Meet The DIY Filmmaker Documenting The Most Important Punk Movements

Scott Crawford’s new book on the D.C hardcore scene of the ’80s, Spoke, follows his film on the same subject. For his next act: Iggy!

The filmmaker and journalist Scott Crawford was 11 years old when he attended his first punk rock show. It was 1983 and Dead Kennedys headlined the protest event, Rock Against Reagan. Crawford was hooked.

Scott Crawford

Soon he sought out a proper D.C. hardcore show where Void, a band on the scene-making label Dischord, run by Minor Threat’s Ian MacKaye, was playing.

“It was really intense,” Crawford told the AV Club a couple of years ago. “I just walked out of there shell-shocked, in the best possible way.”

That woozily inspired feeling moved Crawford, who grew up in D.C., to start a zine called Metrozine, chronicling the hardcore community. And he wasn’t done yet: for four years he wrote, directed and Kickstarted Salad Days, a feature length documentary on the loud, fast, ferociously political music that influenced a generation of musicians, including Dave Grohl and Thurston Moore, both of whom appear in the 2014 film.

Spoke: Images and Stories from the 1980s Washington, DC Punk Scene

Now comes a kind of compendium book called Spoke, which expands on interviews and stories Crawford introduced in his doc.

“I actually thought of doing the book before the film,” Crawford tells Co.Create. “But that would’ve left out one of the most important aspects of the story: music. You want to hear it.”

With music by Minor Threat, Void, Rites of Spring, Government Issue, and many others propelling the story of hardscrabble, Reagan-era D.C. as the hotbed for a new artistic outlet in Salad Days, Crawford saw the book as a way to scoop up important narrative from the cutting-room floor and find a new home for it. Johnny Temple, a former musician who Crawford interviewed for Salad Days, is now publisher and editor in chief of Akashic Books and, well, kismet thy name is hardcore!


Salad Days: A Decade Of Punk In Washington, DC (1980-90) from MVD Entertainment Group on Vimeo.

Thirty-four years after that first show, Crawford is ready to start telling a different story.

“I think at this point people are sick of hearing me talk about this subject,” he says.

For his next documentary, the director is going back a decade and visiting another fertile music landscape. That would be Detroit in the 1970s—the time of Iggy and the MC5—which inspired the launch of a new magazine called CREEM. Founded by writers and photographers with no publishing experience, CREEM would eventually become the second-most-popular music magazine in the country, after Rolling Stone.

“They were a bunch of misfits who did it DIY and made it a successful publication,” Crawford says.

For a filmmaker who’s funded his work largely through Kickstarter campaigns–he raised $117,000 that way for Boy Howdy! The Story of CREEM: America’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll Magazine–that idea really resonates. For the rest of us, it likely will as well: the story, after all, reflects the shimmering, now diminished American Dream.

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