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xclusive interview with Don Letts.

Don Letts talks about his latest project, PUNK:attitude.
Questions by Phil Singleton.

Phil: What inspired you to undertake your latest work, Punk:attitude, and how did you decide on the perspective of the film and the story you wanted to tell?

Don: I was approached to do a punk doc and my initial reaction was "not that again" since it seems that every few years there's some sort of punk revival. It occurred to me that the over emphasis of the late seventies Punk movement (nihilism, safety pins and mohawks) trivialized the bigger idea of counter-culture, which it was part of.

Furthermore, the attitude expressed by punks didn't begin or end in the late seventies (although when you look around these days you do have to wonder). In the current cultural climate it almost feels like punk never happened. These observations led me to the idea of trying to show that the punk attitude has a lineage and a continuity that's even more relevant today. Punk is a living thing, something to look forward to, not back on.

What makes this film vital is the interviewees. How did you select your subjects for this movie?

It's pretty much common knowledge who were the main players in the musical form of 'punk attitude'. There are those who've had their say and those who can't 'cause they're gone. Between these and other factors (availability, willingness etc) I aimed high whilst also making an effort to give voice to those we don't normally get to hear from.

Is there a part in the film that you feel best captures the essence of punk?

The first and last three quotes in the movie.

Was there a particular piece of archive footage that gave you a buzz when you unearthed it?

The MC5 laying into each other with their guitars is pretty wild (brief, but wild).

Regarding the punk rock explosion itself, an element of envy still comes across from the New York camp at the impact and success of punk in the UK. Do you feel they have a case, or would UK punk have happened irrespective of the US?

It was in the air and a long time coming! The U.S and the U.K. both knew that the popular music of the time had no relevance to their daily lives i.e. they all hated 'Hotel California'. This coupled with the political/social and economical climate on both shores helped to create a new soundtrack.

Sure England would have happened regardless, but fact is many (not all) U.K. acts were inspired by the New York scene. Besides they were a few year older than their English counterparts and that simple fact gave 'em a head start. But the U.K gave it the look.

Do you feel there is still much unsaid about the punk scene? If so, would you consider revisiting the subject with a future film project?

Punk is something you do, not talk about but I'm always interested in pushing the envelope. Just finished a film on Sun Ra, he had a punk attitude!

Punk has clearly shaped your outlook on life. Why do you feel such a short-lived musical movement was able to have such a fundamental impact?

Like I said punk didn't die in '77, I still use punk attitude on a day to day basis. Punk gave people a sense of empowerment and individuality, basic themes that will always appeal to the young and the brave........we hope.

Don Letts, thank you very much.

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