I used to dream of seeing Bloodgood on the big screen. One scene that kept coming to mind for the Heaven's Metal Movie was Bloodgood on stage, with vocalist Les Carlsen on stage with his side to the audience right before he quickly rotates and launches into his lyrics from Pontius Pilate during the adaptation of the trial of Jesus: "you act as though this man is inciting a rebellion. No one here can prove that to be true!" The tight metal onslaught captured in that moment crystallizes the intensity and tight musicianship that is Bloodgood.
That dream has come true, but I only get to live the dream vicariously by watching The Trenches of Rock.
One of the only concerts I ever promoted (besides my own band and some HM Magazine SXSW showcase parties) was Bloodgood and One Bad Pig at the Ritz Theater in Austin, Texas, back in 1987. It was the Detonation Tour and the band was traveling in a large motorhome. Band members, wives and children piled out of that motorhome to put on an incredible traveling road show. One of those wee little children was Paul Michael Bloodgood.
Fast forward 30+ years and this little boy is now a full grown man and he's created a documentary film that tells the story of this incredible metal band.
I recently had the chance to sit down with Paul Michael Bloodgood at a downtown Starbucks to discuss the film and all the work involved in getting it out on DVD and Blu-ray. Then I chatted with vocalist Les Carlsen, guitarist Paul Jackson and Michael Bloodgood to get their takes. Check out the interviewing that followed:
You grew up in a working musician family. What was that like?
Paul: During BLOODGOOD's heavier touring in the 80’s and 90’s, we would spend upwards of 9 months out of the year on the road - definitely not your average childhood experience. I remember getting home from a long tour and one of my closest neighbors had sold their house and moved to another state – all within the time we were gone. There were times when I truly missed my friends and the desire of just having my own private space, but that was a small price to pay for the experiential learning I absorbed throughout my youth. Thanks to my road years with the band, I had seen most of Western Europe and 48 states in the U.S. before I was 12-years-old. I literally grew-up in music venue after music venue, dozing off to live performance to the point that when we were home in an actual house, I had to turn on the radio as a decent volume to fall asleep. I spent most of my time traveling with adults who were completely committed to their art and their beliefs, which is definitely something that struck a chord with me (pun intended) into adulthood.
What do you think about Paul Bloodgood? How do you feel about him, his skills, his perspective, his career in dance and now what he’s done with this documentary?
Michael: What do I think about Paul Michael Bloodgood? To start with, I love him like a son. What can I say? I am one proud papa, that’s for sure! Years ago a friend called him “The Renaissance Man” and I couldn’t agree more. He has reinvented himself over the years in so many ways and always comes out on top. Paul Michael’s dance career was stellar as he became a principle dancer with Ballet Austin performing many lead roles over his career of some twenty years. His talent, skill, drive and shear tenacity have driven this documentary project from start to finish. Trenches of Rock has earned twelve accolades including Best Documentary from festivals all over the world. To see the mainstream festivals, enjoy and support his work is amazing. Yes, I am so proud of what he has accomplished!
Les: The first day I met Paul Bloodgood, he was maybe 4 or 5, I knocked on the door, it swung open and out jumped Paul with a sword in his hand, yelling “Aaaargh!” I knew right then, 'Game on!' I thought, 'the kid’s theatrical like me!' Paul traveled on the road with us from that time on, so everything in the documentary he witnessed first-hand. He wasn’t just along for the ride – he literally helped run the merchandise booth as soon as he was old enough to count change, even converting German marks to dollars. I think it was part of his homeschooling education. I guess you could say Paul was enrolled in the School of Rock way before Jack Black.
James Moll, the executive producer of Trenches of Rock told me that Paul had an extraordinary talent in film-making. After seeing the film, I’m in total agreement.
Paul Jackson: Paul is truly multi-talented. Everything that he applies himself to is always of the highest quality. I had no doubt that this film would be anything but great.
How do you growing up with a touring heavy metal band prepared you for making this movie so many years later?
Paul: In many ways, TRENCHES OF ROCK was a natural fit for me as the film's director given my intimate knowledge and experiences with the band; more specifically the band members themselves. Documentary films - the good ones - engage the audience with authenticity and truth. If the viewer feels like they're being manipulated into believing something about a person or situation, your film's validity is lost and ultimately its impact. Spoiler alert: Since I'm the son of the bass player for BLOODGOOD, I knew some critics would automatically discredit my perspective which is why I was very meticulous in my research and the way in which I conducted the interviews. I was searching for truth. Truth about the band's origins. Truth about why some band members willingly left the band or were "relieved of duty." Understand that given my age in the early years of BLOODGOOD, there were a lot of details concerning band member dynamics that were kept from me – which makes total sense upon reflection. I interviewed past and present band members in 5 states across the country from Austin to Seattle. Nobody was given their questions beforehand, as I wanted unrehearsed, honest responses. I did not set out to make a film that simply "glorified" the band. I wanted the shine and the dirt. I also knew that simply being given the title of "Christian Rock Band" did not make everything flowers and potpourri. So-called Christian bands deal with all of the same temptations as secular groups, and in my opinion they have it so much worse. Not only are they trying to make a living as a rock band and of course hopefully gain some recognition from it all - but then having the pressure of being missionaries on top of that? It takes a special kind of person, which was fascinating to me as a filmmaker. Passion is palpable and infectious. That's why I made TRENCHES OF ROCK.
