When I lived in Provo, Utah, there was a sizable group of people doing interesting things. They lived just outside the norm, mostly in the predominant faith (LDS/Mormon) and doing/making cool things. Friends worked on the underground student newspaper, made a cable access 30 minute comedy show, opened a sandwich place that had bands play nights & weekends, opened and managed a CD store (this was in the early 90s) and played in bands. I don’t think this was a normal thing for Provo. Most people did not have this experience at BYU. It’s how I survived living in Provo, especially after graduating. I remember having the distinct feeling that if I didn’t get out in 1995, I’d forever be stuck and all the great friends I’d made would be long gone, having moved on with their lives.
One of the people who was part of this group was a filmmaker, Steve Olpin, who had released a documentary called The Potter’s Meal (clip here), which made it into Sundance. I didn’t meet him until the mid-90s, when I talked to him about making things dirty. The computer was enabling all this super clean work to be done, but I liked designers like David Carson who were pushing the medium to make things look less polished, more visually challenging and used design to make statements. Steve and I spoke about using unconventional means to arrive at something that felt organic, less distilled. I remember him talking about getting expired 16mm film and processing it roughly in a bathtub with weird chemicals. In 1998, he directed a documentary about a couple of BMX guys called Dig and asked me to design a logo and then the box. After I got a full time job and fell out of touch, Steve went on to do a bunch of commercial work for Fuel TV as well as work for BYUTV (!!).
Early this year he reached out and we’ve been having periodic conversations about art, creativity, film and the impact of the internet. He started a YouTube channel meant to be solely short form documentary work and to release something every week. Here’s one that captures the feel nicely:
Today he called me and mentioned that he had posted an older piece, one that he did to a song from a band I was in. The band was called Swimpigs. I’ve written only a tiny bit about the band. Here’s a shot from 1994 (I think):
Here’s the video for “Pigs on Ice” that Steve did in 1994:
Hand made. Fantastic. While uncharacteristic compared to most of his other work, it reminds me of the freedom that it was to play in Swimpigs. I haven’t heard this song forever. Sax! Andy Warr (what he’s showing on his current site is the opposite of what he played in Swimpigs… he’s much calmer now) was an animal. Our first or second gig, we started the second set with somebody calling out a key signature, then Pat (drummer) and Kent (bass) laid down a groove and then people just started playing when they felt like it. Or maybe Andy decided to start playing a figure and we all joined in when it felt right.
Swimpigs did a self-produced CD that we recorded in my tiny two bedroom apartment using a Mac Centris (later Quadra) 660AV. You can see the cover here featuring a shot of the marquee from when we opened for The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. I had software called Deck that let us do six tracks of digital audio. Then I used a companion app called Metro to record MIDI keyboard(s) that could then be synced and mixed out to whatever; ADAT, DAT, HiFi VHS, etc. It was recorded in one take, minimal overdubs and virtually no sweetening. The mastering? Yeah. Not so much. Some of the friends doing the other projects mentioned above started a record label and funded the pressing of the CDs. “Pigs on Ice” was either our set opener or the second set opener.
Here’s what it looked like when we played at the sandwich place:
When I shared this on Facebook, I said, “See those people in the background? THEIR MINDS ARE BEING BLOWN. Then and now.”
Steve. One of my favorites of his more recent work is a short that is closer to his normal output called “Joe and Brian” about the ongoing art collaboration between Joseph Adams and artist Brian Kershisnik:
Really touching and heartfelt without being cloying. Deft and wonderful.
If you want to see Steve’s other work, there is a Vimeo channel.
Thanks for reaching out, Steve!