Rock band King Adora shot to fame in the early noughties with a sleazy off beat persona and debut album Vibrate you.

Their punk, glam, metal influences secured chart success, an abundance of coverage, and an army of loyal fans.

Their fate was short-lived and after two albums, they were dropped from their record company, leading to their subsequent break up in 2005.

Film director and friend of the band, Ben Lewis decided to make a self-financed documentary on the fascinating King Adora story. 

Digital Arts caught up with ex-Apple creative to talk tech about hardware, documentary making, and capturing the essence of a rock band!   

THE PROJECT

So how did the project begin? 

"I’d wanted to make a documentary for a while and although my close friend (Martyn Nelson) was in the band I’d never really explored what that experience was like for him.

"We got talking and I decided that I’d like to produce a film to explain not only what it’s like being in King Adora, but also what it’s like being in a band at that time. At that time social media was in it's infancy, the industry was in flux, artist development was a thing of the past and I wanted to capture some of that too."

Tell me a little bit about your background and what you did before?

"I’ve always had an interest in film, from an early age I loved watching them, and when I finally got my hands on a camera, this whole world opened up to me.

"My best mate’s Mum is a Psychologist and used to bring home this massive VHS camera that had the tape deck as a separate unit that you slung over your shoulder. I started making little kung-fu flicks all edited in camera and I began to find little tricks and built on that. 

"I was also interested in computing and I used to do graphics on an Amiga 500/1200. 

"Recently I’ve worked as an Apple Creative demonstrating Video Apps. Final Cut Pro, Motion, Color, etc. for Apple.

"Both these industries are now inextricably linked and IT is part of the production process from the outset to delivery."

 Laura Howie (Director of Photography) & Ben Lewis (Director)

So how much of the project did you take on yourself? 

"It was a real labour of love, self funded and calling in lots of favors from friends who work in the industry. Laura Howie did a brilliant job shooting the film and Sydnie Couch took some lovely production stills. I’d planned just to document the journey of four guys as a gift to them, but as the project gained momentum I thought we could do more with this. I started to build confidence and contacted people like Steve Lamacq at 6Music and John Cornfield who produced their first album."

How much did the whole film cost?

"About £6,000, but if I calculated what it cost for peoples’ time and paying their daily rate, it would be around 17K"

What are the next plans for the film?

"I got the feeling more people wanted to see it so I decided to do a few screenings and release it on DVD as well as showing the film at some local pubs it’s also going to be showing at a new festival called The Worcestershire Film Festival."  

THE BAND

Martyn Nelson, lead guitarist from King Adora 

I know you’re close friends with some of the band. The band appears to have a turbulent journey with disagreements, and a rock and roll lifestyle. Did you feel protective of the band, is there much information you held back, and how did you try to keep a subjective standpoint?

"Yes and no, Martyn is a very close friend but from the outset I said to them all that I didn’t want to pull any punches and I was going to be honest. I didn’t want the band breathing down my throat in the edit and I don’t think film making by committee is a great idea. It's a collaborative process yes but I needed a clear voice. 

I was always conscious that I didn’t want to adhere to a narrative in which band get signed, band break up, band reform etc"

Why, can you expand on that?

"This ones a weird one, as although going into the project I didn’t want that narrative arc; to a certain extent it did turn out that way. It was the nature of the content. 

Me and my editor (Ashleigh Wright) always wanted to bring in the recent rehearsal footage early on so there was this kind of parallel with old and new.  At one point their reunion gigs hadn’t been confirmed and for a brief moment I thought do we have that element of jeopardy but it felt too “X factor, too reality TV”

The film runs parallel narratives that explore the relationships within the band, what there up to now and how the journey effected them."

George De Rosa, previously the bands tour manager. Currently a promoter / events consultant 

Why was the ‘Jug of Ale’ pub so important to King Adora?

"The Jug of Ale was almost another character in the film, it was the hub of a certain music scene for a long time in Birmingham. 

Lots of bands passed through there and it was kind of a home to many bands. 

King Adora used it as a meeting place, a place to play live and it really did stay as part of the story, their story." 

What is the band up to now? Do they still perform together? Are they still friends?

"The band played their two final gigs in April 2010, there’s no plan to reform, it was never going to be about the money, but I liked the idea that these guys we’re going to go out with a bang with these final shows, giving something back to that loyal fan-base and having a great time at the same time. They are all still mates all doing different things." 

