Grossmont College professor Raul Sandelin premiered his new music documentary Throttle the Sun on September 14th as part of the college’s Fall Concert Series. In the film, he’s interrogating the history of, and the changing notion of, the rock star itself — through a San Diego–centric focus, shooting musicians from near and far, at Ramona Mainstage, Brick by Brick, Harrah’s Casino, Pauma Casino, and La Paloma Theatre. The professor and some of his collaborators and interview subjects took questions over email.
What inspired you to make Throttle the Sun?
Throttle the Sun teaser
Raul Sandelin: “This is my third feature-length music documentary. So some of the decision-making was based on people we met, discoveries we made, and ideas we had while making the first two films.
“To speak more metaphysically, I’ve always been fascinated by ‘heroes’ and the fact that we as humans construct ‘heroes’ to help make sense of our surroundings.
“In this ‘post-’everything society we live in today, our heroes have become ironic, a mix of the contradictory epochs that came before. ‘Anti-hero’ is too strong of a term in many cases because it conjures the villain-as-hero. But the ironic hero is also a clown, a child, or Peter Pan, the boy who would never grow up.
“Today, we see this with the rock star. It’s funny that today we even call someone a ‘rock star’ who is the best at what they do, not onstage but in the office, the kitchen, even the bedroom.”
How has the SD area grown and changed, musically and otherwise, good and bad, since you settled in?
Leonard Torres, filmmaker: “Lived primarily in the beach and downtown areas — more interesting than the suburbs.
SD has grown up but has not reached a sophisticated level, generally. Seems that L.A. is a brain drain for any talented or creative individuals. So SD remains, at best, a sort of ‘amateur night’ town, unfortunately. There are some super creatives who live here but they are the smart ones who want to live in a beautiful, calm place — a minority.”
Cindy Lee Berryhill, singer/songwriter: “I have a theory, actually, about this town. You see, it’s a city that wants you to be normal. So you either toe the line or you go way off the charts; and so there are a list or geniuses, wackos, and visionaries that have come from this place. A short list would look like this: Tom Waits, Mojo Nixon, Dane Conover (the Trees), Diamanda Galas, Frank Zappa, Harry Partch, the Zeros, El Vez, Country Dick Montana, Shepard Fairey, Gary Heffern and the Penetrators, elusively grounded folksinger Tom Brousseau, and the list goes on...”
What are the most memorable concerts you've seen in the area, and why?
Tony Butler, filmmaker and musician: “My most memorable concerts were all when I was a kid in the ‘60s and ‘70s. The Led Zeppelin concert when unknown Jethro Tull opened up for them, and the Rolling Stones concerts at the Sports Arena, were big ones for me when I was in high school.
“A few years ago I worked for a company at the Sports Arena and after work I was able to go watch the concerts. I saw the Who, Clapton, and many others. Those concerts were nostalgic but nothing like seeing them when they were in their prime. The only thing is the sound these days is soooo much better than it was back then.
“About 15 years ago I went to Vegas with the boss of a video company I worked for and because he was a high roller, my wife and I got a free suite and free tickets to see the Stones at the MGM. Halfway through the Stones I was so bored we walked out. They were a bunch of old guys living in the past and obviously just going through the motions.”