Penelope Spheeris and Bhi Bhiman

Episode 182

7th July 2015

Jesse talks to movie director, Penelope Spheeris. She directed Wayne’s World, but before that was best known for her music documentary series, The Decline of Western Civilization. Jesse also sits down with singer-songwriter Bhi Bhiman.

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Photo courtesy Shout! Factory

Penelope Spheeris Unveils the Worlds of Punk, Hair Metal in ‘The Decline of Western Civilization’

Penelope Spheeris says that she loved punk rock when she first heard it in the 1970s because “the chaos was attractive and familiar to me.” She directed, filmed and organized that chaos, spending time with LA punk bands Black Flag, the Germs, and X among others, for her movie The Decline of Western Civilization. She strived to show everything — the good and bad — and let the audience decide how they felt about the people on-screen.

The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years focused on the over-the-top lifestyles and big dreams of hair metal bands in the late 1980s. And the third film in Spheeris’ Decline series went deep into the world of gutter punks in the 1990s.

After many years of VHS-to-DVD bootlegging, the Decline films are now available together for the first time in a box set on Blu-Ray and DVD from Shout! Factory, with a collection of bonus materials and commentaries produced by Spheeris and her daughter, Anna Fox.

Spheeris talks to us about the chaos in her own upbringing, the worlds of punk and metal as depicted in her documentaries, and directing a little feature film called Wayne’s World.

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Bhi Bhiman on Slyly Subverting the Folk Rocker Stereotype

The Sri Lankan-American singer-songwriter Bhi Bhiman encounters some challenges when he goes on-stage. As he tells it, ” I have a couple of things going against me. I’m South Asian looking, I’m playing acoustic guitar and singing and as a general rule people just don’t want to see that. But I have to work up hill against that.”

Bhiman’s newest album Rhythm & Reason is loosely themed around the immigrant experience, but it’s not as earnest as that sounds. He’s got a Randy Newman thing going on, too.

Bhiman talks to us about not fitting people’s expectations of a folk singer with a guitar, his inspirations for the new album, and why he’s got love for the Newm.

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The Outshot: Falling in Love with Catastrophe

“What does romance mean when you’re a fully formed adult human being?” Jesse explains why he’s sold on the new romantic comedy Catastrophe.

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In this episode...

Senior Producer
Maximum Fun Producer
Maximum Fun Production Fellow


  • Penelope Spheeris
  • Bhi Bhiman

About the show

Bullseye is a celebration of the best of arts and culture in public radio form. Host Jesse Thorn sifts the wheat from the chaff to bring you in-depth interviews with the most revered and revolutionary minds in our culture.

Bullseye has been featured in Time, The New York Times, GQ and McSweeney’s, which called it “the kind of show people listen to in a more perfect world.” Since April 2013, the show has been distributed by NPR.

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Senior Producer


Maximum Fun Producer

Maximum Fun Production Fellow

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