The beginning of the film takes places in San Francisco, with Anton Newcombe and the rest of the guys, captured during Ondi Timoner’s initial visit, where she’d met the band for the first time. This had been arranged in the process of The Cut – a would-have-been project which involved Timoner looking into ten different bands near to being signed. On meeting the Brian Jonestown Massacre, frontman Anton Newcombe had asked her to go check out the Dandy Warhols. ‘I’d like you to check out the Dandy Warhols, we’re gonna start a revolution together’ – which was said to Timoner after their gig in San Francisco.
On meeting the Dandy Warhols, she found what the project should have been all about, and this formula, or chemistry that the two bands share is constantly visible, from the start of the whole project to the end. Two bands who couldn’t care less about the industry, but one – the Dandy Warhols – who had the luck, and maybe the smarts and attitude to find a clear outlet. For Timoner, this was ideal and the documentary goes from there. She would end up following the two bands for seven years, with no way of knowing where the 1500 hours of footage her crew gathered would take them. The previous project with the ten bands was dropped. According to the director, the whole thing had been messed up by MTV after she’d sent it to them anyway.
This was a story about music and business, art and marketing and whatever other contrasts you feel necessary to be drawn into this industry. The two bands are perfect, in a sense, to capture what it takes and how it feels to sell your art and the ironies that emerge out of the whole process. After Newcombe had made his adamant statement about his musical revolution, Timoner had initially believed him – while both his music and his attitude had pointed towards his prediction coming true. The first three years of filming were intense, while Brian Jonestown looked like the next big thing and a huge step in the music world. Somewhere down the line, his determination not to ‘sell out’ to the major record labels or follow their rules – like he believed the Dandy Warhols had done, combined with his self-destructive nature, his arrogance and endless demons, started to distance the revolution more and more, while both Timoner and Newcombe started to come to terms with it.
Added to this, while it started as a kind of Brian Jonestown Massacre and Dandy Warhols film, it turned into the Brian Jonestown Massacre VS the Dandy Warhols six months into filming. The relationship between Newcombe and Warhols lead, Courtney Taylor turned rough – despite the fact that Taylor hailed Newcombe as a kind of musical God, and considered BJM his absolute idols.
There were times throughout the whole period that were difficult to watch, like Newcombe’s heroin period. The filmmaker has announced that she found herself unable to enjoy filming some moments, though both bands insisted that she didn’t hesitate. Seven years, and the Dandy Warhols found a way in and a certain amount of success, while they were not necessarily ‘selling out’ as the phrase goes, but finding their way in and around the industry to find a way to get the message they wanted across. Anton Newcombe – writing twelve albums, struggling with heroin, fighting with fans and seeing his band dissipate slowly – never broke through like everybody thought he would and whose legacy serves as the perfect example of a great talent which could have been much more.
And so Dig! wasn’t simply a documentary going into the story and the music of two bands. I always knew their music quite well in that I’d listened to most of their albums and I owned a few – I always thought Brian Jonestown were brilliant, despite the fact that I’d left them relatively uncovered. I wanted to get deeper into the band and know more about where they came from. Their influences were fairly obvious, you just need to listen to their music. They don’t hide it either. An original band combined with a pastiche of the greatest rock ’n’ roll bands of all time. But watching the film, it slowly dawned on me that I was watching a strangely tragic and devastating story of talent, disillusion and self-destruction.
Dig! at IMDb
Dig! at Rotten Tomatoes
Dig! at Wikipedia
The Brian Jonestown Massacre at Wikipedia
The Brian Jonestown Massacre official website at brianjonestownmassacre.com
The Dandy Warhols at Wikipedia
The Dandy Warhols official website at dandywarhols.com
Mapplethorpe by Ondi Timoner at Unsung Films
Search Unsung Films for “Ondi Timoner”