While most abridged biographies of modern filmmakers tend toward a logical careerist progression, Penelope Spheeris’s is genuinely eccentric and unpredictable. She was born into a New Orleans circus family, her father the operator of (and a performer in) the Magic Empire Shows carnival. Before and after attending film school at UCLA, she undertook collaborations with both Richard Pryor (the incomplete Uncle Tom's Fairy Tales: The Movie for Homosexuals) and Albert Brooks (his early Saturday Night Live shorts), and meanwhile set up a music videography company, Rockin’ Reel. The business would facilitate her shooting of The Decline of Western Civilization (81), a firsthand account from the trenches of the Southern California punk rock scene at the tail end of the Seventies, and the first entry in a trilogy on wayward youth culture. After first being pigeonholed as a specialist in punk subjects, Spheeris expanded her practice to document other musical menaces of the late Eighties and early Nineties including hair metal and booty bass (The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, 88; Banned in the U.S.A., 90; Rap’s Most Wanted, 91). Finally, in the strangest wrinkle of all, Spheeris directed Wayne’s World (92), which became the highest-grossing film with a female director in box-office history, and brought forth a slew of offers to direct low, knockabout comedies.

Spheeris has since put some distance between herself and the motion picture business, but now, courtesy of Shout! Factory, The Decline of Western Civilization is back, available on home video for the first time since the days of VHS. At one of what is certain to be a string of public screenings to memorialize this momentous turn of events—to a packed house at the Brooklyn Academy of Music—I was able to sit down in the green room with Spheeris and her daughter, Anna Fox, the primary mover and shaker in putting the Decline films before the public eye again. I’m not certain if it’s the best interview that I've ever recorded, but it’s certainly the one at which I laughed the most.

Anna Fox and Penelope Spheeris

For as long as I can remember, The Decline of Western Civilization has been hard to see. When I was a teenager in the mid-Nineties, there was one video store in my town that had the VHS of it.

Penelope Spheeris: And people would rent it?

Yeah, and it was so careworn…

PS: Oh yeah. I see what you’re saying. It’s been really a long time. Time’s really flown by, honestly, since I made Decline 3 [The Decline of Western Civilization Part III, 98]. In 1997 I shot it, it’s like that space of time in there just kind of evaporated. There were plenty of times when we were approached to put the DVDs out, but there were a few stumbling blocks.

What were those stumbling blocks?

PS: Well, I guess the biggest stumbling block over the years was just my reticence to look back, and to have to see the movies again, and go through all the outtakes, and go through all the things that would make the extras, and all that. It was just like looking back on my life.

I always had the DVD, home video rights after the early Nineties, maybe. Early Nineties I got the rights back. None of them were ever on DVD, which is weird. I guess it’s… my mom was a hoarder. [Laughs] I think it runs in the family. I just put all this shit in a vault, and kept throwing boxes of stuff in there over the years. There were a few times when I started the process, but I got discouraged, and so I stopped. When I started with The Decline, the first time, I was putting together little pieces of film myself with the guillotine splicer because I don’t trust anybody else to do it. That was really an arduous task, I’ll tell you.

Then there was another time when we started to do some interviews with people, and get extras together, but then I got discouraged because Anna wasn’t working with me. She’s the one that actually made it happen, but she wasn’t working with me at that time. So I reached out to one participant. The person that hooked me up with them said: “Well, he says he’ll do it. He’ll talk to you, but you got to pay him three grand and you got to pay me three grand for hooking you up with him.” And actually this was before all the social media and everything, where I could’ve found him myself. I kind of went: “Well, if I have to pay every participant six grand to hook this up, I don’t think it’s going to be possible.” So, I just stopped again. There are too many people, and I want to be fair. Everybody had the same deal when we did it.

I figured that there was some kind of rights-holder issue that was holding things up.

PS: Everybody thought there was a rights-holder issue, but the fact is I own the copyright for all three movies. I own the home-video rights to all three movies. There are no rights issues. I have contracts with all the bands. I was aware enough to make those announcements in the beginning of the movies, that says, “By being in this place, you’re agreeing to being photographed.” I had the wherewithal to do that, and I had the wherewithal to get the contracts. There are no rights issues. People always assumed that though. It’s a laziness issue. [Laughs] It’s not rights—it’s laziness… and fear.

Decline of Western Civilization 1

The Decline of Western Civilization 1

On purpose or not, you’ve built a cult mystique.

