photo manipulation by nacrowe
throughout all the past memoirs i've read regarding musicians since starting this blog, there always seems to be this crossing of the rubicon moment when fame hits. its a transitional moment where a new kind of pressure is introduced and musicians have to deal with their altered public profile in terms of their FAMILY, PEERS and ADMIRERS. DIG! (INTERLOPER, 2005) is a documentary that is very much about that period of transition and the potential brutal aftermath of having SUCCESS.
the film follows two tight-knit bands THE DANDY WARHOLS and THE BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE as they navigate the 90s underground INDIE ROCK scene together. THE DANDY WARHOLS are very much in the vein of SHOEGAZE and ALTERNATIVE ROCK with a decidedly heroin-chic look and bohemian flair that belies their names obvious reference. they very much come off as a knowing nod of the hat to all the better eras of rock history, recalling THE VELVET UNDERGROUND, THE ROLLING STONES and even concurrent INDIE ROCK bands such as THE BREEDERS. THE BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE is basically the vehicle for songwriter / multi-instrumentalist ANTON NEWCOMBE, who takes the hero worship one extra level and singlehandedly recreates the feel of 1960s PSYCHEDELIA but puts his own authentic twist on it. he is the resident genius of the two bands, both fully acknowledging such.
what marks this film is the dissolution of this once intimate, supporting relationship between the two bands. this is the result of both NEWCOMBE's DRUG ABUSE, ABUSIVE BEHAVIOR and ultimately, his unreliability. THE DANDY WARHOLS on the other hand are probably more careerist and have a more streamlined sound which ultimately gets them courted by major labels and ends with them signing to CAPITOL RECORDS. for NEWCOMBE and THE BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE this is a betrayal of their INDIE ROCK ideals and DIY sensibilities. both bands take shots at each other in their music and things just devolve.
much like the documentary film HYPE! (HELVEY-PRAY, 1996) was about the SEATTLE ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s dealing with COMMERCIAL VIABILITY and the consequences of that on the purity of their scene, this film deals with the same situation except in a more direct, face-to-face dynamic.
ultimately its a strange thing to question AUTHENTICITY in music. GENE SIMMONS once said that "everyone is in the KISS business" and he was right. everyone is monetizing off their image ultimately. everyone is being marketed. i suppose it is the level of control that you give up on the way to gaining major distribution from a record label. to them you are an investment and in order to have it pay off they present their roster in a certain manner. but i dont know, even back then i felt the PUNK ROCK police attitude towards music was pretty simplistic and ultimately counterproductive.
now the whole argument seems naive and a waste of time since in the age of MOBILE DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY with video and streaming platforms at everyone's disposal on their phone(!) the compromise necessary for DISTRIBUTION doesn't exist. now record labels are just brand names that raise your public profile in a flooded market. watching this documentary now is almost an act of NOSTALGIA for a less complicated time when lines that divided music where more well-defined.
its the wild west now and basically everyone would make THE DANDY WARHOLS decision if asked. NEWCOMBE is an anachronism.
great classic documentary dealing with PUNK ROCK guilt. required viewing.