Dig!

There are moments where you are drawn to compare Dig with that other great rockumentary, This is Spinal Tap. Except that this is no spoof.

 

 

This film is amazing.

 

I'm not a big fan of the Dandy Warhols and I knew nothing about the Brian Jonestown Massacre when I went to the cinema, but that didn't matter. You might be aware that the film has these two bands to supply the characters and the story, but you can still enjoy it as a great watch without being a fan of either band. In case you don't know, "Dig" was filmed over a seven-year period and follows the careers of both bands; documenting the rise of the Dandy Warhols and – by contrast - the rather static career path of the BJM.

 

Originally the film maker Ondi Timoner wanted to film ten bands from Los Angeles for one year apiece, just to see which of them played the record industry game the best. Then she met Anton, the main force behind the BJM and he effectively took over the project. You can see why: he's an amazing character and in 1995 he had such belief that he and his aquaintances would cause a musical revolution that you could be forgiven for thinking, “How did I miss this lot?”

 

He and the Dandy Warhols were already in contact with each other during the period that covers the start of the filming. At this stage the Dandys are part of Anton's coven - we see them regularly joining each other on stage during BJM sets. Then, suddenly, everything goes right for the Dandy Warhols: they sign to a major record label, release Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth (Anton doesn't react at all when Courtney plays it to him to get his judgement) and, despite slow sales in the US, explode in Europe. The Brian Jonestown Massacre then seem to willfully throw away every opportunity they make for themselves: Anton in particular looks determined to destroy the system from without. He also is seen to resent the success of his friends (although he claims to be engineering a feud to get press coverage).

 

It’s funny stuff. No, actually, it’s hilarious.

 

There are moments where you are drawn to compare "Dig" with that other great rockumentary, "This is Spinal Tap". Except that this is no spoof. An awfully cruel, obviously unintentional humour comes from the unlikeliest sources; the name of the BJM album is one good example - and dialogue that you couldn't ever imagine being written, let alone being accepted for any film script. Some of the scenes are beyond parody too. Anton brawling with the rest of the band just 2 bars into the opening number of an industry showcase gig provides one of the standout moments for me.

 

You don't like the sound of that? Okay then, how about Anton rollerblading out of his hotel room, wearing a ludicrous white fur hat, to distribute copies of his latest single Not If I Was the Last Dandy on Earth... outside a Dandy Warhols gig. Genius. However I sometimes felt a little uncomfortable watching Anton, almost in a voyeuristic way. He must be a musical genius, judging by the reaction that he provokes in people, but there's a clear blurring of that line between genius and madness. A character that you can laugh at without feeling a twinge of guilt is is Joel: the tambourine player of the BJM. Like all of rock’s best characters, the man looks like a freak of the highest order.

 

I'd most definitely love to have a lost weekend with him. He’s often seen sporting the most ridiculous facial hair, oversized sunglasses and is clearly in this band for the ride. What a ride. Go and see this film. You won't learn anything: we all know major labels suck but make you rich, we all know that genius and madness are twin brothers and we all know that rock stars, however big or small, believe their own press. You will have a great time, however.

 

This film is amazing.

 

 Words: Chris Gibson