Sopranos creator David Chase, who screened his new love letter to Sixties rock & roll, Not Fade Away, last night in L.A, has a steel trap for the memories of his teenage years.
“My 15-year-old brain is still very active,” he told Rolling Stone at an after-party at the famed Chateau Marmont by cast members, including James Gandolfini and Bella Heathcote. “I remembered it all – all the humiliation, all the depression and all the craziness.”
The film is executive produced by one of Chase’s Sopranos actors, Steven Van Zandt, a man who knows something about forming teenage bands in the Sixties. Chase said that Van Zandt, who served as music supervisor, drove the music more than the script.
“There are a few scenes in there that I kind of quote him, but Steven is four or five years younger than me,” he said. “So when I was getting into the Stones he was probably 14 and I was, like, 18 or 19 – it was a little bit different perspective. The great thing about Steven is when you work with him he doesn’t try to make you do what he wants to see. He looks at it [like] his job is to get you to realize your vision.”
Chase drew on his own teenage ambition to be a musician. “I played drums and then bass, but I wasn’t very good. I was in a band, but we never played for anybody,” he said. “It was a total garage band, four years the same guys, and we never did anything. It was just me and my friends talking, talking and talking, and playing somewhat. But talking really about the music, and listening.”
In much the same way that The Sopranos was about family dynamics and friendships, Not Fade Away is centered around personal relationships during the Sixties – from the generation gap displayed between fathers and sons to the girls and the delicate egos involved in a band.
That’s playing to his strengths, as he sees it. “Everything I do is really about relationships,” he said. “I’m not really that good at plot. I’m good at writing dialogue and characters.”
Heathcote, who stars in the movie as Grace, agreed. “That’s the thing about David’s films and The Sopranos – the dialogue is actually realistic and the people are written as people, not as caricatures,” she told Rolling Stone.
Chase, who saw the Stones in Newark in 1965 and again at Altamont, wanted to capture the thrilling feeling he had going to the record stores on Saturday mornings to get the new Stones and Beatles albums. Rather than make the movie about any other teenage aspiration – say, playing baseball – he feels the rock & roll element adds to the film’s power.
That “hopefully adds to the emotionality of it,” he said, “because baseball, somebody hits a ball and it’s exciting, but it doesn’t get you in your heart. Music transforms your thinking.”