Love Rock Awaits…the TFT Malfunkshun interview with Regan Hagar

by Kathy Davis on July 26, 2005

At the premiere of Malfunkshun
Photo by Shannon Monroe
Regan, drummer of Malfunkshun and Brad, chats with TFT while filmgoers pick their… seat.

Malfunkshun: The Andrew Wood Story [official site], Scot Barbour’s ten-years-in-the-making documentary about the life of the late Mother Love Bone frontman, made its Seattle debut this summer at Seattle’s Neptune Theatre. For insight into the film and it’s subject, TwoFeetThick met up with Regan Hagar, Andy’s longtime bandmate and good friend, for a chat and the screening.

Andy Wood, of course, is central to the Pearl Jam story. It was Mother Love Bone that was supposed to be Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard’s major label breakthrough in 1990, but Andy died just weeks before the album came out and the band died with him. Far from being just a tragic figure, though, Wood was a widely-known, well-loved fixture in Seattle music throughout the 1980s — both as a solo artist and as the singer in the long-running MLB precursor Malfunkshun. Regan Hagar was Malfunkshun’s drummer from 1980 – 1988. Regan’s name also rings some bells in PJ fandom because he is tight with Stone Gossard. Stone and Regan have been playing and touring in the side band, Brad, since 1992, and were partners in the record label Loosegroove from 1994 through 2000.

The TFT Interview with Regan Hagar
Regan gets candid about Andy Wood, Seattle rock, and the Malfunkshun movie
Review: Malfunkshun: The Andy Wood Story
A look at the film about Seattle’s favorite 80s frontman

Malfunkshun’s Regan Hagar: The TFT Interview

by Kathy Davis with Shannon Monroe

TwoFeetThick: So, how did you hear about the film?

Regan: Well [my old band] Satchel was on tour eight years ago [at The Edge in Palo Alto, California, October 1996] and as soon as we were done, I was the first one offstage and Scot [Barbour] was sitting there. He was like, “please don’t freak out, I have to talk to you about Andy Wood.” Because he said “Andy Wood” and because he could show me that he was for real – that he had talked to Andy’s mom, Toni, and had some inner-family stuff – I said okay and we exchanged information. It was years after that that he actually came up to film interviews. I did two different ones that were a few years apart.

Do you feel it was inevitable that somebody told Andy’s story?

[Emphatically] No! I was so happily surprised that someone cared about him because so few people knew, I think. This city was so small then, and the people who had seen him, or known him were so few compared to the reach now. Scot’s not from here and he found it through liking [Chris] Cornell. It was Temple Of The Dog that drew him to go deeper and deeper. He became a big fan of Andy’s in the process.

Have you seen the film yet?

I haven’t, but about a year and a half ago I watched a bunch of the interview footage. He came up here to get some feedback from all of the Seattle folks, to see what our vibe was. Like, is he going down the right path, are we upset by any of this stuff.

It’s kind of painful, understandably….

Oh absolutely, I mean it was real tear-jerker when I watched the stuff, I mean when you see his Mom.

Info on Stolen Posters

Prior to the movie, approximately 60 prints of the sepia-toned movie poster were stolen from a prep table in the theatre lobby. Please see this note from malfunkshun.com:

During the Seattle premiere in June we had a whole batch of Malfunkshun film posters stolen. It has come to our attention that these are now starting to appear on eBay. The company has been notified.

We urge you, as Malfunkshun fans, to use descretion and NOT to buy these. We will be making these posters available to purchase through official channels soon. Many thanks for your assistance.

The Malfunkshun Team

So you designed the sepia-toned movie poster?

Yes. Well [Scot] initially sent me a mock-up of what he wanted, and it was all Love Bone. A lot of Love Bone stuff, and I was like, “look, why are you calling this movie ‘Malfunkshun’ and then giving me a Love Bone picture I mean, I’m confused and why wouldn’t someone else be confused by that?” But I did what he asked me to, and I didn’t like it, and I let him know that, and showed it to him, and he didn’t like it. I had other pictures. This session he did after Malfunkshun, they were black and white, but I had made it sepia. It’s really Andy. It’s really him. Actually, I also did another one where he’s maybe 10, and he’s in his little football uniform down on one knee, and I loved it but Scot was like “it doesn’t [work].” and so we talked about this (photo) session. They’re gonna auction them or silent auction them. Vera Project or something. We were gonna do that with a bunch of these tonight and sign ‘em and sell ‘em for a cause.

