11 Questions: Bill Badgley
I first “officially” met Bill Badgley (Dirty Bill) 15 years ago when Federation X came to the What’s Up! office and dropped off their demo tape – it’s one of my favorite stories to tell about the history of the magazine. But I actually met Bill a bit before then when he worked at Casa Que Pasa, and for some reason that day he and I started talking about a prediction that the West Coast was going to fall into the ocean (or something like that). I didn’t know his name, I didn’t know he played music but for those two or three minutes, I knew there was something fun, engaging and interesting about the guy taking my potato burrito order.
Of course, it wouldn’t be long before Bill was one of the most respected musicians and personalities in town and I would love his band like no other. They played my 40th birthday party a couple of years back and since then, the band has become a band again with Bill “living” in Bellingham (Bill has been staying with friends for months but looks to be moving into a place soon). I, along with countless others, couldn’t be more excited having his presence back in town – he’s one of those guys that makes those around him work harder and do better – someone the local music and film scene will be able to learn from (with film, quite literally – see sidebar).
So, it’s my honor to have talked to Bill about music, life and film for this month’s 11 (make it 12) questions.
Who are you and where did you come from?
My name is William E. Badgley, AKA “Dirty Bill”, and I hail from Yakima, Washington. In 2001 I moved to Brooklyn, NY where I still have an apartment despite my efforts to relocate back to the state of Washington.
This month Federation X celebrates its 15th birthday, what is your favorite memory from the road with Federation X?
That’s a difficult one…
I feel like people expect me to have a bag of great stories from our travels that I can just reach into and pull out amazing tales from on command, but I don’t really.
At some point all the experiences of someone’s life, when it comprises such a large part of your life, sort of morph into one conscientiousness that makes you you. I started traveling in bands when I was 16, I’m 36 now and so it’s a large part of who I am on every level, it effects everything I do, all the decisions I make.
That being said we’ve been robbed at gunpoint, witnessed stabbings, been through every kind of storm imaginable, run out of food, been in countless scenarios where we didn’t speak the language, didn’t know the locals and the issues important to them, we’ve been made to feel like kings, like fools, and everything in between.
You’ve been away from the Northwest for over a decade, what about Bellingham drew you back?
Bellingham for me has always been intensely personal in feeling… the people, the music and art scene, right down to the buildings, the streets, the businesses and the geographic environment… I just care about it, I want to know what it’s doing and where it’s going… it “pops” in my vision, everywhere I look creates a picture for me that holds a lot of intensity and I can’t say that about a lot of places. I feel like everybody has a place that they belong to and I would say that for me that place is Bellingham.
While in NY you got involved with documentary films. What about documentary films calls to you?
I think that at the end of the day I’m really a lover of life wedded with a pretty blue collar work ethic that focuses my artistic attention to the everyday elements of the world I see around me. Feeling that way kind of leaves me with the question, “Why look beyond my immediate reality for a subject to work with?”
I suppose if I quit seeing beauty, honor, and drama in my surroundings I would feel the need to create scenarios from scratch but then again maybe if things got to that point there would be no need to create at all.
How has Federation X’s approach to music, business and touring changed from when the band started 15 years ago?
As with any relationship that has lasted as long as Ben and Beau and I’s have, there are lots of things that have changed and a lot of things that haven’t.
I would say that the connection that we all took notice of within the first month of playing together 15 years ago is still there as much if not more than it was back then. We’ve gotten a lot smarter, we’re older now, we’re better at what we do now than we were back then.
We’re adults you know, we’re not kids anymore, we can articulate our ideas better, not that there weren’t a lot of great things that were expressed back then, there were, but in a way I feel like those things were almost accidently expressed out of a shit load of youthful energy which is great but Now I think we can reach in and say, “This is what I wanna do.” And then just do it.
How old where you when you picked up guitar for the first time? Did you feel a connection with it instantly?
I played my first show in 1991, when I was 15, me and the neighbor kids… who I should mention were Ian Vanek of Japanther, Matt Vanek who went on to record for both K Records & Kill Rock Stars & Josh Vanek of Wantage and Total Fest fame… we played a show of Rolling Stones covers for their moms birthday in the drive way of their house… and I remember staring at my hands, just barely being able to plunk out the notes, and seeing pennies that people were throwing bouncing off the concrete beyond the guitar neck and thinking, “Well, I’ll be doing this forever.”
What advice would the Bill of now give to the Bill from 15 years ago?
Eh, none really, I’d say he did a pretty good job doing what he had to get done back then, I’m still doing all the same shit now but with a slightly different methodology… but I couldn’t be doing what I’m doing now without doing what I did back then so I have no regrets… nothing I would change really.
Do you (personally) enjoy Bellingham more now or when you lived here in the late 90s? Why?
Oh man, it’s so different, I love both times, wouldn’t trade either for the world… it’s why I’m trying to get back here in a more permanent sense.
Your KARP documentary, Kill All Redneck Pricks, took years to make and upon its release, was shown all over the US and in part of Europe. What did you enjoy most about the documentary process?
I really enjoy it all… I think you have to if you want to take on a project of that size, it’s an unbelievable amount of work and if you’re not in love with the process you’re gonna have a really rough go of it. I would say I love making movies more than loving having one that is already made.
Part of what I love about documentary film making, or doing one by yourself basically, is that you get to switch roles all the time, which keeps things interesting… also it seems to fit my personality pretty well… you have times where you are in your office, buried in your work for months on end processing things on a creative level, making things work… there are times that you are mindlessly carrying out busy work that just needs to be done and you can let your mind wander a bit… then there is the whole exhibition time period where you’re just traveling around talking to people about the work… it’s all the absolute best, I’m totally in love with it.
I crave all the different types of work that documentary film-making brings, I need what each one brings to the table in order to be myself.
What did you learn from the movie – not from making it, but the movie itself?
I’m taking this to mean, “What do I get from watching the movie?”…
I think the movie carries a pretty undying sense of brotherhood and that those sentiments guide the creation of music more than any one other thing. I see a lot of love in the movie when I watch it, both in terms of the band members and their personal relationships to the music and to each other.
What was it like recording with Deaf Nephews (Dale Crover from the Melvins and Toshi Kasai from Big Business)?
ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE. Deaf Nephews are the absolute best. Those guys are such ninjas… we have certainly recorded with a bunch of really amazing people but I definitely wish we had gone to Dale and Toshi years ago. They just really are tops.
They have a really excellent bed side manner that makes them incredibly easy to work with as well as having very strong opinions about what is going on and what should be done, and that is just a very rare and beautiful combination of qualities need to create at all.
What’s next for Bill Badgley?
Well, I will continue to make movies and records… I’m currently about to start post production for my first paid documentary feature film for a company based out of Los Angeles starring Grimes, Pictureplane, Big Freedia, Spank Rock and The Death Set called, “Get Amongst It; The Story of the First Check Yo’ Ponytail Tour” about a party night in Los Angeles called, “Check Yo’ Ponytail” going on their first national tour.
Also, Fed X turns 15 this month so we’re having a big birthday party/video filming weekend for our new record due out this summer on Recess Records and Molasses Manifesto called We Do What We Must… There’s also a book version of the KARP doc in the works so busy busy busy.