Welcome to The Machine
directed by Andres Steinkogler
starring The New Vitamin
Who doesn’t want to be a rock star? Sex, drugs, limo rides, the excitement of a sold-out arena show, piles of cash…
About that last one — fortune is achieved only after years of bands touring themselves senseless and getting worked over by the labels. That, and learning the hard way that rock and roll has little to do with good intentions or well-tuned instruments, and much more to do with style, image, and clever promotion. This is show business, not podiatry. The star of this brutal documentary is five-piece Viennese band The New Vitamin. They sport a DJ, a dream, and no more (or less) skill than any other group. Dozens of other bands appear in this film and toss off pithy advice. There was a guy from The Bloodhound Gang advising to form a band with people you hate, because you will hate your band members after five years, and why lose your friends? The film also offers twelve rules to stardom that feel ambiguous, but compact, and include: image is more important than skill, a band name can make or break you (“10,000 Leagues Under My Nutsack” is on my Hot 100), and opening acts actually realize they suck.
Zippy quotes from stars separate the sad stories. Brian Wilson advises against “Licking the lollipop of mediocrity,” Kurt Cobain is amazed you would go to the trouble of forming a band to get laid, and the rock critic of Major German Daily disses promo texts as tedious and identical. I have to agree on that point; last spring I got some heavy-duty promo advice from a semi-famous Manchester DJ. It involved Facebook analytics and Twitter, but after all was said and done I still had the same six readers. The New Media is more noise and less content than the Golden Age of TV. You can tweet me on that.
This doc is very Euro-centric, with most of the interviews in German with subtitles. The advice is about as raw and close-to-the-bone as anything you’ll get from a Dummies guide or your own press agent. I cover plenty of albums from rock to techno to jazz to chill, and I can assure you, there are more great bands out there than you can shake a stick at, and frankly I can’t tell them apart. See this film, send me your promo, and I’ll give you 200 slightly positive words, but I do that about twice a week. I know you can’t be talked out of this insanity, so I wish you well, have fun while you can, make some noise, and remember what daddy told you: learn a trade, (and that ain’t playing bass).