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Interview: Rob Lane (Straight to Video)

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The fantastic cover to the first STRAIGHT TO VIDEO EP

A music project, a cinema night and a radio show all at the same time, Straight to Video offers a haven for those who get it, and those people are film nerds with a love for old horror movies, genre films, comedies, VHS tapes and the whole aesthetic of a particular era which is now long gone and much missed. It’s a project I think a lot of Horrornews readers might get into, and now’s the perfect time, as there’s a new album on the way.

STV mastermind Rob Lane (known as bassist with Teenage Casket Company and also for playing with acts as diverse as Let Loose, BulletBoys and many more) inspires a great deal of seething jealousy in me. I mean, look at the guy. Ridiculously talented and handsome he may be, but he’s also responsible for something so cool it’s a real case of “Why didn’t I think of that?” I promise I won’t make any bass player jokes.

Haha! Bring it on, if you’ve got any I haven’t already heard, then I’ll be impressed!

You mean you remember something that isn’t just bashing an E in 4/4? I’m kidding. You’re onto the second release for Straight To Video now, and interest in the project is growing rapidly. Where the hell did such a cool idea come from?

Oh man, I’ve gotta to go back a couple of years. I’ve always been one of those guys with fingers in too many pies! I put it down to forever staying busy, plus the fact I get bored REALLY easily! I’ve always wanted a pet project that brought together all my favourite things, great pop rock music alongside 80s and 90s pop culture / nostalgia. The initial plan was for Straight To Video to be a Cover Band playing Movie Soundtrack tunes. Even though I know a bunch of great musicians, as you get older, it’s much harder to put together a solid line-up that can commit long term. That’s not a negative shot at people, it’s just life. As we get older, we’re all busier than ever and have so many other commitments, myself included, so I had to shelve that idea. Then one night at a show, I was hanging with my friend KC Duggan from The Idol Dead. He’d seen me post a couple of STV related things online and asked how it was going. When I explained the problem he straight away just suggested I make it a recording project – simple as that and it made perfect sense. From there everything else fell into place. I guess you could say it’s all his fault!

What are your personal highlights from the sequel and why?

There have been so many cool things that happened with this release. The whole Pledge Music Campaign has been so much fun right from the start. When I went into it I wanted to make sure it didn’t come over as being a case of, ‘Please pledge for this album or it can’t be made’. I hate that, I really do. The reason I went down the Pledge route is because I’d been involved in previous releases, from the likes of The Dollyrots and Bowling for Soup, who really made you feel part of the process, and I saw how others were reacting so positively to that. If I could do anything remotely similar with Straight To Video then it would be amazing. I’ve always viewed STV as ‘Everyone’s Project / Band’. All I do is get the players together and add bass guitar and maybe a bit of singing. If it wasn’t for all the amazing outside input then it wouldn’t be half of what it’s become.

Other than the Pledge Campaign, and people’s genuine interest and enthusiasm, I think my favourite part has been the same as the first release – just being in the studio and hearing the songs come together. It’s really unplanned and unexpected. There’s no ‘real’ band and I have to put my trust in others to come in and play the parts as they hear them, or have the various pieces emailed over. It’s so exciting for me to drop a vocal or guitar part into the mix, that’s been sent from somewhere else in the world, and have it totally transform the track.

Rob has a very strict diet. He's a VHSetarian...
Rob has a very strict diet. He’s a VHSetarian…

There’s a ton of talent involved in both of the STV releases. Was it difficult to get anyone involved?

Not really. There’s a lot of work and it’s time consuming, but I wouldn’t call it difficult. I’ve got a pretty good track record so far of asking people and they’ve agreed straight away. Plus, having played in bands for around twenty years you get to know a lot of people! I think most musicians are built the same way. Despite being generally good, nice people we’ve all been knocked down a bunch of times, so when someone comes along and asks you to be part of something, because they like you and what you do, then it’s pretty easy to say ‘Yes’ to it. That’s how I feel anyway.

I’ve never considered myself a great musician. That’s not me fishing for any kind of compliment, I consider it a fact. I know my abilities and try not to do anything too far outside my comfort zone when it comes to music. So, most of the time when I ask these ridiculously talented people to be part of STV, I’m not expecting half of what they do. I’d be more then happy with a much simpler part for the track, yet some of the contributions they make really blow my mind. The amount of time they must have to spend to get all the parts together is amazing!

And those covers. Man, those covers! How did you pick the tracks to do?

I think I’m always listening for songs whilst watching films. The past few years I’ve been revisiting a lot of classics and trying to catch ones I missed the first time around. ‘Dream A Little Dream’ for example. Even though I was a massive fan of The 2 Coreys back in the day (‘License To Drive’ is an all time fave), I missed this one when it was released. I finally saw it a few years ago and the Danny Wilde song, ‘Time Runs Wild’, blew my mind. I think I was on YouTube by the second chorus searching for it. That night I knew for sure, that if I was gonna do another STV project then, this would be on it. I think it’s become one of my all time favourite songs. I hope we did a good job on the STV Version!

Other times I just want to do something from a particular film so people, who haven’t seen it previously, might track it down and see it for the first time. ‘Summer School’ is one of my all time favourite films, which I always remember being huge at the time, but I’m forever surprised when no one’s heard of it. To have a song (‘Mind Over Matter’ by E.G. Daily) from that film on the album is a big deal for me. Elsewhere, movies like ‘Singles’, ‘Reality Bites’ and ‘Empire Records’ are kinda famed for their soundtracks, so it was only a matter of time before I included them in some form!

