Two gentlemen, one Jeep, a mighty stretch of pavement, and one rock show every night for forty nights on the road. That's the basic premise behind 40 Nights of Rock & Roll, the documentary that Steve and Scott of Southgate Studios are creating after an epic cross-country quest. Scott and Steve give great interview, so we won't waste time with a boring intro. Let's just say that we may have to steal Steve's sangria-soaked party at the Wren's Nest idea.
SCOUT: Howdy, fellas. Introduce yourselves and tell us how people might know you.
STEVE: In my last life, I was an editor at Paste Magazine. You might have also seen me playing loud rock & roll in a really stupid costume with Atlanta's premier awesome-core band Attractive Eighties Women.
SCOTT: I may have parked your car or sold you popcorn before. It is also possible that I helped you fix your roads or manage your network.
SCOUT: Tell us a little about Southgate Studios and what you guys are working on.
STEVE: Southgate Studios was really the brainchild of Scott it's a name he'd had in his back pocket for years. Depending on your point of view, there is either a very savory or unsavory concept behind it. I am being intentionally vague here. Essentially, though, Southgate is the production company for our music documentary, 40 Nights of Rock & Roll. We also have plans in the works to use Southgate as the vehicle for many spinoff projectsa bawdy behind-the-scenes narrative, a very sexy music blog, a nonprofit record label, a gorgeously designed photo book, a mindbending roadshow, a VHS-shot gore flick about a nuclear Sasquatch terrorizing the Canadian country side, and an online merch store featuring everything from replicas of the pre-frayed sleeveless trucker shirts we wore in the movie to action figures of Scott, myself and our trusty chariot Black Betty, the ragged-but-right, all-black 2000 Jeep Cherokee with a heart of gold.
SCOTT: We are busy making movie film about rock to make people very happy and love rock more like we do and the other people in bands in our movie like a lot too. It will be fun and great when it is done.
SCOUT: How did you manage to refrain from killing each other on your epic road trip?
STEVE: The time I most nearly killed Scott, I would have also been killed in the process, as he was driving the car I was riding in. Ultimately, this fact made me think twice about giving in to temptation and pounding his face to ground beef with my fists. Another time, in Cleveland, Scott refrained from killing me by stabbing his 14" hunting knife into a motel's plastic ice bucket instead of my chest. Then he fell asleep, and I slowly slipped the blade out from under his fingers—like the Grinch to Cindy Lou Who's candy cane—and then I buried it in my suitcase, padlocked the damn thing and stuffed it under my bed. It was the only way I knew I'd be able to sleep that night. Shit, just this past weekend, Scott had a blade to my throat. I just rolled with it. Best not to to protest in these situations. It only makes things worse. But we haven't killed each other yet—so far, so good, you know?
SCOTT: I still think about killing Steve every time I see him. Once he is done with the book, he is f**ing dead.
SCOUT: Lay down a couple good anecdotes for me. Any particularly good/terrible/insane stories from the road?
SCOTT: Besides the multiple and frequent organ failures, we also sampled a wide cross section of USA fast food and chips. So many chips. It was a chip party. With rock and organ failure.
STEVE: Scott caught a bad case of the rock-star death blood in Fort Collins, and it chased him all the way through Wyoming and into Montana. That, and we met Elvis at the Excalibur in Vegas. He was hitting on a hooker in the bar when we walked up, and before long, he started pulling slots with the $20 we slipped him. The King hit triple 7s three times during our five-minute interview. And he told me I looked like Steelers legend Franco Harris.
SCOUT: What made you decide to up and leave town for 40 days?
SCOTT: I actually thought it was going to be a good time. I was dead wrong. It was the hardest thing I've ever done.
STEVE: I had been mostly chained to a desk for seven years... well, not chained to a desk, but chained to a deadline cycle. So I was ready to get out and have myself a little adventure—you know, grab my own little piece of the time-honored American tradition of self discovery through wandering... Lewis & Clark on expedition, Huck & Jim atop a river raft, Kerouac sucking down wine spodeeodee in a box car or careening across the twisting miles of asphalt with Neal Cassady at the wheel. For me, it was about the road as a vehicle for transcendence, as a spirit-swallowing rain-slick obsidian snake devouring your psyche and spitting it back up renewed, reborn. As for the significance of 40? Well, all I'll say is that it's a very weighty biblical number, one that ended up suiting our purposes more than we could have ever understood at the jump.
