McConnell, Justin (Director)
Working Class Rock Star (DVD)
Released: 2008, Unstable Ground
Under normal circumstances I would not review a DVD about the music business, but because of the large amount of Metal content, I decided to review this title. Directed, produced and edited by relative unknown, Justin McConnell this short doc exposes some of the myths and legends of the music industry. To this end he has provided a valuable and interesting service to those aspiring musicians who would want to watch this.
The core of the film is centered on the fledgling career of three young melo-death/ metalcore type bands; Bloodshoteye, Tubring, and 3 Milescream. Shot in 2008, each band gets a profile and extensive interview time about the challenges of starting a career in the industry. Bloodshoteye and 3 Mile Scream were (at time of filming in 2007/2008) independent level Canadian bands that as of 2014 are disbanded or dormant. Tubring was a more established punk rock act from Chicago that already had five albums before being featured in the film. Since then they did one more album and seem to be broken-up. I think that speaks volumes. In the five years since the film, none of the bands ‘made it’ even with the major advantages of being in a documentary, an advantage that 99% of bands will never have. The narrative follows the bands through recording, touring with many candid, relaxed non-interviews where the various members discuss the challenges of being a working class performer.
Inter-spliced through the film are clips and comments many, many more established artists. I feel this feature of the documentary will have the most appeal to people who are not in bands. If you just have a passing interest in the machinations of the music industry, the attraction may be to see WORKING CLASS ROCK STAR may be seemingly endless parade of mid-level Metal artists providing comments and insight into the music industry. Members of the following Metal bands appear in the film…Arch Enemy, Finntroll, GWAR, Kataklysm, Strapping Young Lad, The Haunted as well as a few more popular Metalcore bands like Unearth and Lamb Of God and a dozen more lesser known’s as well.
In terms of being an even-handed documentary, it isn’t. There is an endless parade of disgruntled musicians, new and old alike verbally slagging the music industry. I’m not here to stand up and defend the music machine, however, the fact remains the industry, record labels and the hard-working people in those roles invested an enormous amount of time, creativity energy and money into bands. The industry as a whole is really portrayed as a big faceless, evil corporation. We don’t get to hear the stories about how a company lends a band considerable sums of money (say $10,000 to record) and then have the band blow their advance partying and are unable to meet deadlines to deliver music to the very people who tried to support them in the first place. I would have liked to have a more balanced perspective and interviews with some record company people to hear perhaps how many musicians are total flakes who can’t understand the basic principles of business and don’t know how to read a contract. I’m sure bands have been tricked or deceived but I’ve never met a musician who was forced to sign a recording contract against his or her will, or complained when someone lent them money to buy gear or record to get their career started. The whole message of WORKING CLASS ROCK STAR gets distilled down to: Musicians: Good. Music Industry: Bad.
I was pretty disappointed about the soundtrack. It was original score when it could have or should have been a full-on raging Metal soundtrack with some of the artists featured in the film. Aside from being one-sided, featuring three bands that I was not to keen on in the first place and having fairly low production values, WORKING CLASS ROCK STAR is a very valuable and informative movie. I’d recommend it to every young musician aspiring to make a career in the industry and to most Metal fans as well.