Except that … they’re kinda not here anymore.

Someone stole them. [see note on right]

So, did you and Andy meet at Bainbridge High?

We actually met at Commodore Junior High. On Bainbridge [Island, near Seattle].

How old were you?

I was 13 and in Eighth Grade, he was in Seventh Grade.

Were you in the band Maggot Brains then?

I was not in Maggot Brains, then, but I was when I was in a high school freshman. The [Seattle club] Showbox opened up. I came over with another guy, Rob Alexander, and he and I were like gonna be punks together. Andy was someone I knew through the halls because he was weird and I appreciated him, but…

You hadn’t really met?

Exactly. We had met, but we didn’t exchange phone numbers or talk to each other after school. Then I was working at The Showbox when I was 14. That’s when I was in Maggot Brains I was really punk. He was in line at The Showbox, and I was coming out checking the line, because I was just working there. And he was like “Hey, guy”‘ And I was like, “Hey it’s good to see you!” and he was there with [his brother] Kevin, and he just thought that was so cool that I was working there you know? So that next Monday or whatever at school, he asked me about what I was doing there, how that all happened for me, you know? I was real young. But I was kinda latch-key kid right, I was super independent. Really, really into music and I used to save my lunch money, eat other people’s lunches, and then take that money to come into Seattle. My mother didn’t approve of it. But …. [pauses to observe people taking their seats] Kim Thayil, there he is. I saw Bruce Fairweather.

Oh wow, everybody is here to see this movie.

There’s Gossard.

I saw Lance Mercer.

Kevin Wood … Toni Wood, his Mom.

Crazy. So after that….

Okay, so then Andy was like, “I have a band. You want to be in my band?” And I said “Sure, you know. I’ll be in your band. I’m in another band, I’ll be in your band too.” And it all just took off from there.

And you played drums in both bands?

Correct. Always as a drummer. Yeah. Actually I sang one show with Maggot Brains.

I thought it was funny reading Andy’s notes about how Malfunkshun was kind of a play [on words] like “Confunkshun”? Were you involved in the naming of Malfunkshun or was that his?

No that was them. Kevin said “Let’s call it ‘Report Malfunction’.” And then Andy was like “Let’s call it Malfunkshun, and let’s change the words like Confunkshun.” Which is just genius. [Editor's note: Confunkshun was a 1970s-80s soul/funk group]

Did he also like the band Parliament?

Yeah.

Did he think it was cool you were in a band called Maggot Brains? (Laughs)

I don’t know. I think at that time he thought I was just really cool. You know, I was very city kid. I had just moved to Bainbridge from Seattle when I was 13 to be saved from the city because my older brother Derek – [motions 2 seats to his left] that’s Derek he’s my older brother – we were starting to go wild. I mean, not really wild, but they took us to Bainbridge which was way wilder than the city. Way! Oh my god, those kids out there, they had nothing to do. There were bonfires, keggers, people shot weapons and stuff at parties. Crazy. Times have changed now. But yeah, I remember people with shotguns shootin’ ‘em into the Puget Sound and stuff. People were taking acid. It was crazy.

Let’s talk about when you and Andy first got together to play music.

I walked into it, and they had established songs. And they had a drummer before me, Dave Hunt, who went on to be in another band out there on the island that put out a record, called Skin Diver. And then Dave Reese was the bass player, Andy was the singer. Dave Hunt and Dave Reese were straight[-edge] kids. I don’t know.

They weren’t into putting on make-up and thinking up stage names?

Yeah, Andy and Kevin and I were not as normal, and Kevin of course is older. I still, you know, I love him and everything, but he’s still that, like, older guy. Even though we played in a band for eight years, I don’t have the same relationship with him that I even do [with Andy's other older brother] Brian Wood, who was more in our age group. We all ran around together, Kevin, we’d go to him to get him to buy us beer, you know, but we didn’t hang out with him.