SCOUT: When can we see the final glorious product?
SCOTT: Hopefully by the Fall of 2011. At the latest. We have a lot of work to do.
STEVE: I'm hoping the same for the 40 Nights book. We've had some interest from a major publisher, but I may start by putting out my own edition, print-on-demand, and selling it out of my trunk until someone picks it up for wider distribution.
SCOUT: After 40 Nights is finished, what's next on deck for you guys?
SCOTT: Either the film will be sold and I can go on to make something else, or I will go back to corporate America to pay back the mountain of debt I have accumulated.
STEVE: First, I think I'll have a cold beer. After that, it's a little cloudy, but probably some combination of writing books and movie scripts, producing documentaries, freelance writing and editing, managing bands, writing songs, making records, music supervising films, photographing bar mitzvahs and baby showers, DJing weddings, cooking delicious ethnic food, pet sitting and mowing lawns. ... Also, I've never really been much of a dancer, and that fact is starting to trouble me. So I think I'd like to learn to dance. And I'm talking everything—from the foxtrot and the waltz to that grinding shit the kids do to Lil Wayne and Jeezy.
SCOUT: Let's say 40 Nights is a box office smash hit and you suddenly become millionaires overnight. Where will you ball with your newfound cash in ATL?
SCOTT: I am going to partner up with Patrick Ewing and reopen The Gold Club.
STEVE: My friend Lain Shakespeare (that's his real name, no bullshit) runs this svelte joint called The Wren's Nest in the West End. The place is actually the perfectly preserved former home of Joel Chandler Harris of Uncle Remus fame. For my first millionaire shindig, I'd invite all my friends over there, hire a troop of girls from Magic City, about a dozen midgets with flame throwers, fill a few kiddie pools with Sister Louisa's "Spiritual Sangria" (shipped over from the Church of the Living Room Ping Pong in Edgewood), and then we'd get The Black Lips to play the song "Bad Kids" over and over again at a makeshift stage on one side of the back lawn, and directly across from them would be Swedish pop legends Abba (I'm a millionaire now, remember?), playing "Dancing Queen" repeatedly in strange and cacophonous counterpoint. And, the next morning, once things began to wind down, we'd all take the Fur Bus over to Gladys & Ron's for chicken and waffles.
SCOUT: Obviously you guys are into music. Can you tell us some of your favorite local acts here in Atlanta?
STEVE: I love post-punk soul band Tendaberry—I think they're amazingly talented and original, and have really whipped themselves into a drum-tight live act in the last year. Of course, I manage them, but I honestly don't think that affects my opinion much. I'm also a huge Gentleman Jesse fan—Jesse Smith writes the catchiest damn rock & roll songs I've ever heard in my life. Also digging Mermaids lately—Matt McCalvin's got some incredible, unearthly garage-fuzz going on, and it's all shot through with a mysteriously ingratiating sparkle. Then there's my boys The Vaginas—The Vaginas are best damn punk band in the whole world, and I'll stand on Rancid's coffee table in my leather shit-kicker boots and say that. And, of course, Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun—who appear in our movie, and who just dropped a brand new CD called Wildfire—are an unstoppable force... amazingly goodhearted, passionate folks who genuinely are in love with making music. My prediction? Someday, their songs will echo off the walls of arenas.
SCOTT: I've been listening to a lot of Indigo Girls lately.
SCOUT: How about favorite spots to see them play?
STEVE: We have two of the best damn rock clubs in the country here in the The Star Bar and The Earl. And the 529 is no slouch either. For something different, I dig the Highland Ballroom—saw a Jonathan Richman show there a few months back and I'm still beaming. And those parties at the Big House on Ponce are always interesting. Last time I was there, The Backpockets were playing and some chick with a bag over head was exchanging wedding vows with some guy dressed like a larper, but before they could finish the ceremony, a fight broke out and everyone scattered.
