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Friday
Jun152018

SWAGGER OF THIEVES: THE JULIAN BOSHIER INTERVIEW

As portrayed in Julian Boshier’s hard-rock doc Swagger of Thieves, life within New Zealand’s legendary metal band Head Like A Hole…well, it hasn’t been easy. One of the country’s most respected music video makers and documentary cameramen, Boshier has spent a fair share of the last 25 years close to band members Nigel ‘Booga’ Beazley and Nigel Regan. Their time in each other’s company has provided Boshier with unprecedented access to some of the most remarkable footage ever filmed of the wild rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle; Swagger of Thieves runs the gamut from ‘young, self-destructive artists in their prime’ to ‘dads and husbands determined to keep their dream alive’. Ahead of his films’ screening at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, Boshier spoke with SCREEN-SPACE about the men, the band and his destined-for-cult-status film…

SCREEN-SPACE: In presenting a personal portrait of the lads, what aspect of them as artists and as men had to be conveyed? What was the truth you wanted to tell?

BOSHIER: A documentary should take the audience to a place that they don’t usually have access to. A lot of people love the idea of getting close to a band, of experiencing a tour, or being backstage. So I wanted to get the audience into those normally restricted places, exposing the rehearsal space, the bickering, the tension and the feeling of what it is like being in or around Head Like a Hole. I didn’t really set out to expose the deep inner workings of these guys; how much they were going to reveal [of] themselves on camera was up to them. As time went on the layers revealed themselves and some semblance of them and their truth was laid out. My intention was to present a portrait of them, that they had presented to me. I do feel that they presented the truth, or at least their version of the truth.

SCREEN-SPACE: What is so unique about this band? Why does this documentary tell a different story to other heavy music rock docs?

BOSHIER (picture, right): My relationship with the band allowed me a level of access and intimacy that maybe other music documentary makers have not obtained. This band is not that unique in what they have achieved, but as characters or people, they do possess very unique attributes. This is a mix of dysfunction, unprofessionalism, fractious relationships, incredible humour, toughness, vulnerability. I wanted to approach this project in a different way to your average band profile documentary.  I wanted it to be about people and people living their lives; the backdrop was the band. This approach is why the end result is probably quite different to other rock documentaries.

SCREEN-SPACE: You’ve been around a lot of musicians whose careers have ebbed and flowed, but who push on. What are the character traits – good or bad - that are constant in all these music industry veterans?

BOSHIER: Actually quite a few of the bands I have made music videos for have split. The only two bands that have survived are Head Like a Hole and Shihad. Their paths have run a different course from one another, but both bands have lasted twenty-five odd years and both continue to this day. Head Like a Hole are certainly not the darlings of the New Zealand music industry and they do personally struggle at times to continue with their art, financially and otherwise. But their motivation seems to continue; their quest to produce a great new song, or a great performance continues. I guess that motivation comes from the music itself, the power of creating. All members of Head Like a Hole have flexible full-time jobs, and with that flexibility it allows them to take time out to rehearse, record and tour. They operate in bite size chunks and that allows them to continue. (Pictured, above; from left, Nigel 'Booga' Beazley and Nigel Regan)

SCREEN-SPACE: Drug addiction all but destroyed the band; the scenes in which the much younger men shoot up are tough to watch. Was it ever considered a step-too-far including the footage? Why did it have to be in there?

BOSHIER: When I first suggested the idea of a film to Head Like a Hole, we all agreed immediately the approach had to be warts and all. Nigel Regan describes it as being ‘one big wart’. There was no other way to make this film; it couldn’t be dulled down or censored. It had to be a true representation or what was the point. Head Like a Hole have a reputation in New Zealand as a wild bunch, as ‘outlandish outlaws’. So it was important to the integrity of the story that needles were a part of it, as they have been a part of their lifestyle. The audience would have been expecting this type of footage, as their habits are common knowledge. The film would have had a glaring omission without the needle content. (Pictured, above; Boshier, centre, with band members)

SCREEN-SPACE: How did your feelings for these guys and your experience being part, however small, of their history influence how you told their story?

BOSHIER: Knowing these guys for a long time, I felt a huge responsibility undertaking this project. I had to be accountable to the band, to their music, their fans, their families, the movie-going public and to myself. New Zealand does not have many bands or musicians that are worthy or that can offer the myriad of ingredients that go into making a film, so this was something that I could not screw-up. But I have always trusted my own instincts, tastes and atheistic. I’ve always kept a professional distance from these guys and that continued during the filming; the band didn’t quite know what I was doing, and neither did I, but I backed myself. I suppose I took the cut to the edge, allowed no mercy. But this film is about a unique band; they deserved no mercy, and that’s the beauty of it. It’s true and real. (Pictured, above; Head Like a Hole frontman Nigel 'Booga' Beazley)

SCREEN-SPACE: How are the band’s fans reacting to the revelations in the film?

BOSHIER: The reaction in New Zealand has been quite incredible. Both the media and the public have been entertained, shocked and enlightened by this film that has come out of left field. It has drawn quite a broad audience, [which says] to me that I had not wasted many years and a huge amount of money making it. This film deals with friendship, addiction, personal demons, struggle but also the brighter side of life – love, music, fun and laughter. International audiences will have no preconceived notions about this band or film, so it could be a surprising discovery for them. This film is genuinely funny and entertaining; it [comes from] a darkness but also [has] a positivity that I hope international audiences can relate to.

SWAGGER OF THIEVES will screen at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival on July 14. Full ticketing and venue information can be found at the official event website.

Swagger of Thieves Trailer from Trench Film on Vimeo.

 

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