The Dandy Warhols' Peter Holmstrom talks DIG!
The Grand Jury Prize Winner from 2004's Sundance Film Festival is finally arriving on DVD this coming April 12th. DIG!, featuring the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols, is an infectious documentary that rips sh*t-holes in the viewer's heart; from its opening seam to it last little shred of dignity. There have been a lot of rock-centric exposes making a scene lately. Most notably Metallica's Some Kind of Monster and the Ramones career wrap-up The End of the Century. But for sheer, endless, entertainment value, DIG! stands alone as the must see movie of the bunch.
Endless on-stage brawls and a bizarre courtship between two talented musicians highlight this 7 year journey through the rock'n' roll underbelly of Portland, Oregon. The film itself was culled from 1500 hours of footage, and it chronicles the parallel lives of Anton A Newcombe of the Brian Jonestown Massacre and Courtney Taylor-Taylor of the Dandy Warhols. One career skyrockets, while the other plummets into unhealthy obscurity. Yet, they seem destined for each other, and share a scary obsession that breaks any sort of discontent.
It's the type of film you don't want to take your eyes off for a second.
B. Alan Orange recently called Peter Holmstrom (also known as Peter Loew after adopting the maiden name of his wife), guitar player for The Dandy Warhols and co-star of DIG!, up for a chat. Peter didn't answer the phone right away, but he eventually called back. Here's what he had to say about the film and his band:
Peter Holmstrom: Hey, this is Peter from the Dandy Warhols. Did you just call me?
O: Yeah, this is B. Alan. I'm supposed to interview you for Movieweb.
Holmstrom: Cool. I was doing another interview. Sorry I didn't answer the phone.
O: That's alright. They told me you might be a few minutes.
Holmstrom: Is now good?
O: Yeah, if it's good with you.
Holmstrom: It's fine.
O: Are you still in Portland? Is that where you guys live?
Holmstrom: Yeah, we're based here. I can't see us ever leaving.
O: Were you guys living in LA? I couldn't tell from the movie, but it looked like you were down here for a little bit.
Holmstrom: We used to be down there all the time. We lived in hotels for what seemed like months.
O: For people that aren't familiar with the film, or the two bands it's based around, can you tell me what you personally feel the movie is about?
Holmstrom: Beyond the rivalry, and being about two bands starting off, I think it's a snapshot of what goes on in reality. Behind the lives of a lot of bands. A lot of people just don't know that. I think it's interesting in that respect.
O: Did you get a chance to see this in an actual movie theater, or just on home video?
Holmstrom: I did see it in a theater, yes.
O: Which do you prefer? Watching yourself on the big screen, or watching an audience from the stage?
Holmstrom: I prefer playing live. I guess, watching the audience is preferable. The whole seeing myself on a screen in a movie theater…I saw it twice. One time I was seated with people I didn't know, and it was very uncomfortable. I didn't like the fact that they were all laughing at things that I didn't think were funny. They were laughing at things I thought were sad. The other time I saw it was in Portland, and I was with a huge group of friends. That was completely different. That was alright.
O: What theater did they play it at in Portland? Was it at the Koin building?
Holmstrom: No, it was at Cinema 21.
O: What were some of the things that the audience found funny; that you didn't think were particularly humorous?
Holmstrom: A lot of stuff with Anton. When he was getting so messed up on smack. And doing odd things, or violent things.
O: I've got to say, I laughed the first time a fight broke out between Anton and his band mates on stage. But before watching the film I wasn't too familiar with the Brian Jonestown Massacre.
Holmstrom: I've seen that footage enough that it just saddens me, beyond…I don't know. I never really found it funny. Even though it is in a way.
O: This was seven years of your life, right?
O: I know you didn't have anything to do with the editing, but I watched the film early this morning, and one of the things that I noticed was that there really isn't a timeline set within the film. Do you think that's on purpose? They don't really go through what year it is and when.
Holmstrom: I defiantly think that's on purpose. Just to make the film flow better. Also, they took footage from later shows; that was maybe better than the actual year it was shot.
O: They mixed it up?
Holmstrom: I know that the timeline skips around a lot from what actually took place. Most people don't know that.
O: It seems like such a short span of time, even though the film chronicles seven years. Was it hard to watch the first time?
Holmstrom: The first time I saw it, I think it was a rough edit. And it was…A relief actually, that I came off better than I thought I was going to. I said a lot of things to the camera over the years that I now wish I hadn't. And a lot of that stuff didn't make it into the actual film.
O: Where there things that you wish you hadn't done?
Holmstrom: No, just things I wish I hadn't said. About people. You have the camera following you around for so long, you just get so comfortable with it; you start saying things to the person and not to the camera. Things you don't want, that shouldn't actually exist in a hard form. For years and years and years. They're supposed to get said, and then go away. But with film, that stuff gets captured. And I'm glad it didn't get used.
O: Is it hard to watch this as entertainment? When I watched it, it was for entertainment. But you're so close to everything that happened in the film; you're so involved in it. Is it impossible to even watch it as a piece of entertainment at this point?
Holmstrom: No. I can't. I can watch it for nostalgic reasons. Entertainment? Not realty. It's just too close.
O: Has the success of the film helped or hindered the band in any way?
Holmstrom: It's really hard to say. We haven't toured or put out an album since it came out. It's nice that there's this chunk of press and interest in the band while we're between records, but we'll only be able to tell when the new record comes out.
