INTERVIEW WITH APRIL JONES: SHOEBOX JONES & CONCRETE LAW
April Jones - musician, filmmaker, skater & all around badass! This hardworkin', heavy metal creative has been toiling around on some new projects and we wanted to check in with April and see what's going on! We asked April about her new Shoebox Jones release Rehabilitation, the new film Concrete Law & April's thoughts on experiences in the past, present & future. Enjoy!
Can you tell us a bit about your new skate thrash project Shoebox Jones?
Shoebox Jones is a solo thrash project I started. I had about 4-5 original songs and were instrumental at the time when my buddy John Christopher (previous Mentors drummer) hopped on board. He was learning the songs and writing his own drum beats and we had plans to write more and record, but then Covid happened. Around the time Covid hit, I was going through knee rehabilitation (hence the name of the album) due to a skateboard injury and that is when I wrote all the lyrics in this album. I actually went off Facebook for 3 months, cold-turkey to write this. It was the best thing for my mental health honestly. And anyone who suffers from anxiety, I would highly suggest doing the same. A social media purge is a breath of fresh air and much needed for our psyche. The album explores a lot of the dark sides of skateboarding; mental illness caused by traumatic brain injury, DIY, surgery, learning to walk again, and loss. One song, The Bulldozer's Blade, was specifically written for my upcoming film, Concrete Law. The lyrics are written in the eyes of a bulldozer who is seeking out to destroy do-it-yourself skateparks. Anyone not familiar with DIY skateparks, it is a global underground movement that came about out of necessity in the 90's when hundreds of skateparks were demolished in the 80's due to liability.
Who are some of your creative influences?
My biggest vocal influence is the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz. haha That is my all time favorite movie! A lot of vocal influences stem from Slayer, Exodus, Overkill, Jello Biafra, Dawn Crosby. I listen to a lot of earlier thrash and punk rock. That early 80's thrash era really fuels my energy! I love it! And as far as general creative influences; a lot of things going on in the world influence the writing process. And sometimes it's hard to express yourself vocally in this day in age when everyone is so reactionary and arguing with each other. It's really important for growth and development to listen to opposing sides in a healthy way. I'm an advocate for freedom of speech and creative forms of self expression. You can't argue with creative self expression. It is not in a category to be judged because it's purely yours and no one has authority to tell you it's wrong or right. That's the great thing about art! There are no rules and if you don't like it, that’s cool because it’s not for you anyway.
What has it been like working on your new film Concrete Law?
There have been ups and downs for sure! Concrete Law is about saving Channel Street Skatepark, which was a community-built skatepark that has been a part of the community of San Pedro (Los Angeles) since 2002. Historically, DIY skateparks are built without permits and without permission, typically in really bad parts of town. This specific one was built underneath the 110 freeway near the Port of Los Angeles. It's beautiful. The outside has mosaic art collaged in the most intricate ways. Even the city councilman used to bring his nephews there to skate so it has definitely been accepted by the little town, but when CalTrans came in to do freeway construction that is when the issues with liability came up and the skatepark was closed. It's been shut down for almost 6 years and the area has resorted back to a junkie haven and dumping ground, something that the skateboarders and skatepark did was really clean up that area. The founders of the park have been working relentlessly with the city of LA to obtain the proper permits, but even then there is no much red tape and circling back to the same issues that were seemingly taken care of in the first place. So, that's what I mean when I say ups and downs because even though the city is advocating for the park, a lot of contradictions within the city family are preventing the community from getting their park back. Los Angeles bureaucracy is a mess. But overall with the skate community has been great! The San Pedro Skatepark Association (SPSA) has almost been like a 2nd family to me in a way, super supportive and inviting. Ya know, that's how it is with the underground, just like metal, "brother of metal, sister of steel" ya know. You're my metal sister. Hail and kill!
I moved here to San Pedro for my DIY skate fam. I felt like I had to put my extra energy towards something I moved here for, so I joined in to fight the good fight with SPSA. The film has also been supported by a non-profit organization that helps indie filmmakers, TalNexus who provided a small grant to help get started. I was able to hire local crew and have professional audio, lighting, and cinematography. Then Vans stepped in and AMPS TO 11!!! We interviewed Tony Hawk who had originally donated to the park in the early days, so that was really cool. The legendary Mike Watt of the Minutemen has been a huge advocate for the park as well. We have interviews with the founders, some pros, local rippers, nearby business, and the city council. We also have a killer soundtrack that is included in this. A lot of skate rock bands from all over! Being a musician myself, it was important for me to have good and fitting music.
