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Pat Spurgeon & Jim Granato

Subject and director of D Tour discuss the anatomy of making a rock 'n' roll film about kidney failure

The annals of rock history are filled with tales of behind-the-scenes debauchery, but it’s unlikely any of them involve backstage kidney dialysis. In the spring of 2006, Rogue Wave drummer Pat Spurgeon did just that, performing twice-daily dialysis on himself as he continued touring. Spurgeon’s journey through the American health-care system—he was on a six-year waiting list for a new kidney—is the subject of D Tour, a new documentary from San Francisco filmmaker, and Spurgeon’s longtime friend, Jim Granato. Decider spoke with both men about their history of collaboration and why they chose to make D Tour.

Decider: You two go pretty far back.

Jim Granato: A little more than 10 years. He and I are from the same town, Bloomington, Ind., but we didn’t know each other personally back then. In 1997, I had just moved to San Francisco and ran into Pat at the Kilowatt. I recognized him from a few bands back in Bloomington and introduced myself. We had a lot of mutual friends and hit it off right away.

D: And you’ve recorded some music together.

JG: I was making films that nobody saw, and he scored a couple of those. And we actually recorded a 7-inch together that nobody ever bought. He was called the Phantom Drummer and I was called The Static. I have about 200 of those records left, and I’m thinking about selling them at the film fest. How often do you go to a film where the subject and the director have a split 45?

Pat Spurgeon: Every musician wants to have something on vinyl. It’s pretty funny that we have been sitting on them for almost 10 years. 

D: Jim, did you know back in the day that Pat had a kidney transplant when he was in his mid-20s?

JG: I remember hearing about his first transplant back in Bloomington, before I knew him. He never talked about it. When I met him, it was about three or four years into that kidney, and another 10 years before he called to tell me he had to get a second transplant.

D: And that call spurred the project?

JG: It started because of our friendship. Pat wanted to make a short film demonstrating what he had to do with dialysis.

PS: At that time, Rogue Wave was doing a lot of touring. I wanted to show people that the kind of dialysis that I was able to do, peritoneal, allows people to lead an active lifestyle. 

D: What was the band’s reaction when you wanted to continue touring?

PS: Their reaction was to take care of myself first of all. But the doctors told me that it wouldn’t be a problem to tour if I was very careful. So we went back out on the road.

JG: For Pat, there was no other option. The idea of there being “no backup plan” became something of a motto for us. All of the members of the band are smart guys, and they’re all really there for each other. Zach [Rogue, vocalist] says in the film that you have to live like a family. 

D: When did this morph from a little inspirational video into a full-length documentary?

PS: When I found out that [deceased Rogue Wave bassist Evan Farrell’s wife] Jill wasn’t a match. I obviously had no idea how everything was going to turn out.

JG: Pat knew there were other people willing to step forward, but he was facing a one-in-20 chance of finding a donor that was a match. You could hear that from a mile away.

D: How did the second transplant compare with the first?

PS: The thing that hit me the hardest this time around was that they actually told me that the donor was a 19-year-old young man. I can still remember when I was 19. This kid never got a chance to even leave home. I didn’t know anything about my first donor. Back then, I was just thinking, “Put it in and move on.” Also, now I absolutely know this is going to happen repeatedly and that this kidney will wear out and I’ll have to do this again and again.

D Tour screens May 1 at 9 p.m., May 4 at 3:15 p.m., and May 7 at 5:15 p.m. at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival. General admission tickets are $12.50 and can be purchased here.