Paul, give us a brief snapshot and timeline of your career as a dancer. How did this allow you time to film and edit a movie? How do you think the field of professional dance impacted or inspired this movie making process?
Paul: I was a professional ballet dancer for 19 years, and I “retired” back in May of 2018. It's funny using the word "retirement" when you're in your 30's, but alas it's true! I trained under a very large company in Seattle called Pacific Northwest Ballet. I landed my first professional gig when I was 19 at Ballet Pacifica in California before I ended up with Ballet Austin (Austin, TX) where I have made my home these past 17 years. Dance companies are typically seasonal (August-May) much like the educational system, so this allowed me the time in subsequent summers to pour my time into TRENCHES' creation. The work ethic and focus of dance is extremely high. There is so much ignorance concerning the world of dance that I wouldn't even know where to begin, but in short I can tell you that it's brutal on your body, and takes tons of perseverance and willpower. In the last 7 years alone, I have had micro-tears in my left Achilles, a torn left oblique which caused a severe lumbar strain, followed by multiple disc bulges in my back, coupled with severe facet degradation resulting in missing cartilage between 2 of my vertebra...so forgive me if I'm a little agitated when I hear somebody off-hand refer to ballet as easy or “just for girls” – which is an added insult to women. All this being said, the training and focus I gained from my dance background, mixed with my own instincts and perfectionist inclinations (for better or worse) – I believe TRENCHES OF ROCK is better for it. I don't say this as a compliment to myself, but I truly don't think anybody in the world would have given it the same sort of TLC. I was practically raised by this band and its members, so every inch of my being wanted it to be accurate but also highly entertaining.
This film project, like many, has seen its share of ups and downs, turns and twists. Tell us about that.
Paul: In 2012, we began the project with a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign in combination with a grant from an organization called Career Transition for Dancers in New York. This gave us the initial funds to purchase the equipment we needed to add to our small arsenal of cameras, lenses, lighting etc. that my wife, Anne and I had already grown with our production company, Bloodygood Pictures (yes, it’s a fun play on my last name). Years of research went into hunting down old footage / photos of the band, attempting to receive permission from various sources to use said footage / photos, as well as the logistics of even being allowed to use BLOODGOOD’s music. There are multiple record labels involved, so even though one might think given my connection to the band this would be an easily obtainable venture - it was not. Everybody has to be compensated for their time and effort, and this project did not have some big backer behind it. Everything had to be negotiated and carefully planned out. I did not want to put out a mediocre product. I wanted TRENCHES OF ROCK to be 100% professional, made by professionals. Our sound mix was initially going to be engineered in stereo, and through beautifully placed timing we were actually able to dive back into the studio and create a 5.1 surround sound mix. All I can say is that these things take time. Our poster was created by the same artist (Alan Chamberlain) that created the FOO FIGHTERS: BACK AND FORTH documentary poster. No aspect of this project was done halfway. Our executive producer, James Moll is an Academy and Grammy award-winning director / producer. We met back when his film (the aforementioned FOO doc) premiered in Austin at SXSW. A phone call led to a meeting at his offices on the Universal Studios lot in California, and essentially here we are. He has been a tremendous mentor to me for the past 7 years, and I consider him a great friend. His vast knowledge in the industry gave me insight on how to construct...and then deconstruct...and then reconstruct a scene. My first cut of TRENCHES was over 2 1/2 hours long, with the final cut coming in at a nice, succinct 87 minutes. Flow and tone are so important in film, and James helped me find that rhythm where it was lacking. Sadly, I haven't met Dave Growl just yet (I'm a huge FOO fan), but I'm hoping he'll see TRENCHES someday - and love it! We had our world premiere at the Academy Award-qualifying Atlanta Film Festival back in 2017, which was an incredible experience. Over the past 2 years, TRENCHES ultimately found itself in 17 film festivals, receiving 12 accolades ranging from “Best Documentary Feature” to “Best Director” to “Best Editing.” Premiere locations included London, Sydney, New York, Los Angeles and naturally, Seattle. I couldn’t be more humbled and thankful by the amazing reception the film has had up to this point.
This question is oddly ordered, but what is this movie about?
