Spahn Ranch/ back to the woods: interview with Matt Zacharias/ by HEEN KATTA ULLA


Spahn Ranch/ back to the woods: interview with Matt Zacharias/ by HEEN KATTA ULLA

It sounds like you were interested in Spahn Ranch from their start - you mentioned that you had gone to see one of their shows around the time they were gearing up to record in California with Insight Records.


Spahn Ranch had played with Jesus and Mary Chain in Dec. of ’85 - a show I regretfully missed. The next day, my friends were raving less about the JMC and more about Spahn Ranch (which they were referring to as O'dell"s band). After I heard their six song cassette, I was hooked from that moment onward. On July 24th, 1986, Spahn Ranch performed in my friend’s house for about 15 people - we were all collectively leveled by the music, performance, expression - everything that the band delivered that night - it changed all of us forever. So much so that I quit playing music shortly thereafter. That’s how good they were…they were so good and so real that their music inspired me to stop being a poseur. Anyway, during that show, the band were having some technical difficulties and Bob announced, "We better get our shit together, we are recording an album in three weeks!" This was just before they left for San Francisco to record with Insight.


When Spahn Ranch were ‘on,’ they were on…the music shook me to my core in a positive and beautiful way…the music was dramatic, peaceful, intense and arrested the attention of anyone who was within earshot…the first night I saw them, I felt that they were possessed, channeling or tapping into something that was ‘other’…it was beyond ‘music’ or what we would traditionally refer to as a ‘band.’


What attracted you to Spahn Ranch so much? What made you decide to make a film about them? Was it their music? Or the people in the band?


Both. When Spahn Ranch were ‘on,’ they were on…the music shook me to my core in a positive and beautiful way…the music was dramatic, peaceful, intense and arrested the attention of anyone who was within earshot…the first night I saw them, I felt that they were possessed, channeling or tapping into something that was ‘other’…it was beyond ‘music’ or what we would traditionally refer to as a ‘band.’ I had met Odell a few times prior and after their show we met Bob and Brad. They were cool, kind, friendly and extremely down-to-earth people. As individuals, I feel that Odell, Brad, Hobey and Bob are all walking-talking documentaries in their own right…all intelligent, deep and loving beings.


The Spahn Ranch record, ‘Thickly Settled’ was such a beautiful, haunting mysterious record. It’s like nothing I had heard before or even now. It’s one of my all time favorite records. Is that how you feel about it?


I agree. It’s a powerful album and documents who they were and what they were capable of as a band. ’Thickly Settled’ was their only official album release. I feel that it’s an amazing record and unfortunately, not enough people were able to hear it. The album captured that early, 3-piece sound and captured it very well.


When did you begin the film? Is it almost complete? When is it going to released?


The documentary, ‘Spahn Ranch - Back to the Wood,’ does not have an official release date as of yet, but we are working for completion before the end of 2016. The original idea surfaced in 1996, but the actual production began to slowly get traction in 2011 and 2015.


I’m wondering, were you able to find a lot of early footage of the band?


Tracking archival footage and materials has been an adventure. Rick Giampietro and Jack Nelson filmed a string of their shows and they have generously opened up their archives to our production team. All of the band member’s and their family have been extremely supportive in providing us photographs. Odell is a natural archivist and he shared magazines, flyers and rare recordings.


The documentary, ‘Spahn Ranch - Back to the Wood,’ does not have an official release date as of yet, but we are working for completion before the end of 2016. The original idea surfaced in 1996, but the actual production began to slowly get traction in 2011 and 2015.


Are all their songs going to be in the film?


Not all of their songs, but the movie will contain a wide range of material culled from, ‘Thickly Settled,’ unreleased studio material and practice sessions.


When did you find out about Bob Sterner’s passing? Did you know Bob personally?


I was blessed to be a close friend of Bob’s. We met after I saw the band in 1986 and remained life-long friends. Bob left Detroit for Boston around 1989. He had become a registered nurse and lived and worked in an ashram in India. After about four years in the ashram, he returned to Detroit and settled down with his partner, Danny. We always remained in touch, wrote letters, etc. In 1996, he was home from India visiting friends and family in Detroit. I remember saying goodbye to him in my driveway and I said, when you return home, we need to make a documentary about Spahn Ranch. Bob was supportive of the idea. After Bob passed in 2008, I felt it was my duty to honor the legacy of the band and share their story. Spahn Ranch came and went in a flash of about five years. They remained under the radar and I feel their story is unique and needs to be shared.


The documentary, ‘Spahn Ranch - Back to the Wood,’ does not have an official release date as of yet, but we are working for completion before the end of 2016. The original idea surfaced in 1996, but the actual production began to slowly get traction in 2011 and 2015.


The film footage from the Spahn Ranch -documentary that you sent me is real cool…


Thanks. That was a rough edit of the trailer. After September 23rd, 2016, we are launching, spahnranchdocumenta ry.com. As we move closer to completion with the project, more information will surface on the website.


Did you interview Odell Nails (drummer); Brad Horowitz (guitar) and Hobey Echlin (bass)? Who else do you interview?


I interviewed all of the band members, Bob’s sister, Jeanne Sterner, and about 10-12 other folks who are/were connected to the group.


Have you worked on other films of other bands? Or other types of documentary films?


My focus has always been centered on creating art - in the form of films, video and other multimedia. I studied film at the University of Michigan. Once I completed my degree, I became a professional video editor, worked at PBS - in Detroit and Flint - first as an editor and eventually as a producer. By day, I worked in television, at night I worked on art, film and personal projects. Previous film projects have premiered at South by Southwest and Slamdance Film Festivals.


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