In a musical world, the deep cut is always at risk of being overlooked. The hits only ever tell half an artist’s story. The real stuff of devotion is found in the album tracks, the soundtrack and compilation contributions, the bonus tracks — the deep cuts. One of the best documentaries to drop this year, Live From the Space Stage: A HALYX story, is such a deep cut love letter to Disneyland’s experimental nature in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s that it is a must watch. Really. If you are a Disney buff, a music enthusiast or like the Star Wars … Go ahead and carve out an hour and half and get ready to have your mind blown. Halyx was a Sci-Fi “Star Wars KISS” band created by Disney’s record label in the early 80’s. Let’s be honest here, the world just wasn’t ready for Halyx. This documentary held my attention for the story as much as the music. The amount of history in this rock band extravaganza is amazing. The fact that something so spectacularly weird was actually just spectacular is incredible. You’ll wonder if what you’re seeing ever happened, while being sad that it happened without you. Seriously, I don’t want to spoil anything, so watch the film before reading this interview with director, Matthew Serrano.
Live From the Space Stage: A HALYX story really is THAT GOOD.
Dagobot: Excellent job on this documentary, Matthew. Shocked that this didn’t premiere at Sundance.
Matthew Serrano: Thank you! That’s so nice of you especially considering this is my first feature film ever! It’s been amazing to see all of the awesome feedback so far.
So, are you a Star Wars Fan? Disney fan? Music fan?
I’m absolutely an all of the above fan. Star Wars is a big part of why I am a filmmaker and storyteller, I first wanted to be an animator growing up because of Disney, and I got into music through wanting to learn how to play guitar for real during the whole “Guitar Hero” craze of the 2000’s.
What prompted the idea for Live From The Space Stage: A Halyx Story and how did it evolve?
Kevin my Producer had heard about the band from an episode of “Podcast the Ride” and after pulling up a blog post about the band he told me “here are a bunch of names, this is what you’re doing, you’re getting the band back together” and then he hung up on me.
At first I thought he was crazy, then after 4 weeks of searching and finding nothing about the band I was worried the doc would lead us nowhere. But slowly we got in contact with people and began gathering more information as well as archival material.
About 4 months in we finally found Brian the drummer when all of a sudden he dropped the biggest bombshell of all which was that he had what might possibly be the last remaining footage of the band in existence. It was at that point that me and Kevin turned to each other and went “maybe we have a feature film on our hands after all?”
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in developing the project?
A huge challenge was making a film using only what we had at each stage of production. Meaning there was a version of the film without Thom and Lora’s storyline. There was a version with no footage of the band or only 40 photos total to use. The script was being constantly updated because every time we would do an interview we would find out either new information or sometimes even contradictory information due to one person remembering something wrong and then us having to figure out who was right.
I love the film, including how it flows so naturally and seems to have taken on a life or direction of its own. Did it turn out differently than maybe what you had initially expected?
Filmmaking is a collaborative process, and I took to heart many many MANY notes that were given to me from everyone I showed it to and made many changes accordingly. Kevin gave the most notes (of course) but also was the only person who when I was overwhelmed with notes told me to ignore them and to not forget the film I had originally made. To not let go of the themes I didn’t even realize I had at times or to not get rid of the special moments that I had put in there.
When the film was reaching the finish line we talked about the long road of editing and fine tuning we had been on together and he told me how proud he was of me and reminded me that 90% of all my original ideas from the very first cut I had made back in December of 2019 were miraculously all still in there in one form or another. I am incredibly proud of the film we all made.
What did you learn or gain from making this film?
Filming interviews for a documentary is like building a boat. Every technical mistake you make, every question you forget to ask, every great moment you don’t capture is another hole in your boat. The more holes you have the faster the boat sinks and…Yeah, I think you get what I mean.
The overall reaction to the film is very positive. Are you surprised by that, especially considering that you were dealing with a subject / band that few knew of or remembered?
Youtube audiences and audiences in general are extremely unpredictable, but I feel confident in the film we made and I feel confident in our tastes in film enough that we felt most people would like it at least. But it is shocking to me just how positive it has been. It’s also amazing to me how many people watched an hour and a half long film on a topic no one knows anything about and still loved our film.
Starfire was a badass name, why did they pass on that? Did that ever come up?
