31.05.2016

DANCE WITH THE DEVIL: The Legend of Cozy Powell

Av J.Nepper
(An Interview with Film Producer Andrew Fawn)

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The legendary drummer Cozy Powell is, simply put, one of the greatest and most influential drummers to have ever walked the earth. It is as simple as that, really. The great man worked with so many legendary bands that it is damn near impossible to list them all here. His trademark drumming can be heard on such masterpieces as ‘Rising', ‘On Stage', ‘Long Live Rock 'n' Roll', and ‘Down to Earth' by the mighty Rainbow as well as the underrated classics ‘Headless Cross' and ‘Tyr' by Black Sabbath. Then there is ‘Slide It In' by Whitesnake, ‘Line-Up' by Graham Bonnet, ‘Rough & Ready' by the Jeff Beck Group, and ‘One Night at Budokan' by the Michael Schenker Group. Powell appeared on countless other great albums and recordings by artists such as Bernie Marsden, Jon Lord, Robert Plant, Gary Moore, Peter Green, Forcefield, and Brian May. Heck, I could go on name-dropping bands and artists, but suffice to say that it is both unfathomable and inspiring that one man could accomplish so much during a mere fifty years among us mortals. The tragic events surrounding his death in 1998 are still felt by many, be they fans, friends, or musicians that he worked with. That the legend of Cozy Powell lives on is evidenced by the fact that there is a documentary film on Powell in the works that will chronicle the life and times of the larger-than-life musician. Entitled ‘Dance With The Devil: The Legend of Cozy Powell', this is truly a labor of love for those involved and certainly looks to be something out of the ordinary. Naturally, Eternal Terror Live just had to have a chat with producer Andrew Fawn about the film. Read on, ladies and gentlemen.

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Andrew Fawn & Glen Tipton
 
First of all, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer this interview of ours. Much appreciated. Before we start discussing ‘Dance With The Devil: The Legend of Cozy Powell', could you perhaps briefly tell us a bit about yourself, your work in movies and television, how the two of you met, and so on?

A: Our experience is pretty broad, from short films to music videos to feature films. Documentary wise it's mostly been in short and online productions.

How did you guys initially come up with the idea of making a documentary on Cozy Powell? Were you both fans of his playing and/or his music beforehand, or did somebody else suggest that you should turn your attention to one of the world's greatest drummers?

A: The idea came from Lee Hutchings. He told me (Andrew) about his idea for a documentary on Cozy, someone he admired because Lee is also a musician. Phil and James (co-producers on the film) came on board later. We have a wide crew pool with some talented photographers, cameramen and soundmen too.

For us all, the amazing story of Cozy Powell's life and career was what drew us to the project.

Could you tell us a bit about the actual structure and content of the film? Will it mainly feature and consist of interviews and/or perhaps a lot of archive footage? What about concert footage and backstage footage and the likes? Are there any other documentaries out there that perhaps one could compare yours to?

A: We've filmed a lot of interviews already and there are still quite a few to come and we'll combine these with as much archive footage as we can lay our hands on, including any concert footage that's available. In terms of backstage footage, we don't really know how much is there, but there is plenty of promotional/tour footage we hope to include.

I think a comparable film (structurally at least) would be ‘Marley', which featured a lot of interviews and archive footage. Obviously, the style of music is very different, but in terms of structure it's a fairly close reference.

As Cozy didn't give many interviews about himself, we'll need to put together what there is to try and create a whole. There are some print interviews and we'd like to incorporate these, perhaps having a voice actor to read the words. We've also acquired an interview Cozy did with a Dutch radio station, where he talks quite candidly about the highs and lows of his career, which will help fill in some of the blanks.

Some documentaries dramatise scenes where there isn't footage etc. available, but I don't think we'll have reconstructions with an actor portraying Cozy on-screen. It just doesn't seem right to me.

