March 19th was the 16th anniversary of the death of Andrew Wood the lead singer & song writer of Mother Love Bone & Malfunkshun. Andy passed away from "complications" from a heroin overdose. We say "complications" because there are sources that suggest Andy survived the overdose, but rather was killed by an allergic reaction to drugs that were administered to him while he was in a coma in the hospital. His death closed the door on the future of Mother Love Bone but sent the doors wide open for a band by the name of Pearl Jam. If Andy was alive today, Pearl Jam would never have existed. Just eight days before this anniversary, I spoke with Scot Barbour about the documentary Malfunkshun- The Andrew Wood Story that he Directed and Produced and is due to be released on DVD by the end of the year.
antiMusic: When did you start the project / movie
Scot: It took about ten years. It took numerous trips to Seattle in that span of time because we needed certain peoples input on Andy. Everyone from his Father who was in the military stationed in Guantanomo Bay, Cuba to his mother and friends. I funded the movie myself and sold a Harley Davidson or two to make the trip up to Seattle for a couple of months at a time to film. The film was finished & released mid last year.
antiMusic: Describe the 3 top pieces of info about Andy that you learned during production.
Scot: Andy was allergic to everything, well not everything. But a lot of different prescription drugs & foods. In fact that's the REAL theory of how Andy REALLY died. Andy actually survived the heroin overdose and it looked like he was going to pull it off and live. When he was in a coma he was given a few different drugs to help him come back from the coma. The back of his brain swelled up so badly that the top his spinal cord actually protruded his brain causing him to be "brain dead" That is when they decided to take him off Life Support. The belief is that his brain swelling was the result of an allergic reaction to at least one of the drugs that was administered to him during that time. Coincidentally, the patient records for the last 24 hours of Andy's life are missing and have yet to be located. And Virginia Mason Hospital in downtown Seattle has made no statement.
Part II - He wasn't into drugs as much as people are lead to believe. Andy had just gotten out of rehab recently. And the heroin dose he overdosed on was extremely small. Another very coincidental thing was the Hospital had reported four other heroin over doses that evening Andy was brought to the hospital it was definitely a "bad batch" that had hit the streets and wound up in Andy's arm.
Part III - He was a musical prodigy. Andy could literally play any instrument he could put his hands on. He would listen to a song on the radio and immediately start playing to it. He had no idea what chords he was even playing. He would just let his fingers work on their own, and quite magically it would be perfect. He could play the piano in the same manner. He would just pull a chair up to the thing and start plugging keys. That's pretty much how the song Chloe Dancer / Crown of Thorns was born.
antiMusic: How did the former members of Mother Love Bone help contribute to the film? Specifically Jeff Ament & Stone Gossard, who are both in Pearl Jam?
Scot: We shot Jeff & Stone twice each on four separate occasions. At first I didn't think I would get any help from them. And one of the main reasons the movie took as long as long as it did to make was because I wanted very badly to get what I could out of Stone. His schedule didn't really accommodate any time for us until a couple of years ago. I thought these guys would be very secretive of the treasure they had in Andy. After all, Andy was their diamond in the rough and who was I to bring up old pain or possibly even portray Andy in a light that they wouldn't approve of. But in fact they couldn't have been more helpful. Without their help this film it wouldn't not have been finished.
antiMusic: Andy and Chris Cornell were room mates & best friend's right?
Scot: Yes. However he was living with his girl friend Xana when he OD'd
antiMusic: Did you hear any good room mate stories from Chris?
Scot: A couple of good stories actually. Andy used to love to go get the mail and when ever he received a stack of mail he would go through the stack flipping the bills over his shoulder while plainly saying "disregard" - "disregard"..
And speaking of mail, when Andy would go through his fan mail, he loved to read the fans mail in the accent from the country where the mail came from. Like if he received a letter from France, it could go something like, " oooo lala Mother Love Bone say fantasteeeec" in the thickest pseudo French accent he could muster.
Andy hated to cook or spend any time in the kitchen and Chris worked in restaurants pretty much his whole life up until then. Chris would make spaghetti and Andy and him would get really stoned and braid the spaghetti into their hair. That I would pay money to see.
antiMusic: Can you elaborate on Chris Cornell's role in the movie?
Scot: Well Chris and Andy lived together and it took at least 2 or 3 shoots to get all of what we needed from Chris. I wanted to get Chris's input most as he would definitely help me portray Andy in the light we wanted.
antiMusic: How about Kim Thayil, the guitar player from Soundgarden. I understand he offered some input as well.
Scot: We shot Kim a few times. Mostly we drank a lot of beer though. One night when I was up in Seattle for a few weeks shooting. Kim and I headed out for some dinner and we just couldn't decide on anything. Finally we said "PIZZA" and ended up at a place down town just before closing. The owner knew Kim well and let us in. We wound up in the back room with a pool table and Krist Novoselic from Nirvana until the wee hours ……drinking beer.
antiMusic: Let's talk a little bit about Andy's drug use? He was sober for 161 days when he overdosed. What's up with that?
Scot: He was doing really well as a matter of fact. That was one of the reason's it just didn't make any sense. As we discussed, there was a bad batch of heroin on the street. The funny thing about Andy is that heroin wasn't really his thing. Cocaine was his drug of choice.
antiMusic: He was living with Xana Lafuente at the time of his overdose. In fact, she found him. Where is she today?
Scot: From what I understand she is married with a few children and leading a very quiet life somewhere in the suburbs of SoCal.
antiMusic: Describe your relationship with Regan Hagar ( Malfunkshun's Drummer ). He seemed to have as much input as Toni Wood, Andrews mom. In some his past interviews I noticed you how highly regarded he held your work. How did Regan contribute?
Scot: Well Regan and Andy grew up on Bainbridge Island together. Bainbridge is one of the islands in the Seattle area. They went to school together. Got Mohawks together. Did everything together. Regan had video and pictures that were priceless additions. Plus the shoot we did with him is probably one my favorite parts of the entire film.
antiMusic: Scot the last time I can find the film showing anywhere is on June 4, 2005 in Seattle at the Neptune theatre. I understand it was a packed house with more than 1000 people in attendance. Everyone we've talked about was at the showing including Andy's brothers Kevin & Brian. The reviews have been just fantastic. Some saying, "Malfunkshun is the best "Rockumentary" ever done." With full endorsements from all family and friends. When and how will the general public be able to see this movie?
Scot: Actually we were at the winter games this last month and I was invited to do a showing in Torino, Italy. It went very well. Regarding the release….Well with the help of Stone Gossard and Sony Music it looks like we will finally have a release date towards the end of this year. We are looking at DVD - CD package that will include a copy of the film on DVD and a soundtrack on CD to accompany the movie. Music from Mother Love Bone, Alice in Chains, Pearljam, and others are being considered. But for the most part, it will be music from Malfunkshun.
antiMusic: One final question for you. If Andy was alive today, what do you think he would be doing…. Scot took a bit of a second to answer that one. But this is what he said.
Scot: It is my opinion because of how talented he was and also because of the talent that surrounded him. He more than likely could have been very close to a Freddy Mercury / Elton John type of musician & song writer.
I found the time spent with Scot that Saturday afternoon to be a really great experience. He was extremely candid and didn't sway from any questions. I can't wait for this DVD to come out - Pearl Jam & Soundgarden fans will also find this movie entertaining to say the least. It is the seeds of what began a movement and change in music that to this day really does still exist. I wanted to publicly thank Scot for his time and I hope to talk to him again after the release of the movie.