experience to play these songs with them. I absolutely love these guys and it’s an honour to share the stage with such talented musicians and great friends.
Sleaze Roxx: I thought that Joe Lesté is portrayed as quite a wildcard in the film. You have had the chance to work with Joe both in this film but also now as a Bang Tango band member. What is Joe really like and how do you think that he is portrayed in the film?
Drew Fortier: Joe is actually such a great guy. A lot of the questions in the movie; he just simply didn’t feel comfortable answering, which is totally understandable. He is the real deal. He is in it for the love of the music and it seemed it was just strange for him to go back and explain the way he felt at certain points in his life. He doesn’t really think about all that. He just keeps the band alive and loves doing it and is always looking ahead instead of reflecting on what has happened. But for the movie’s sake, it worked in a cool way because he did in fact come off enigmatic, which added to the tone of the movie.
But Joe is a close friend of mine. I love the man to death. He has a huge heart and is in music for all the right reasons. I am honoured that he believes in me enough to be a part of the band he has kept alive for the past 25 years. He also has the greatest sense of humour in the world (laughs). As for all of my bandmates — Lance, Rowan, and Timmy — as well as all of the original members of the band — Mark, Kyle, Tigg, and Kyle — all of them are wonderful people and ridiculously talented, and I am honoured to call them good friends. At the end of the day, all I can say is that I am super fortunate to be involved with this band. Going from making a movie about them to being IN the band has been a big self-realization on my part. They say you always change what you study. I suppose this is living proof!
Sleaze Roxx: Sometimes documentaries have a tendency to jump back and forth a bit within a band’s timelines but you decided to present the film and band in chronological order. Why did you end up going that route?
Drew Fortier: It made sense to me while editing. The story actually worked out so well chronologically. The Bang Tango story itself has a beginning, a middle, a climax, and a resolution so it worked out perfectly. I thought about the jumping back and forth thing and it just didn’t make sense to me. I figured it would be much more easier to follow if it was chronological. My goal was to be 100% honest with no fabrication or staged moments or manipulative editing. This is the true story of Bang Tango.
Sleaze Roxx: How did you come up with the title ‘Attack Of Life: The Bang Tango Movie’ for the documentary?
Drew Fortier: The producer of the movie and my friend Joe Placzkowski actually suggested that one. It’s the first track of their debut album, and sets the tone for the rest of the record. The title really sets the tone for the movie. Life is gonna jump up and getcha, and it sure did for Bang Tango (laughs). So I just thought it fit perfectly after it was suggested.
Sleaze Roxx: This will be my first time asking such a question in an interview but you gave me the honour of viewing and reviewing your documentary before it was released. Usually, I am the one critiquing others’ work but I’ll give you a crack at it (laughs). Do you agree with what I stated in my review, and if not, which parts do you disagree with and why?
Drew Fortier: (Laughs) Oh, I thought your review was lovely! Thank you so much! I know you’re a busy dude and didn’t get to watch it in one sitting [Interviewer’s note: My family life involves many unexpected interruptions], but there are A LOT of small subtle things throughout the movie that makes the ending mean that much more. So the only thing I would take a crack at is perhaps sit down and watch it one more time in one sitting and see if you feel any different (laughs).
Sleaze Roxx: I understand that there are some issues possibly holding back the release of the documentary. What are these issues and what do you think the chances are that the film will ever see the light of day?
Drew Fortier: The main issues have been clearing the songs for use in the film. The master tapes are at Universal but they are mislabeled and uncategorized etc. so it has been a nightmare figuring all of that out. But I have sent the movie out for reviewers for websites and publications etc. and the feedback has been absolutely flattering. Especially since I had no clue what the fuck I was doing while making this thing (laughs)!. But I did let a lot of the people at the Metal Sludge forums check out the movie, and the response has been absolutely flattering. You know Metal Sludge, they love to talk sludge about stuff like this, but their reviews have been absolutely 100% favorable and so flattering and so kind. People on that site who aren’t Bang Tango fans even really enjoyed the movie, which was actually my goal for the film. Bang Tango fans will enjoy it but the main audience I’m aiming for are people who never heard of the band, even people who aren’t even fans of the genre, and it feels amazing to know that it has come across that way and that the particular audience I was aiming for — aside from Bang Tango fans — are really enjoying it.
Sleaze Roxx: What are your plans going forward including your future with Bang Tango and as a filmmaker?
Drew Fortier: Oh man! I’ve been cherishing and absolutely loving my time playing with the band. I am definitely not going anywhere else. So my future with Bang Tango will be all about the upcoming shows and inevitable recording of new material. I also have a project with Stephen Shareaux, the vocalist of Kik Tracee. We have been doing acoustic gigs playing the Kik Tracee material, his solo material as well as new songs we have been writing together. It has been going amazing on all aspects. I actually just did double duty at a show in Golden Colorado at Buffalo Rose over the weekend, which was put on by the amazing Wolfpack Productions crew! I did an acoustic set with Stephen then plugged in and helped make a Bang Tango happen at the end of the night (laughs). Such a fun show! They’re all fun shows! But as a filmmaker, I have been in close contact with a very well known industrial metal band about possibly doing a full on documentary for them. But aside from that, I am perfectly happy with putting the camera down and picking up a guitar and playing with Bang Tango instead.
Sleaze Roxx: Last question for you — what are your three favorite albums of all-time and why?
Drew Fortier: That’s a hard one! Wow (laughs)! Ummm… off the top of my head…. wow…. I can easily name like ten but I’ll go with these three… Faith No More’s ‘Angel Dust.’ Why? Because it’s ‘Angel Dust’ by Faith No More (laughs)! It’s such an amazing innovative album and I am such a huge fan of those guys, especially their producer Matt Wallace. My next one will be my cliché answer (laughs) — Bang Tango’s ‘Love After Death.’ It’s the album that could have put those guys over the top had it been released in the States. It’s such a massive album. Howard Benson did that one too, I love Howard. My favorite Bang Tango song is “My Favorite 9” from that album and we play that one every night, it’s my highlight at the shows! Number three would have to be ‘Demanufacture’ by Fear Factory. Another incredibly innovative album that absolutely helped mold a lot of current metal music today. I love those guys. They can do no wrong in my book!