Finding Joseph i - a Bad Brains documentary... I think

It is a great time to be a Bad Brains fan.  Probably the best time since the mid 80s.

This story has been leaking in various media outlets about a new Bad Brains documentary or book. There is truth to that. I have heard every variation in the last few months, but now the correct story has emerged.  There is a new book that is specifically about HR, and his mental illness challenges over the years,  The book has been worked on with HR, and there is about ten years of time invested.  From what I understand, it began as a chronicle about HR.   It kind of ended up, though, as a chronicle of his various mental illnesses and/or health struggles.  I wrote about him here at some length.  I have the book, but haven't started it yet.  Will update as I do.  It's great.  It is the story of the band and HR told in chronological anecdotes of those who were there.  It is also a quick read, which I love.  Since it is just anecdote based, you can stop at any time.

Initially, it was just a book called 'Finding Joseph I', which is what I guess HR is calling himself now. The important and exciting thing about this project is it was done with HR... not just about HR.  Of course, though, it is about HR.  I was listening to Adam Carolla show, and it came up that Comedian/sportscaster Jay Mohr got wind of it and wisely turned it into a documentary.  Pretty amazing, Jay Mohr and Bad Brains working together on a project.  How did I only hear about this on Carolla? The movie is now done, and they are looking for buyers and shopping it around the festival circuits.  Mohr said (on the Adam Carolla show recently)  that he hope by summer it will be in some kind of distribution.  I imagine you will be able to watch it on Amazon for about $5 by the Spring of 2017.

Finding a buyer won't be easy.  Maybe that is why this amazing documentary never got released,  Well, not officially or legally.  Sadly, you can not buy this movie. You can only stream it here over at Vimeo.  Link is here.   You can only watch it for free online. It's a really fantastic movie, and I highly recommend you watch it.  I just wish they could tie this to a gofundme page for one of the boy's health problems.   In fact, it is GONE.  I just went to the link today. You can not see the movie.  You can not buy it.  Sad.  I am talking about the 2012 doc 'Band in DC'.   

Good news, the documentary IS available again.  You can pay $5 and stream it through Vimeo, or it is free on Hulu.  I am watching it (again) right now.

 *** updates at the bottom with active links to their 'go fund me' pages.***

It seems this book/movie has undergone a ton since it began.  When I began hearing and reading about it a year ago, it was to be a biography on HR.  Then, it became an autobiography with HR.  Then, it became the ‘oral history of the bad brains’.  THEN.. it became ‘an oral history of HR told by Bad Brains’.  Obviously, to tell the story of a band like them, is to tell the story of HR.  The two cannot be separated. 

The link for the book is above.  Here is the official website for the film.

When Mohr recently got involved, it’s because he is a Bad Brains fan like all of us.  Plus, he probably has some Hollywood mojo and money that you and I don’t.  Mohr was recently on Carolla’s podcast to talk about the film.  I know this only because I listen to Carolla’s show daily, and Morh’s show weekly.  I love these guys, so then I found out Morh is being the Bad Brains project… that is some hit shit!  Carolla keeps probing Mohr about HR’s problems.  “is the guy nuts?  Is he bipolar?....”.  Mohr tries to sidestep the issue, but eventually relents that this story evolved into a story about HR’s mental illness.

At this moment, for us consumers,  ‘Finding Joseph I’ is available as a book right now through amazon.  I can’t tell you about it because I just ordered it myself.  Read it, review at bottom, and here.  I didn’t understand what the book or project was until now, that’s why. It is also a movie/film/documentary about the book and featuring the same folks.  We are lucky that all of the principles of the band are still around.  However, they don’t really perform anymore because of HR’s issues.  He can’t really sing anymore (think of Ian Anderson here), and his mental issues are such a barrier that no one will book them anymore. 

See, you may show up to a Bad Brains show and just get HR standing there in a motorcycle helmet the whole time.  Not singing.  This has happened more than once. I have been listening to them since high school (30 years ago).  To see Bad Brains live since them reminds me of what the great rock writer G Brown said about Van Morrison. They are among the absolutely best concerts I have seen, and the worst.  And you never know which one you are going to get. (paraphrased).

To see them at their full power, as I got to do 30 years ago at a bar in Tempe, AZ... there was no greater band.  However, the other 3 or 4 times I have seen them... garbage.  The tough part is the band ALWAYS kills.  The experience of the show depends entirely on which HR will show up.  Sadly, it very much seems even he doesn't know, these days.

*** January 2017 - there are two very active 'Go Fund Me' accounts for Bad Brains members.  This one is for HR, and this one is for Dr Know.

### - ok, the book review >

It is a really great read, and a must for any Bad Brains fan.  It is also the most depressing thing you have ever read.  Turns out HR was ALWAYS mess.  From day one, basically... it just kept getting worse.  I also learned Bad Brains was hardly ever a full time band after the early 80s.  HR would quit, a LOT, and wander off to do other projects.  Bad Brains was certainly never once a priority for him.  An example is the landmark masterpiece 'I Against I'.  While the band was rehearsing and recording for months, HR was only available for 2 days of recording.  He not only showed up super duper late, after the first day, he told the producer 'Oh, I have to go to jail tomorrow for a few months'.  They were able to get two vocal takes on each song... and that was it.  He was gone.

