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Canadian punks visit Charleston in honor of 'Chillers' (video)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Buddy Black doesn't remember specifically when he first saw Danny Boyd's 1987 B-movie horror classic "Chillers," but the Canadian rocker does remember it was love at first sight.

"It was at least 15 years ago," he said. "It was right after I stared being able to rent movies on my own."

Black, a big fan of scary movies and comic books, got his own copy of the film, a battered VHS tape. He watched it over and over.

"I watched it every day for a year," he said. "Easily, I've seen that movie 500 times -- probably more."

Years later, Black, born Neil MacKay, got into music and formed punk trio Buddy Black with guitarist Mike Gibbons and drummer Ross Martin.

"We met at a club," Gibbons said. "Ross and I were doing something, and Neil was playing some acoustic stuff."

Black was already playing gigs around Ontario as Reverend Buddy Black, but after the three began talking, they saw a bigger opportunity as a trio. Black told them, "I've got 25 original songs we could do," and the band was born. That was a little more than two years ago.

Then, last Halloween, inspiration struck when Black was sitting at home with his girlfriend, watching "Chillers."

"Inexplicably," he said, "she hadn't seen it."

A few minutes into the film and maybe after a few drinks, Black decided to look up Boyd, just to reach out and tell him how much he appreciated the film.

"It's such a beautiful story," Boyd said. "I couldn't have scripted this. It's so good. I've been working on the graphic novel for 'Chillers,' and I get this email from Neil."

Black told Boyd he was a huge fan, then asked how he felt about Buddy Black doing a tribute album to the film.

"I replied, 'Hell yeah,'" Boyd said. The timing couldn't have been more perfect, he added, especially with the graphic novel coming along.

"And they were good," he said of the band. "I looked them up, and they have kind of a classic punk sound like The Clash. I really liked it."

For Boyd, a film professor at West Virginia State University, the idea of collaborating in some way on a music video seemed like a natural progression. "But I didn't want to get too involved creatively."

Instead, he approached some of his current and former film students with the idea of making a video to accompany the release of Buddy Black's EP, "Witchfinger." "I just floated the idea out to some people, and they said yes!"

Among the crew were producer Lisa Bragg, director Curtis Baskerville and videographer Michael Sydenstricker.

"Curtis and Lisa are two of the best in the state," Boyd said. "And Michael came back from Nashville to do this. Everything just came together. I really think this could be their break into the big leagues."

So the weekend of Feb. 11-12, the band climbed into a minivan and traded unseasonably mild temperatures in Canada for a bitter cold snap in Charleston to come and shoot two videos.

"We had a little trouble with the Border Patrol," Martin said. "It's a band thing. The Border Patrol sees the band gear and suddenly they don't want to let us in."

The band members said that in the past this added hassle has discouraged them from coming across the border to play too often, but this time around they had an official letter of invitation from WVSU. It helped smooth things over.

Black said coming to Charleston with his band and meeting Boyd has been surreal.

"This project is much bigger than just a childhood dream," he said. "I mean I know Danny is a local. You probably see him around all the time, but meeting him is really kind of a big deal to me."

The videos brought several alumni from the film back to town. Boyd estimated about 40 percent of the principal cast made it to the shoot. Some of them came from several states away.

"Peter Jesus, the bus driver in the movie, came up from Florida to be in the video."

Producer Lisa Bragg said both videos went off without much problem.

"We had a lot of support from Bruno's, where we shot the first video, and from the city of Dunbar, where we shot part of the second video," she said. "Of course, a lot of work went into the pre-production side, making sure everything was ready and taking care that we could get onto the set and get to work fast."

Bragg, a graduate student at State, said the video shoot enlisted students, graduate students and alumni of the communications programs there. For many of them, it was real word experience and a chance to use the things they'd learned in class.

"It was really a fabulous experience for all of us and a kind of homecoming for Danny and his 'Chillers' crew."

Bragg said editing of the videos is underway. The first of the two could be finished as early as the end of the week.

"The band had a good time, too," she added. "They mentioned maybe coming back for a video release and concert to coordinate with some touring."

According to Black, "Witchfinger" will be released March 1. Boyd said an announcement about the "Chillers" graphic novel release date will probably be made then.

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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