An interview with Alan G. Parker on his recent film Hello Quo
Having previously directed punk documentaries and Monty Python episodes, Alan G. Parker has recently tried his hand at putting together a film on one of the most renowned rock bands in history. Status Quo have notched up a hefty string of achievements throughout their long and fruitful career, including being of interest to Prince Charles, yet never has there been a well-budgeted documentary on these legendary rockers. The film premiered for one night only in Leicester Square, and much of the audience could be expected to be long-time fans. In the following interview, Parker expands on how he went about making the film, what surprises he encountered along the way and how he feels people will react to it.
What inspired or encouraged you to make this film?
I think as I said, after Python, I was a bit done. I’d done nine movies in seven years back to back; I rarely had a weekend off and I kind of wanted to take a bit of time off. There were a lot of ideas being thrown around in our office and it’s only when we started to sit down and seriously thought about the next project that it came together. I’d been to see Quo play live a couple of days earlier with a mate of mine, and during this gig we thought: “they would make a great documentary, they’d be cool.” So we made a few phone calls, and we got it to the point where we asked the question to the band’s manager, and he said, ‘‘We’re thinking about a documentary too.’’ So I think the timing was absolutely perfect. Also, it got me out of that box again, so it’s another film, that’s another step away from Sid Vicious, Who Killed Nancy, Sex Pistols malarkey. Not that I’m not proud of that film, because I am, but I don’t want it to be a weight around my neck for the next twenty years. I want to kind of get away from it too.
Were you a fan of the band before you started filming?
I am a fan of the band. I’m not a card-carrying fan, as I would say. You know you get some of these hardcore fans: they’ve got every bootleg, every t-shirt, all those going. Yes, I’ve got all of Quo’s albums; I’ve got a couple of bootlegs, I’ve seen them live a few times over the years. I think I’m also a fan of certain albums, or certain albums have meant a lot to me, for certain tracks that have been on those albums, over the years.
Compared to your past projects, how is this different? Do you feel this may have an effect of the portrayal of the band?
It might well have, I mean, Dave Lyngott, Classic Rock, rather nicely said in his review: “If this does for Quo what Beyond The Lighted Stage did for Rush, then they’ve won.” I think what it could do, is give people a clearer perspective of the band, which I think in the past perhaps, may not be the case, unless a band’s had a very thorough documentary done. I think the Queen documentary works very well for their story, and I hope Hello Quo works really well and goes the same way.
Did you get to know the band members personally for the film?
Yes, we had a good laugh with them; you know we’ve been hanging out with them for the best part of 18 months right now. I think they’re a thoroughly nice bunch of guys, and I kind of enjoyed the whole journey. As with all these things, it’s a mad time of your life, it does fill up a big chunk of time, you know, from first discussing it with Simon, to sitting here is 18 months. This is kind of walking away from Status Quo in a way, it’s the best thing for both of us. I’ve got to go and do another project on another band and they’ve got to go on doing their tours. So in a way I feel like we’ve fulfilled what we needed to do.
How long did it take you to gather all the clips and pictures?
We started pre-production in July 2011, and we ended filming on the 18th of December, by which time we pretty much had all the archive in place as well. Then we started editing in January and finished in May. We brought it down to London for sound and picture, to clear up graining. That was probably done by late June to July. So it was probably about 12 months from A to B, from having nothing to having something we can sit down with and call a movie, which is about right for a film of this size.
Was there any interest from the music community, like other artists, that surprised you when you made the film?
I think it more surprised them than it surprised me. I knew Paul Weller would come forward and do something because I knew there was a Jam, Quo connection. I heard about it on tour buses and goodness knows where else for many, many years so I knew that was a reality. I think perhaps that was (a) bit of a shock to them, because although Rick knew something had gone on with The Jam. But that was nice, it was also nice to have people like Brian May in, a major big artist. They sing their praises, because they knock down every door in the building just to get to us and say: ‘‘Can we be in the film?’’ Normally, you’d have to go chasing them. They rang us and went, “can we be in the movie?” So that’s nice; flattering. I think the real laugh of the day was Cliff Richard, because for some bizarre reason, you don’t expect Cliff to be Cliff. He came in that room, sat down and was chatting to everyone and everyone’s (whispering and pointing) going (that’s) ‘‘Cliff Richard’’. I don’t think you expect him to be flesh, but he is and that’s better than nice, that’s really nice. So I was most pleased with that.
Why is the film on for only one night?
I don’t know, I make it, but I don’t market it. There’s probably a reason for it. Iron Maiden Flight 666 was only up for one night. Rush Beyond The Lighted Stage was on for one night. It’s just a good PR exercise though, so it’s out on DVD and Blu Ray.
Do you feel the film will reintroduce the band amongst younger generations?
I hope so. Genuinely, from my point of view that’s a big part of making it. If I’m only preaching to the converted, I’m only doing half my job. If some kid comes along and thinks, “they are brilliant, why did no one tell me?” Well then we did just tell you. That’s nice that they got it.
Why do you think there wasn’t a documentary on the band before this?
There was a documentary called Pictures, and it was OK but I think like a lot of documentaries in the olden days, before people started taking documentaries seriously as an entity, they all suffered from not having that much budget behind them. I think having budgets down, in order to do this properly makes good sense to them. Especially for a band this big – 50 years is pretty long.
Do you plan on working with any other bands in the future?
Unfortunately I can’t say yet, because we don’t do the press release until November, but my next film is with a massive band, worldwide huge band. They’ve wanted to work with me for a while, and I’ve wanted to work with them for a while. The joke between us has been “always the bridesmaid, never the bride,” well now there is the bride. It will be in the national press before Christmas, it’s not too long away. We’ll be making an announcement fairly quickly once we get today out the way, then we can get concentrated on getting legal stuff tied up, then we’re done.
Hello Quo is released in select cinemas on 22nd October 2012.
Watch the trailer for Hello Quo here: