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Home arrow Writings arrow Boxcars and Bozos: An Interview with Bill Daniel

Bill Daniel has seen a lot through both the still frame and the filmmaker’s lens. From photographing his local punk scene to filming boxcar stowaways at eighteen frames per second, Daniel has strived to share his everyday environment with outsiders. His latest film, Who is Bozo Texino?, is currently showing across the US in backyards, film fests and other public spaces.

Lastufka: What was your role in the Austin punk scene?

Daniel: I couldn't play music, so what I did was blast everyone with my flash all the time. I would shoot 5 or 10 rolls of film a night. I was into making photos as sharp as possible so I would shoot at f8 to get good depth of field. So that meant I had to turn the flash way up. You would be momentarily blinded in you were in front of me. I shot Terminal Mind, The Skunks, Jerry's Kids (the Texas version) The Electros, Standing Waves, The Foams, The Inserts, The Reactors, The Kamikaze Refrigerators, The Hugh Beaumont Experience, Doctor's Mob, Bobby Sox. Later I just shot the audience. That's what really turned me on.

Lastufka: Tell us about the zines you’ve worked on.

Daniel: In '81 my buddy Mike Nott, who was designing a lot of posters for bands at the time, got some of us together with the idea that we'd make a fanzine. The word zine hadn't been developed yet. These were fanzines, like Sniffin’ Glue or Ripper, they weren't personal journals. Mike's idea was that our fanzine would have a 50's dude ranch western style. He called it The Western Round Up. I was the staff photographer. We only did three skinny issues. They were beautiful little things, I thought.

In '86 I put out two issues of my own publication called Detour. I was reading a lot of Situationist writings at the time and got inspired by their ideas and tactics. So for the first issue I tipped in between my pages actual advertisement pages from regular magazines; Time Magazine, military trade journals, anything with nice full color ads. So in between every one of my punk-ass pages was a beautiful cigarette or automobile ad. It really boosted the magazine's production values even though it was a ton of work. The second issue came with a cassette compilation of me and my friend's bands and audio experiments. I collected material for a third issue but never put it together.

The funnest part of it was printing it, which I did while on the clock at a part time printing job I had at the university. I lied my way into the job saying I knew how to operate an offset press. It was a Multilith 1250, it looked pretty simple to figure out. I asked the repair guy some questions, trying not to let on that I had never run a press before. I really enjoyed printing. I loved the sound of the machine. I would record it with my jambox. So anyway, I was able to print the issues while at work. Anytime someone would come down into the basement where the press was I would quickly throw some university forms on top of my printed stacks. Thanks University of Texas!

Lastufka: Have you always thought of yourself as a documenter?

Daniel: Starting with the punk photos, yes. I had a feeling that the music and the scene I was witnessing was important and that photos of it might be somehow useful or enjoyable in the future. That was a strong feeling for me and so I've always looked for projects that had some kind of historical aspect.

Lastufka: What drew you to film as a medium?

Daniel: I was never into movies when I was young. But then I had one of those classic cinematic revelations where you go "Oh My God, cinema is the ultimate artform that contains ALL of the other arts!!!" I stated making stoner experimental super 8s with industrial soundtracks. By the time I moved to San Francisco I was into the idea of doing documentaries on super 8.

Lastufka: What is the most difficult aspect of making a film independently?

Daniel: The first thing to come out of my mouth will be "money", but that's such a lame answer. Film is definitely cursed by its technical requirements, but often, technical constraints are what define a film and give it character and soul and authenticity. For me the great difficulty is focus of effort. To somehow find a way of working that accommodates your relationship to your idea, that's the crucial part.

Lastufka: How did the Who is Bozo Texino? project come about?

Daniel: That's a whopper of a story. But it opens one afternoon in Dallas with me wasted, listening to Zoviet France on the Walkman, wandering around, shooting super 8 of a freight train, and then--- I noticed the moniker graffiti for the first time.

Lastufka: So... who is Bozo Texino?

Daniel: Bozo Texino was one of the first tags I saw that day. It was the one that said to me, "Come on kid, run away from home, quit your job, just get on the train, you know you want to."

Lastufka: Has the response to the film been what you've expected?

Daniel: I try my best not have any kind of expectations, especially of my art. But I was always hoping that I could tour the country with the film. That certainly came true.

Lastufka: There will soon be a Bozo Texino book published. How will the book differ from the film?

Daniel: The book, Mostly True, will be a mash up, loose and weird, I think, but masquerading as a magazine. With the film I had to serve the story line, if you can call it that.

Lastufka: Can you talk a bit about your other projects in the works?

Daniel: I'm still working on a book of my punk photos, called Texas Punk Pioneers, but that project is slow going.

Mostly what I think about these days is the doom I sense in the world. So my work now is trying to deal with that. I have a mobile video installation called Sunset Scavenger. I rig sails on top of my '65 Chevy van and project a video piece on the sails. It's about the end of the age of oil, climate change, hippie house boaters, punk survivalism, with a Noah's Ark theme tossed in there. The project is supposed to produce some gallery shows, but so far it's about wandering around and just setting it up and doing the show outside. I did a show of it a couple of weeks ago at Slab City, a post-apocalyptic RV park in a wreck-filled desert wasteland in southern cal. The audience was made up of real-life Mad Maxes.

Contact Bill Daniel at: billdaniel.net
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