PS: Totally not on purpose. Four years ago, I said to my daughter—because I actually had gotten to a point in my film career where I was kind of disillusioned with Hollywood, like anybody my age was, is—and I got to a point where I was doing other things. I was writing a book. I had some old footage of a family story that I was working on. I did a little TV show shit here and there, but I really wasn’t too interested in movies anymore. And I built houses. I don’t sell them; I just build them and rent them. I was overwhelmed. I said to my daughter: “You got to help me with all my work. I need help.” And she said: “Well, I’ll come to work for you only if you do the Decline DVDs first.”

So you were held for ransom?

PS: Gun to the head. I would not have done it. I would have gone to my grave without doing it. She made me do it, and so I said to her: “If we’re going to do this, then you have to do most of the work because I really don’t want to do it.” I didn’t really realize how much work it was going to be. For two years we looked for a distributor, and then the last two years, we put everything together. It’s been pure hell for me, to have to go back through everything. And it was hard for her too because it was three different editing machines and three different editors, three different sets of extras, all at the same time.

Have you done public screenings out on the West Coast at this point?

PS: We just did that one.

Anna Fox: We did one in San Francisco at the Castro, which was great.

PS: Yeah, there was only that one so far, and this is only the second one.

The Decline of Western Civilization 1

The Decline of Western Civilization 1

So a lot of people are probably seeing this thing—sticking to Decline 1, let’s say—for the first time?

PS: You know, I was going to ask… When I get up there—and I hate doing these things honestly—I want to ask how many people in the audience haven’t seen the movie before. We did that at the Castro, and so many people hadn’t seen it before. But they wanted to—obviously, they were there. [Laughs] No, we dragged them in.

To a certain extent, I grew up knowing the first Decline movie especially, and a lot of the people depicted therein are canonical figures at this point. But what I think people coming to the movie for the first time might be surprised by, and maybe put out by a certain degree, is just how rough-and-tumble the scene is, and how very, very un-PC it is.

PS: Yeah.

AF: Well, have any of those people been to any punk shows lately? Those are really violent.

PS: I don’t go anymore. She goes.

AF: Oh, they’re scary compared toI was at those shows when I was a kid, they were nothing compared to how scary it is now. I got people trying to stage dive over my kid’s head, clawing their way over them. Not just stage diving, but from the different tiers of the places.

PS: Oh, I can just see you going after that guy.

AF: Oh, I’ve gotten in fights.

PS: Oh, God, I don’t want to know.

AF: No, it’s worse now, but here’s the other thing I want to say about that: I think there’s a balance in the film to that because there is that side. There are the more rough shows that are represented, but there’s also the Catholic Discipline show. There’s also the X show. Those were really mild. I think it shows a balance of how it was then.

PS: But that was because it was the first time they were acting like that, I think is what Nick is saying. You never saw it before.

The Decline of Western Civilization Greg Ginn

The Decline of Western Civilization 1

There’s also certainly an element in the film that I don’t think you’re going to get at contemporary punk shows: kids wearing swastika shirts and so on. Most people who are in that kind of scene today, for better or worse there’s going to be a certain degree of education, and a certain amount of sensitivity training, whereas in the film, you’re seeing a lot of kids who are blue collar and below, street kids.

AF: On the extras, there is a reconstruction of interviews—take the Black Flag interview, or with X. Whatever we had, we put it together and that’s in the extras, from beginning to end of what she filmed—except for certain things that were said or represented by people then that aren’t necessarily P.C. today. And because I know the people, I know they are not like that now. I didn’t think it was fair, just to sensationalize things, to put new information out there of what they may have said then. We edited that stuff out.

PS: It’s smart of you to notice that… Anna did the work, and so that’s why she’s even here because I feel stupid taking any credit for these DVDs. She’s the one that did it; she’s the one that made it happen, she did the work. She’s down there going through the different movies with these three different editors, and every once in a while, she would go: “Hey, Mom! Come and look at this!” She’d have all these charts of what should be in each of the extras, or what extras should be with each movie. I’m like: “I remember that, I don’t want to look at it, but I remember and it’s OK.” Then she would show me something where somebody would say something that was totally off-color and totally out of order today.

AF: But that was more acceptable back then, or less…

PS: So she would say: “Should we keep this?” And I would go, “Sure.” They said it, that’s fine. She would go: “We can’t.”

AF: Because I know those people are different today.

