The Cutting Edge compilation

This compilation of segments from the pioneering 1980s music show on MTV was screened at Bar Redux in New Orleans, La, October 3, 2021. It features rarely seen unique performances and interviews by The Ramones, The Damned, Red Hot Chili…

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This compilation of segments from the pioneering 1980s music show on MTV was screened at Bar Redux in New Orleans, La, October 3, 2021. It features rarely seen unique performances and interviews by The Ramones, The Damned, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Public Enemy, The Cramps, Run DMC, The Fleshtones, Alex Chilton, Henry Rollins of Black Flag, R.E.M., Frank Zappa, among many others. The screenings are hosted by Cutting Edge co-creator and producer Carlos Grasso – a New Orleans based musician, filmmaker and artist currently head of the film and scoring project Asphalt Serenade.
The Cutting Edge was a one hour long new music show that aired once a month on MTV from 1983 -1989. It was funded and produced by I.R.S. Records (a first) and was at the time the only independent music show on the burgeoning music video network. It featured new bands, music, art, film, culture, performances and unique interviews from the punk/post/alt/hip-hop era around the world. Most had made their national American television debut on this show and many would become future stars. Artists from The Cramps to Husker Du to Public Enemy and everything in between and beyond made their way to the Cutting Edge. Many hip-hop and rap artists were first nationally exposed on the Cutting Edge including Public Enemy and Run DMC. Entire burgeoning music scenes in cities around the country were spotlighted (Austin, New Orleans, New York City, etc.). Not limited to the music movements of the time the show also featured artists from many genres and eras the creators felt were important and timeless (Roy Orbison, Willie Dixon, Frank Zappa, David Lynch, etc.). It arguably influenced and even educated MTV itself on the breadth of new music at the time.
The program was co-created by film directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine, Ruby Sparks, Battle of the Sexes) and producer Carlos Grasso (Asphalt Serenade), who was at the time the creative director for I.R.S. Records. Miles Copeland, founder and Chairman of I.R.S. Records, had tossed off the name and said, “MTV gave us an hour. Make a show.” None of the creators had ever made a television show before. The show’s unique aesthetic, everybody-can-be-an-artist ethos and stylized documentary format, conceived primarily by Dayton/Faris, was a fresh look for a network still defining it’s identity. Tossing the bland generic interview format aside, the Cutting Edge conducted interviews and performances in unique locations created for each artist. Each show had a theme. After an initial host artist Jeffrey Vallance, lead singer of The Fleshtones Peter Zaremba became the permanent host offering an irreverent style, defining the show even further. At it’s height “I.R.S.’s The Cutting Edge” drew over one million viewers a month including dedicated fans who otherwise didn’t think much of MTV. It won global programming awards. The show’s theme song, “Theme For Kinetic Ritual”, was composed and performed by Klark Kent, the alter ego of Police drummer Stewart Copeland. However as each show only aired once for partially contractual reasons long past, most of these musically and culturally historical documentations ended up in vaults at best, closets at worst, rarely to be seen again except for grainy taped-from-the-tv-screen Youtube posts. In most cases copies have been salvaged from master copies and second generation beta-max tapes. Some of the current archive have deteriorated due to age and less than ideal storage conditions. The material is being restored to the best of our abilities and budget. At this writing the presenters of these screenings do not have a complete collection of all episodes. But enough shows have been salvaged to make it available again to music lovers around the world. Join the Facebook page for segment postings and other goodies.
Credits:
Creators: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris, Carlos Grasso
Directors (1983-1986) – Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Director (1987-1988) – C.D. Taylor
Producer/Director/writer – Carlos Grasso
Production manager/Associate producer (1983-1986) – Jessica Cooper
Production manager/Associate producer (1987-1989) – Mark Leemkuil
Talent Coordinator (1987-88) – Billy O’Connell
Executive producers – Jay Boberg and Miles Copeland
Publicity – Cary Baker, Betsy Alexander
Theme music: “Theme For Kinetic Ritual” by Klark Kent

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