Filmmaker Clyde Peterson unlocks Olympia band's past

Doctober screening of ‘Even Hell Has Its Heroes’ follows Earth's musical history
September 15, 2023 at 5:00 a.m.
Filmmaker Clyde Petersen, right, confers with Earth co-founder Dylan Carlson on the set of the documentary "Even Hell Has Its Heroes." The film will screen during the Doctober film festival, which begins Oct. 5 at the Pickford Film Center.
Filmmaker Clyde Petersen, right, confers with Earth co-founder Dylan Carlson on the set of the documentary "Even Hell Has Its Heroes." The film will screen during the Doctober film festival, which begins Oct. 5 at the Pickford Film Center. (Photo courtesy of Brian Ostrowski)

Staff Reporter

Unlike many of the 30-plus documentaries scheduled to screen during the annual Doctober festival, Clyde Petersen’s latest cinematic offering is firmly rooted in the Pacific Northwest.  

Shot entirely on Super 8 film over the course of five years, “Even Hell Has Its Heroes” is a music-filled, dreamlike documentary that takes a deep dive into the history of the band Earth, which started in Olympia in 1989. 

Known for being pioneers of “drone metal,” Earth’s songs are long, slow, guitar-heavy and intrinsically mesmerizing — something moviegoers will see and hear for themselves when the documentary airs Oct. 23 and Oct. 26 at the Pickford Film Center.

photo Earth frontman Dylan Carlson plays electric guitar during a tour stop. The film documents Carlson's longtime contribution to the band known for pioneering "drone metal." (Image courtesy of Clyde Petersen)  

Founded by guitarist Dylan Carlson and vocalist Slim Moon, many regional musicians and producers contributed their talents to Earth over the years, with Carlson being the mainstay. 

Petersen, a former Bellingham resident, tracked down many of the collaborators to get their take on how working with the band affected them. Their philosophies, memories and eccentricities are captured in full display. 

Petersen, 43, was the perfect person to document Earth. As a musician himself — and founder of the indie band Your Heart Breaks — the Seattle resident spent five years working with Earth as a manager, tour organizer, seller of merchandise, and all-around supporter. They trusted him, and he was familiar with the band’s dynamics. 

“I had a unique opportunity to work with them in a collaborative way because we had 10 years of trust between us,” Petersen said. “A lot of documentary work is opportunistic in dramatizing stories and not representing people the way they actually are. I worked really hard to make sure the band felt represented.”

Petersen said when he consulted with Carlson and longtime drummer Adrienne Davies before filming, they agreed that Petersen could ask them whatever he wanted, but the band was free to nix anything they felt went over the line. That didn’t happen. 

photo  Drummer Adrienne Davies, who's been with Earth since 2000, plays during a tour stop. (Image courtesy of Clyde Petersen)  

In the movie, Carlson talks openly about his past addiction to heroin and the effect it had on his career and life. 

The bandleader also details his close friendship with Nirvana co-founder Kurt Cobain, and the pain and grief he went through when Cobain killed himself with the shotgun Carlson had purchased for him — supposedly for protection. The scene isn’t sensationalistic, but it is emotional and raw.

Watching “Even Hell Has Its Heroes” is akin to time travel. Although it was shot in contemporary times, the grainy nature of Super 8 film makes it feel as if you’ve hitched a somewhat trippy ride on a road trip into the past. 

Plus, lingering shots of familiar Pacific Northwest landscapes, waterways, cityscapes and iconic landmarks such as the Space Needle and Kurt Cobain Memorial Park make it clear the physical place the band originated and expanded is part of its history. 

photo Former Earth collaborator Jonas Haskins rows a boat on Rattlesnake Lake using electric guitars for paddles. Filmmaker Clyde Petersen said the landscape in the documentary is used as a character in the film. (Image courtesy of Clyde Petersen)  

“The landscape is a character in this film very heavily,” Petersen confirmed. “It’s almost the main character. The wilderness that surrounds us in the northwest was essential to the story, for sure.” 

Starting at the tiny Wayside Chapel on Highway 2 and continuing at locales in Aberdeen, Anacortes, Port Townsend, the San Juan Islands, Seattle and other remote, forested spaces, Earth’s music is played throughout. It moves the action forward, yet rewinds it into the past.

That wasn’t a mistake. Petersen said by documenting the visual landscape of the northwest, he’s also preserving the places and spaces he filmed because they could be gone “in the blink of an eye.” 

As an independent filmmaker whose budget for the documentary came from his own credit card, Petersen said he doesn’t expect to make much money off “Even Hell Has Its Heroes.” But that’s not why he makes movies. 

“I continue to just be a working-class person who makes films with passion,” Petersen said. “I try not to think too hard what other people will think about the films I make. Hopefully, people will leave the theater with more questions, and follow their own curiosity.” 

Petersen will be present during one or more of the screenings of “Even Hell Has Its Heroes” taking place Oct. 23 and 26 at the Pickford Film Center, 1318 Bay St. Doctober takes place Oct. 5–26. Get the full lineup of movies in an insert inside the Sept. 15 print issue of CDN, or go to

Have a news tip? Email or Call/Text 360-922-3092



Register for email newsletters

* indicates required

Latest Stories

Sehome, Ferndale trade blows in hard-fought tie
Both teams come away disappointed with draw

Candidates hope to turn campaign dollars into votes
Executive Sidhu, council member Kershner are biggest fundraisers

How government shutdowns negatively impact the outdoor recreation economy
'Many people suffer from the gamesmanship of politicians thousands of miles away'

Getting ready for Bellingham Exit festival
Inaugural edition of multi-venue festival offers range of genres

With shutdown averted, funding available to Whatcom flood victims
Federal budget extension includes $16B for FEMA