PS: She’s in touch with all of them on social media. I don’t know them. I understand, like, if I would’ve said something back then that was really bad, I wouldn’t want people today to see it. So that’s why she took it out.

AF: Not out of the original films, but anything in the extras I didn’t feel was necessary.

PS: There’s a lot of “homos” and bad words on the floor.

AF: Yeah, references to religion, things like that, that I know are not in their belief system today.



But there seems to be a shared frame of reference, which allows for that sort of thing. I don’t know how somebody who’s 20 years old and is like, “Man, I love Black Flag,” but doesn’t have that contextualizing background to place it is going to process this stuff. We live in a very cautious and censorious time.

PS: Well, it’s about time. Really, we have to make it our norm now. Anyway, every time she’d drag me down there, I’d have to look at something that I didn’t want to look at. Can you imagine, like, for yourself… Let’s say, Nick, what if somebody said: “Here, look at yourself over the last 20, 30 years. Here, just watch all the things you did and you said in all these interviews and everything.” It’s like being at the shrink for a year and a half.

Well, I’m a raging narcissist, so I’d probably enjoy it.

PS: You would’ve liked it. I love it, and I love that you admit it.

Maybe, I’m being slightly tongue-in-cheek.

PS: I get it. You might’ve liked it.

I’d like to just talk a little bit about what your point of entry to the scene was. How did you get wind of what was going on at the time?

PS: I was actually not into the music at all, for once in my life. I was only into music at that point because I was doing music videos for the record companies, and it was bands I wasn’t interested in. It was just a living I was making. I shot Doobie Brothers, Seals and Crofts, David Essex, The Staple Singers. The ones I did like—there were a few I did like—I shot Fleetwood Mac and I shot Curtis Mayfield. Funkadelic I shot. I shot a lot of bands, but it was at a point when radio—that’s all you had back then—where all you get to hear is ABBA or the Bee Gees or something.

AF: I love them.

PS: Oh, shut up. You’re funny.

AF: I do.

PS: You like ABBA?

AF: And the Bee Gees.

PS: OK, you’re no daughter of mine. So, I wasn’t into the music anymore, and somebody said to me: “You ever heard of the Sex Pistols?” And I said: “No.” And they go: “Well, you should check them out.” So, I did. I started going to punk shows, and I still had the equipment from the record companies, and I started shooting punk bands.

The Decline of Western Civilization 3

The Decline of Western Civilization 3

What time would this have been?

PS: ’76, ’77.

Did you actually see The Sex Pistols on their final go-around?

PS: No. They were in San Francisco, which is the closest they got.

Which wasn’t a show, of course.

PS: It didn’t happen. I was going to go there and I didn’t go.

But you were very much on the ground floor.

PS: Yeah, I went to all the punk clubs in L.A., the Masque and Club 88 and Cathay de Grande and Blackies and all that. I was at all the shows and I just started shooting, thinking I was going to just make some little small thing. I didn’t know in the beginning that it would be a movie that people would remember for a long time. It was something I’d never seen before. I just came out of film school. I graduated in ’73. [To Anna] You were born in ’69. I get out of school in ’72 or ’73, something like that. I started [Los Angeles production company] Rockin’ Reel in ’74, did all the music videos up until ’77, started shooting little bits and pieces. By ’79, I had a lot of film in the can. By 1980, the film came out.

How did you determine the “bill” for the movie, which bands were going to make the cut?

PS: It was kind of like whoever was playing whenever I had to shoot the Staple Singers. I went and shot the Staple Singers in somebody’s backyard in the daytime, and I had the equipment at night, and I had to bring it back for the next day, so I go and find out who’s playing where, and go and shoot the band with the same crew.

I don’t want to dwell on it, but: is there anybody you saw at the time who, retrospectively, you feel should’ve been in the film?

PS: Oh yeah, a lot of bands.

AF: They weren’t playing on the days you had the equipment.

PS: I would’ve loved to have had the Screamers in there. They didn’t let anybody film them when people weren’t filming back then anyway. The Weirdos and the Gun Club. Was 45 Grave around back then? Had she [Dinah Cancer] started that band yet? Was she in a band yet?

AF: No, I don’t think so.

PS: It was afterward. But there were a lot of bands that I certainly could’ve put in the film. Film is expensive and you can’t just keep rolling a camera so…

One thing that makes the movie so great as a document is that it does get this very interesting cross-section of bands like X, who I think at that point were getting to be fairly well known—

PS: Yeah. They were the most popular band that was playing around when we shot.