Paul: I'm taking the easy road on this one and simply giving you our one-sentence synopsis: TRENCHES OF ROCK chronicles the 30-year history of the "Christian Metal" band BLOODGOOD, which was targeted not only by a mainstream music industry that found their blatant use of faith-based lyrics unfitting with heavy metal, but also by religious conservatives who believed their music was the work of the devil.
What are the main lessons (if not obvious) from the movie? Or what are some interesting sub-points?
Paul Jackson: If you have a vision, stay the road. Difficult or not.
Michael: That Christ-centered lives will help you go the distance no matter what. We are truly a band of brothers that love the Lord and each other. True Christian fellowship/friendship is priceless.
What did this movie get right? Did it get anything wrong?
Michael: Honestly, I think Paul Michael really nailed it from start to finish as best as possible in only 89 minutes! When I have watched the film, it all seems very surrealistic to me. Often at times I feel like an observer myself with everything that happened around us.
Les: The movie tells it like it really was. It captures the conflict between religious legalism and God’s plan to reach the lost through the metal genre. Paul shows the viewer the heart of BLOODGOOD through light, funny moments as well as scenes that will bring tears. This IS the BLOODGOOD journey.
Paul Jackson: I wouldn’t change a thing.
What are some points or details brought up in the movie that made you cringe?
Les: Nothing made me cringe, but in my heart, I had some regrets as to what could have been, had the band continued and not broken up at our peak.
Michael: None of us knew what the questions were going to be ahead of time, nor did we ever see or hear about the other band member’s comments or answers. It is all very honest and unrehearsed. No real cringe-worthy aspects for me overall. Everyone who was or is in the band are still friends to this day.
Paul Jackson: I cringed every time I was on (laughs).
When and where can we see it?
Paul: Blu-ray and DVD ships December 12th! We’re currently accepting pre-orders on the TRENCHES official website: www.trenchesofrockfilm.com.
What's next for the movie?
Paul: A soundtrack and a new BLOODGOOD music video! As a “thank you” to the band and the wonderful record labels that allowed us the use of such an incredible catalog of songs for the film, I wanted to give them something of their own. The physical release of the soundtrack will have 23 tracks, completely re-engineered exclusively for the film as well as previously unreleased live and acoustic songs. There’s also a beautiful 8-page booklet commemorating BLOODGOOD’s history from past to present. The new music video will include never-before-seen footage not even in TRENCHES OF ROCK, so be sure to look out for it before the end of the year. Soundtrack releases on Black Friday (Nov. 29th) and pre-orders can be found here: (link forthcoming)
What's next for you, Paul?
Paul: I’m currently working on another documentary titled FINDING LIGHT, which follows the story of Holocaust survivor, Naomi Warren and how her friendship with choreographer, Stephen Mills inspired the creation of a dance work called Light / the Holocaust & Humanity Project. As you can imagine, the subject matter is pretty heavy material but it’s coming together beautifully. I anticipate a film festival premiere sometime next year. I also directed / edited a 5-camera shoot of a live theatrical production called GRIMM TALES, which looks to have its television debut next year. Looking forward to 2020!
How do you feel about each other – Les about Michael; Michael about Les; and all the other guys in the band?
Les: I love Michael. Our friendship is built on a joint calling from the Lord at a time when a lost generation needed to hear the gospel message in their language – metal. We’ve shared victory and heartbreak, blood, sweat and tears. Friends forever. Paul Jackson, also a dear friend, is a world-class guitar player and I’ve enjoyed writing songs with him. David and I have remained very close throughout the years. He has been so encouraging to me on many levels.
I’ve had a good relationship with each guy that has ever played in BLOODGOOD. I'm looking forward to spending more time with the band this year, performing and writing.
Michael: Les and I have been the best of friends since we started BLOODGOOD way back when. We are like war buddies. Our friendship and love for each other has not only endured over the years, but grown. I always know I can count on him in whatever circumstance or situation we find ourselves in. He is truly a once-in-a-lifetime friend.
I love being in a band with Paul Jackson! We always have a great time together and know how to laugh ourselves into tears. He is such an amazing player and is always a consistent musician whether performing live or in the studio.
Paul Jackson: Les and Michael are family ... without the fighting. We have been through about every tough situation a band can face and love them both dearly.
How can the readers pray for Oz, his health, and the rest of you guys as well? What are your prayer requests?
Michael: Of course, we continue to pray for a complete healing of our brother Oz. He is a very special guy all the way around. Pray that he would not only be healed, but that he would draw even closer to the Lord through all this. I pray for his wife, Annie, as she cares for her husband, and for all of Oz’s kids and immediate family members.
All of us in BLOODGOOD would ask your readers to pray that we continually focus on the Lord by keeping Him our priority in all we do individually as well as a band. We want to make sure we follow His guidance and direction every step of the way.
