MODERNIST & DIRECTOR
SOMETIMES, ALWAYS, NEVER.
In 2019 we were in the process of organising an exhibition in conjunction with Mad mods and a camera which was to take place as part of the Brighton mod weekender in August. The exhibition was called 'Sometimes, Always, Never' named after the unwritten rule of how a stylish person may button up their three button jacket. During the promotional campaign we became aware of a feature length movie about to hit the big screen with the same name!
We were obviously intrigued as to who was behind the movie and whether, like the exhibition it was named after the iconic unwritten rule. the weekend came and went and the idea of contacting the person was put in the diary for early 2020. The movie, like so many others unfortunately faded due to the impact on the film industry as the Covid 19 pressures hit and our own hopes of contacting the director of the film also faded.
That was until recently. One day an e-mail came into the office from one Carl Hunter, initially it was about some music Carl was promoting but as the conversation flowed it was apparent that Carl was more than just a music promoter, he is in fact the bass player of legendary indie band The Farm and director of the film 'Sometimes, Always, Never'!!
Once the penny dropped and after a little gentle humour was banded about with the name clashes Carl kindly accepted our invitation to do this exclusive interview which we are truly thankful for and as the film world slowly returns to it's feet so to does this brilliant movie starring Bill Nighy and an incredible cast with a firm nod to Modernist Culture.
So, step up Mr Hunter, tell us about your life, your band, your love of modernism and your fantastic movie......
Hi Carl, can you tell us a little about yourself, where you are from, what it was like growing up in your area and about some of your early creative influences.
I was born in Walton Hospital Liverpool, allegedly the same ward as Paul McCartney, if mum is right. I grew up in Bootle (liverpool) in a wonderful council House, where music was often played. My granddad often sang Morning has Broken, my cousin Stephen would play records by Slade, Roxy Music and Bowie and my uncle would be listening to the Beatles, Johnny Cash and The Stones. So music was always around me.
At what age did you realise that life was more than the 9-5 obligatory life that most people take. And what was the pivotal moment that changed your life.
I think a 9-5 job that pays well is ok. The world of the arts is often badly paid and long hours for most people working in it. At the top end the rewards are often great though. One of the reasons why the arts is mainly populated by the middle classes is that these people don’t have to stack shelves in ASDA to pay their rent and can therefore peruse a creative path. The arts would be better if it was more inclusive. Why limit a talent pool?
I was always attracted to the arts and wanted to be part of something creative. Music, design, photography etc.
Can you tell us about your early musical influences, we know you are the bass player for the band The Farm, what made you pick up the guitar?
I was surrounded by music from a young age. I found it shaped my day. Discovering The Jam, The Clash, Orange Juice, The Undertones, TwoTone, was a musical coming of age for me. Their music made me feel excited and energised. And they were talking about inequality and injustice too. So I wanted to do that too. I started on guitar and learnt the riff to In The City by The Jam. I thought I discovered the theory of relativity, if you could have heard me talk in those days.
How did you get your first break and how did it make you feel?
The Farm were always about to sign to a label but never did, so we did it ourselves with the help of a mate and our manager Kevin Sampson. We went punk – very DIY, the Boys Own crowd adopted us and we became the darlings of Ibiza, London and the music press along with the Happy Mondays, Primal Scream, The Stone Roses and Flowered up, to name a few. It was a good period shared with good people.
Can you tell us a couple of short anecdotes about your early musical career.
Most bands early musical careers are a comedy of errors. Empty rooms, back of vans, warm larger and chips. It's not very rock n roll. I always enjoyed seeing us in Fanzines when we played Hull, London, Sheffield etc. That was very exciting. That means of information and news is long gone. Shame I miss that.
We also developed many great and long friendships from those early days such as Suggs, Simon Moran (SJM) Paul Heaton. These people had a big impact on us as a band as did many others.
You designed the bands and others album covers, can you tell us a little about this time in your life, what it was like to be in a position to watch the Album ‘Spartacus’ become No 1 in the charts and be part of the early Brit pop revolution in which the bands tunes ‘Groovy train’ and ‘All together Now’ helped shape a generation that ultimately some would say gave birth to the rave scene a la ‘Hacienda’
I went to Art School to study Graphic Design. I was desperate to go as the bands I loved all went there. The Clash, The Beatles, The Who, Ultravox, Bowie – the list is endless. I thought I could learn to design record sleeves and form a band too.