An early Malfunkshun flyer drawn by Andy Wood (Courtesy of Regan Hagar)

So how did you end up with the stage-name “Thundarr”? Was that some sort of comic book thing?

Well, yeah … we all got to choose one. I, being Norwegian …

The “God of Thunder”?

I was really into that, like if I had to pick a character that’s where I went like “Thor, Thundarr.” And Thundarr, Thunder – the drums. “Thunder.” It just made sense … [pulls out an old flyer] I gave you one of these, right? The picture of Thundarr.

No.

Andy drew that in high school. I found it in my yearbook. And so that to me is Thundarr. I had a thought this morning that I should bring something to the people who cared about the band so I dug it up.

And you later became a graphic designer. Are you self-taught?

Yeah. I think I was 15 when I did a 7″ cover for the band “The Fartz”, they were a big Seattle punk band. And Andy and I did stuff like that [points to flyer], and I made a lot of posters and T-shirts and stuff. [Watches more guests arrive] Oh wow! Xana [LaFuente, Andy's one-time fiancè, enters the theater] … no one has seen her in years.

That’s amazing. There’s a lot of emotion in this room I think.

Interesting …

Malfunkshun was formed in 1981, you guys were together a long time.

Yeah. I could swear it was ’80. I think it is ’80.

Have you seen any of the Malfunkshun videos that Kevin Wood is selling online?

Well, everything but the high school one, when we played our first time at the high school and we thought that was lost, so when I saw Kevin today I was like, “I need a copy of that.” I have our last concert. That was in Olympia. And that’s where Kurt Cobain came up to Kevin Wood afterwards and asked him to join Nirvana, and Kevin said “Yeah, no thanks, kid.” And he realizes it now, and ask him about it because he’ll say he’s really kicking himself. And I have two ’83 shows at a place called Metropolis, also in Pioneer Square. Wow. One is opening up for Fang, and the other one is Husker Dü.

Did Andy always have a problem with drugs?

No. That’s my biggest problem with all of this. [People say,] “So he was a drug addict and he died from an overdose.” Well…

I’ve heard people say, “this is not how we expected it to happen at all.”

Everybody was doing drugs. There were some straight-edge guys [who didn't]. But, we all were kids and experimenting with drugs. We were in rock bands. From what I understand, Andy had an aneurysm while he was high, and it [was] called an overdose. But I don’t know, you know?

That’s not the person that you knew.

He wasn’t a … He went to rehab. Other people did. He was drinkin’ and smokin’ pot with us and stuff, and some cocaine and heroin. But like I said, everyone was doing it. Myself included. He was unlucky, he had basically stopped … He was going through a lot of hardship with Love Bone and his personal life, Xana, and chose to get high that day, and something happened. Whether it was the aneurysm, whether he hadn’t done it in months and it was too much … I mean, yeah, he got high. [But] to me he was never a junkie. So it was a total shocker.

Thank you for answering that question, I know it’s a personal one.

Yeah, I feel I had to say….

I get the impression that people didn’t think that’s the kind of person he was.

He wasn’t. And I feel bad for a lot of the people in this scene who don’t want me to say it you know? Come on guys, we were doing exactly the same thing. We’re all alive. So it could have been anyone.

It’s kind of hard to imagine “what if’s,” but things would have turned out if Malfunkshun had continued?

I wonder myself. Because, there’s two ways. Andy gets the “Love Rock” thing going, hits it big, makes it through the ’80s as a success, but the glam kills us in the ’90s. The other option is … really there’s only one band in Seattle that I remember being like us, and they’re still doing it, and they’ve always stuck to their guns and they never change and that’s The Melvins, and that’s the other way. Jump from little label to little label, just making music and trying to be consistent. Which is what I’d like to think would have been, but I think Andy, so outgoing, could have been bigger.


