You might not know the name Bran Van Splunteren, but the Dutch filmmaker is responsible for some of the most fascinating and obscure interviews and documentaries around. This short documentary about American rocker Jeffrey Lee Pierce is the perfect example. At around 18-minutes long, Jeffrey’s Blues is a fleeting yet insightful look at one of the music industry’s most complex and unconventional characters.
Most people will know Jeffrey Lee Pierce as the founding member of The Gun Club, surely one of the most anarchical groups to emerge from Los Angeles’ punk scene. Unlike most of their contemporaries, The Gun Club were equally fanatical about Delta Blues legends like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf as they were The Ramones and Blondie. As such, they stood apart from their contemporaries, merging the thematic and musical essence of blues with the high-octane freneticism of punk.
Pierce was a man in constant conflict with his inner demons. In a 2012 interview with Gun Club biographer Gene Temesy, Nick Cave, a great admirer of the frontman, said: “With Jeffrey, you pretty much entered his world when you saw him. His obsessions crawled all over him. But in Jeffrey’s world, sometimes it was very inspiring and illuminating and other times it was painful and depressing. But Jeffrey did make efforts to stay on top of all that sort of stuff. But I think it was very difficult for him”.
Cave added: “Jeffrey very often didn’t make sense. That was part of his charm. Jeffrey was full of digressions. I think that was very much part of his character. Jeffrey digressed a lot. One minute he’d be talking about the fall of Saigon and the next minute he’d be talking about the size of a dinosaur’s brain”.
Jeffrey Lee Pierce has been cited as a major influence by a whole host of iconic rock musicians. Mark Lanegan, Primal Scream, Henry Rollins, Thurston Moore: all of them have paid tribute to the outsider rocker since his death in 1996, with the Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project being the most substantial indicator of his impact on the world of rock music. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine the existence of bands like Detroit garage duo The White Stripes without Pierce. In a 2007 piece for The Guardian titled ‘Why the White Stripes want to join the Gun Club’ Jack White bemoaned the rocker’s underground status: “‘Sex Beat’, ‘She’s Like Heroin to Me’, and ‘For the Love of Ivy’… why are these songs not taught in schools?”, White exclaimed.
If you’re looking to get to know Jeffrey Lee Pierce or want to see some brilliant footage of The Gun Club, make sure you check out Jeffrey’s Blues.