You may have heard the amazing urban legend that 'Sacred Love' was recorded over a telephone line while he was in jail.  It's true.  Wait until you read the whole story... about him smoking a bible page consumer in pot while he was in jail, before recording that.  Even more HR about the story?  He was in jail for marijuana possession! The history goes like this.  HR leaves the band for years... goes broke... joins the band for a week or two to record and album.  They go on tour, until HR gets arrested or wanders off.  Rinse and repeat that cycle for 30 years.

God how I love that song, and this album.  As one of the greatest rock albums of all time, it is mind-blowing to me that all the vocals were recorded in a take or two... out of necessity.

I have given HR a ton of shit on this site for being nuts.  I felt he was being lazy and selfish for phoning in Bad Brains shows for the last 25 years.  It felt like he was just being a dick. I had NO idea it was because he seriously is nuts... in a sad way.  There is clearly manic depression, psychosis, delusions of grandeur, bi-polar, schizophrenia, and a terrible brain disorder called SUNCT.  All these issues are why Bad Brains never made it big, or could ever land a big record deal, finish a tour, or even finish a show.  His psychological troubles have been exacerbated by drugs, constant homelessness, and wild tendencies of pointless violence.  Among his many jail stints - mostly for drug possession or sales - was for trying to kill:  his brother, his manager, a fan in a crowd who he hospitalized by braining him with a very heavy steel microphone stand base.

So why is this book so great?  Well, no one person knows the truth.  This book, though, is stitched together with interviews about 20 people who were there through all of this... including (most importantly) HR.  There is one very confusing aspect of the book.  HR goes by many names.  Throughout the book, he is referred to as 'HR', 'Human Rights', 'Joseph', 'Joseph I', and lastly Paul Hudson (his actual name).  Each person simply refers to him by the name he was going by at that moment.  Here is a perfect example of how you get at the truth in this book by using so many storytellers.  For a period, Bad Brains was calling themselves 'Soul Brains'.  HR and others explained it as they wanted to send a message of positivity, and so didn't like the word 'bad'.  I had read about this about 20 years ago... and knowing what little I did for HR's quirkiness, it made sense.  In this book, he repeats that story.

 However, someone else points out the more believable tale.  HR had botched yet another record deal.  He did this to every single record deal they got.  He didn't trust the business end of things.  During one of these aborted runs at success... they lost the legal rights to use the name 'Bad Brains'.  Odds are, they signed a very nice contract with a very nice advance, and then HR disappeared again.  This tact isn't as odd as you would think.  It is why Prince changed his name to a symbol, to get around his very sour relationship with Warner Brothers.  I think the oddest thing of the whole 'Soul Brains' period is that HR probably really believes that the name change to Soul Brains was a voluntary one.

*** update Nov 2017

the 'Finding Joseph I' documentary has finally surfaced.  You can find it here, and I am watching it right now.  ODD > it just came out TODAY, and Amazon says it is out of stock.  I had ordered it a couple of months ago.


Anonymous said…
hey, can you upload the video please, can't find it anywhere online, thanks
Kevin of Parker said…
I can't, and wouldn't even if I could. This is available through the vendor directly. here is the official URL< they should have good links.

Btw, if you are a big fan, and have not seen it, make SURE you watch 'Bad Brains a Band in DC'. It's really good, and somewhat available if you google (I think it is vimeo). Start with that doc first, and then enjoy this one.
Anonymous said…
i've seen that already, but been itching to watch the new one for the past year or so, i just don't feel like spending any money on it, especially since the movie has already been paid for and should now be free for everyone to enjoy
Kevin of Parker said…
Why should the content be free? and how do we know that it is paid for? Surely, the people who went through the work of putting it together should get compensated, don't you think? It's not just following people around with a GoPro. Think of the licensing process for video and audio clips. Know what it takes to secure that stuff? a shit ton of lawyers.

think of the poor crew who likely had to follow HR around for 2 years waiting for him to give 5 minutes of camera time. To say he is mercurial would be an understatement. I would like th filmmakers to make tons of money on this... so that they will keep doing it.

As I mentioned somewhere, this doc is NOT the one to start on. Start with 'a band in CD', and listen to I Against I a LOT.

then... give up on Bad Brains altogether. For many many years.

then, come back to them, like we all do. Then, watch this doc. It seems he (HR) is getting better. Odds are, he won't ever be that singer again. Maybe, though, we could get the old fighty PMA revolutionary spirit.

lastly, we call them 'Bad Brains'. Have you noticed when they interview the band, the band ALWAYS refers to itself as 'THE Bad Brains'. I like that.

Popular Posts