THE TECH

What software did you use to make the documentary?

"We cut the film on Final Cut 7 as both me and my editor work with it almost everyday. 

The red workflow proved interesting, as we had originally conformed all the Red footage to Apples Prores Codec. We used RedCine X Pro to relink to the original r3d clips when we came to do our final grade in Apple Color.

I’m currently in the process of moving to Adobe’s creative Suite. Premier, AE, Speed Grade etc." 

Cutting room

You mentioned shooting with Red cameras, what was reasoning behind this expensive choice? 

"Yes it was an expensive especially as I was funding it entirely myself. From the outset I wanted the interviews to be incredibly intimate, have a very filmic look, shallow depth of field so we felt very close to the individuals talking about this journey that was/is very personal to them. I wanted to be able to see these emotions on screen and this format allowed us to achieve that feel."  

How does it compare to the 5D?

"The Red was great and of all the shots in the film, I think Martyn’s is my favorite. 

It became apparent that I couldn’t justify the cost of the Red. Achieving that look at a price point I could afford, the 5D MKII was the obvious choice. 

It goes without saying that no matter what the kit, you have to know how to use it, light it well. Laura Howie did an amazing job shooting all but one of the interviews. I don't mean she did a crap job on the other just that I shot one of the interviews because of a scheduling conflict." 

What 3 pieces of advice would you give to our readers making a band documentary? 

"1. Don’t be put off by a few knock backs, persevere and you’ll find doors open. I couldn’t track down John Cornfield (producer) at first, and was told it may be hard to schedule an interview, but we kept asking and he came through. He’s a lovely bloke and was very accommodating.  Same thing with Steve Lamacq. I thought “He’s not going to have time for us” but he was great. 

Steve Lamacq

2. Don’t let the tech get in the way of a good story. You can tell a good story with a camera phone but make sure the stories there. 

3. The kit won't matter if your people don’t know what they’re doing. I’d much prefer to see a well lit 5D shot than a badly lit Red shot." 

How much material did you accumulate before editing down the film?

"A hell of a lot. I had about 100 hours of archive to log, I had archive material of the band on the road and partying in the tour bus, a whole bunch of press cuttings and photos I had to digitize. 

I also wanted the interview experience to be very relaxed and we talked and talked. The guys said it felt like therapy."

Were there any legal problems with accessing live footage, I see you had some tour footage and stills from magazines such as Melody Maker?

"Yeah I had to obtain clearance for a whole bunch of stuff, magazine covers, music videos etc.

Some things proved to be too expensive to clear so we had to figure out work arounds, like using tracks the band recorded live as opposed to the original album tracks. 

This actually ended up adding to it I think, having the audience in the mix made for a more connected experience." 

Dan Dabrowski

In this modern Digital Age, why are you releasing a DVD? 

"It was a number of factors. I thought that it would be nice to give the fans something to actually look at, hold and keep as a memory of the band. I’ve also added extra content to the disk such as the full Steve Lamacq, John Cornfield interviews and vox pops we shot outside the Garage in Islington at their final gig.

We did a bit of market research earlier in the year and the feedback we got suggested the fans wanted DVD. I’m not discounting online, I love online distribution, it's the future but there is also a case of the monetization of online content for independent productions like this.

I looked into iTunes aggregators and it proved to be cost prohibitive at present but I may go back to that in the future. Other options are out there like Vimeo’s Tip Jar and You Tubes Monetization options.

I'm looking into http://distrify.com as we speak." 

So what are you working on at the moment?

"I’m currently in pre-production on a number of projects, first up is a promo for Birmingham 2 piece Horror show which will shoot in January. It was a long hard slog but I’m really pleased with the film but I’m looking forward to doing something short form for my next project, I’m currently looking at locations for the video and I’ll be shooting with Laura Howie again. 

She’s currently in Arizona shooting a documentary about Wyatt Earp on the Red Epic”

For a chance to get the DVD. Click here  

Who do you love will be screening at the Hare and hounds on the 24th October, for more info click here 

Tickets for the King Adora wrap party at Muthers Studio on the 27th Ocotber, are available here 

For more info on Who do you love contact Siwel Productions 

Martyn Nelson's interview was shot at the exclusive Handsworth Wood studio also known as Ben's folk's house.