A first-year volunteer at IN-EDIT, I am also the new coordinator of the Dutch edition’s Fanzine.
What a first-year it has been, am I right? Not only has the pandemic caused changes and postponements for us, but I have also relocated across the continent right in the midst of it all. After spending 6 years in Amsterdam (originally moving there from Brooklyn, NYC), I am now based in Bucharest, Romania – making it here mere days before the two countries cut off travel with each other! Under quarantine and then a state of emergency, I’ve had a lot of time to watch and think about some of my favorite films and documentaries. TBH, I think I watch too much of everything – series, films, docs, videos, (publishing seasonal print documentary magazine Modern Times Review also plays a role in this) and most of the time I have a hard time recalling “my favorite” lists like this. So, here I drew on some films that came to mind around interests that I have had, or that have played some kind of role in my cultural development. As a long time member of the electronic music community, and as a general troublemaker, I think the following 3 films (+ some added suggestions) start to paint a pretty clear picture about where my interests lie and why on earth I am the way that I am 😀
So, here they are. I hope to see everyone in Amsterdam (travel permitting) at the next IN-EDIT NL!
Satan Rides the Media (dir. Torstein Grude) – 1997
Though now a shell of its former self, the Scandinavian Black Metal scene of the early 1990s is undoubtedly one of the most brutal musical counter cultures to ever exist. I was first introduced to the scene via the infamous 1993 Kerrang! Magazine article, developing something of a fascination with its main players: Varg, Burzum, Eronymous, et. al. Since that article, Satan Rides the Media became the genre’s first, and ultimate, visual documentation. Covering the infamous Norwegian band Mayhem, and the various actions, activities, and repercussions of its peripheral members, Satan Rides the Media documents the rise of a subculture that changed the trajectory of Heavy Metal forever. It was also a primary inspiration for the controversial 1998 book (and recent narrative film adaptation), Lords of Chaos, which undoubtedly brought the mythos of Scandinavian Black Metal into the mainstream.
Further Viewing: Until the Light Takes Us (dir. Aaron Aites, Audrey Ewell) is a much more accessible, and well-known, documentary on essentially the same subject matter (released in 2008).
The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (dir. Penelope Spheeris) – 1988
Penelope Spheeris’ The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years may be the best visual documentation of Rock & Roll debauchery ever committed to film. The middle edition of a trilogy that covers Punk Rock (Part 1) and Gutter Punk (Part 3), it is a snapshot of a bygone era where being a rockstar meant more than just music, but a lifestyle. Of course, this was a lifestyle fueled by sex, drugs, and alcohol, rather than the clicks, likes, and views of today. The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years followed some of the era’s most popular glam rock bands: KISS, Megadeth, Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, Motorhead, Aerosmith, to name but a few. However, in a film with many memorable moments from such legendary artists, it may be the WASP frontman Chris Holmes’ infamous vodka-in-the-pool scene that is the film’s most enduring sequence and the clearest definition of the Rock & Roll mentality of yesterday.
Further Viewing: Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies (dir. Todd Philips). Todd Phillips (of Joker fame) came to prominence as a director with this no-holds-barred look at one of punk rock’s most controversial figures. Not of the same genre as The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, but another effective peer into the world of the bygone Rock & Roll lifestyle.
If I Think of Germany At Night (dir. Romuald Karmakar) – 2017
Many electronic music documentaries focus on the sensory barrage associated with the genre – think flashing lights, saturated colors, quick edits. Here, director Romauld Karmakar takes a different, more meditative approach in his 2017 documentary, If I Think of Germany At Night. Its opening shot, a multi-minute long take or enigmatic Chilean-German DJ Ricardo Villalobos (himself the center of Karmaker’s eponymous, and extremely rare, 2009 documentary), sets the pace where quiet observation juxtaposes with sweaty raves. Aside from Villalobos, the film follows four more German electronic pioneers – Sonja Moonear, Ata, Roman Flügel, Move D – to document a scene very much in transition, where some of its primary figures grapple with its rising profile while maintaining their own artistic independence.
Further Viewing: Better Living Through Circuitry (dir. Jon Reiss) is a 1998 documentary with a more UK/US focus. Widely considered the first feature-length documentary on the electronic music genre, it follows the likes of Moby, BT, The Crystal Method, DJ Keoki, Carl Cox, and Frankie Bones in an early look at the foundations of rave culture.
– Steve Rickinson