Les: Oz is a very close friend. He and his wife, Annie are family to us. I get emotional thinking about his current health. Pray any way that God leads you to pray for him and I would ask that you pray often. He displays a deep love for people wherever he goes. He’s humble, thoughtful and kind. He loves to laugh and my life is better because of him.
Pray that God continues to use BLOODGOOD for His glory. Pray for our health, strength and endurance.
Paul Jackson: Oz is the highest priority. Having been through cancer treatment myself. Support, love and prayer is all you have. I love that guy!
What are some of the biggest lessons the Lord has been teaching you lately?
Michael: That He is in control in every aspect of my life. To rest in Him and to trust Him with every day despite the circumstances. The joy He gives is inconsequential of circumstances whatever they may be.
Les: The Lord has been teaching me about his mercy, grace and love. When I feel like I’ve fallen short and I imagine the consequences I deserve, He deals with me in love. His love doesn’t condemn, it heals. That’s amazing to me.
Paul Jackson: To trust without trying to analyze God’s plan.
What are your favorite songs from your catalog? What are some of your favorite moments in a show?
Michael: With over fifty-some published songs over the years, it is difficult to nail down just a few favorites. The memories or emotions I have over a particular song will be a lot different from anyone else’s for sure. In regards to playing live, I have always enjoyed songs like "Crucify," "Messiah," "Lamb of God," "You Lose," "Never Be the Same," or "S.O.S.", because they are just flat-out fun to play! But still, that is just the tip of the iceberg really.
Les: Favorite songs are "Crucify," "Messiah," "Seven," "Top of the Mountain," "Lamb of God," "In the Trenches."
My favorite used to be "Demon on the Run," when David Z, and then Oz, pretended to be the demon and I got to throw them around the stage. My favorite moment from the most recent shows was during the intro to Seven when Mike, Paul and I stood facing the cross with our hands raised in worship. I love the theatrics that we’ve included in our live shows.
Paul Jackson: “Out of Love” is my favorite. Our last tour of Germany in the mid 90’s was my favorite tour I have ever been on. Great lineup and amazing crowds.
Michael: In terms of moments over our career: Hearing one of our songs ("Anguish & Pain") on the radio for the first time was a huge deal for us. It still is!The first time we did a fly-out date (Orlando, Florida) and seeing the fans singing one of the songs I wrote on a napkin while eating in a restaurant back in Seattle.One of the things that I love most is seeing people moved by the music, even worshiping the Lord as we perform. BLOODGOOD has always been about ministry first and music second. Bringing glory to the Lord and not ourselves is first and foremost.Seeing kids come to Christ at the end of a show tops them all!
I’ve been wanting to ask you this next question for awhile. I guess now is a good time. Take us back through the career of Bloodgood. What are the highlights? The low points? Please bring up each album along the way, but also mention other moments, tours, events, crisis, celebrations, miracles.
Les: The documentary answers most of these questions, but here are a few more thoughts:
The first highlight for me was our times of prayer before we ever even played publicly. Every Tuesday night, we gathered together with our wives seeking God’s will for the band and how he was going to use us. And then we got to see the answer to those prayers unfold, starting with opening for Stryper at the Paramount. The excitement around the band and the favor we received seemed to be orchestrated by God.
Rock Theater was an amazing achievement and certainly a highlight for us. We actually did it two years in a row, the first year with David and Mark. It was recorded, but never released. There were so many wonderful things that happened as we toured Europe, Scandanavia and even Russia.
To Germany With Love is a live recording of the band’s last tour of Germany and captures so much of the energy and excitement of a BLOODGOOD performance.
But one of the most meaningful moments for me personally was a small show in Long Island, NY at a homeless shelter. It was during a rigorous part of the tour and I had laryngitis- barely able to talk. The people who had brought us there were desperate to reach the lost and felt that BLOODGOOD could accomplish that. I told the Lord, “This is the most important gig!” He agreed with me and gave me my voice long enough to sing, probably my best vocal performance ever, and preach the gospel. When the show was over, my voice was gone. I realized that He healed me long enough to answer the prayers of the people who brought us. People got saved!
The low point was the opposition from our own brothers and sisters in Christ who didn’t understand what God was doing at the time through Christian metal.
Michael, what are your favorite books in the New Testament?
Michael: James and 1 Peter.
How long have you been a pastor?
Michael: I took a position as an Assistant Pastor when I got off the road in 1993. I became a Senior Pastor in the fall of 1998 and I’m still at it.
Blu-ray / DVD pre-orders are live now at: www.trenchesofrockfilm.com
Soundtrack presales are also live at: http://www.bloodgoodband.com/trenches-of-rock-soundtrack.html
The physical release dates are: December 6 for the soundtrack (digital on December 13) and December 12 for the Blu-ray & DVD.