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Cozy Powell
 
I seem to recall reading an interview with either Neil Murray or Geoff Nicholls in relation to Black Sabbath in which one of them stated that Cozy was extremely good at talking to the press and that he would tirelessly promote the first two Sabbath records that he was part of making. Ironically, I have never come across an in-depth interview in which he talks about himself or his own life. Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems to me that he never really talked about his personal life in public. I was just thinking that with all the footage you have compiled that perhaps you had come to the same conclusion; that Cozy rarely talked about himself and his private life. I guess the only way to get to know him is through his friends and colleagues and so on. Am I right in this assertion?

A: Yes, as far as we are aware, there isn't an all-encompassing, detailed interview with Cozy, certainly not discussing his private life anyway, so when it comes to exploring this side of him, we are reliant on friends and colleagues for their recollections.

We always say to our interviewees; "this is what we think happened based on research, but please correct us if your memory is different". We're also trying to get everything backed up, but that's not always possible.

When it comes to Cozy's personal life, we're more interested in what drove him to succeed and how he thought and felt about his life and career. We're not interested in gossip and kiss-and-tell stories or sensationalism.

Can you reveal what songs will be used in the film? What about a soundtrack release to coincide with the premiere of the film? Would that be a possibility?

A: That's a very hard question to answer! It's a little like, "how long is a piece of string?," but hopefully we'll include as much as we can from his catalogue, a sampling of everything if you will, because part of Cozy's legend is the enormous scope of his work. Hopefully there'll be something to please fans and to interest those who don't know Cozy all that well to explore his work.

In our dreams, we'd love to organize a tie-in soundtrack and also tour the film, show it at venues followed by a concert featuring his bandmates and also tribute acts but it's a complicated process - fingers crossed though!

Are there any songs by, for instance, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, or Whitesnake featuring Cozy that mean a lot to you on a personal level? For me, ‘Headless Cross' and ‘Tyr' by Black Sabbath were my introduction to the great man and his drumming. Brilliant albums in my opinion. What about you? Any anecdotes?     

A: I'm always struck by how good his solo work is - it still really grabs you. There's also a great deal of depth to it as well; there's the up-tempo (putting it mildly!) tracks like 'Dance With The Devil', ‘Killer', ‘The Rattler' and ‘Octopuss', which are absolutely fantastic and just get the blood racing. Then you've also got more solemn sounding works like ‘The Loner' and ‘Dartmoore' - maybe solemn isn't the right word, but certainly slower, quite moving? I can't quite explain it, but I find those quite affecting.  I like how his solo work swings between these extreme highs and lows of emotion.

So much of his work is just breathtaking as you move through the bands he worked with and there's something to admire in just about everything he did, every band, every artist.

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Graham Bonnett & Andrew Fawn
 
I was very moved by that video clip on your website where you interviewed former Rainbow vocalist Graham Bonnet. That was a very touching scene. I cannot wait to see the whole thing. I take it that you were quite moved as well by some of the stories and anecdotes that came up when interviewing musicians and friends that were somehow related to Cozy?

A: That was a very moving moment for us all. I think it was such a vivid memory for Graham and he explained it so beautifully.

When discussing Cozy's passing, you'll see with everyone we've interviewed how painful it is, how raw the memory still is, I think because of how shocking his death was and because above everything else, he was their friend and they loved him.

That said, overall it's actually been quite uplifting speaking with Cozy's friends and colleagues because of how fondly they remember him and I think that's got to be the tone of the documentary. We want it to be a study of the man and his career and a celebration of his work. It's tragic what happened to Cozy, but that can't be his legacy, it just isn't. The work is his legacy and his vibrant personality is his legacy.

We were at the plaque unveiling for Cozy in Cirencester earlier this year and ultimately the mood was joyous, it was a celebration. I think that's the tone we want to capture.

It must be quite difficult to coordinate and set up all these interviews as Cozy played and performed with so many people that are scattered across the globe now and living in all these different places. How have you managed to overcome this obstacle? Have all the necessary interviews been conducted now? How many are we talking about?

A: It's quite difficult because almost everyone we want to speak to or have spoken to are still working - often touring - so we have to coordinate with their schedules. Fortunately, everyone has been open to being interviewed, but it's just matching up time to speak with them.

It takes a while sometimes to hear back from contributors because they are so in demand as well, so I imagine they're wading through mountains of letters and emails before they get to ours.

