I discovered Punk Rock in 1977 when I was watching a television show with Dick Clark and he had a segment about Punk Rock, and he was basically making fun of it. They had a few seconds of the Sex Pistols performing, and I was hooked. Finally, music I could relate to that was not about living in the Hotel California. It was music that was about real life and real people. The Punk Rock scene in Los Angeles made anything achievable. You could do whatever you wanted -- make music, art and films. The impossible was now possible. I immersed myself into the Punk Rock lifestyle. I saw The Germs, X, Black Flag, Circle Jerks and countless others. I went to midnight screenings of films like David Lynch’s “Eraserhead” and John Water’s “Pink Flamingos”. It was an art revolution that was happening, and I could not have been happier. Then as soon as it started, it was gone. The music scene had changed to Heavy Metal hair bands, and sacred palaces such as the Whisky a Go-Go were now bombarded with men in spandex and lipstick just singing songs about getting laid. Years later I left Los Angeles and went up North, and a remarkable thing happened.
I went to a small club called The Berkeley Square. There I saw for the first time the band Green Day. When I saw them, I knew the revolution had returned. Later I met Billie Joe Armstrong, the lead singer of Green Day, and a friendship began. We would speak on the phone exchanging thoughts and ideas, and he was going to be in my film “Live Freaky Die Freaky” - a very controversial film about the Manson murders done in stop motion animation. Billie was going to embark on a new musical journey. I told him he should document the recording of the album, and he said they had tried, and it never worked. I suggested that he set up tripods around the studio and just have cameras run so it would not be too invasive of the process of the recording (I was hoping he would get my hint!). Then I got a phone call on a Friday night, and he said that he and the band would be in Los Angeles on Monday and why don’t I just be the tripod!? Thus began my nine months with Green Day recording the footage for the documentary that has become “Heart Like A Hand Grenade”.
I had total access to the band and could film everything. During this time Metallica released their film “Some Kind of Monster”. This was a film that showed a band on the verge of artistic collapse and in-fighting. I told Billie about the film, and he thought because there was no drama going on with Green Day that I did not want to continue with filming the making of their American Idiot album. I was thinking the opposite. Our film did not contain high drama or fighting. It showed a band on top of their game creating incredible music. Ours is a film that inspires. It is also a very small film. All it took was a box of tapes and one camera – I was going back to the Do It Yourself ethic that I was raised with. This was also a risk for the band because this album was either going to take them to a higher level or sink them. Either way, I was going to document it.
After the recording was finished, the band booked a small theatre and performed the album in its entirety, and footage from that show is included in the film (Fun fact! This was eleven years ago, folks, and the camera phone was not invented so this is the only way you can see clips from this legendary concert!) This movie is like a “fly on the wall” art house piece. It is the first time Green Day allowed someone into the studio to film them. I am so happy I answered Billie’s phone call. This was eleven years ago, and the film you are about to see has never been seen. It became a lost film -- an urban legend in some ways. Some fans thought it was not real and that it was some sort of prank that the band and I created. Now, finally, the little film that could is being released.
John Roecker, September 2015