Review: Malfunkshun: The Andy Wood Story

by Kathy Davis

A ticket to the premiere

Film reviewed at: The official world premiere of Malfunkshun: The Andrew Wood Story, a documentary by Scot Barbour, part of the Seattle Film Festival. Saturday, June 4 at Seattle’s Neptune Theatre

In attendance: Regan Hagar; Stone Gossard; Andy Wood’s mom, Toni Wood, and brother Kevin Wood; ex-Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil; Andy’s former fiancee Xana LaFuente; Mother Love Bone guitarist Bruce Fairweather; Brad’s Mike Berg; director Scot Barbour; Layne Staley’s mother, Nancy Layne McCallum; photographers Lance Mercer and Bruce Tom

Like many fans, Filmmaker Scot Barbour became aware of came Andy through the more high profile bands that came after him. As a Soundgarden fan, he was turned on to Temple of The Dog and soon wanted to know more about the singer it was a tribute to. He bought a Mother Love Bone disc and was “floored” by it — so much so that he eventually sold two vehicles, borrowed money from family and maxed-out credit cards to tell Andy’s life story.

Barbour’s realistic, balanced story of Andy Wood’s charisma, talent, and foibles is also a historically important film for any Pearl Jam fan, as Andy played such an important role in the band’s history. He was the one who went before, the one without whom … The film presents a treasure trove of previously unseen photos and home movies from the Wood family archives and the collections of his bandmates.

The story is told mostly chronologically, pictures interlaced with interviews from his family, friends, bandmates, his rehab counselor and others who were touched by him. The presentation is woven together with animation that seems to spring from photos of Andy, as if to illustrate his animated, larger-than-life persona.

Several bits of footage and facts from interviews were of special importance to PJ Fans:

  • Home movies shot at the Record Plant in Sausalito, CA during the recording of the Mother Love Bone track, “Stardog Champion.” Andy is shown with the children who sang back-up on the chorus, looking alternately weary working with them during recording, and then silly when filmed having lunch with them. Album producer Terry Date was seen holding up a poster board with the lyrics written out phonetically. He pointed to them when it was time for the children to sing. The footage also showed Stone, Jeff, and the rest of the band (Bruce Fairweather, Greg Gilmore) singing the chorus as well, all standing together around one mic. Ah, the days of big hair!
  • Jeff Ament related how the whole band bonded over the old electronic Pocket Football and Pocket Football II game. Jeff and Greg Gilmore told stories about the elaborate Fantasy Football league Andy organized during Love Bone touring days and Barbour dug up footage showing Andy with the elaborate charts and team stats that he created for the (prehistoric video game) Coleco-vision Football league that the band would play on the tour bus. There was even a Super Bowl, which came down to Greg Gilmore and none other than Stone Gossard.
  • Extra footage of Andy from the out-of-print 1992 MLB documentary, The Love Bone Earth Affair, specifically different excerpts from the Andy interview segments he does holding a stuffed animal frog. We get to see the hilarious, “Your mother smells bad people!” comment followed by the previously unseen “Your shit stinks up here tonight, people!”
  • Lots of footage of Mother Love Bone in concert, much of which was previously available only on videos passed around by die-hard fans. It’s always fun to look back at Andy, Stone, Jeff, and the other guys with their full-on late-’80s stage look of leather hats, long hair, and the occasional make-up and bit of spandex.
  • Footage of Chris Cornell recounting how he and Andy met, how they came to be roommates, and candid talk of Andy’s final days – particularly how incredulous he was that the family kept Andy on life support for three days so Chris could get there from a Soundgarden tour date in New York.

“Malfunkshun” is, above all else, a frank portrait of a talented guy put together by someone who clearly understood where Andy was coming from. It neither glamorizes Andy’s drug use, nor does it claim drugs killed Andy’s spirit. The film is simply what it set out to be: the story of one person who had a short, remarkable life, filled with struggles, but also joy.

Thanks to Shannon Monroe for photos/moral support and to Sarah in Toronto for the inspiration!

Kathy Davis ( Twitter: @CrookedArm23 )
A Bay-Area based entrepreneur, co-editor Kathy conceives and writes her share of TFT’s articles and sections. She was co-editor/co-founder of one of the first Pearl Jam fanzines "Footsteps" (1992-1997). Kathy’s first Pearl Jam show was at the Bridge School Benefit on November 1, 1992.

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