Sunday 21 January 2018

Golden boy raving, not drowning

His high-octane trip back to the early days of rave is just a stepping stone to the future, Karl Golden tells Evan Fanning

Evan Fanning

WHEN the rave music scene broke out in Manchester and England's industrial north-west in the late Eighties, Karl Golden was in the altogether more sedate surroundings of suburban Dublin preparing for what was then the Inter Cert. The nearest he got to a warehouse party was the Wesley disco.

Yet, the 37-year-old director is now at the helm of Weekender, a high-octane trip to the early days of Manchester's warehouse rave scene.

The movie is seen through the eyes of two wannabe young promoters who are taken on a journey from the highs of the free love of the early parties through to the downer of hard drugs and the nefarious activities of local gangsters who wanted a piece of the action.

Not that Weekender is designed as a document of the time, far from it. "It's about music, youth, energy, drugs. It's an innocent film of the time," Golden explains. The director, whose previous films The Honeymooners and Pelican Blood won critical acclaim, is careful not to tread into territory of trying to define the club and drug scene.

"If the canvas becomes too epic and broad you're f**ked," Golden explains sitting in the London office of the film's distributors.

"We weren't trying to make the definitive rave film, far from it. I responded more to the friendships. I remember what it was like to be that age and be connected to something bigger than yourself, and in this case it's music. I remember what it was like to have that feeling of total joy. The real world was a very distant place. It's a very pure moment that lasts in your life and when it's gone you don't get it back and you don't know that you're in it at the time. We wanted to try and remember that and bottle that. That's what drew me into it."

So, I wonder, what are his own memories of that time, when these parties gripped the UK and became, via a hysterical media, a threat to the civilised way of life?

"In 1990 I was in school doing what was then called the Inter Cert," he explains.

"Rave was something you heard about through older brothers and sisters and through the cool people in school. It was only when I came to London when I was making short films and I had an editor and I used to come to Soho as a wide-eyed, innocent kid. On a Friday or Saturday night he would take me out and I realised that what it meant over here was a different world."

Drugs and music, he says, defined the weekends of those they saw.

London is now home for Golden and his Korean-American wife Michele. Making a film such as Weekender has its drawbacks and in some ways he seems relieved to be finished. From the day he read the script to it being released in the cinema (it has gone straight to DVD in Ireland) a year has passed, a relatively short time in the world of film-making. The process has been as fast-paced as the film itself.

"My life has gone on hold, as my poor wife knows. It consumed me. I was going to bed with rave music playing in my earphones. I was waking up in the middle of the night and sketching things. There's a level of obsession that has to go with it."

But his wife has provided a clear sense of perspective when the sound of the drums may have clouded Golden's head after a long day on set.

"She works in social policy and does a lot of mental health work with the elderly. She's got a job that is very directly connected with real peoples' lives. Whenever I have an issue with work or when I come home and complain about a bad day at the set it's very grounding to realise that there are much more pressing things going on."

He has the film industry to thank for their introduction. They met at a dinner courtesy of his then-editor. "I had just made The Honeymooners. My editor at the time was her roommate but because of his hours he had never really met her. He just said to me that 'she's a therapist from New York'. I'm a huge Woody Allen fan so it sounded so attractive.

"It turned out she was from New Jersey and studying sociology or something completely different, but in my head I had already fallen in love with her."

But the pieces fell together just like they seem to be doing for Golden. Weekender is just the latest step in his career as he aims for higher plains. He is now signed with one of the biggest agencies in Los Angeles and the aim, he says, is to make "intelligent, commercial, genre films". The rave scene is just a stepping stone. "I've made my four small films and I'm happy to draw a line in the sand now."

Weekender is out on DVD, Blu-ray and download from Momentum Pictures

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