I enjoyed designing record sleeves for the band (and other bands) we often chatted about it. The sleeve to Stepping Stone became an iconic image of the scene we were part off. Many years later Kickers asked if they could use it to launch a new shoe.
The idea for this was hatched in a pub in liverpool one night after a rehearsal. We all thought it was funny and satirical. We then hired a stuffed sheep and the rest is history.
Watching Spartacus debut at number 1 was unbelievable, as we did it ourselves. No major label just us and our manager. It was more punk, than punk.
The sleeve was based on the cost of Living EP by the Clash and a bit of Andy Warhol and was a comment on the commodification of music.
This is going to be difficult as you guys are still gigging together but could you pick a couple of favourite stories of being on the road and transport us back to these halcyon days.
Those days were long and most of them the same. Travel. Beer. Gig. Beer. Sleep and do it again. Playing to 125,000 in the Midlands for a radio 1 show was good as were most festivals. Playing Ibiza was ground breaking for us, that really launched the band.
Touring the USA with Big Audio Dynamite was great. Mick Jones is such gentleman and was a big fan of the band. We played some amazing shows in the USA and Groovy Train was a billboard hit single.
Running parallel to your musical path is your love of film and being very much part of the industry, directing various pieces and movies, can you tell us where this spark came from and about some of your earliest work. also a little about the director process.
I always been a huge fan of film and wanted to direct music videos but never got the chance. My first break into directing came via ex NME and Face journalist Stuart Cosgrove when he was head of Independent Film and Video at Channel 4. My friend Peter Naylor and I were commissioned by Stuart to produce and direct a documentary for Channel 4. It was Called Bloodsports for All and was aimed at first time directors. Interestingly, Shane Meadows and Lyn Ramsey were also commissioned in the same strand. We all went on to make feature films – now that's good A&R.
I love directing documentaries and did many for TV but drama is where I wanted to be. I love Directors such as Bill Forsythe, Wes Anderson, Aki Kaurismaki, Roy Anderson, so humour, commentary and strong visuals are what inspire me.
The idea for Sometimes Always Never had been around for a while and our drummer Roy Boulter, who is a very successful film producer and runs a film company called Hurricane films with his partner Sol Papadopoulos, suggested we work together on a film. Seems odd but I've spent half my life in a van or coach with Roy who is not only a great drummer but also a brilliant film producer. It was his idea to try and get the film made.
I also had the enormous pleasure of working with Edwyn Collins, Sean Read and Chay Heney on the film's soundtrack. I didn't play a note but would watch in ore as the three of them added music to the film. They did such a great job too. I always wanted to work with Edwyn, he was a big influence on me.
Working with Frank Cottrell Boyce, writer of the brilliant 24 hour party people (Starring Steve Googan) and Millions must be a blast, can you tell us how you guys met and about some of the celluloid projects you've worked on together.
Frank and I met via our friend John Hodge who was the art house programmer at the Plaza Cinema in Crosby. Frank and I share a love of many things ranging from film to music via art and literature so we have lots to talk about. I have worked with Frank in many capacities; Illustrator, Photographer, director, composer and songwriter. I like to work with as many formats as I can – I Like a multimedia approach to most things.
Throughout your career and just by looking at your personal style and how you hold yourself in interviews we can see that modernism runs through your veins. Within your career you can see a tip of the proverbial hat to the sub culture especially with your new movie Sometimes, Always, Never starring Bill Nighy. Could you tell us about your love of modernism and whether an earlier release of yours ‘Grow Your Own' title is also a nod to it.
I'm a big fan of Modernist clothing. I think it's a working class thing? I also love the aesthetics of the 60's. As I’ve gotten older I started buying smart / sharp mod suits which I adore. This is easier now as I more clued up about where to buy them. In my size too which was always tricky before. I'm of a slight frame. Or skinny as my mates say.
The photo of me here, I'm wearing the actual jacket that belonged to Bruce Foxton when the The Jam did Strange Town on Top Of The Pops. The lads in the band bought it for at Jam exhibition auction. I wear it a lot. We bumped into Bruce Foxton at a festival and I was wearing the blazer, He remembered it.