The Decline of Western Civilization

The Decline of Western Civilization 1

—and some of the more sophisticated downtown and Hollywood bands who were a little bit older, and a little bit more art-school-inflected, but then also that South Bay scene that’s just then on the way up. You get that right at the genesis of it.

PS: I lucked out on that one.

Was there a sense of tension between the older downtown scene…

PS: No, I think Claude [Bessy] for example, with Catholic Discipline, I think about them as what you’re describing, which is a little bit older, a little bit art-school kind of thing. Claude said to me, personally: “I know I’m too old to be in a band, it’s just something I have to do before I die.” Little did we know he wasn’t going to live that long. He said: “I have to do it, and I know I shouldn’t be doing it, it’s just an experiment.” And it was, it was like an art experiment for him. He was a good friend of mine, and I had equipment that day.

He’s a guy who’s so fascinating, and there’s no readily available collection of his writing, which might be rectified now that this movie gets seen more. Re-watching it, he’s really the heart of it to a certain extent.

PS: Claude was, I agree, far more than anybody else in the Slash office, that’s for sure. Him and maybe [Steve] Samioff. Samioff wouldn’t let me shoot him. He’s the guy that actually started Slash magazine.

Aside from what we see of the office, what was the atmosphere?

PS: It was a party atmosphere, the coolest place in town to be, that kind of thing. I personally liked it better before Bob [Biggs] took it over. I thought it was more chill, more relaxed. It got a little more businesslike when he took it over. Then he started the record company and everything. It went against the punk ethic in a way, to turn everything so commercial, but it was a cool place to be.

Claude would decamp for England not that long after that.

PS: Yeah, he left.

AF: Him and Philly [Philomena Winstanley, Bessy’s partner].

PS: They both did. She’s English, so. You got your info down there.

AF: Did you know they had a cat? I was fascinated with that cat when we went to see them in London.

PS: They didn’t have a cat in the Slash office, but when we went to London… That’s right, that’s funny. God, how old were you then, 12? No.

AF: Fourteen.

PS: Fourteen. Anna was in the Decline 2 office—she worked when she was 17. She helped us book all those big name bands. You have this little [goes into high squeaky voice], “Hi, do you think you could, you know, come down and be in our movie.”

What was the response from the subjects when the movie had finally come together?

PS: Which one, Decline 1? Eugene was, I think, a little regretful for saying “all the ugly old people on the bus” and stuff like that. But he and I are friends. He explains it as… he was 14 years old, that’s the way a 14-year-old views people that are older, just ugly. So, he’s like: “I hope you understand that I don’t feel that way today…”

AF: “…because I’m older.”

Being 50 will do that.

PS: As far as the bands go, we never got any—what do those publicists call it?

AF: Blowback.

PS: I think that’s a funny word. People bitch about what happened, but yeah, we never got any back then, that I recall. Even from people who are oftentimes known for having issues, which is Black Flag, nobody in the Germs, nobody. Look, it’s the punk rock way to not like stuff, to object and to protest. That is the punk rock way. I actually expected a lot more than we got. Maybe they felt it, maybe you know something I don’t know, but I didn’t hear much of it.

The Decline of Western Civilization Darby Crash tarantula

The Decline of Western Civilization 1

There’s a book about the Germs, Lexicon Devil, that came out several years ago, where there was something about Darby [Crash] not being particularly impressed with his live performance in the movie.

PS: Oh, well, gosh darn it.

AF: He’s not impressed with his own performance?

PS: He’s being politically correct here. I read a little bit of Lexicon Devil, and whatever on that. Like I said, it’s the punk rock way to bitch and moan, and fine.

AF: Darby did the performance, not you.

PS: It doesn’t bother me at all. [Laughs] You’re dead anyway. Whatever if Darby didn’t like it.

Like it or not, it’s a very iconic performance that he gives in there. It’s a big part of how he’s remembered.

AF: There’s more to remember now in the extras.

PS: There is more, a lot more. Maybe the lesson then to young people that want to watch the movies now would be: if you don’t want to be remembered that way, don’t be that way. That would be my suggestion. God bless Darby, but if you don’t want to be remembered that way, don’t do it.

With your video work, were you shooting bands live usually?