O: Are you guys still at Capitol Records? I couldn't really tell from the film. That part got kind of lost on me.
Holmstrom: Yeah, we're still on Capitol. We have two more records on our contract with them.
O: Do you know what happened to Anton? That part of the film was a little hazy.
Holmstrom: Yeah, it is. He's doing great, actually. He's put out at least two records since that film came out. He's toured constantly. He's toured Australia and England. And I believe he's allowed to see his son now.
O: Yeah, at the end of the movie they said he wasn't allowed to see his son.
Holmstrom: Now, he is allowed to. I think they live on the East Coast now. Anton was living in Portland around Christmas time, but I think he's back in LA now. We see him quite often.
O: So you guys still see him and hang out with him?
O: At the end of the movie, you guys went your separate ways, and they made it seem like you never saw each other again.
Holmstrom: That's one of the issues I have with the film. It's totally edited in a way to tell a story, and it needed an ending. And that's pretty dramatic. That we left it open. It defiantly makes you think the worst. Anton played at my wedding. He was there singing songs. It was great. And that, of course, is not featured.
O: I remember the part where they talked about everyone in the band getting married; and they showed a lot of clips from the various marriage ceremonies. Anton wasn't in there.
O: Talking about the editing style, it sort of seemed to me that the filmmaker was using the Dandy Warhols has a catalyst for some of Anton's failure. Do you see that as a true thing, or is it played up for dramatic reasons? He sort of took your success to heart.
Holmstrom: What do you mean? It's a fact that we've been better financially, or whatever. We sold more records. And we've played the game a little bit more. By no means, all the way…
O: I'm saying that, in the film, Anton doesn't want success, yet he does want success. He does things like sabotage an important show at the Viper Room by getting in a fight with his band. They really push that aspect in the film, that he was trying to alienate people, and seemed to blame you guys for giving into the corporate scene. That he resented you, and that caused him to slip even more off the radar…
Holmstrom: I mean, yeah, he'd want some success. It's a really big deal. We don't want to do this for ourselves. It's not fun. We want to share it with people. We signed with a major label, and we've been able to do what we wanted to do without too much interference. If we did something they don't want to do, they don't help out. We put our own money behind the product.
O: What I'm talking about is, Anton seems preoccupied with Courtney Taylor, almost to the point that he can't concentrate on what he should be doing. It seemed like; your success sort of ruined his take on stuff. That's what I took away from the movie.
O: What I'm wondering is, do you think that's true? Or is it just part of the narrative of the story that needs to be told for the sake of entertainment?
Holmstrom: Anton had a really weird obsession with Courtney for awhile. I didn't quite understand what that was about. Because, it seemed like Anton would sabotage what he does almost all the time, in one way or the other. If he could have played the game a little bit more, he could have sold more records. Or whatever. Played more shows. I don't know. It's a tough call. To me, he has done well. He keeps going, and nobody has interfered. Beyond what he does to himself.
O: In the film, we see most of his band leave him. Have any of them come back, or are they all still gone?
Holmstrom: No. Joel did not come back. I think he's done a show with them here or there. He has his own band in Portland, and they're doing quite good.
O: I was wondering what happened to Joel. They don't mention him when they wrap up what happened to everyone at the end of the film. And he seemed to really stand out as a person through the course of the movie.
Holmstrom: Yeah, they don't say what happened to them. They're gone. There's not a follow up with everybody in the film. I've seen most of those guys since. They all seem to be doing pretty good. Jeff, I don't know, though. I saw him a couple of years ago in San Francisco, and I think something tragic had just happened. It was kind of awkward.
O: In watching the film, what was the biggest surprise for you? Was there any moment that you'd completely forgotten about? Were you at all taken aback?
Holmstrom: I tend to have a really good memory for the band stuff, so…It was nice that I'd remembered things accurately. It's cool to see the Jonestown stuff, because I wasn't there. I didn't know. Then, some of the shows, I was there. It was cool to see that stuff again. I wish there was more music in it, though.
O: Was a soundtrack for DIG! released?
Holmstrom: There wasn't. I don't know what went on with that. It was some sort of record contract issue. There might be some sort of soundtrack in the UK. It actually makes more financial sense for the record company not to put out an album.
O: Because people interested in the music will go out and buy the actual full length albums to get those certain songs, right?
O: I'll ask you one last question. A lot of critics have suggested that this film be used in colleges that teach rock history. I'm wondering if there's one aspect of the film you'd have liked to learn before having to experience it yourself?
Holmstrom: The record company stuff. They tell you stuff, but you never really think its all true. But it is. You have to learn. Just the ways they treat you. You've got to remember that they're not your friends. Even though they say they are. They've got an agenda, and they have things they need to do. What you want to do doesn't always fit into what they have to do. They'll be nice to you. They'll take you out to dinner. They'll do all sorts of things, but they're not your friends. And you should never, ever forget that.
O: Do you know if Anton has seen this film?
Holmstrom: He saw it. He wasn't happy with it. Which makes sense. He did do all those things. That's real. But that's just one side of him. People wouldn't have stuck around if he was that bad all the time. He never would have had a band. If the film had of focused more on the music, and that other side of Anton, maybe it would have made that clearer.
B. Alan Thanks Peter for taking the time to talk with him. And he thanks both bands for participating in such a wonderful slice of excitement. Now, go buy the DVD. It'll be your next favorite rockumentary of all time. Guaranteed.
Dont't forget to also check out: Dig!