Filmmaker Casey Patrick Tebo: Rocking the Rising Sun!

By Jeb Wright

Steven Tyler brought on filmmaker Casey Patrick Tebo to record Aerosmith’s latest rock-doc Rock for the Rising Sun, recorded live in Japan.  Tyler was savvy enough to know talent when he saw it and the result is one of the best concert films to date.  The band looks great, the shooting style is unique and the set list for the concert features tons of the old school classic Aerosmith gems that hardcore fans love.

In the interview below, Tebo explains how he got the gig and how he made the most of it.  It is interesting to learn how a truly creative mind works when it comes to capturing a live rock and roll event.  Tebo also opens up and shares his thoughts on having rich and famous friends, as well as his frustrations within the movie industry.

This is a fantastic interview that goes behind the lens and deep into the mind of the muse!

Jeb: Before getting into the new movie, Rock for the Rising Sun, I have to ask if it is true that Steven Tyler wanted you to shoot the band for his own personal videos?

Casey: That makes it sound a bit amateurish and it’s not like that at all. He pulled me aside one day and was like “You’re gonna be my Bob Gruen, let’s do this” and that was that.  I think he wanted people to see what the daily life of Aerosmith was like, but I got a lot of strange looks when that went down from the rest of the band, it was more like I was “Steven’s guy,” which was problematic. If he had gone to the band, and been like, “Let’s make Casey OUR guy”, it would have been smoother, but, all good things come to those who wait.

Jeb:  This live concert comes from Japan where there had recently been a horrible tsunami.  I heard you were warned against even going to the country.  Many people would have never risked the health hazards.  Explain to me how this all went down and why it was so important to make this happen.

Casey: You’d probably have to ask the guys the core of this question, but honestly, if there’s that one friend you’ve had, all those years, who would do anything for you, the guy who will pick you up when you get arrested, the guy you’d ask to be Godchild to your first kid, I think the Japanese fans have always been there for Aerosmith, and it was time to return some of that love.

Jeb:  I have heard there is Aerosmith-mania in Japan. 

Casey: Let’s just say I wish the youth of America were as crazy about Rock as they are in Japan. It’s so exciting and makes you really feel part of something special, and not because I want to be selfish and just be part of something, but the music is good.  Rock Music is amazing to me, the sounds, the melody, the emotion. So why shouldn’t they be into it? Maybe the Japanese people are just smarter than us [laughter].

It’s kind of like people say “well, bands like Radiohead are only for smart people, they don’t reach the masses, high art reaches small audiences.” Well, Seinfeld was smart, and it was the biggest show ever. It just hurts me when I see some of the music kids here are listening to. It’s horrible. These kids need Rock. If you listen to awful pop music, well that speaks volumes about who you are as a person, I know that will piss people off, but, it’s true. Kids should be listening to Queens of the Stone Age, Taddy Porter and Wolf People, not Justin Beiber, my god.

Jeb: This is your quote… please explain in detail: “It’s very hard to get films made nowadays, so I thought, the one way to have a film made, is to just make it, and ask questions later.”

Casey: The larger part of this is, like everything in this world is, it’s financially based. I once met Adam Jones from TOOL, you know the guy who made some of the most amazing rock videos ever and was like “How on Earth, are you not making feature length stop motion films Like Henry Selick (Paranorman, Corlaline) or Tim Burton?” And he basically said “Well, because people won’t invest in interesting things like I want to do”.

Don’t you realize how tragic and sad that is? Can you fucking imagine the kind of movie Adam Jones would make? I can, But, instead we get 3,000 comic book sequels and bad 50’s remakes. It’s sad, as a movie fan. I probably saw 100 movies this year and eight I liked. 

I honestly took a risk. I spent months on this film and nobody knew… Joe Perry was the only one who sort of had an idea, because I would email he and his wife and they were excited to see it; I owe a lot to them championing this thing for sure.

