Interview with Back Porch Video?
Back in the early 1980′s two revolutions met in a head on collision; the music video and public access. Here in metro Detroit, the king of this combined revolution was none other the Back Porch Video (BPV).
Last week I sat down with Lance Rosol; former Back Porch Video producer and music director, and talked about his recent Back Porch Video YouTube channel on what exactly made BPV so influential.
How did Back Porch Video start?
It was started by students under the direction of Dearborn High School teacher Russ Gibb. It was created as sort of a “local alternative” to MTV, which was in its early years and had only recently been added to the cable TV lineup in the city.
How did they come up with the show’s name?
One of the executive producers, Paul Streffon, was the one who came up with the name for our show. The “back porch” is actually part of a video signal which can be seen on a waveform monitor. He thought it was a good name, since it had to do with video and also sounded like an informal show name. We actually built a set that looked like a back porch that we would set in the studio, although most of our main segments were hosted right from the video control room
What cities did BPV air in?
The program aired live in Dearborn, Michigan, and was syndicated to around 20 other cable providers in southeast Michigan. We were on the air live for 4 hours and each show was divided into 1-hour segments, each with its own host(s). Every hour of the show also played different genres of alternative music. The first hour being pop-alternative, second came more edgy alternative, third was metal or harder alternative, and the fourth hour was primarily hardcore/punk. This allowed us to package each hour separately for syndication, since the other cable stations only played a segment or two from each live broadcast. As well, we were broadcast on WIHT-TV Channel 31 out of Chelsea, Michigan for around 2 years, and also ended up doing 3 programs (edited, of course) which appeared on Public Television WTVS-Channel 56 in Detroit.
How many years was BPV around?
Our first show aired live on Dearborn’s Group W Cable on January 28th, 1984, and stayed on the air for the better part of 12 years.
What was it like working with legendary Detroit rock icon Russ Gibb?
Russ Gibb is probably best known for being the owner of the Grande Ballroom in Detroit in the 1960′s, and was responsible for bringing such bands as the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Iggy Pop and many others to Detroit. He also was the one credited with starting the “Paul McCartney is Dead” rumor while he was a DJ on WKNR Radio in Dearborn. In the 1980′s Russ was a big promoter of hardcore music, and owned two concert clubs back then, the Hungry Brain in Del Ray, and the Graystone on Michigan Avenue.
Russ was the impetus behind the genesis of Back Porch Video. He had been an initial investor in building the cable infrastructure of Dearborn, and thus had a lot of influence with Westinghouse Broadcasting, who owned Group W Cable. He was also the media teacher at Dearborn High School, and the kids who worked on the first program (myself included) were all in his class.
While being the one who was behind the scenes at the show, and the one who initially got us contracts with the record companies to supply our music videos, he really just let the students “run the show” for the most part. He believed in our talents, both on-air and technical. Before the age of 19, I was already directing, lighting and doing graphics for BPV. It was really quite unheard of for high-school aged kids to be getting that kind of real-world television experience at that time. Basically, we were left to run (with minimal adult supervision) a million-dollar TV studio!
What were some of the most memorable BPV broadcasts?
One of our best known productions was a hardcore show we did called “Why Be Something You’re Not” which we taped at Group W Studios in 1984. Bands such as Negative Approach, The Displaced and many others played on that show. We played mostly nationally known bands, but did have many DJ’s from local radio stations (WLBS, WDTX, CJAM) on the show as guest hosts. They talked a lot about upcoming concerts of local bands, and we promoted all of the shows that came to the Hungry Brain and The Graystone.
What were some of your most outrageous in studio guests?
The “Why Be Something You’re Not” show was quite interesting, as it was taped during business hours at the cable studios, which were just on the other side of a relatively thin wall from their sales department. Imagine a hardcore show going on in the next room and you can get an idea of why that show created such grief for us….
How were some of your most outrageous on air moments?
I have one clip posted where a camera-person fainted live on the air and it was caught on camera (see “Greatest Back Porch Clip Ever” on YouTube).
I hear you guys had a lot of crazy fans?
Yes. As a result of being on broadcast on WIHT-TV out of Chelsea, we were seen in Jackson prison. The on-air personalities (or Porch Jockies as they were affectionately known) were always asking for viewers to send in fan mail. So when a bunch of inmates saw cute young girls and guys on the TV asking for mail….well, you could say that they were just doing what was asked of them. Of course, some of the letters got a little “scary”, and we decided it was best not to show them to some of the hosts for fear that it might scare them off the air!
What are the crew and hosts up today?
Hundreds of kids worked on BPV through the years, so we got a little of everything. Dino Kovas went on to be one of the stars on the “New Monkees,” and Steve Turner ended up in Hollywood, and has worked as producer on such shows as Northern Exposure, the Crow, Gilmour Girls, and most recently, “Big Love” on HBO. Another guy who had a few appearances on our show probably had the most success, Dave Goyer, who is one of the hottest writers in Hollywood. Goyer has penned such films as Batman Begins.
Your Youtube shrine to BVP is pretty nitrous, how long have you been posting videos on YouTube?
The first channel I started was back in November of 2006. What happened was I had saved a bunch of old Betamax tapes from when we were on the air (mostly from 1984 and ’85) and I had transferred them to DVD. Well, I got the idea to edit them down and post them on YouTube to see what type of response I would get. Well, it turned out to be a big hit, and not only did I get a lot of subscribers and comments, but many of the people who used to work on the show saw the channel and wrote to say “hi”. That channel was pulled from YouTube after about a year because of Warner Bros. complaining that the channel was showing copyrighted material. Of course back then we had contracts with all the record companies to show the videos, but it is unclear whether or not those contracts would still hold up today. After a couple months off the web, I decided to start reposting, and just to avoid putting up videos already posted by the “big” companies.
What is the most watched clip on your YouTube channel?
For my first channel, is was “My War” by Black Flag. This time around, it is an interview that one of our kids did with Henry Rollins. It really is a classic interview, and very entertaining. It is also the video that has received the most comments posted.
Is the music video dead?
I really don’t seek out music videos anymore, except for home-made ones on YouTube. I don’t know if they are dead, but they certainly don’t have the “star making” ability that they once had. It is sad that that is nowadays left up to shows like “American Idol,” which I think is a little depressing.
Catch Back Porch Video’s Greatest Hits on YouTube before they kick Lance off again.