Ahead of The Stone Roses' UK tour which kicks off at London's Finsbury Park this week (7 July), a film charting the band's returns opens in UK cinema's today (5 June). Shot by self-confessed fans, This Is England and Dead Man's Shoes director Shane Meadows and Warp Films' producer Mark Herbert, The Stone Roses: Made Of Stone was clearly a labour of love for the pair. They sat down with Q discuss what it was like to have a front row seat to Ian Brown and co's resurrection.
How the devil are you? Mark Herbert: "Good!" Shane Meadows: "Bit knackered from the whole thing! You keep hitting these crescendo moments. First time you show the band, first time you show the press... it wasn't mixed or graded when we did that and I've never done that before. I let them see it a bit begrudgingly because the timings were so tight. Then there was the first time I showed the finished version to people, then the premiere last week. Each time you feel like you're crossing a line. The premiere was a proper breath out moment!"
And it wasn't just a premiere in Manchester... SM: "It went out to 200 cinemas around the country. From my point of view it was like the Eurovision song contest [laughs] Jesus, what's going on here! I'd shown it to a room full of maybe 400 people at most before, there were 1500 people, twice in the same building... MH: "...and the band. And all their families..." SM: "...and 200 cinemas round the country. It was like when I used to go to bingo with my sister, they'd tune into all the local clubs to see who won the national prize. So it's been like the bingo with my sister, but on a very grand scale!"
Going back to the very beginning of the project, could the pair of you not just brought tickets to the gigs like everyone else? [both laugh] MH: "It would have been easier!" SM: "It would have been. Mark and I had mapped everything out. We'd done This Is England 86, straight into 88 and then went up to meet the band to talk about it. The timing wasn't in any way ideal. I was looking to do a cycling movie for Film Four and so when all the stuff happened with Lance Armstrong, Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish everyone was saying this is the time to make this film..." MH: "It was our dream movie, and then the Roses came along. All I can say is it was like a Bullet Train and you just have to wait until it stops to get off. Once we went to the band's first press conference that was it, you're on the journey."
So you genuinely went to film the press conference when the band announced their return and the Heaton Park gigs with no idea what it would turn into? SM: "No. Off the back of the press conference I'd said to Ian Brown Are you're going to make a movie? I didn't know if it was an audition or what. We all knew the potential was there, they wouldn't just call me in for no reason, but it wasn't committed in any way from either side. A few weeks later I locked off the final episode of This Is England 88 got in a car with Mark and drove up to Manchester. We went and saw a rehearsal! They were playing Bye, Bye Bad Man when we arrived and I had catch my breath because I could hear them from outside. All the time I was thinking, Don't be like a 17 year-old, be cool baby! I remember thinking at the time, even if they turn round and say they don't want to do it I've now seen something from an inch away that no one else has seen! All the way along I didn't believe it was going to happen. Maybe after the Warrington warm-up gig was the first time I thought this is actually going to happen!"
Were you worried that being that close to it all would ruin the band for the fan in you? SM: "You have that worry. We'd both never seen them live and both love their music and were thinking: Please God, 12 months down the line don't let us be blasé about the music. When you make a film you end up seeing it hundred of times and so you end up hating what you've made, but I remember the last time we played the final version of Fool's Gold through Mark said, I'm going to go and do some emails, because he'd seen it six times that day. Then his foot started tapping and within two minutes he was up! [laughs] It has this rare quality that it never got boring!"
Was there any concern that the band might not be good enough? Their last shows in the 90s were pretty poor if we're being honest... SM: "I'd never seen them live so I'd have died just to have seen them sat in a room with a banjo! I had nothing to compare it to but I realised really quickly that part of my job was to bottle the magic that you saw in rehearsals. When they go off on a jam for ten minutes. I was thinking, Holly shit, no one told me about this bit! What a three-piece! You remember the album, but you didn't see these explorations going on." MH: "If you read anything about genius, they put their hours in. When you see how many hours of practice that band put in, all the effort to creating that experience. They were in there every day for months and not just for an hour!" SM: "They wanted to sound how they did back then. A lot of the time when they were around the first time things weren't done at the highest end. They weren't there for the money, they were there for unfinished business. You could tell."
It seems all the recent reunions that have worked had a narrative. For example, with Blur the fans wanted to see if Damon and Graham could bury the hatchet. Do you think The Stone Roses had a narrative and if so what was it for you? SM: "For me it was Would they walk out onstage at Heaton Park? It was a long way from the announcement to the shows. When I got to Amsterdam on the warm-up tour all those feelings came to fruition [drummer Reni refused to play an encore leading Ian Brown to slag him off onstage], all those worries. You'd heard stories, you'd heard things in the press and you'd hear the band themselves talking about it. I remember talking to Mani in Lyon and he said, That's the best gig we've ever played, we'll probably split up tomorrow! That fragility was inbuilt, they talked about it themselves."
When they made it to Heaton Park you must have been relieved? SM: "Not quite! I remember the first night we had £10,000 invested in a helicopter and their manager came out and said you'll have to pull that down it's too loud! I went No, please God, no!" MH: "Fortunately it wasn't ours, it was the police helicopter, ours was further up." SM: "I was thinking: This is the one time in my life I'll ever use a helicopter and they won't let me. There was always this tension that surrounded the band. Then after Heaton Park everyone breathed out a sigh of relief!"
So you got your big time director moment? You got your helicopter? SM: "Yeah baby! Though, I mixed it in with a bloke who'd fallen asleep at the kebab van. I tried to keep Shane Meadows in there a little bit: a helicopter shot and a guy honking up!" Paul Stokes @Stokesie
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