Director Jeff Broadway on making Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton: This is Stones Throw Records
Known to hip-hop heads and vinyl connoisseurs as Peanut Butter Wolf, Chris Manak is a DJ and producer who founded the influential underground label Stones Throw Records. The new documentary Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton tells the story of this nearly two-decade-old Los Angeles record label by exploring Wolf's personal struggles and triumphs, as well as the careers of label icons like Madlib, J Dilla, Dâm Funk and more.
Madlib and Peanut Butter Wolf.
In advance of the one-night-only screening of Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton this Saturday, April 12 at the Sie FilmCenter, Westword spoke with the documentary's director and producer, Jeff Broadway, about why he decided to create a film about the underground, artist-first record label.
Westword: How did you come to make a documentary about Stones Throw in the first place?
Jeff Broadway: I grew up listening to quite a bit of hip-hop and when I was in college, as one will do, I got into more experimental music and I was looking for more offbeat stuff. I was very into music at an early age -- I had interned at record labels and such, and I came across Madvillainy (a collaborative effort between Stones Throw artists MF Doom and Madlib), which really just introduced me to Madlib, and eventually Stones Throw and that catalogue.
I had been a fan of the label for about ten years -- I was just really into these alternative worlds created by the label and Jeff Jank (Stones Throw's art and web director) for these releases to exist in. I was compelled by the visual element that they created for their album releases -- something I always felt would lend itself quite nicely to a film, should there ever be one made about Stones Throw.
I had been living in L.A. for a few years and I wanted to do something that was local and would allow me to do something that was of a certain production value and at a certain level. Obviously, my physical proximity to the label and my understanding of Stones Throw and the demand I felt there was coming from the fan base to know more led me to inquiring about the label and Wolf's (label head Peanut Butter Wolf) interest in a film being produced about him.
I sent a cold e-mail to the info account at Stones Throw in February 2012 and heard back from Wolf directly several hours later. A couple days later I was in the office meeting with them about the project. I had done a music documentary prior to that called Cure For Pain, which I shared with Wolf. He liked it and agreed to give me a shot and let me try to make Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton.
There are so many artists you could highlight when talking about a label like Stones Throw. How did you pick the artists you chose to profile?
I think as far as the present-day artists go, obviously there are a number of great musicians on the label who we don't talk about in the film. But basically, with the present-day section, we wanted to illustrate the diversity at the label and really show what an eclectic home for musicians of all different walks of life Stones Throw has become.
As far as focusing on Wolf, Madlib and Dilla and kind of those mini-biographies that the film delves into, obviously Wolf's part goes without saying -- he's the facilitator of the culture. Madlib has really been the epicenter of the musical evolution there and has chiefly been the guy who has attracted artists like J Dilla and MF Doom and kind of built up the icon that is Stones Throw.