This film tells the poignant story of Human Skab and its front man, Travis Roberts, who led the group as a young child since 1986, accompanied by his siblings, friends, and cousin Frankie (co-director Frank Gunderson). The music that they created and recorded in the late 1980s as a result of the boy's adventures and creative explorations gathered a dedicated following in the cassette underground. After two years of making music, life caught up to young Travis. He finished school, grew up, and joined the army, serving as a soldier and contractor in Egypt, Kosovo, and Afghanistan.
'I'm not doin' this for the money, I'm on a mission,' Travis once said in a 1987 interview with SPIN magazine. 'I have a message for the world. It's not just playin' guitars good that is important. It's all the things that you do.' Rife with amazing synchronicities, Travis's music, both old and new, not only provides a powerful creative vision of American society, but offers a wealth of insight to present politics, 'outsider music,' life as a war veteran, and personal healing.
Three years in the making, our film documents Travis's story as he reconnects with the music he created as a young child in 1986. After serving in the military and then returning home, Travis decided to reconstruct the band and continue the message of his music. Human Skab held their first reunion tour in December 2009, with bassist Matt Love and drummer Bret (co-director Bret Woods). We realized rather quickly that the process of Travis's musical reunion was a story that needed to be told, so we gathered camera equipment and recorded footage throughout the entirety of our rehearsals and tour. During the tour, it became more apparent that the story was not simply a band ethnography and reunion, but a reclamation and remembrance; our film is an eye-opening narrative about a veteran's post-war experience and personal healing.
About Human Skab as both a performance group and a concept, Travis noted: "The thing that appealed to me about playing music both when I was young as well as now is that within my music I find a freedom unparalleled within the confines of everyday American life. Since pre-history music has played an integral part in the human experience. Not just listening to music but creating it. Unfortunately, capitalism has stolen this aspect of humanity from most people living behind the bars of consumerist systems. If you want music, just pop in a CD or turn on your IPOD. Let the pros make the tunes. In my house we are taking music back." Our film making approach follows this aesthetic as a mash-up of cinéma vérité and vaudeville: we follow the action as it happens; if you don't like what you see, wait thirty seconds and then you will.
Visit our website, humanskab.com, to read more about the film, the band, and the music. You can also find Human Skab and OddFreak Films on YouTube.