By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Before Blind Melon lead singer Shannon Hoon died, he traveled with a video camera. Everywhere he went, he documented his life, almost like a video diary.
Director Danny Clinch was given the tapes by Hoon’s girlfriend, Lisa Sinha, and, after a mourning period and “a lot of discussion,” the renowned photographer made the bold move of telling Hoon’s story through the singer’s eyes.
Late last month, Oscilloscope Laboratories released the feature documentary “All I Can Say” in virtual cinemas, record stores and music venues.
“Shannon’s girlfriend always felt I should take control of the tapes and do something with them,” Clinch says. “There was talk of making the film as a Blind Melon documentary, until someone in the band said, ‘This is through Shannon’s eyes and more focused on him.’ I said it was an interesting idea.
“It’s not a film about Blind Melon. It’s about this person who started filming himself obsessively. This is before there were cellphones. He had to change the batteries, bring the camera, save the tapes. He had all these things going against him. He was leaving something really valuable to us. The challenge was telling that story and not leaving any holes in the story.”
Founded in 1990, Blind Melon launched its self-titled debut in 1992 with a Southern psych-rock-influenced album fused with ’90s-era alt-grunge that included the breakthrough single “No Rain.” Its accompanying music video starred the now-iconic “Bee Girl” and earned heavy airplay on MTV, propelling the band to quadruple-platinum success. Hoon passed away from a cocaine overdose on October 21, 1995, in New Orleans.
“All I Can Say” traces Blind Melon’s rise to fame, the Indiana-bred singer’s creative process, his family, his daughter’s birth and his struggle with addiction—all the way up to a few hours before his death at age 28 on his tour bus. It features appearances by Sinha, who gave birth to his daughter, Nico Blue; and Blind Melon members Christopher Thorn, Brad Smith, Rogers Stevens and Glen Graham.
“Shannon would love this film—the editing of it, the franticness of it, the wide angles, the poking fun of his friends, the music,” Clinch says. “He would love it. I think he would appreciate the film for sure. We did him justice.”
The “we” is Clinch, along with fellow directors Taryn Gould and Colleen Hennessy.
“I was friends with Shannon and am still friends with the band to this day,” Clinch says. “We had the rug pulled out from under us when Shannon passed away. We were in our mid to late 20s—still pretty young at heart and not used to that sort of thing.”
Hoon was magical with his hippy persona and unique vocal stylings.
“His writing style was really, really unique, too,” Clinch says. “There are a lot of musicians who are fans of Shannon Hoon, like the Avett Brothers. He didn’t have any rules. He was willing to try anything and take chances.”
The film started as Blind Melon’s story, Clinch says. But then he started to focus on Hoon and the world through his eyes.
Hennessy met Blind Melon in 2007, when the band reformed with a new lead singer, Travis Warren, to record an album.
“I was a big fan of the band and working for Danny at the time,” she says.
Gould, however, became a Blind Melon fan while working for Clinch as an editor and collaborator.
“Taryn came to the project not knowing much about the band or knowing much about the music,” Clinch says. “That was an interesting opportunity to have someone come on board for a different reason.”
Gould asked a lot of questions about Hoon; for example, what his major contribution was.
“However, I don’t think the film’s concerned with that,” Gould says. “It’s an autobiographical document that’s comprehensive of a person and a time. I think the music is part of his expression and diary. You get to know him. He was raw and very open about his struggles and someone who love and loved a lot.
“He was very open with those flaws. We were dealing with, ‘What did Shannon intend with this archive?’ He was intending to share, because he was constantly addressing an audience. Shannon was leaving a record of his life. We put it together as a complete portrait of a flawed human who died young. Hopefully, you feel his loss. It’s as simple as that. Even if you don’t like the music, the film goes beyond that.”
All three say it’s unfortunate to release “All I Can Say” during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Hennessy says it could be helpful to those who are suffering through this time.
“I’ve read statistics about how people are struggling with mental health more than ever as a result of this,” Hennessy says. “This would resonate with that group as well. They can relate to someone else struggling, struggling with addiction. You feel like you’re not quite alone.”
Gould adds, “This story is particularly interesting. It was a really surreal experience, let alone the fact that it ends with this dramatic punctuation mark. He filmed up until the morning he passed away. It has just the date. He’s someone who lived and loved hard and he messed up hard. You get to experience all of that. The time with it and away from it is what helped us find it.”
“All I Can Say,” allicansay.oscilloscope.net.