PS: No, we would do playback. It was before MTV. Actually, I formulated the way to do playback, to do the original performance music videos. They weren’t conceptual at all, they were just performance. One day a friend of mine worked in a record company said: “You know, Penelope, we just figured something out.” He goes: “We don’t have to send the band around to the world so they can destroy hotels and cost us a lot of money. All we need to do is film them here, and then we make a piece of film, and then we send it around the places they would play it on TV, and then we don’t have to send the band.” They just figured that out like in 1974, ’73. That’s when I started Rockin’ Reel. Like I said, I think I was the only one in L.A. that was doing it, and I was doing pretty well, I bought my first house by doing Rockin’ Reel videos. I still own it today.

I would think it would be a very different set of problems that you would have to solve shooting the Doobie Brothers in a controlled environment versus shooting Black Flag

PS: Yes, very astute on your part. [Laughs] And also they were very established people who didn’t want to be any trouble to the record company ’cause they’ll just drop you, they would just drop you right there. I was comfortable with the chaos, I think. That’s kind of my background: I came from a pretty chaotic family background, people were always like beating each other up and everything. I think what I wanted to do was just kind of organize shit, you know what I mean? Like, “Oh, this is total chaos, let me organize it all.” That was just my instinct.

Youve got equipment out, that equipment must have been at risk at many points.

PS: Yeah, Yeah… [Cinematographer] Steve Conant says to me, after one of the first shows, he says to me: “If you want me to continue shooting, you’re going to have to get me a shark cage.” But I shot one camera, I always did when I did the music videos, I would shoot one camera and then I would have another one, and then what I would do is I would have a rehearsal and I would shoot the rehearsal with the guys in their stage gear, and I would shoot all the close shots so that it wouldn’t have any audience in it, and once the set started I knew which songs we were going to do because you can’t shoot the whole set. I knew what songs we were going to do so that’s when I would get the wide shots with crowds. I learned a lot doing those music videos. Pretty well self-taught on that one.

The Decline of Western Civilization 2

The Decline of Western Civilization 2

Another standout performance in the movie is Lee Ving. One way or another, the guy has presence.

PS: Oh yeah, you don’t forget Lee.

Whom you would work with again

PS: He’s still a friend. We’re good friends still, Anna goes to his shows still… and I don’t. [Laughs] I don’t go to any shows anymore. I said to my boyfriend that I met on Decline 3—this was about 10 years ago—I said: “How come we don’t go to any shows anymore?” And he goes: “Well, once you’ve been out on the Ozzfest and you’ve gone to 30 cities and you’ve shot 10, 15 bands a day in 30 cities you don’t really want to go see a show anymore.”

Re-watching the Fear stuff, it occurs to me that hes almost doing a professional wrestling heel turn.

PS: Totally right. That’s a good way to put it.

The idea that anybody can be taking that routine seriously for two seconds…

PS: That’s right! But people did, you know. That was his… He’s a showman, you know, just egging people on. You’re right, he’s like a wrestler.

Well, you picked up on that, because he had that acting career afterward.

PS: Yeah, him and John Doe. I looked at the list of movies that John Doe has done, wow! I didn’t realize. Really a lot. Not a lot of huge roles.

AF: No, but he’s done a lot of work.

PS: Like 100 movies or…it’s unbelievable. Wonder if he had ever got those gigs if he wasn’t in the Decline? Oh well, who knows.

It also launched you in a very real way as a feature director and for a while at least, that was something you were associated with. Suburbia (83) and Dudes (87) marked you as the go-to person for punky subject matter.

PS: Which is fine because I liked that stuff, I would’ve liked to keep making movies like Suburbia. Once I did Wayne's World, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do anything but comedies after that.

Youre talking to a Senseless (98) fan right here.

PS: Oh really? Oh that’s great, I finally found one! [Laughs] That’s hilarious. That’s great, I love it! Somebody likes Senseless!

AF: Even the ending?

PS: No, shut up, that was the… [Laughs] Funny. Yeah, the Weinsteins rewrote the ending—that was my departure from studios because I just couldn’t deal with the Weinsteins having to rewrite that ending. It was like: “Oh man, you’re fucking it up!” But whatever, it’s Bob, it wasn’t Harvey.

The Decline of Western Civilization 3

The Decline of Western Civilization 3

Id be interested to hear a little about how Suburbia, your first fiction film, came together.

