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IIFBoston Interview: Ian McFarland

In 1985, Slapshot formed in Boston, Massachusetts.  Before even performing live, the anticipation for the band was high.  One writer said they were a “great live act,” before they ever stepped foot on a stage.  The group’s origins come from Boston’s hardcore scene, but the band never stayed within those lines, choosing to lead rather than follow.

“Chip on My Shoulder: The History of Slapshot,” follows the band over their thirty year history, and features rare footage and in-depth interviews with band members.    I had the chance to talk with co-director Ian McFarland about the film.

LR: What made you want to make the movie?

IM: The idea for the film about when my band (Blood for Blood) was on a three week European tour in 2004. We were sharing a bus with Slapshot, so naturally that makes you either become really close or puts you at odds with each other . Luckily in this case, we all hit it off immediately. We were constantly laughing—it was definitely one of the tours that I have had the most fun on. I can’t speak for the other guys In my band, but I can say that for me the experience of touring with a band with so much history and that has had so much influence on a subculture was surreal.   At the time I was starting to do a lot of documentary and music video work and I was looking for stories to tell. One night I was having a dinner  with Chris Lauria (Slapshot, bassist) and he was telling me some really amazing stories about the band and their history when it just hit me that no one had done anything with them before. And in talking with Chris more I realized how interesting their past is. I mean Chris, Mark and the original guitarist Steve Risteen went to Jr. High together and got into hardcore all at the same time. They used to go see Choke’s (Slapshot singer) other bands before Slapshot (Last Rights, Negative FX) when they were literally young teenagers. That was in the early 1980’s; now almost 30 years later they are still friends and doing basically the same things. You don’t see that much these days.

LR: Were you a Slapshot fan?

IM: The first time I heard them was when I was in 14 years old and my friend Chris Moorse demanded that I hear this band that he had just gotten into. The second I heard the first note, I was hooked. There was something raw and fresh about the band that I had not heard up to that point.

LR: What did the band think about your idea?  Were they immediately into it?  Did you have to convince them?

IM: From the start I wanted to do a documentary film rather than a fan DVD that only the fans would appreciate. I thought that the band had this interesting story that would appeal to a much broader audience if presented in the right way. When I approached the band about the idea they really didn’t think that their story was very interesting and they didn’t think that anyone would want to hear about it. Regardless, they agreed to let me give it a shot and I began work on the project. I think that once we did the first round of interviews with them they quickly realized that I was not out to tell just the history of the band but rather was interested in looking at the opposing personalities of drummer Mark McKay and singer Jack “Choke” Kelly over their 30 year history. I think that they all got really nervous at that point because they realized that this was going to expose their personal sides.  Never the less they went along with it.

LR: Can you talk a little bit about the search for archival material?

IM: It sucks, it sucks, it sucks…..  I don’ t know what else to say.

LR: Was there one thing that you were surprised to find?

IM: The thing that suprised me the most was that these guys just really don’t take the band seriously and never have. I mean yes, the band started with a mission to put the Boston scene back on the map but that was as far as it went. I don’t think that they ever dreamed that they would be together 30 years later, let alone still be close friends. And in looking at the footage of when they were teenagers and being around them today, they really have not changed to much.

LR: Are there any surprises for Slapshot fans in the movie?

IM: Yes, Choke (the singer) gets really really personal in his interview.  The other guys in the band couldn’t even beleive it when they saw the final cut!

LR: What do you want viewers to take away from this film?

IM: A better understanding for what it is like to be in a band and what it can do to a soul over time. It is more than just parties and music.

“Chip,” screens Friday, April 24th at the Brattle theater.  Both McFarland and co-director Anthony Moreschi will be in attendance.  Slapshot is also scheduled to appear.

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