Dig! – Previewed

Dig! Or how not to get ahead in the music business…

In 1995, Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s The Dandy Warhols were fast friends with Anton Newcombe and his band The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Set in and around the Portland scene, and on the road, Dig! (winner of the Documentary Grand Jury Prize at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival) is a story of friendship, professional rivalry and the different trajectories the pair would take.

Compiled from footage shot over a seven year period by filmmaker Ondi Timoner, essentially it amounts to  a car crash of a documentary (in a good way), chronicling the carnage-filled exploits of this pair of bands who seemed about to have it all. But on the verge of success, and when all around know you’re ‘the next big thing’, it seems there are only greater pitfalls awaiting you. And in the case of Newcombe and his band, those pitfalls can be very much your own making.

Timoner expertly captures the remarkably different paths the two bands eventually follow as they, initially at least, ride an upward spiral of acclaim and record company attention together. The bands are in many ways like alter-egos of each other, but while The Brian Jonestown Massacre are the first to garner major label interest, it would be the Dandy’s – whose work ethic and ear for a hit marks them out – walking away with the deal.

From a starting point where Newcombe declares: “We’re really good friends … we’ve got a full-scale revolution going on”, it doesn’t take too long for cracks to begin to show. None more so than when, on his way over to Capitol Records, Taylor sits with Newcombe and plays him the finished cut of Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth.

Newcombe attempts to mask his deep envy with bile about ‘selling out’, but you can’t fail to spot the lengths of his devastation at not having written anything like as catchy a tune. Having said that, it’s not like the Dandy Warhols have ever been ones to miss out on an opportunity, never mind the vodaf*ne-sized compromise.

From here-on-in, Newcombe’s finger is constantly hovering over the big red self destruct button: label interest comes and goes as his relationship with Taylor and the band becomes increasingly fraught. Taylor, who narrates the film, probably puts it best when he says: “Anton is by far the craziest and most talented musician I’d ever met … Anton is my friend and my enemy, the greatest inspiration and ultimately the greatest regret.”

Sure it helps if you’re a fan of the bands in this movie, but if you’re interested in the dichotomies at play in the shady world of the music industry, this is as direct a line as you’re going to get as a member of the audience. A must see.

Dig! Monday 22nd October 6.30pm @ FACT

Posted on 10/10/2012 by thedoublenegative