[See later Dec 2017 interview: motifri.com/hr-bad-brains-pop]
Documentary subject Paul “H.R.” Hudson, the frontman for Washington, DC, punk legends Bad Brains, and director James Lathos were both in attendance for a screening of Finding Joseph I at the Greenwich Odeum in East Greenwich, RI, on Aug 18. Following the screening, recent Rhode Island transplant Ted Leo led a Q&A session.
An artistic enigma intrigues fans who want to know how the artist got that way and, whenever something changes within the artist, people want to know why. H.R. through his long career since the 1970s mastered the balance walking a fine line between intense and mellow, but, over time, that balance went off-kilter due to mental illness that left his friends, family, colleagues and fans confused. The documentary provided an up-close look at his struggles.
The film started with H.R. walking the streets of Baltimore to his home in a dilapidated warehouse that looked like a mix between a practice space and a squat. There was a thorough examination of his musical career that included seeing and being inspired by Bob Marley in the late ‘70s, his introduction to punk rock witnessing the Dead Boys live, the beginnings of Bad Brains, his collaboration with members of Sublime to form the Long Beach All-Stars, and his various side projects. Scenes of H.R. acting like he was talking to an imaginary holy spirit, wearing a blond wig while playing guitar and seeming awfully out of place while performing with Bad Brains during the 2000s were depressing, but the documentary shifted towards H.R.’s wife Lori Carns Hudson who helped him overcome his illness and rediscover himself.
After the screening there was rousing applause from the audience and Leo took the stage in a fancy beige suit. When the Q&A started, people seemed grateful to be in H.R.’s presence and thankful he could be there. Leo engaged both H.R. and Lathos about the unfair stigma of mental illness and current issues regarding racism. H.R. answered questions, including giving advice to a local music teacher on how his students should pursue the art form, about his current outlook and when there will be another Bad Brains album. Following the Q&A the crowd stood up and applauded once more, then gathering in the lobby to meet H.R. and buy autographed copies of his memoir. The documentary left a positive impact on me, and was inspirational and enjoyable.
The documentary web site: hrdocumentary.com
Bad Brains web site: badbrains.com
Greenwich Odeum Website: greenwichodeum.com