One of Van Morrison’s great literary lines was from 1992’s “Why Must I Always Explain” – It’s just my job you know/And it’s no sweet Lorraine. It was his demystification of the music industry, taking it back from the realm of myth and tabloid stories.
Blooshoteye and 3 Mile Scream’s music is far removed from Van Morrison’s but they share the scars of the music world. Van was screwed out of money and song rights early in his career and held a complete distaste for music companies, going off to direct his own career. Much the same way, these bands are trying to direct their own careers against the crumbling infrastructure of the music business. And it's capture din the documentary Working Class Rock Star.
Star was filmed over a three-year period across the Great White North and followed three bands over a period of transition in their personal lives, their music careers, and the music business as a whole. The movie has no narration, instead letting the musicians and the visuals drive the narrative along. There are also interviews with more established musicians from bands like Lamb of God and GWAR. Everyone sings the same tune- the record companies screw over bands and it’s rarely a major moneymaking venture to go on tour.
There’s a point about 15 minutes into the movie where you wonder why any of these bands are doing what they do. It’s a valid question. This is not the jet-set of rock, these are the nine to fivers of the music world, the working class blue-collar bands that play at the rock clubs and bars across Canada (and by extension the US). But you get the sense that is, after all, the music that drives these bands.
It’s obviously not the money. Kevin Gibson, lead singer of Tub Ring says, “We’re so horribly in debt. It’s gonna be a while till we get out of it. We’re actually making money now at shows and merch, it’s just we’re so in debt, it’s kinda of a while before we crawl out of that hole. You can spend a lot of money on something you enjoy…I spend it on recording a CD and going on tour.” And getting the tracks down on a CD, while easier to do now with the proliferation of computer software is still not cheap. As stated in the movie, “Self financed- to get something decent it’s at least five grand. Five to ten grand.”
There was a great set of scenes where after the bands all talk about their various day jobs and financial wrangling; they talk about support from their families. With a couple exceptions, the bands’ families are extremely supportive. It was nice to see the normal family background of a lot of these musicians, far removed from the stereotypical broken-home back-story.
Rock Star is a good music documentary and should be essential viewing for any aspiring band. There were some things overlooked, namely the emergence of music downloading and the exposure from sites like MySpace and YouTube. But aside from those misses, it’s an accurate picture of the pitfalls of the music industry, and of bands shredding their way across the music world for themselves and the fans, businessmen be damned.Powered by Sidelines