By Zak Rye. Between low-brow and no-brow, this is unCultured, where we attempt to shed a new light on some of our favorite misunderstood and often overlooked films. In this edition, we pour ourselves a handful of whiskeys and comb through Ondi Timoner’s massively ambitious documentary, DIG! Dig?

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Although its story is artfully woven from topics including camaraderie, drug abuse, fame, bloody fights, jail time, and rivalry, for all intents and purposes, DIG! does indeed fall into the category of “rockumentary” and includes everything we’ve come to expect from the unfortunately named genre.

Ondi Timoner astutely catalogs the rise and fall of her featured musicians, the complexity and viciousness of the music industry, and the struggle between artist and sell-out. Regardless of her hitting the figurative nail on the head, DIG! manages to transcend the standard format of your average Dylan or Beatles documentary. This of course is somewhat due to the fact that Timoner shot over 1500 hours of footage, documenting the unstable relationship inside of and between two bands, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols. Once eleven (or more) peas in a drug and ego fueled pod, the seven-year span of the film records the two bands’ shifting into destructively polarizing directions.

During an opening montage that quite possibly makes me actually happier than a pig in shit each and every time I watch it, we are introduced to the members of the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols. At the helm of the BJM is the intoxicatingly insane savant, Anton Newcombe. Drawing from an incalculable variety of influences, the Brian Jonestown Massacre literally sounds like 3 or 4 different yet still amazing bands. In contrast, we have the pop-driven and, as much as I may hate to admit, more accessible Dandy Warhols, led by Courtney Taylor. Taylor, who may have invented the “duck face”, also serves as the narrator for the film, a move that many critics feel subtracts from the unbiased approach that is often the cornerstone of a well structured documentary.

dig02While the film certainly focuses and benefits largely on the tumultuous relationship between nearly every member of both bands, specifically the BJM, the unavoidable fact remains that nearly every one of Timoner’s subjects have spoken out against the film, claiming a complete lack of authenticity. While it’s not necessarily surprising, given that both bandleaders come off as, well, assholes (and numerous times, I might add), it is saddening to hear claims that Timoner actually set up some of the more interesting segments of DIG! She, of course, denies this and it’s hard not to believe that Taylor and Newcomb simply didn’t like what they saw in the figurative mirror.

Regardless of it’s questionable validity, DIG! does succeed at unfolding a veritable how-to guide of how to not make it in the music industry. Though we do see the Dandy Warhols achieve a fairly haut level of fame by the end of the film, they stray extremely far from their roots, swapping sweat and grit for champagne and glitter. The BJM comes out of the other end of DIG! in shambles, with no one but a drug addicted and psychotically paranoid Anton left to carry the torch. (Still, the band continued on with new members and record sales sky rocketed after the release of the documentary.)

Though a gigantic amount of film was shot, this, for better or worse, was the story that left the editing room. Members of both bands, especially Anton, refute the depiction of “this band made it and this band didn’t” or “this sold out and this band didn’t”. What is undeniably true, at least in our humble eyes, is that Timoner captured a rare and invaluable moment that we all have, hopefully, experienced at one time that is impossible to recreate and equally unfeasible to comprehend. When creativity, friendship, inspiration, and motivation flows freely like water from the tap and everything seems like it’s going to work out wonderfully, more times than not, that moment is short lived, and our own unique desires, dysfunctions, and necessities destroy the perfect microcosm we briefly posses. Regardless of what “really happened”, DIG! shows us this phenomena in flawless order.


Five things about DIG! that Jarrod and I have discussed at length for years now:

5) There’s a Brian Jonestown Massacre tribute band in California named Peoples Faces, and they’re really good. The name comes from the scene in DIG! in which Anton, after the infamous Viper Room brawl is asked, “where’s that blood from?” and responds…

4) The remaining 1498 hours of footage was slated to be used for an MTV series, and while it rated insanely high with focus groups, the network deemed the majority of the footage to be un-air-able and it never saw the light of day.

3) The form of the Brian Jonestown Massacre during the film was not the original band, nor has any formation been since. The BJM has rotated through a staggering amount of members since it’s inception, always with Anton at the lead. Many former members have gone on to form such notable groups as Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Out Crowd, The Warlocks, and (though we cannot verify this but Wiki tells us it’s true) our good friend’s former band Siddhartha, a somewhat short-lived and amazing Detroit based psychrock project.

2) The members of both the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols often reference the Oasis and Blur rivalry throughout the film and it comes as no surprise that the BJM preferred Oasis and the Warhols dug Blur, at least according to massive amount of interviews I scoured through.

1) Because it seems to be the main thing people walk away from after watching DIG! on the topic of the BJM vs the Dandy Warhols… we at DoomRocket are in the Brian Jonestown Massacre camp all fucking day. Sorry, 15-year-old British girls, the Dandy Warhols haven’t been good since they recorded their first album way in 1995, the one that you’ve never heard. (“Dandys Rule, OK”. Look it up.)