There are so many good companies online that do great clothes. Mod Shoes have started manufacturing Cord Shoes, I was so excited when I saw them, I had to have a pair. They are my favourite shoes. Pelicano Menswear manufacure beautiful limited edition shirts too.
And a nice hand knitted silk tie. I wore these to the film premier, I felt a million dollars.
Grow Your Own was a feature film I co wrote and produced for BBC film with Frank. The title was decided by the BBC so no connection I'm afraid. The film was originally called The Allotment and was about a group of refugees that were given allotments in Liverpool as a form of therapy. It had a great cast and started Olivia Coleman who went on to win an Oscar.
Sometimes, always, never, the fantastic film that it is, is smattered with mod references, it’s brilliantly shot and wonderfully cast. Can you give our readers a sense of the movie’s plot and what it was like working with the amazing cast and crew within it. Also can you tell us what it was like making the movie and how you celebrated at the wrap party.
This film is a nicely modulated comedy/drama that explores the dysfunctional relationship between a tailor (Billy Nighy) and his adult son, played with just the right amount of exasperation and nearly-depleted patience by Sam Riley. The two are initially brought together to identify the body of Riley’s brother, who disappeared after storming out of the family home after a heated game of Scrabble. Or, to be exact, “Scrobble”.
I was lucky and privileged to work with such a brilliant cast and crew. Bill Nighy is a big fan of Modernism so we had a lot in common. We both share a love of clothes and music so between takes this is what we'd chat about. The Small Faces track that is in the film is there because of one such conversation over a cuppa. And the opening scene is a direct nod to seaside towns and mods. It's also a comment on working class people and their appearance, an attitude, the Mods excelled in. It's pro working class.
The wrap party was a modest but beautiful affair in a pub in Bubwith Yorkshire where we did most of the filming. Craft beer and quality pies shared in the greatest of company. Always sad saying goodbye to an adopted family after filming for so long.
The title of the film 'Sometimes Always Never' is taken from the unwitten button rule. Never fasten the bottom button of a three buttoned jacket. This is a big Mod reference and after the film was released I noticed, Mad mods and a camera, had a photo exhibition with the same title. Great minds.... etc. Wish I'd gone to it
Where was the film premiered? and what was the red carpet experience like?
The film was premiered at the BFI London Film Festival Leicester Square to a full house and was breath taking. Was great seeing the cast and crew again. Didn't spend too long on the red carpet, was busy chatting to the gang and catching up. Photos are great though.
Was nice seeing the kids from the film, Louise and Ella -Grace on the red carpet, that felt good.
The film is having rave reviews, it must be amazing to see all the hard work coming off...
The film has attracted many wonderful reviews here and in the USA. I felt very proud to read such brilliant reviews in the LA Times, New York Post, Washing Post, The New Yorker etc.. That doesn't happen every day to a bloke from Bootle.
What advice would you give an aspiring film maker?
Always have a part-time job somewhere unless you're landed gentry.
Where are we now with the film? We know that viewings first started in the tail end of 2019 before the pandemic hit but things are starting to take momentum again.
The world of film distribution is upside down, so I've no idea what will happen next. The American reviews have been fantastic, the film did really well in Australia and New Zealand and it was about to be released in Korea before the pandemic hit us. The Korean poster looked great too but my misfortune is nothing compared to others.
You and Frank have also been working on children’s books together, can you tell us about these
Frank wrote a brilliant book called The Unforgotten Coat which is the story of two Mongolian refugee boys getting by in Bootle. It's a beautiful story and the book won many prizes including the biggest children's literature prize in Germany and Europe as well as the Guardian's children's literature prize. I have a large bronze statue on my desk. Looks great.
What happens next for you?, do you have further creative plans in the pipeline?
The next thing for me is to get another film made. Frank is just finishing a new script and hopefully we will be off again. The band did have a load of festivals planned over summer but like all bands these have been cancelled. We are working on a line of football shirts that we will launch soon. They look great, very cool and very retro.
I help run a record Label so I'm lining up a few releases for the autumn. I really enjoy producing records and love being in the recording studio.
Check out some of the bands I've been working with. I'm a big kid when it comes to music.
Dreamers – Ali Horn
Seatbelts – Sinful City
Where can our readers find out more about the film and where to buy it.
The film is out on DVD now and it can be seen on amazon prime too