When I’d meet people in Hollywood and go, “Yeah, I just took a chance, and spent months working on this thing, while my wife was pregnant, in the hopes that we could sell it and put it out,” they look at me like I’m fucking crazy.  One studio exec actually applauded me for having huge balls. This is true, I’m not lying. Though my schooling is different, I learned how to make films on my own, with no money, learning how to stretch a budget, and so on. If I had gone to USC and was used to giant craft service tables, I never would have made this film… never.

Jeb:  Did you give Aerosmith a private viewing in a real theater…just you and them?

Casey: Yes, and I was basically shitting my pants before it aired. I was thinking, “What if they hate it? What if I wasted their time? What if I spent months of my life making a movie that was shit?” I guess as an artist we all go through that “Am I any fucking good? Do I have ANY IDEA what I’m doing?” That all came to a head sitting in that theatre. Thankfully, they liked it.

Jeb:  Were you an Aerosmith fan before meeting the band and doing all of this work with them?

Casey: I feel that’s like asking someone from the US if they like Coca-Cola, and if they say ‘no’, they’re an asshole. You only don’t like Coca-Cola if some bully spilled it on your lap on the school bus. How can you not like them? They’re an institution. I used to think I hated certain bands, and then you get older and listen to the songs, or songwriting in general, you start to appreciate it. 

People that say they don’t like Aerosmith, or Queen, or Metallica, are holding on to some sort of asshole attitude that they manufactured. It’s all an act. You simply cannot deny bands like them. I don’t particularly like Prince, but I think he’s amazing, and his songs are undeniable. But I certainly wouldn’t say to people “I HATE Prince” Price is fucking rad, and Aerosmith is fucking rad, and if you say you don’t like them, because you don’t like commercial music, or whatever,  then you can’t like Star Wars or Seinfeld either.

Sorry, I love these guys and I feel like I’m defending them a bit, because when people say shit about them it makes me angry. Sorry.   

Jeb:  Okay…I am an old school Aerosmith fan.  Basically, anything before Pump… the new stuff… like some better than others.  What era-fan are you the most?  No copping out…spill it!

Casey: Name one band that had better songs later in their career as opposed to the start. None. So, yeah, I’m with you. But there are some amazing songs that never got the light of day, like “Deuces Are Wild”–but go listen to “Seasons of Whither” and tell me every fucking grunge band doesn’t owe that one song and Rocks everything.

Jeb:  When making a live concert film like this, did you do anything to cue the band for certain poses or shots so that you didn’t miss things?  Was any of it scripted?

Casey: No, absolutely not, and if you practice that kind of shit while trying to make a documentary, and capture something real, well, that’s just clown town.

Jeb:  Are there moments you know you missed that you go ARRRRRRR because you can’t go back and get them?

Casey: I wish I had spent more time with Brad, Tom and Joey, but the reality of the situation is, I spent a lot of time with Steven, and most of the stuff you see of Joe was shot by my buddy John B, who is the bands road manager… thank God he did that, because without John there would be no movie. But, yeah, the other guys, but unfortunately, I have two arms and two legs, and one camera, kind of tough.

Jeb:  What is, to you, the most important rules to follow when shooting a classic band like Aerosmith?

Casey: Great question. I just sent a pitch to System of a Down to shoot them at the Hollywood Bowl and their manager ultimately turned it down. As soon as the email went whoooosh I went, “Fuck, what if I didn’t’ get their brand right in the proposal?” That can turn a manager off in ten seconds. If you don’t get the band’s brand you’re screwed. 

I’ve worked with some directors, live TV guys, who, because of the unions, I just can’t come in and direct the segment, though I’ve done that as well; some of the bigger shows, Late Night stuff, Awards, etc… These guys are focused just on Steven, and I’m like, “Hey, asshole, how about Joe Perry? Don’t you even fucking know music?” Everyone in that band deserves equal respect and face time. Just like Metallica, or AC/DC or The Stones.

Jeb:  Do you ever have to pinch yourself that you are hanging out with, emailing and calling peeps like Steve Tyler?

Casey: No, that lasts about a week. You have to have the attitude that you are on the same level, and that they are lucky to be working with you! Is that egotistical? I’m not sure. 

