Hard Core Logo (1997)

July 19, 1997

“Joe, What do you mean by Hard Core?”

“Move, or fuckin’ die.”

- Bruce McDonald to Joe Dick, lead singer of Hard Core Logo

Punk and Disorderly

Punk rock was never supposed to have lived this long. Even as the Exploited’s Wattie gasped his battle-cry, “Punks not dead!” back around 1982, punk’s energy was already leaking from its epicentre into what was the pure pop bliss of new wave. Sure, Husker Dü and Black Flag were still waiting in the wings, but as far as the limelight goes, punk’s life at its purest was just like the songs it spawned: Short, brutal and unapologetic.

So it seems creepy somehow that today, punk’s heaving, staggering corpse is not only still moving, but slam dancing all the way to the bank. After the massive success of bands like Green Day and the Offspring, old veterans like the Buzzcocks, the Circle Jerks and the godfathers of punk, the Sex Pistols have resurfaced, crying out for their piece of the corporate rock pie. It all seems rather sad. So where does Bruce McDonald’s latest punk rock road flick Hard Core Logo fit it?

What’s this shit called love?

On the surface, Hard Core Logo may be about this very thing: ‘been there’ punks and their reunion into the tribulations of the wicked world of rock ‘n’ roll. To Bruce, though, it’s more than just a jaded attempt at mocking the present state of punk rock. As far as he’s concerned, Hard Core Logo couldn’t be further from that. “I’ve always wanted to make a film about a band, but I was more interested in the reunion of these two guys who’ve been apart for years; I don’t think it really mattered that they were punk.”

The two guys Bruce speaks of are Hard Core Logo’s lead characters, Joe Dick (played by Headstones lead singer Hugh Dillon) and Billy Tallent (Callum Keith Rennie). The singer/guitarist and lead guitarist respectively for the (fictional) punk band Hard Core Logo, they reform after years of silence for a benefit concert for their wounded punk mentor (Julian Richings as Bucky Haight) and subsequent tour.

Just like any band, the relationships between the two front men, and between them and their rhythm section (Bernie Coulson as the drummer Pipefitter, and John Piper-Ferguson as bassist John Oxenberger) borders on a strangled love affair. As the old axiom goes, being in a band is like being married; only here, it’s like trying to reconcile an old, bitter divorce after a long period of healing, only to find old wounds reopening that you thought long closed. If this is a love story, it’s Sid & Nancy meets The Odd Couple.

Let’’s Wreck the Party

Shot in a mock documentary style, ala This is Spinal Tap (which appears in a game of ‘name that cool movie’ that the two leads play while touring), Hard Core Logo may be similar in tone to the cult fave, but as Bruce describes, “It’s Spinal Tap’s mean little brother.” In viewing the film, you can’t help but think the performances were improvised, which McDonald says were actually “meticulously planned out. When you’ve got an 18 day shooting schedule, there isn’t really a lot of room for error… [but] the documentary style is really suited to performers. It allowed us a lot of room to play and be impressionistic.”

Based on ex-Hard Rock Miner Michael Turner’s novel of the same name, Hard Core Logo’s script was in the writing stage for nearly a year before production began. Part of this was due to translating the book’s sparse and varied style into a script. The book incorporated poetry, photos, song lyrics and diary entries to tell the band’s story, and as Turner described it, “the book was done pretty much live off the floor, with only a couple of overdubs.” And when Bruce read it, “I was really charmed by it. I felt like it came from a true place.”

They did an incredible job in not only translating the feel of the novel, but in creating characters that breathed an air of authenticity. “Hugh and Callum worked really hard,” said Bruce of his leads. “They both felt somewhat awkward in their roles, ‘cause Hugh was worried about his acting, and Callum about looking posey on stage with his instrumen there was this great cross-fertilization thing happening, with each of the actors teaching each other.”

This exchange of ideas and techniques seems to have paid off in spades. Hugh Dillon gives an intensely magnetic performance as Joe Dick, and Callum Rennie is suitably convincing as the torn Billy Tallent, whose loyalties are divided between Hard Core Logo and his stab at the big time, a band called Jenifur. With such diverse roles as the leads in Sandra Oh’s Double Happiness and John L’Ecuyer’s Curtis’ Charm, Rennie seems poised to receive the mantle as Canada’s latest screen sensation.

Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds

The Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie once said, “Canada is a great place for a band to get its road legs.” This statement is proven again and again in Hard Core Logo. “The Canadian road thing has always been more of a meditative trance-like experience. We’re so much used to covering long distances,” said Bruce, “that you can’t help but become more introspective and thoughtful. That’s one of the reasons we used East Indian tabla and sitar-like music. These guys aren’t just ‘rockin’ down the road’. They’re reevaluating their lives. [I feel] the music reinforces this meditative state.”

And as any band that has traveled will tell you, strange stuff happens. Hard Core Logo are no exception, with van mishaps, interpersonal crises, and thieves in the night. While often hilarious, there’s also a sense of melodrama and irony that gives the whole proceedings an aura of realism. Watch Hard Core Logo with a friend that’s in a band, and chances are they’ll agree. This isn’t the glamourous life; it’s slugging it out in the trenches, reaching for the brass ring, and coping with the hardships of the road while trying to stay sane.

Bruce McDonald Filmography

Roadkill (1989)

Bruce’s first feature film, Roadkill follows the misadventures of a concert promoter named Ramona (Valerie Buhagiar) and her search for the missing rock band “the Children of Paradise”. Co-starring Don McKellar, who also wrote the script, RoadkillI contains all the elements of a ‘Bruce McDonald’ road movie: bizarre characters, a band, long stretches of empty highway, and some rockin’ tunes.

Highway 61 (1991)

A dead body, a terminally introverted guy (Don McKellar as Pokey Jones), a flamboyant roadie named Jackie Bangs (Buhagiar again), the devil, and of course, a road trip. One of the many highlights is the appearance of the Dead Kennedy’s Jello Biafra as an evil customs officer, and Art Bergman’s manic appearance as the off-kilter Otto. Most excellent.

Dance Me Outside (1995)

Based on the writings of W.P. Kinsella, Dance Me Outside is undoubtably McDonald’s most classically structured work (blame it on the CBC’s involvement). The tale of life on a reservation and the effect a murder has on it, Dance Me Outside may be his weakest work, but it still rings true - finally, a film that shows aboriginal life in a realistic, non-stereotypical light. Hugh Dillon’s first film appearence, and featuring Winnipeg’s own Adam Beach in an excellent performance.


1.Posted by: Sandy at July 2, 2006 11:22 AM

Was introduced to Bruce McDonald films during an extended visit to Wasaga Beach three years ago. Bruce is a master of his craft, meaning he flies his own banner over filmland. I love the gritty cinematography, the rockin/bluesy soundtracks, the grainy underbelly of the lives and situations he brings to life onscreen - we identify, Bruce! I'm visiting Wasaga Beach July 31st - August 2nd, '06 (has it been that long since I left???). I'm taking back as many copies of Bruce's films as I can get my hands on. Denver Colorado is seriously devoid of them - and deprived. Bruce would be a film icon here.

Question: When is Bruce's adaptation of Tony Burgess's "Pontypool" happening? I'm looking forward to that one (been waiting a long time!).

Sandy B.
screenwriter, Denver Colorodo USA

2.Posted by: jerry at November 1, 2006 2:13 AM

i want u send me all logo or picture the band of punk and hard core music..thanks

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