We've haven't finished just yet though! There's still about a dozen interviews to complete, but at the moment we're focusing on getting more archive to fill in the blanks of the story as it will help us focus our interview questions.

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Cozy Powell
 
Through your work on this documentary, would you say that you have somehow come to appreciate Cozy's contribution to various musical genres more compared to when you started working on ‘Dance With The Devil'?

A: Yes, absolutely - again it's just the sheer scope of his discography, not just in numbers but also the range in genre! He played almost every style of music; rhythm and blues, rock, pop, heavy metal (if you count ‘Mars, the Bringer of War' and ‘1812 Overture' then that's even classical music!) and it is just breathtaking that one person could do all that.

Have some musicians turned you down in terms of being interviewed as perhaps the loss of Cozy is still a bit too close to home for them, so to say?

A: No one has outright turned us down. Some are a little wary, understandably because they don't know us and they're worried what the documentary is going to say about Cozy. They want to protect his legacy, but once they realise we're not trying to say anything other than the truth then everyone has been open. The only real obstacle, as I say, has been lining up schedules with these busy rock stars!

It is amazing to think how Cozy influenced people's lives, not just musically, but also personally in many instances. Did you ever meet him back when he was alive?

A: No, we never met him - if only!

In Colin Hart`s brilliant book on his time of managing Deep Purple and Rainbow, the one entitled ‘A Hart Life', he remembers Cozy fondly and describes him as a kind, considerate, and funny man. Is that also your impression now that you have interviewed many of those know knew and worked with Cozy?

A: That's how everyone remembers him - every interview we've undertaken, his kindness, his humour, it seems to be the abiding impression he left. I'd add as well that the common view of Cozy was that he was a consummate professional, loved music and wanted to elevate the standing of drummers within the industry, show that they were a key part of any bands success. Passion and drive are words we keep hearing. His mischievous side has also come up a lot!

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Editing the Documentary
 
Have you considered setting up one of those campaigns where fans can get involved and support the project financially? I just thinking that with Cozy's global fan base that that might be an option. What is your take on this? Many musicians and bands use PledgeMusic and the likes to finance their albums and in turn, the fans are presented with the opportunity to participate or involve themselves in the whole thing, which I think is quite cool.

A: Definitely - but I think there's a time for that and we'd like to wait until we're closer to finishing the film so that contributors don't have to wait too long to receive their reward! The film is going to be expensive to finish because of the music and archive so we'll need all the help we can get. As I've said, a dream would be to take the film on a roadshow and let fans watch it and then enjoy a tie-in concert, perhaps a PledgeMusic or Indiegogo campaign could help fund that!

Cozy's fans have been amazing. Not a day goes by without someone getting in touch with suggestions and tips, sometimes telling us something we didn't know or connecting us with interviewees or just to say "hi" and send their support and even correct us when we've got something wrong!

Will ‘Dance With The Devil' be released in cinemas or do you aim to show it at film festivals? Speaking of which, is there any chance that it might see the light of day this year?

A: It's hard to say because when the film is acquired what happens to it is slightly out of our hands. I think because of Cozy's international success and fame, the film deserves a run in cinemas, maybe a limited run because that's the usual path for documentary films, but if I had my way, there'd be the roadshow followed by a short run in the cinemas, then home release. That would all come after the film festival circuit where I think the film will get a good buzz and be a crowd pleaser.

I think honestly, we'll finish it this year, but getting it out this year as well is going to be tricky simply because film distribution is competitive and schedules will already be filled. I'd like to say first half of next year, but again it's out of our hands unless we release it independently and then that may not get a wide enough audience that the film - and more importantly Cozy - deserves. It seems like every year we say "next year," but it's turned out to be a massive undertaking, more than we expected and we want to get it right. We could almost tell the story now with what we've shot - but I'd rather take the time to cover as much of Cozy Powell's amazing story than rush it out. We need to do the great man justice!

 

Links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/cozypowellfilm or @cozypowellfilm

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cozypowellfilm/

Website: https://cozypowellfilm.com/

 

Alle bildene bortsett fra de to med Cozy Powell, er brukt med tillatelse fra Andrew Fawn.

 

 

 



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