Thursday, April 30, 2009

Interview: Pat Spurgeon of Rogue Wave

Pat Spurgeon is the most recognizable member of Rogue Wave and is the subject of a new documentary, D Tour. The film documents Spurgeon as he awaits a kidney transplant and tours the country on dialysis. D Tour also features extensive footage from a benefit show featuring Rogue Wave, Ben Gibbard, Nada Surf, John Vanderslice, and the Moore Brothers, and as the film progresses it becomes more about larger issues. D Tour is screening at the San Francisco International Film Festival beginning this Friday at 9PM. That screening will be followed by an acoustic performance from Rogue Wave. The film also plays May 4 at 3:15 and May 7 at 5:15pm. All shows are at the Kabuki Theater. We spoke with director Jim Granato earlier in the week and today we are pleased to present our interview with Spurgeon...

Seeing the completed documentary, what kind of emotions arise? Is it difficult to relive much of this time?
It's hard to say what emotions come up. The whole process (dialysis to transplant) was relatively short. This coupled with the fact that I was busy with the band during most of this time kept me from dwelling on my health problem.

There is one section of the film that is always difficult and that is the passing of our former bass player Evan. He was a good friend way before he joined the band.

As the doc shows, Rogue Wave had to endure some tragic and difficult events that would break many bands. Did these make you stronger as a band - both in your relationship with each other and in the music you make?
I know the issues that each of us had from 2006 on had a huge impact on the band. It kept us all happy to be able to be touring, recording, having people come to shows and be just as enthusiastic as we were to be there playing.

Personally I went on quite a roller coaster ride during 2006. We were on tour and I got a call saying that when I got home I needed to start dialysis, so that was kind of a freak out to put it lightly. We weren't sure what was going to happen. The possibility of getting a drummer to sit in while I was on dialysis was proposed. I knew the band needed to keep going, but since I had no idea how long I was going to be on dialysis I thought that could be the end of my time in the band. That alone made me excessively determined to make touring and dialysis work. My transplant happened in January 2007 and we were in the studio February working on Asleep At Heaven's Gate (our third record).

Watching the benefit show, there is just an amazing show of support from both the artists involved and the fans. How did that help everyone cope with what was happening?
The benefit helped me realize that there is a strong and caring music community here in the bay area. There were benefit shows held in Seattle and Chicago and there were donations pouring in from all over the country, so that music community is actually everywhere and it is nice to know that Rogue Wave is part of that.

With all the stress of what was going on plus the fact that you were still a band trying to "make it," what was it like having everything documented during that period?
I never minded all the filming while we were on tour. Let me explain dialysis real quick, which will help explain the reason for the film and why I didn't mind the all the filming.

There are two kinds of dialysis, Hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Both are effective, but one allows much more freedom as far as active lifestyles go. With hemodialysis you have to go to a clinic several times a week and hook up to a machine that cleans your blood through a filtration process. The other (peritoneal) you do yourself at home, or on tour in hotel rooms. This isn't to say that one is better than the other, but I have done both and for me peritoneal worked the best for me. If I did hemodialysis I would have had to give up the band, period, without a doubt.

This brings us to why we wanted to make this film. Simply, to raise awareness of the different types of dialysis, but also to raise awareness about the need for organ donation weather you are a living donor by giving one of your kidneys to someone, or by filling out your donor information when you get your license.

How involved were you in the film and with the director?
My involvement at first was filming bits and pieces of the band on the road. I would bring Jim tapes whenever we got home from tour and he would then archive them. I thought this was going to be years in the making, so I didn't put much into it at first. I would film a little here and there, but Evan Farrell our bass player at the time did a majority of the road footage. This film really became a group effort due to the nature of the whole thing. I was the subject, so that made it hard to capture certain moments.

For example, Jim was out of town when the call came in from UCSF Medical Center that they had a kidney for me. It was called a "zero mismatch", which is pretty rare. This kidney was such a good match for me that it shot me to the top of the list. That night Zach (Rogue) and Jenna (Feldman) stepped in and took over filming.

When we first started this project we had no idea that it would end so quickly. By that I mean I was looking at a long wait on the donor list (5 years), which ended up being only a year due to the kidney that came through for me out of the blue.

Over the last few months of editing I was working with Jim quite a bit mostly by being available to be in front of the camera for additional footage, but also by contributing music, and helping with sound editing.

There's a bigger story here which makes us think about the health care crisis we have in this country - did the film change your perspective on this in any way? or make you think about it more?
This could get long. Basically there is no health care system for uninsured people unless you are poor and can to go to a free clinic, or sit for hours at the emergency room and even then you won't escape the bills that seem to come in even long after you paid what you thought was your bill. The way the system is set up you either have to have a job with benefits, you have to be married with someone who has insurance, or you have to be able to afford a private policy. Bands, especially bands at our level, are not rich, so that kind of just throws us to the wolves. It can really make you feel like you are wrong for doing what you do.

This is a mountain of a question. My perspective on the health care system in our country are pretty negative.

Let me give you an example: D-Tour had played three times so far and each time people have asked me about the health care system and how they can get insurance. I have no answer. There is no answer, unless, like I said above, you get a job that provides insurance, pay for private insurance, get married with someone who has it, or have kidney failure. Then you can get benefits through the government, but there is a catch. They consider transplant a "cure" and will drop you after a certain amount of time, unless you stay poor. I could go on, but let's not dwell on the negative.

With the doc out now, what is in the future for Rogue Wave - new album? Are you open to being the subject of a documentary again?
We are working on a new record as I type this with Dennis Herring (Modest Mouse, The Hives, Elvis Costello, Ben Folds, Timbuk 3) and I have to say it going well. Hopefully it will be coming out in September.

As far as being the subject in another documentary, hmmmmmm I will have to see the script.

1 comment:

Cristy at Living Donor 101 said...

I agree with Pat Spurgeon that everyone should sign their organ donor card, but by encouraging living donation, he's putting a group of otherwise healthy people at risk.

Living donation is not as safe as donating a pint of blood. Worse, the medical community has never felt LDs important enough to follow or study comprehensively, so they don't know definitively if it's safe, long-term.

Living donors can suffer from bleeding, blood clots, intestinal binding, testicular swelling, hernias, chronic fatigue, hypertension, reduced adrenal gland function, and severely reduced kidney function, just to name a few.

Some LDs have ended up on the waiting list themselves.

LDs also suffer from depression, anxiety and PTSD-like symptoms, yet transplant centers offer NO aftercare or support. Their priority is only to 'heal the sick patient' (the recipient) and they have no concern for the donor once the needed organ is harvested.

Some LDs have been unable to procure health and life insurance post-donation.

Educate yourself: