Interview by Greg Carlson
Kicking off the April 25, 2011 screening of the Found Footage Festival is a special 25th anniversary showing of “Heavy Metal Parking Lot,” the much-bootlegged documentary short taped before a Judas Priest concert in Maryland in 1986. Co-director Jeff Krulik spoke to Greg Carlson about his best-known work.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Jeff Krulik: At first, I wanted to be a veterinarian. That’s the earliest profession I was drawn to. Man, I love pets. Any kind of animal. But when I first saw blood at an animal hospital operation, forget it. Eventually, I found myself drawn to the arts and pop culture, college radio, record collecting and the music biz.
But it all gave way to the visual medium. Public access television was the vehicle where I first found myself behind a camera. And I was hooked. That was towards the end of college, after I soured on the music industry as a career. Now I’m soured on the film industry as a career, but I don’t know what else to do! Maybe I’ll give veterinary school a try again.
As a veteran of public access television during its “golden age,” what was the wildest or most memorable program you ever aired as a local origination coordinator?
JK: Hey, I like that. I like that there was a golden age of public access. I guess you could call it that. Thanks for acknowledging those years as such, since the moniker “public access” hasn’t exactly been gangbusters. Still, that’s where “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” emerged from, even though it never played on our station. I couldn’t risk management getting wind of it.
I used to host bands and dance parties in the studio, and the wildest was the first “Scott and Gary Show” we hosted. I had invited them down when I heard they had been kicked out of their studio in NYC, and we became fast friends. They invited DC bands the Rhomboids and Velvet Monkeys to perform for their inaugural taping, and they and the bands invited everyone they knew.
We must have had close to 100 persons running amuck through the offices of the cable company on that Saturday night, some even smoking pot in the bathroom, and this one guy, public access user Bob Leslie, thought it would be cute to punch the live button.
When I found out about halfway through the evening that we were going out live to the county, I just thought, what the heck, if we go down it’ll be in a blaze of glory. It was actually a blast and people I know who saw it said it was hilarious, clicking around the channels going from network show to cable show to Scott Lewis standing on the set stripped down to his underwear.
When you took a video camera to the Capital Centre parking lot in 1986, were you and John Heyn metalheads?
JK: John and I couldn’t have been farther from metalheads. We were into alternative rock, punk, new wave, roots music, whatever you want to call it, and we weren’t consumers or fans of heavy metal music or concerts. But we weren’t dismissive in the least, and we were curious. John pitched me the idea one day because I had the gear from my public access studio, and I immediately thought it was a great idea.
We lucked into an upcoming Judas Priest concert, and I guess you could say the rest is 25 years of remarkable and unbelievable shelf life. Who’d a thunk it? We certainly didn’t. We paid parking lot admission like any concertgoer, drove around the parking lot in my ‘78 Bonneville – in the outtakes you can see my cracked side view mirror so I know I was driving.
We spent two hours taping, came back with an hour of footage – a lot of which was the camera pointed at the ground – and when we got back to my studio and started screening the tapes, the title “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” just popped into my head. By the way, John and I didn’t see the concert. The footage of Judas Priest was taken from a concert video they had out at the time. A lot of people think we went to the concert and shot that, but we didn’t.
Did you know how long “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” was going to be prior to post-production?
JK: We had no plan or clue for shooting length. We probably only had four 20-minute tapes. Plus, we had dates that night with our girlfriends so we only had a short window to work. And a little known secret is that we were using surplus re-used tapes, a “Bozo no-no” these days. But that was common in public access, and we didn’t know any better.
Plus, it was expensive to use new tapes. I can’t tell you how many outtakes and how much raw footage from other projects back then I wish I still kept. Who knew? But John thankfully held on to all the tapes. He knew it was worth it, so I now thank him for having that foresight.
Over the years you have tracked down a number of the people who appeared in “Heavy Metal Parking Lot.” Who was the hardest to find and how did you manage it? Are there any others you would still like to contact?
JK: Believe it or not, we are still hearing from people. We even just made a connection from the cousin of the “We try to be civilized but we can’t” guy. The Internet has been fantastic for that. John manages the official HMPL site; email and the web is how our alumni list grows. Tracking down the fella known as Zebraman was a challenge, but you just follow search engine leads and use public records and ask around. John and I dream of having a bona fide reunion one day, and making a documentary, but that won’t happen unless there’s compensation for everyone involved.
You have most likely been asked this dozens of times, but who is your favorite “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” interview? Do you have a favorite line?
JK: So many of the lines have floated through my head over the years that it’s hard to pick a favorite. I’ve said before that the people on camera are like family to me, and it’s hard to pick a favorite. The funny thing is, I recently screened the film at a community center where there were some young kids, maybe 11 or 12 years old, in the audience.
I don’t even hear the language anymore; it feels like some sort of white noise to me. Hearing the line “Glenn Tipton, we want to f___ your brains out” at that screening was a wake-up call reminder. Apparently the programmers had announced a disclaimer, so I didn’t feel too bad.
Which Priest album is better, “British Steel” or “Screaming for Vengeance”?
JK: I confess to having no clue. I don’t have either one in my vinyl or CD collection. I told you I wasn’t a metalhead. What’s playing on my radio right now? Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby in a duet. No joke. I can’t even remember the last record I bought. I’m a total, total imposter.