A 1957 single, Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" became the A-side cover of the Rolling Stones' first U.S. 7-inch in 1964. Opening with a re-creation of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards' teenaged reunion, David Chase's feature film debut Not Fade Away – which kicks off the 19th annual Austin Film Festival on Oct. 18 – uses the duo's ensuing soundtrack and mythos as the backbone to the tale of a group that never amounted to anything: The Sopranos creator's own band. – Raoul Hernandez
Austin Chronicle: Given the title of your film and its throughline, plus your use of their music in The Sopranos, is it safe to say you were more of a Stones guy than a Beatles man in rock & roll's existential Beatles vs. Stones debate?
David Chase: That's not safe to say. I really love them both tremendously. I always found, not even as a half-assed musician but as an eighth-of-an-ass musician, that the Stones were easier. You know, the Beatles have those harmonies that are so beautiful, but difficult. And those chords, I don't even know what they're called [chuckles] – sixths and ninths, stuff like that. The Stones were more straightforward. As a kid in a garage band, it was easier to cover them than the Beatles. The Stones also had this attitude I gravitated to a little more. But the main reason, I guess, is that the Beatles stopped at a certain point and the Stones kept going. The Stones had the chance to continue to develop, and the Beatles chose not to.
AC: This film, then, is autobiographical?
DC: I would say it's more personal than it is autobiographical. The events don't roll out in exactly the way they did, nor is the band much like the musical group I belonged to. But it's autobiographical in terms of my emotional state at the time – how I felt about girls, about life, about mysteries of the universe, and most of all, about music.
AC: So you're the drummer in the film that steps out front to be the singer?
DC: Not exactly, no. We weren't really even a band. We never played for anybody. We just played in the basement, and we got money together and made one demo. We never played a public date, either for pay or for free. And then after about three or four years it all just dissipated. A couple of the guys that I was working with went on to have careers in music, but not me. Together, we had no career at all. I was recruited into that group as the drummer and lead singer, but my parents sold my drums out from underneath me, so I didn't have drums and was playing on boxes and stuff. Then I switched to bass guitar. So, I was lead singer all the way through, although there came a time when we were going to make the demo and somebody else was singing lead when I said, "I think I can sing that better than you can." That was my first show business move.
AC: The tension between father and son, especially in the kitchen scene, reminds me of Bruce Springsteen's descriptions of growing up. Was that also your experience growing up in Fifties/Sixties Jersey and wanting to be a musician?
DC: [Pause] I read the recent thing by David Remnick [in The New Yorker] about Bruce Springsteen and it reminded me of the movie a tremendous amount, so I can only say that, yeah, there's confluences there. My house was not a happy place. There was something very gray and always sort of depressing and dingy about it. I don't mean dingy furniture. I dunno. There was never a sense of joy. I know that there's this Springsteen lyric where it goes something about, "... a feeling, and a feeling deep inside, that it ain't no sin to be glad that you're alive." That's very much how I felt at that time.
Opening night film Not Fade Away screens Thursday, Oct. 18, 7pm, at the Paramount Theatre, with David Chase in attendance. If space allows, individual tickets may be purchased at the box office. Chase will also take part in a session earlier in the day at the AFF screenwriting conference; attendance is restricted to badge holders.
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