I started hearing about Harmony Korine‘s new film, Trash Humpers sometime last year. Slowly more info and video clips would pop up, but my main focus was to find out when I would actually be able to see it. When that information finally arrived, it was coming from an unlikely source, Drag City records. Drag City is a record label and, as far as I am aware, this is their first attempt at film distribution. Aside from that fact, there are actually a few reasons that make the connection between the label and the filmmaker slightly less surprising. At the end of 2008, Drag City released a collection of Harmony Korine‘s old fanzine work and, earlier that year, they put out the soundtrack to his last film, Mister Lonely, which featured original music by J. Spaceman and the Sun City Girls. Harmony also has connections to other Drag City artists like Bonnie “Prince” Billy, of whom he has directed a video and even appeared on recordings, while the musician made a cameo in Korine‘s Julien Donkey Boy. When I found out that Trash Humpers would be screening on June 18th at the NW Film Forum here in Seattle, this was great news because, not only would the director be in attendance, but we have a bit of a connection with Drag City as well.
Harmony Korine is an individual that I’ve been interested in interviewing for quite some time and I had hoped that this might finally be an opportunity to make that happen. Unfortunately, two issues got in the way of making this a reality. The first was that I didn’t want to request an interview through our connection at the label until we had already had the last interview with Drag City artist, Baby Dee posted. Once that was handled, I sent my last-minute request at the worst possible time. Our contact was traveling out of town, as well as working tirelessly to promote the project, so we were dealing with auto reply emails and missed connections. We got an encouraging email stating that there was a possibility that the interview definitely could go down, but never a confirmation that it definitely would. Thanks to a nearly 1/2 hour Q&A and a flip cam, however, I was able to discover some interesting information and am now able to share the footage with all of you pleasant bastards.
Trash Humpers Q & A
NW FILM FORUM
June 18, 2010
There were two screenings of Trash Humpers that night, one at 7pm and one at 9. Both of them featured a Q&A, but we decided on the 9 o’clock. We got there early and, as I was coming out from using the restroom, I noticed Korine enter into the lobby and head straight into a back room. A little while later he came out, so I stood up and waved to him and we walked toward each other. I’m pretty sure that he was half trying to figure out if he actually knew me and half waiting for me to do something uncomfortable and/or crazy. I mentioned how I had only established an initial conversation with Drag City about an interview and he stated that he spoke to our contact that day, but wasn’t aware of anything regarding one. He told me that he didn’t think that we’d have time to do it then, but to just arrange to call him up and do a “phoner” interview. I had researched quite a bit in preparation for when I thought that there might be an off-chance that an interview might happen last minute and, knowing that it sounded creepy, I made some sort of monotone statement to Korine along the lines of, “Now I have all of this information about you in my head.” He put up his hands as if to say “Woah” and we said goodbye with the idea that I would just try to set something up later. He wandered back towards the area of the back room and eventually took out a sharpie to draw a massive dick onto one of the trash humpers on his own movie poster.
The film forum is a small place and, as people arrived, a very un-uniform line accumulated through the short hallway leading to the screening room door. Korine went into the room to do his Q&A segment for the 7 o’clock showing, then that crowd was funneled out past us and we were sent in. Sean Prince and my friend Amanda both arrived to the showing separately. I actually met Sean through Amanda years ago, but they rarely ever see each other anymore, so it’s been a long time since we were all at the same function. Amanda was definitely the first person who I knew that really became a true fan of Harmony‘s work early on. I remember that she had purchased his now-out-of-print book, Crack Up At the Race Riots when it originally came out. She lent her copy to Sean, who lost it and then went on to find and buy one of his own, never replacing hers. As the 3 of us stood together, I jokingly asked Amanda if she was going to say something about it to Harmony during the Q&A and she confirmed that she was. You’ll notice in the video that she actually does it.
