Kansas: Miracles Out of Nowhere
Director Charles Randazzo
When prog rock legends Kansas first formed they were operating like most bands in early 1970s Middle America. They had no leg up, no big city connects, but they were talented and determined to make it. Charles Randazzo’s Miracles Out of Nowhere paints an engaging story of the band as it grew from obscurity to a multi-platinum monolith, but the film also showcases each of Kansas’ six members as caring, loyal, and real-deal people. It’s a rare — and refreshingly down-to-earth — rock doc. See miraclesoutofnowhere.com.
Prior to the film, what kind of relationship did you have with Kansas? Were you a fan?
Like most of the world, in my teens I was a fan but only really knew the band’s hits, “Carry On My Wayward Son,” “Dust In The Wind,” and “Point Of Know Return.” But it was my best friend’s favorite band growing up so I had heard a lot of their music.
What intrigued you about the project?
I have worked with and been a friend of Budd Carr, Kansas’ manager back in the early days [and Santa Barbara resident], and he suggested a meeting with Phil Ehart to discuss a possible documentary project for their 40th anniversary. I was intrigued by the story of six guys from Kansas, in a small town in the middle of nowhere and how they actually got a record deal sending only a three song demo and one live showcase with “free beer.” Wouldn’t anyone want to tell that story?
What were there rock docs that you looked to for inspiration?
I have been producing, directing, and editing documentary films — especially music-oriented films — since my 20s. Also being a musician myself I knew of the “band life” and what it’s like to be in a band. That was the story I wanted to get from the original Kansas members. I watch every documentary that I can get my eyes on, so I believe it just was a combination of years and years of documentary films that I have watched. What I did know was that I didn’t want to use a voiceover person to bridge the story. It had to come from the band, the people they worked with, and fans, like Garth Brooks, Brendan O’Brien and David Wild. It made it real.
Were there any particular interviews/moments that especially resonated with you over the course of filming?
Doing extensive research on the band, their work, music, personal lives, writing all the questions and interviewing everyone in the film — there were so many great interview moments that resonated with me. But I would say the most heartfelt moments were that every one of the guys spoke of the love and respect they had for each other as people; that their friendship meant the most and then it was about the music. You don’t see this in a lot of bands then or now. Ego and money usually get in the way. But their honesty in every answer to the questions was so touching and rewarding. It told the story in such a real way.
Logistically speaking, what was the biggest challenge of putting Miracles together?
The most challenging part of any documentary is the editing of the film. I filmed almost 80 hours of interviews, Kansas events, fans, scenic B-roll, etc. Luckily, I am also an editor and know how to tell a story, especially one like this. So once you lay out the interview string of the story, which took me almost three or four months to put together, it’s a piece of cake from there. But then I had over 700 photos, home movies, and videos to chose from to tell that side of the story. Then it was all about which Kansas songs should I chose as the underscore for each section of the film. I think it worked out nicely.
On a personal level, what was the biggest takeaway?
Personally, my biggest takeaway was how amazing these guys all were, both personally and professionally. How they all worked so hard to achieve what they ultimately achieved. How do you get to be one of the best, most respected and most well-known rock bands in the world? It takes talent and perseverance. They are not “posers” they are “true musicians,” and like many of the bands of that era, they can actually play their instruments. And their songs are not easy songs to go out and play night after night, 200 or more nights a year. I admire and respect each and every one of these guys and I feel I can truly call them my friends.
What do you hope people take away from the movie?
In screening the film with an audience at Sony in L.A. and then with friends at home, everyone said the same thing: “I didn’t know anything about the members of Kansas before I saw the film. I didn’t realize that were so intelligent and funny and had such an amazing story. I also I hadn’t heard most of the songs in the film before I watched the film and it makes me want to go out and buy each and every one of their albums and sit back and listen.” So if in creating this film if I accomplish one thing it is to expose the millions of people who didn’t listen to Kansas back in the day to their incredible music. And then tell the world a story about six guys who had a dream and worked hard to make that dream a reality. I hope that inspires new generations of kids to do the same thing with their lives and their music.
What’s your favorite Kansas song?
That is a hard question to answer. I listened to all five of the first Kansas albums dozens of times in order to chose the songs that were used in the film. But I guess the song that haunted my dreams the most was “Dust In The Wind.” As Brian May from Queen said in the film, “’Dust In The Wind’” is so simple, so beautiful.” The lyrics and music that Kerry wrote for that song were and are so inspirational and thought provoking. It’s a once in a lifetime writing achievement and classic song that will be around forever for people to contemplate and enjoy.