Looking back, how do you feel about the release of The Mentors: Kings of Sleaze Rockumentary?
The release of The Mentors Rockumentary was great. We were picked up by MVD Entertainment and is streaming on Amazon Prime and a few other platforms. The coincidental timing though was released in the height of the "Me Too" movement so that brought some attention to it for sure. It was really interesting to dive into the world of this absurd comical-satire rock band. They were voted in the top ten "Comedy Rock" in 1986 in a metal magazine (I believe it was Kerrang?). It's in the film though. This was the most controversial piece I've ever done, but that's what makes a good story. I'm a strong believer of diving into the unknown and really listening to different perspectives. That is so crucial for human psychological development. I really learned a lot during that film. I also learned how to do mostly everything myself and that was hard when you're the director, camera operator, sound person, and lighting. It's hard to focus on the story or something might be blurry or sound might be peaking. I mean, there is only so much ginkgo biloba you can take for mental alertness. haha Also, during the making of the film, I went through incredible loss with several close family members passing, also with a reconstructive knee surgery and not being able to walk for nearly 9 months, and then being homeless and couch surfing for a couple months also prolonged the film release a bit, but I was able to channel all that pain into my film and it turned out really great! We had the world premiere in Helsinki, Finland at Night Visions Film Festival. That was so incredible! Helsinki rocks!! I made friends with Gary Sherman who directed Poltergeist III, Vice Squad, and Dead and Buried. We pretty much geeked out on music the whole night. He worked with Eric Clapton back in the day. Super rad guy! And Helsinki was amazing!! I can’t wait to go back! Night Visions film festival is highly recommended for any filmmakers in the cult and/or horror genres.
I enjoyed The Black Water PDX short documentary you put up on YouTube. I hope bands will be able to play there again, do you miss Slayed in Oregon and the scene in Portland?
Yes! I miss Portland so much! I lived there for almost 20 years. During the 6 years I was directing Slayed in Oregon, I released over 40 short documentaries with a $0 budget while working part time. I have no idea how the hell I did that. haha. It's funny, I didn't really set out to be a filmmaker, I was just experimenting with things that sounded fun. I've been an artist my entire life and have always dabbled in different creative fields. This one just stuck I guess! When I created Slayed in Oregon I was going to film school at PCC and essentially it started as part of my homework. At the time, there was no heavy metal documentation of any kind with underground music, it was all mainstream bands. I almost felt a calling like it was my duty to help and promote the underground bands who I thought deserved the support. I made a lot of really amazing friends through the process too. My main crew was Alyssa Herrman and Tim Burgess who both have gone on to do amazing things as well! So, definitely follow those guys and their work. It was difficult at times because when there is no funding, but Portland Community Media helped out with equipment rentals, so as long as I kept giving them content, I was able to check out equipment for free!! I mean, I couldn’t even afford a new pair of skate shoes at the time so PCMTV was a tremendous help and guiding hand in the effort to support underground metal and punk. They are now called Open Signal. A great resource!! Slayed in Oregon was difficult to keep it going though with lack of funds, lack of crew, lack of technical knowledge, but when I have a strong idea or vision, I've always been able to implement it and sometimes they take on their own life form and just continue to grow. I would love to keep Slayed in Oregon going, or at least reviews. We still make posts often too. I mean, it's a killer name!! (Thanks Miles Starr for that!) So, if anyone wants to do reviews or videos in the genre of underground heavy metal and punk rock in the Pacific Northwest, hit me up! Let's keep it alive.
How has Los Angeles been treating you?
It's been great! I mean, it's definitely more rough here, more expensive, more spread out, more traffic, but also more concrete, more opportunity, more jobs, more nature to explore. I live in San Pedro so I'm close to the ocean. It's nice to feel that ocean air and hear the sea lions barking at night. Despite some stereotypical things people may think of LA, there is a ton of nature here and it's an incredibly beautiful area.
Do you have any future plans on the horizon?
OMG, yes!! I have two other documentary concepts in development right now. I can't give any spoilers but I can say one of which is music related. I'm also writing a book. It's not an autobiography or anything but it's non-fiction. I’m still working on my current film so no rush on the other things, but I feel like I'm on a good path and just really channeling all these anxieties in the world into a positive form of motivation and self expression. I like to keep the momentum going. Thank you so much for all you do, Prilzor! You rock!!
Interview by Prilzor 2020