The whole 1980s A Side and 1990s B Side format kinda happened by accident though. It was just something I noticed whilst compiling the songs. As I got to about seven or eight tracks I began to notice the split between decades so tried to get the final few songs to fit that format. I think it’s a cool twist on how it all turned out and makes perfect sense to be releasing the album on cassette too!

I got one of the awesome VHS box packs for the first release. Will there be a similar edition for this one?

For sure! That was always going to happen as it was one of my favourite parts of the first release. Only problem I’ve come across this time around is sourcing the Ex Rental Video Cases to make it possible. I use actual old school boxes so not only are these becoming more and more difficult to find, but since the first release, I’ve become more of a collector so I’m a little less willing to use the cases! I think I’m good for this release but don’t know about the next one!

I’m still one of those people who loves getting the ‘Physical Product’ and the whole STV Concept allows me to take this idea and just run with it. I’ve got so many ideas to make all the parts unique and special. When people hear the album I want them to be reading the booklet, wearing the t-shirt and hopefully being transported back in time a little!

But it’s more than the music project. How did the radio show and the cinema events come about?

I think people have been a little confused at times about what Straight To Video actually is! You can put that down to what I said earlier about having fingers in too many pies! The Radio Show, which I do each month on Noize Level Critical / Rockstars Glued, kinda came about by accident. My friend runs the Internet Radio Station and when I was releasing the first STV EP I just asked if we could do a Launch Show, play some stuff from the CD and maybe some other Soundtrack Tunes. It all turned out really good so I’ve been doing one a month for almost two years now. It’s so much fun putting the play lists together and I’ve come across so many fantastic songs since doing it.

The idea of the Movie Nights came from visiting the famous Castro Cinema in San Francisco. My wife and I were on our Honeymoon there, back in 2010, when I saw they were screening an all day ‘Action Hero Movie Marathon’ run by a local company called ‘Midnites For Maniacs’. The group is set up by a guy called Jesse Hawthorne Ficks, all very DIY, really paying homage to great films of the 1980s and stuff you’d only seen on VHS in the past. I really loved the feel of what he did and I think I can maybe credit him for being a big influence in the early part of STV. I guess I fell lucky that my home town of Nottingham had such a cool tiny cinema like Screen 22 which was into the idea of me showing some of my favourite films.

Screen 22, where the cinema events happened,  is a fantastic place. Will the cinema nights be back?

I hope so, I really do. I think we created a cool little buzz and community during that first year at those Film Nights. There’s a lot of licensing issues when it comes to showing movies though which often delays things. There’s a whole host of films I’d love to screen so we’ll see. Fingers crossed.

What grabs you about cult films, and in particular classic horror movies?

I’m not sure there’s a real correct answer to a question like this, I guess we all have different reasons. I think part of us like being transported back to when we were younger and reliving the scares and laughs we had back then? Then there’s the cool aspect of discovering something that perhaps the mainstream hasn’t picked up on just yet. There is a magic in early horror films though, a real excitement when they didn’t have to live up to preconceptions or being torn apart by the internet trolls. It was a vital part of our generation’s culture which we all lived and breathed for a very long time.

A tease of the cover to the new STRAIGHT TO VIDEO album
A tease of the cover to the new STRAIGHT TO VIDEO album

Like me and a lot of other retro horror fans out there, you seem to thrive on films which, viewed now, aren’t that convincing. What would you say is the key to the continued appeal of cult horror and genre movies?

For me, when it comes to cult horror, genre movies and particularly any films from the 1980s, there are two kinds. There’s the films which were made when the makers didn’t know any better and then there’s those which are just plain bad and don’t stand the test of time. A lot of later sequel movies just began to hit an overused formula, but even the latter ‘Friday 13th’ and ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ Movies still have a charm and likeability to them because of when they were made. It may have been part of a big corporate machine but we had it etched into our system, it’s was part of our lives and past times.

I love it that you’ve covered tracks from two Elm Street flicks on the releases (see the end of this feature for an example, readers!). Where next for Straight To Video? I know you’re always busy with TCC and other stuff going on, so will we see more from STV in the future?

Now the Pledge Campaign has ended and the download released, I’m excited to get this album out into the real world with the physical release which is planned for April 1st. Because the campaign was such a success I also promised everyone an Acoustic EP too so I’ve got to get that recorded when time permits. After that I’m not sure, everything that’s happened so far has just rolled from one thing into the next which is the way I like it. All unplanned and just going with the flow – pretty much how I’ve done everything over the past few years and it feels pretty good to do that. There’s definitely a renewed interest in the whole VHS and Video Culture so hopefully it’ll open up a few doors for STV and people will jump on board the idea.

How about a STV live show with a film screening as a support act?

Definitely something I’d consider and thought about quite a bit. Again it’s down to people’s schedules and bringing it all together in one place. I had a birthday party for my 40th back in September were I managed to get a bunch of people together and did a couple of the songs which were on the first STV EP. It proved that it’s doable so watch this space. I’d love for it to happen so hopefully the planets will align at some point!

Where can Horrornews readers find out more about STV?

All the usual Social Media Sites are where I spend way too much time. I love hearing from people who do similar projects and try my best to not steal any of their cool ideas! You can find me at all these places:

www.straighttovideo.co.uk    www.facebook.com/straighttovid   www.twitter.com/straight2vid

Check out the STRAIGHT TO VIDEO cover of “Anything, Anything” from the soundtrack to A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER from the first STV release!

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