SCOTT: I built my own Indigo Girls from pipe cleaners, and enjoy watching them play sold out private shows to me in a shoebox in my dad's basement.
SCOUT: How does Atlanta's music scene shape up compared to the rest of the country?
STEVE: Atlanta is easily one of the strongest music scenes around—especially when you're talking major metro areas. There is so much incredible, varied and unique music that has come out of this town over the last decade. New York can choke on its superiority complex. Like Slater-san said in Dazed & Confused, "It's quality man, not quantity." That said, aside from nearby Athens which most of us here in Atlanta already know well, the best music scenes we stumbled across in our travels were in the most unexpected places—Denton, Texas, and Spokane, Wash. Any serious music fan should be keeping a close eye on those two towns.
SCOTT: Shows don't start on time in Atlanta. I think it could be the traffic. They are much sweatier too.
SCOUT: Favorite local hang-outs to re-up your creativity or unwind?
STEVE: For creativity, I like to set up shop and write at Little Five Points Corner Tavern. Never been much of a coffee-shop kinda writer. Always preferred somewhere with a good bloody mary. To unwind, the enormous front porch of my house on Colquitt in Inman Park. Unfortunately, my landlord just sold the place out from under me. Anybody need a roommate?
SCOTT: The Coca Cola Museum always loosens me up a bit, and enough can't be said about sipping on a nice tall sweet tea on the porch in a rocking chair in the mid day sun.
SCOUT: What'd you miss most about our fair city while on the road?
SCOTT: Zaxby's. I am going to open a Zaxby's in my Jeep so I can always eat Zaxby's.
STEVE: My friends, ATL Sandlot Renegades Baseball, and all the beautiful, beautiful women—especially the indecipherable ones.
SCOUT: Your favorite “curious find” in Atlanta?
STEVE: Just south of 285 on Moreland, nestled amongst a bunch of Southside hip-hop hotspots, is a place frozen in amber. I'm talkin' 'bout Southern Comfort, the most authentic honky tonk I've ever seen—and I've seen quite a few. This place got up and moseyed straight outta Urban Cowboy, if you know what I mean, spurs janglin' all the way. Let me reiterate: This is no cheesy '90s-country line-dancing establishment, nor is it some replica hipster gag bar... it's been open for decades, and with its loyal clientele—consisting mainly of trucker-and-biker repeat business—it has somehow managed to hang on. You've really got to see it to believe it. But don't be gawkin' too much—ya might could get a knife in your belly.
SCOTT: I saw a pick up truck with balls on it.
SCOUT: Other local Atlantans that inspire you and your work?
STEVE: Esquire's Tom Junod is a hero. All the bands I mentioned earlier. I connect in a big way with folk artist Sister Louisa's aesthetic—it's the perfect no-frills blend of sincerity and irreverence, walking the tightrope between the sacred and the profane. My writer pals Hollis Gillespie and Charles McNair. My old Paste cohort Rachael Maddux, who's been cranking out some fantastic pieces for the Oxford American lately. The folks at AM 1690, easily the best radio station in Atlanta. Mr. Thomas Wheatley at Creative Loafing comes to mind—hella-good writer and reporter—as does the amazing and multi-talented Brooke Hatfield, whom we've lost temporarily to our nation's capital, but whom, if we're all very lucky, will be back before too many years pass. Mostly, it's all my talented friends who do everything from teaching to writing to nonprofits to making music, movies and TV shows, graphic design, animation, photography, improv comedy—such a creative community here in Atlanta. And, of course, I'm inspired by music writer Austin L. Ray's beard, which is so massive it bends time and space.
SCOTT: I have a Dale Murphy baseball card that I use as a bookmark. It gives me strength and hope.
SCOUT: Finally, throw out a shameless plug: where can folks find out more about you?
STEVE: Check out 40 Nights of Rock's official Tumblr, Ashely Melzer's fantastic article on 40 Nights of Rock in Chapel Hill's Independent Weekly , and while you're at it, watch Jim Jarmusch's movie Dead Man late at night while drunk on straight Jim Beam and choking down pretzels from a plastic tub. That'll probably tell you more about us (and yourself) than anything.