I’ve been lucky to become friends with some famous people outside of the band, and they’re just people. The minute you start treating them differently, then that’s probably when you won’t be around much longer. I’ve also learned to never ask guys like Steven or Joe, or some of my other friends, for anything. One of my dear friends is a billionaire, with a “B” not an “M”–I’m not bragging, it’s related to the question–and I would never ask him for anything because he’s my friend, not a bank. And the minute you do, it seems like that whole time, six years, two years or two months that you were spending time with them, was only leading up to that big “Hey, can you….”

It pisses my friends and family off as they constantly ask me for Aerosmith stuff, and I’m like, “Nope. Sorry. Why don’t you go ask your oil mechanic friend for a free oil change for me?” Know what I mean? Sorry, I feel like a dick for talking about people I know, but it’s more to explain to people that famous people are regular and you shouldn’t expect anything extra from them.

Jeb:  How is the band doing?  Lots of issues over the years with drugs, booze, in-band fighting and anything else one can imagine.  Were there any negative moments you had to deal with over the making of this movie?

Casey: Find me any family, where five guys have been married for 40 years without those same problems. The only negative thing was Joey wasn’t happy about some of his face time, which I totally got; I tried to explain to him that it was more about crew and cameras than slighting him. He’s a great dude, and has always supported me, so, he got it, but I was bummed that he was bummed.

Jeb:  Explain the phrase, “Dare to Suck.” 

Casey: It’s basically taking a risk without concern. Recently, I shot a video with this hardcore rapper Tech N9ne and Serj Tankian from System of a Down, and the song was really strong, and I put all these visuals in it about society, money, and religion, without talking to them, because that’s what I felt in the song. Things like the Boston Marathon bombing and Newtown really had me angry, so I put all this imagery about people being fake, hiding behind their mobile devices, not really caring about the world, and when they both saw it I was waiting for them to go, “This is too much, or this is too risky, or too political”, and they both were like “This is great, it’s what we feel too!” So, if I had decided to be safe and just put regular music video shit in the video, whatever that means, but you get it, well then, we never would have had the video we have.

Jeb: Other than Aerosmith you’ve worked with Judas Priest, Motley Crue and Stevie Nicks.  Give me a story about working with each of them!

Casey: Priest was disappointing because I was such a fan when I was a kid, and we shot this real intimate show in NYC for Eddie Trunks birthday; they were wearing street clothes. It was a small club, The Hard Rock, and Priest fans would kill for that, but they weren’t happy with the audio, so it got canned. It was a bummer. 

Stevie Nicks was such a pleasant surprise, but only because I base it on this, and my publicist may kill me for saying this, but some crew I knew in the music business was like “Oh, good luck with her, she’s difficult. She’s a Diva.” It was the typical stuff, and I’m not sucking her metaphorical dick here, but Jesus what a fucking awesome gal. Super nice, super sweet and she fucking worked her ass off. She was nice to me and my whole crew, so, that’s just bullshit rumors. No pun intended! Or was it?

Motley Crue had a backstage area that was four trailers shaped into a square, they had Jagermeister on tap. Am I supposed to say this? Mick Mars was the sweetest guy you could ever talk to, a real sage. Nikki was one of my idols when I was a kid, so him, out of everyone, I was probably the most star struck with, but man what a nice guy as well. I never met Tommy or Vince in person.

Jeb:  Last one:  The press release says “Fans will get to experience the legendary Aerosmith through the revealing lens of Casey Patrick Tebo.”  What makes it so revealing?

Casey: I’ve been in the Aerosmith camp for a while, so those guys trust me. It’s just like anyone else who’s been around.  I think that trust shines through more than anything, and when you make a documentary, a real documentary, you need that to shine through. This is why Reality TV is fucking awful, it’s all just scripted with bad actors.

Jeb:  Okay, really…the last one:  Pick one song that was the most fun to shoot and the one that was your least fav!  Again, no guts no glory...tell it like it is!

Casey: Hmmmm. “Lord of the Thighs,” even though it didn’t make the movie, but you can get it as a bonus track, because they get into this jam in the middle, and it happens to be my favorite Aerosmith song. The least… probably “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing;” it’s just not that exciting to shoot, I mean, come on now people.