The 2004 documentary Moog may be available most days through the Buncombe County Library, but not with insightful answers to your very own questions by director Hans Fjellestad. Noting how surreal it was to be back in Asheville after all these years, the filmmaker celebrated the 10th anniversary of his work with a screening late Thursday afternoon, upstairs at the Masonic Temple.
Following the movie’s brisk hour, which includes sights of a “primitive” (read: pre-Hotel Indigo) Asheville plus chats and performances by Moogfest 2014 guests Herb Deutsch, Keith Emerson, Bernie Worrell and Mix Master Mike, Fjellestad fielded queries from the audience with assistance from moderator Elisabeth Lewin of electronic music website Synthtopia.
Among his many insider responses, Fjellestad revealed that he shot Moog with one camera on 16mm film instead of digital as a means of matching the analog content; that Bob Moog had been approached by dozens of filmmakers over the years before accepting his offer; and that he doubted the film could have been made 10 years earlier, noting that Bob had become a different person in the early 2000s, asking questions about the mystical connections between instruments and musicians, which made him a more open subject.
Fjellestad also spoke of Moog’s lack of interest in celebrity and the pure, childlike delight he derived from people using his instruments. The inventor’s philosophy of “tapping into a stream that’s available to anyone” helped Fjellestad “rearrange the furniture in my head of what it means to be a creative person.”
Minutes after Fjellestad noted that there are always going to be people upset that a documentary doesn’t cover aspects that they hold dear about the subject, one attendee asked why Kraftwerk hadn’t been included. Fjellestad then shared that the band had been at the top of his artist list during the film’s planning stage in 2002-03, but that the group wasn’t touring the U.S. during that time and the project’s modest budget didn’t allow for a trip to Germany.
The Q&A’s funniest moment came at its close when Fjellestad told an anecdote about Moog associate Walter Sear, who doubled as a pornography film producer. It was in one of Sear’s films, a Sci-fi nudie, in which a Moog synthesizer first appeared in a movie. According to Fjellestad, the scene involves a topless woman flying a spaceship whose controls are a Moog modular.
Sear, however, was reluctant to lend the footage for “Moog” not because of a taste issue, but because he didn’t think it was his best work. While filming the documentary, Fjellestad asked Moog if he’d seen the porno (he hadn’t), which led to Fjellestad inquiring about the sexiest thing he’d seen on film. Moog’s response? A French documentary about microcosms, specifically its footage of snails. The candid exchange occurred while the camera was being set up, so while the sound was running, no footage of it exists.
Fjellestad’s also spoke briefly about his upcoming documentary on Radio Caroline, the offshore rock station that inspired Richard Curtis’ film, Pirate Radio. He expects it to be released late this fall.