Barroom rockers the Dragons feature prominently in SD’s rock history.
  • Barroom rockers the Dragons feature prominently in SD’s rock history.
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“The music scene is going downhill. It’s gone downhill,” says former Battalion of Saints band leader Chris Smith in the opening seconds of the trailer for the coming feature film Garageland. Dated by his bottle-blonde punk mullet, Smith’s rant against commercial rock, culled from a 1981 KGTV channel 10 news feature sets the tone for a rockumentary about the history of the local underground music scene. “Styx, Van Halen, all that garbage that’s on the radio, you know?” says Smith. “It’s deteriorating your brain.”

Filmmaker Eric Rife has been working on Garageland for so long now that he fears people may have forgotten about it. “I’m hoping with the release of this trailer (it’s posted on YouTube) that it will rekindle people’s interests and I’ll start getting more contributions and materials.”

Last year, Rife told the Reader that Garageland will include rare footage from latter-day San Diego luminaries such as the Zeros, the Dragons, Claude Coma and the IVs, the Penetrators, Rocket from the Crypt, Uncle Joe’s Big Ol’ Driver, and more. “Ultimately, what I want to do is include Garageland with outtakes and extended interviews and a coffee-table book and two compilation CDs of the music that is featured in the film,” he says.

The filmmaker would also like to see his project escape the gravitational pull of local music. “Garagelands exist all over the country, and that’s what I really hope to do. I wanna see the bands that came out of all those places. I wanna see all that other great music that I know is buried out there.”

Rife has invested his own dollars and about four years into Garageland thus far. He says he needs an infusion of working capital in order to finish the film to industry standards. “I still have this nagging fear that someone will say the format I produced the final version in is not compatible with anything and I’d have to start all over.” There has been funding aid interest from the California Council of the Humanities, he says, and from the Media Arts Center of San Diego. Rife thinks he may also need money to license news and band footage. “But, so far all of the bands have told me that I could use their stuff, no problem.”

The Garageland trailer states that “the garage will open in 2012.” “I’m leaving myself a lot of wiggle room there. It’ll definitely be in 2012 and, hopefully, this time next year. That would be ideal. It all depends on how quickly I can raise money,” he says, “and if I even can raise money.” So what’s left to complete? “I need to edit hundreds of hours of footage,” a project for which Rife may have some extra time. A librarian by trade, Rife says his work hours may be cut back yet again pending another round of city-council budget cuts.

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