PS: Well, it’s still very much based in real life…

And theres still the documentary impulse, the integration of bands into the movie itself. You have T.S.O.L. in there

PS: And the Vandals. I did it because they told me that I would never be able to get documentaries in theaters. Nobody really could before Michael Moore honestly, you know? You couldn’t get documentaries in theaters. So I decided to write a fiction piece in the same vein as the documentaries and that’s where Suburbia came from. And a lot of the stories that are laid out in there are true, or a derivation of truth, anyway. It didn’t really get much of a release. It’s weird because it had a lasting power, and people still like Suburbia too. A lot. Between Suburbia and the first Decline, people say: “Those movies changed my life.” So. That’s what’s cool.

As a teenager who was generally interested in that kind of music in the mid-Nineties, there wasn’t a ton to go to. The list of films that plugged into that world and that music isn’t too long: it’s Repo Man, Suburbia, and Decline 1, and if I’m leaving anything out then I’m not aware of it.

PS: Alex Cox came to me when he was going to do Repo Man and he goes: “I’m so nervous, I’m so nervous…” I was up at the office on Santa Monica and Fairfax. “I gotta do this movie, I’m so nervous,” he said, he came to me shaking in his boots ’cause he was so nervous. I told him: “That’s okay, man, you can do it, you can do it…” And then he went on to do Sid & Nancy, which is pretty cool.

Its one thing to get there after the fact, but you have a clairvoyant streak. Youre shooting Black Flag, who at that point had been playing out for 18 months, and were cycling through front men like crazy, and you couldnt have possibly have had any inkling at the time that, shooting at the Church, this was going to be something that would be able to fill a room in Brooklyn in 2015.

AF: I never thought it would be played at the L.A. County Museum of Art.

PS: I never thought it would be restored by the Academy of Motion Pictures. It’s like the hits keep coming. I had no idea, I was just fucking around. [Laughs] I had no idea it was going to hold up over time like this. But the clairvoyant aspect that you mentioned, I thought you were going to say something else so I’m going to have to say it myself now, which is that I think the clairvoyance part, Nick, comes in where I wrote Suburbia and it was kind of a derivation, like I said, of actual real-life events. But then, in 1997 I did Decline 3, and I met these people who were living Suburbia—they lived in squats, they dressed like that, they looked like that, they talked like that.

AF: They were families like that.

PS: They were families like that, they knew the movie by heart, and it’s almost like they saw the movie and then they did that. Either that or I saw the future and did Suburbia. I don’t know which.

The Decline of Western Civilization 3

Since were talking clairvoyance, youve mentioned your family background, and I know you come from circus folk. To what degree do you think that informed your interest in the punk scene?

PS: I think to a large degree. Yeah, because I think that I’m attracted to… the people that I’m attracted to are people who are outcasts, and I think it’s because when I was in those formative years, that’s what I was surrounded by. Those are the people I’m comfortable with, people that joined the carnival because they didn’t fit in where they lived—we were just passing through so they just went with us. There was no discrimination in the carnival, everybody was equal. The bearded lady wasn’t made fun of, the black guy was just as cool as the white guy, the guy with no legs was just as cool as the strong man— that was my dad—I mean we were all equal. That’s why I was attracted to that punk movement: not only were they outcasts, also really a lot of the barriers had dropped, you know? Like it was okay for a woman not to be fluffing up, being all girlie pretty like in the Fifties and the Sixties. It was okay if they were wearing combat boots and had a shaved head, you know? With “Fuck you” written on their arm. Yeah, I was comfortable with them.

You do make a point of having at least a handful of female-fronted bands

PS: Yeah, I tried, it was hard to get ’em.

Of course, there are women from the scene as well. But then theres a lot of loutish behavior that pops up too in the movie. I mean, obviously youre really not soliciting any of thisyoure just kind of putting down whats in front of you.

PS: Yeah. Just turning the camera on.

As someone who was kind of a participant in that scene and also documenting it, what was your feeling for how it was for women, girls in the scene?

PS: Well, it was a lot better in the first one than it was in the second one. In Decline 2 it was pretty bad. I don’t know what we were thinking.

The Decline of Western Civilization 2

That was kind of the essential unresolvable contradiction at the heart of hair metal, wasnt it? Its the most effeminate, glammy, fruity dress-up thing combined with some very, very over-compensatory, hyper-masculine strutting.

PS: I guess it was all these different decades and all these different trends and the people who were just experimenting trying to figure it all out. And the big joke and the funny part is that I don’t think we are ever going to figure it out. We’re just going to have to keep going through these cycles of experimentation and who’s going to figure all this shit out? I think God or whoever is up there trying to screw us around is doing a really good job, and now he’s throwing all this digital thing out. It’s really fucked.