Return to Squid Row

The latest on an adventurous local film remake, and new work from the Llamas’ farm.

A few weeks ago, I ran into erstwhile Soundgarden bassist/Hazlewood co-proprietor Ben Shepherd outside his Ballard bar. Shepherd already cuts a rather imposing profile, but he looked extra-intimidating that night in a domed top hat similar to those worn by the droogs of A Clockwork Orange and a long leather trench coat. As he paced back and forth between Hazlewood and neighboring Anchor Tattoo, I asked, "What are you waiting for, dude, a hit man?""Kind of," he replied.Richard Lefebvre, the man Shepherd was waiting for, is a bit of a local legend, thanks to his tenure in early punk bands like Texass and for running Ranch Recording Studio under the now-defunct Storeroom Tavern on Eastlake, where Mudhoney recorded My Brother the Cow. I don't know Lefebvre well enough to ascertain if he's ever been a paid assassin, but he's enough of a character that I wouldn't put it past him. He now occupies his time with his custom hot-rod building company and filmmaking ambitions, which were spawned by catching an Aki Kaurismäki marathon at the U-District's Grand Illusion about five years ago.Over the last several months, Lefebvre has been shooting a self-financed remake of Calamari Union, Kaurismäki's 1985 cult film about a bunch of aging Helsinki rockers who all mysteriously share the name "Frank." Along with the aforementioned Shepherd, Lefebvre has recruited a volunteer motley crew of Northwest musicians for various roles, including A-Holes guitarist Otis P. Otis, Mudhoney's Mark Arm, Himsa guitarist Sammi Curr, celebrity street urchin Slats, promoter/Beltholes' drummer Kwab Copeland, Caustic Resin front man Brett Netson, Spits leader Sean Spits, and Makers' mastermind Mike Maker. Thanks to the simplicity of the Finnish script, the translation to a local canvas was nearly seamless."Instead of saying some neighborhood in Helsinki, you can just say 'Ballard'," laughs Lefebvre, who's telling me this on the deck of his North Beach home, located on a private dead-end drive and overlooking train tracks where a rusty and creaky procession of container cars is lumbering by. It's his 50th birthday party, and he's surrounded by a group of friends who are alternately expressing good-natured surprise about his age and razzing him about when he will show his recently completed trailer for Calamari Union.When Lefebvre does gather the crowd into his living room to watch the two-minute trailer, it's well worth the wait. Perhaps it's the flattering black-and-white format or the Jim Jarmusch–like atmosphere, but the local boys look good, Prince doppelganger Maker and the boisterous Mr. Spits in particular. Kaurismäki, a vocal humanitarian who disavowed his Best Foreign Film Oscar nomination in 2003 for The Man Without a Past in protest against the U.S. war in Iraq, has personally given his blessing to the project, requesting only that Lefebvre donate one percent of his budget to Amnesty International and local homeless shelters.Shooting is expected to wrap by late July, with no greater ambitions at the moment than to just "get it out there," says Lefebvre.With his lanky, tattooed frame and artfully disheveled good looks, Aviation Records founder Kerry Zettel would look right at home in Lefebvre's film, but at just 30 years of age, Zettel currently has his hands pleasantly full. In 2007, Aviation released a compilation that foreshadowed the next wave of promising Seattle bands, including Grand Archives, the Cave Singers, Fleet Foxes, Tiny Vipers, and Feral Children, as well as Zettel's own band, Das Llamas. "There was a lot of great music that was being overlooked, and we just decided it need to be put out," he says.Though it started as "kind of a joke" under the moniker "Stabmaster Arson" (a reference to a character from the rap mockumentary CB4), the project that grew into Das Llamas has evolved into one of Seattle's most arresting No-Wave punk acts. Their sophomore full-length, Class War K-12, expands on the caustic melodies that characterized 2007's World War, keeping intact the solid anchor of Thomas Burke's drumming while Zettel wraps his low, goth-tinged vocal range around more refined song structures.The band celebrates Class War's release at the Comet this Friday, June 27. Also on the horizon is a release from Zettel's quieter, more naturally acoustic project See Me River, which will be co-released with local label Don't Stop Believin'

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