UNDERGROUND INC: THE RISE & FALL OF ALTERNATIVE ROCK

Years ago I met another film review blogger, Shaun Katz was his name. He wrote on the Orble network I started my stupidly long blogging journey on. There was a little group of us that shared somewhat similar tastes in movies and occasionally music. From patchy AF memory Shaun may have wrote a few movie reviews for Salty back in the day and had a strong desire to make his own documentary on the Alternative Rock Scene. My personal music tastes at the dawn of alternative rock varied from Bros (haha) to Nirvana but if it wasn’t commercial I was oblivious. I can claim to have seen Nirvana twice however haha.

Shaun continued on his journey and passion and I occasionally heard a thing from himself or mutual friends that he was still working on it. Not long after this a new Kernel joined the Salty Cob, his name was Andrew Brusentsev and from the second I met him he received all invites to movies that were about music and bands, the more obscure the better. His weekend Facebook is still to this day all about alternative rock concerts I had no idea existed and yet this underground scene has continued and thrives if you know where to look.

For more information on the film and to see all the festivals screening it and the awards it is winning head to the website HERE.

Andrew and Shaun had met online in the past and when I heard that Shaun’s film was ready to view I had to remove Andrew from moth balls and ask him to review the film – it was like Bacon and Eggs – a match made in heaven.

From all of us at Salty Popcorn we wish you a world of congratulations on following your dream and reaching them goals and exceeding them Shaun – UNDERGROUND INC: THE RISE & FALL OF ALTERNATIVE ROCK is a film to be proud of and an inspiration to other filmmakers out there to follow your dreams at nearly all costs!

Enjoy Andrew’s review of Shaun’s film……..all the best…….Salty.

Underground Inc Jawbox image
Jawbox

BY ANDREW BRUSENTSEV

UNDERGROUND INC: THE RISE & FALL OF ALTERNATIVE ROCK SYNOPSIS:

I went along to UNDERGROUND INC: THE RISE & FALL OF ALTERNATIVE ROCK, which made its debut feature documentary at the Sydney Underground Film Festival, a couple of weeks back. It is the debut feature documentary / labour of love of Sydney’s own Shaun Katz, a friend of Salty Popcorn who we have known for a few years now.

A project which he openly admits he thought he would never finish. Taking close to 5 years to get to even thinking about showing it to others.  It is an interview style documentary which features candid interviews with members of Cop Shoot Cop, White Zombie, Corrosion of Conformity, Queens Of The Stone Age, Primus, Bad Religion, Ministry, Helmet, Fishbone, Clutch and legendary sound engineer / producer Steve Albini.

The Rise and Fall of Underground Music image
The Rise and Fall of Underground Music

NIRVANA DIDN’T KICKSTART A REVOLUTION ALONE:

Whilst Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Red Hot Chili Peppers became the sound of the 90s generation and household names living the rock ‘n roll dream, there was another side, a darker, but also perhaps a far more interesting, side. You see these bands didn’t just exist in a vacuum, and Nirvana surely didn’t just kickstart the revolution out of nothing.

Katz, perhaps with his experiences of managing a record store, became very familiar with some of the “other” defining sounds of the 90s, and he implores the viewer to cast their mind back or experience for the first time another side to the rise and fall of alternative rock.

Underground Inc Helmet image
Helmet

A TECHNICAL WONDER:

Through the interview medium it seeks to find the answer as to why these bands were elevated above the throng and then just as quickly discarded often owing record companies massive amounts of debt. The interviewees speak honestly and candidly about their experiences in the post Nirvana goldrush, where it seemed that any and every band who could walk upright and play even a rudimentary chord were being handed piles of cash to record their art.

Katz, to his credit, allows the interviewees do the talking and steering of the narrative. This works far better than an interviewer’s voice or the dreaded overdub of a detached narrative. Rather, in between interviews, he chooses to use excellent animations (crafted fanzine like by the talented J.B Sapienza) and live music clips to stitch it all together. This technique works beautifully, and once you settle into the oft-times breakneck pacing, really suits the style and editing decisions that Katz is trying to make.

Underground Inc Farside image
Farside

SHAUN KATZ’S REMARKABLE LABOUR OF LOVE:

The feel that Katz has for both the subject and the interviewees is telling. You can tell that it was a labour of love. In our post movie Q&A Katz related that he spent two months in TWENTY THREE US cities catching all of the interviewees in their places of residence. This really adds to the laid back and open and honest feel.

Perhaps displaying my own personal biases, the movie really hits its straps when interviewing Walter A. Kibby from Fishbone, David Wyndorf from Monster Magnet and Steve Albini, who are completely unfiltered giving both the industry, themselves and other bands both barrels. After all, with all we know about the music industry and record companies how did some of these acts think things would end any differently?

To double down on this the overarching thread Katz shows that this is not a new story of bands breaking themselves apart because of ego or drugs or both, it has happened before and more than likely will happen again. The portrait he paints of disconnected record companies not really understanding or taking their time to understand the artists they signed is also not new. They would lie, cheat, steal, cajole and threaten to make “Nirvana dollars.” When signings didn’t get the millions of record sales studios would discard them like a used Kleenex and move on to the next “big thing.”

Underground Inc Billy from Biohazard image
Billy from Biohazard

Although the movie paints a dark picture of what transpired it doesn’t feel or end that way.

The fact that bands like Helmet, The Jesus Lizard, Corrosion of Conformity and the criminally underrated Cop Shoot Cop are still talked about is due to their incredible vision, incendiary genius of their live acts. In fact many bands lived through these crushing record company residual debts and their own personal problems (often ego and drug use) and are enjoying resurgent careers. With music sharing apps and music in the cloud it seems a new generation of fans are beginning to discover these raw uncompromising gems. Some bands such as Clutch in fact are having more success than ever before. Learning from their experiences that perhaps now with all the technologies we have there is no need for publicists, agents and expensive music studios. It all can be done on your own.

IN CONCLUSION:

UNDERGROUND INC: THE RISE AND FALL OF ALTERNATIVE ROCK is incredible. It is one of the best music documentaries on the music of the 90s I have ever seen. I would not hesitate to say it is mandatory viewing for any music fan. Now let me go put on my Melvin’s t-shirt and crank The Jesus Lizard until the neighbours complain.

YOUR CRITIC:

When asked what is good in life? Kernel Andrew will tell you film, music and beer is all you need. Equal parts Star Wars fanboy, sci-fi nerd, horror head, comic book tragic and Playstation fanatic. You can find him ranting on these things and others on his twitter feed @abrusentsev

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.