I really don’t know because everyone had a completely different story about the naming of the band. That’s what’s so funny to me about that scene and why its one of my favorite moments in the film. I’m sure the name was decided on by Gary but who knows how it got to that point. A lot of people online have commented that they like SKWAD more than Halyx. I disagree I think Halyx was the best name. Starfire can be put in front of any Sci-Fi related thing but Halyx fits the band perfectly.
There was never a definitive answer on what the name of the band means. Halyx. What does it mean to you?
The truth is I don’t know either. It probably is the name of the alien galaxy they are from or something. All I know is don’t ask Mike Post what it means.
There is a real punk rock DIY approach, especially from Gary Krisel early on when he was coming up with the concept (Star Wars meets Rock N Roll) and it organically all seemed to work. Could something like this succeed on our current timeline?
Absolutely. There should have been a live alien/droid/humanoid band playing at the cantina when Galaxy’s Edge first opened at Disneyland. Local Disneyland visitors really got a kick out of the Mad T Party band and show that recently became defunct as well, so you can bet something like Halyx would do really well with today’s audiences.
So now that the documentary has come out, are we finally going to be able to get a legit copy of Halyx’s debut LP?
Perhaps a recreation of what could have been but at this point everyone we and the band members have reached out to cannot find any recordings unfortunately.
In the film, Bambi Moe pulls out what looks like a record sleeve where a test pressing would go (the one the band signed). C’mon, there really isn’t ANY recorded material / masters anywhere? Really? Nothing?
I know I am as disappointed as the rest of you! Here’s hoping that someday soon someone finds something.
Also, why are there only rough audience recordings available from the gigs? Was there any explanation on why there was never a proper video recording or say, someone (the sound person) who would just plug into the board to make bootleg recordings for posterity?
There might be a recording somewhere in the Stage Managers storage that she recorded straight from the mixing board, but we haven’t heard back on if they have found it or not. We also heard that Lora’s dad had hired a company to professionally shoot one of their concerts. But with all of Lora’s immediate family being deceased no one has any clue where that footage can be or if it got destroyed or not.
I was under the impression that the point in creating the band in the first place was to give Disney Records some legitimacy. Do you think if they had just cut the record themselves history would be very different?
I have seen lots of people saying this too. I believe history would have been much different and that we would have seen something Halyx related make it to completion and release. I know for a fact that if they had made that album that you would absolutely see Halyx stuff at fan booths at D23.
Was there any explanation on the label situation or perhaps you have more understanding of the label folding and Disney’s disinterest in doing Halyx for another summer or two?
It happens a lot more than people realize where creative projects (no matter the industry) fall through when leadership changes within the company. Essentially that’s what happened with Warner where the executive who signed them left the company and therefore Halyx as a project got dropped. Also talking with Gary I understand how hard it is when a project can only continue if you focus 100% of your energy on it. He had a lot of stuff on his plate and he made his decision. It’s easy to see that footage of the cheering fans and think “well this looks like a hit why didn’t they just continue?”. But at some point everyone involved needs to make money and their future looked very uncertain.
Do you think if Halyx could have kept going until Return Of The Jedi came out in 1983, they would have broke and been huge?
I wasn’t around in the 80’s but I believe the band would have struggled a lot with the Star Wars comparisons. That being said MTV dropped a few months after they disbanded and I believe that would have been what made them blow up. Just imagine Disney quality music videos featuring Halyx.
So how is life for the former members of Halyx following the documentary?
Everyone is doing great! All of the band members are still involved in music in one way or another and seem to all be enjoying life. Tony is teaching classes to the next generation of great dancers. Thom has a band in Oklahoma that he jams with. It was really nice to see that none of them gave up music.
The idea that Haylx was rehearsing in the same space where and when Tron was filming blew my mind. And I noticed that the title for this is Live From The Space Stage: A Halyx Story not THE Halyx story. Is that a set up for a sequel? Potential cross-over with other Disney IP’s?
I would love to see Halyx come back in some form or another. I’ve had lots of ideas varying from Easter eggs in Star Wars content to finding a way to bring them back to the theme parks. Hit us up Disney we the self-proclaimed Halyx experts would love to be of assistance.
A big thanks to director, Matthew Serrano for the interview.
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