The room we were in was incredibly tiny and, due to the fact that Harmony had to fly out early the next day, he conducted his question and answer section before the movie for the second showing. You might be able to figure it out by some of the questioning, but a good portion of the room had already started drinking that night. I sat in the middle of the second row to prop the flip up close, but not right up in his face. You’ll notice that during the section where someone asks if Harmony likes “black metal” and he mishears it as “black people,” that he mentions that he likes the rapper Crunchy Black. At that point, I was pretty sure that Sean and I were possibly the only 2 other people in the room who knew who Crunchy Black was. After I reference Crunchy by saying “You’re lost in the sauce“, you’ll see the surprise on Korine‘s face and he follows it up by saying something like “go kill yourself“. After that Sean starts talking about another Southern rapper named Koopsta Knicka. I didn’t think about how obscure it was until later, but all of those references come from the second part of a video from some underground public access type show. I had actually sent that exact clip to Sean after I had stumbled across it on Youtube a few years ago. Apparently, Harmony Korine saw that video too. If you want to see what we were referring to, you can watch the video by placing the cursor over this POP UP BOX.
As many of them often do, the Q&A started out with some hesitation from the audience. I thought about whether I should try to save any questions that I had for an interview in the future, or if I should just greedily run wild with trying to get as many of my questions out and answered in this format. I decided to ask one of the less hardcore questions that I had and it nose dived fairly quickly. After seeing this video, I realized why; it was phrased really badly. What I intended to ask was that, since most people stumble across his movies at random anyway, how does that differ from the concept of Trash Humpers being created to resemble a found object or artifact. You can see how it goes for yourself.
In this section, around the 6 minute mark, somebody asks Harmony about the film Ken Park and the director shows a complete rejection towards the comment. Whether the person asking was aware of if or not, he stumbled into a poor line of questioning. Just like the film KIDS, Ken Park is made from a script that Korine created, but that Larry Clark actually directed. Harmony has alluded to the issues that he’s had with Clark, but never publicly went into full detail. From what I’ve gathered, it seems like a case of Clark taking more credit for the script than Korine believes that he deserves but, after doing whatever he chose to do with it, Korine doesn’t care to be associated with the project at all, nor does he feel any association to it beyond negativity. In fact, Harmony claims to have never even seen the film. Remember, I’d been researching old interviews and such for the 2 days prior, so I was only aware of the touchiness with the issue by chance. Still, the minute that I heard Ken Park mentioned, I knew the response might get awkward. When you see it in this clip now, you will understand why it goes the way it does.
This third and final portion of the Q&A starts off with another question that has its full answer loosely buried in the silt of Korine history. The reason that Harmony says that he thinks he might be “banned” from ever appearing on Letterman again is linked to a situation involving the director actually shoving Meryl Streep in, what I believe was, the green room of the late night program.
When I first saw Julien Donkey Boy, I speculated a lot about Harmony‘s intentions with some of the techniques and directions in the film. Based on the intense reality of some scenes, I also had a felling it was heavily shot with hidden cameras. Considering how often people must have misguided beliefs that they have some special understanding of a particular artist and/or their work, I figured that I was probably wrong about a lot of my own assumptions. However, after watching special feature interviews, I realized that the filmmaker’s statements were confirming every feeling that I picked up on about the work. This moment was important to me for 2 reasons: First of all, I officially accepted that it is foolish not to trust your instincts about the things that you enjoy or feel connected to. If you are truly identifying with something, then at least part of you understands something about it. The second thing that happened was that I really became interested in interviewing Korine, and instantly wrote a few questions down for him, in the case that the opportunity ever came around. One of the first, if not the first, questions that I wrote down related to filming with hidden cameras. Considering how poorly my first question fared on this evening, I figured that I would just bust out my original question and find out the answer that night. The explanation that I received, was even crazier than the one that I expected. You’ll hear it right after I hand him the autographed picture of Philip Michael Thomas from Miami Vice. [HINT: it partially deals with transporting a dead baby]. If you find that to be an uncomfortable topic, it’s important to know that the subject matter actually manages to become increasingly more crude until the end, when he finishes off his appearance on an especially morbid note.