As I get older, I’ve become very selective over what I watch. I mean, I still watch a hell of a lot of Star Trek but that’s because I’m a geek.

Other than that, I try to stick to stuff that inspires and helps keep me on this musically aimed path, stuff like music documentaries.

Right now, I’m going to go through 5 I think are worth seeing and why if you’re a musician, you should see them too.

For the last few weeks on social media I’ve been posting about music documentaries I think are worth seeing. I love watching them so obviously it’s not too much hard work (if work at all, If I’m honest) and it also gives me a fun reason to reach out to people and ask for recommendations (leave yours in the comments below).

I thought it’d be a good idea to collate these in a video post now and again (see above). It’ll also give me a reason to expand on my initial thoughts and maybe discuss what we might learn from them as DIY Musicians.

Let’s get to it.

01 – Sound City (2013)

Sound City

What’s it About?

First up we have Sound City is a documentary about the same named music studio in California. It was directed by Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame and is sort of a love letter to the studio.

To be honest, I’d not really heard about the studio, only by name, but that’s not surprising as I’m pretty rubbish at remembering things like that but I’m trying to work on it to help broaden my musical knowledge. So this helps!

I was really amazed by the diverse number of acts that have recorded there throughout the years. Acts like Fleetwood Mac, Nirvana, Tom Petty and Rage Against the Machine. It’s got such an amazing musical history!

The film takes us through the trials and tribulations of the studio as it’s forced to react to the ‘digital age’ of the 90s. It then closes with its famous mixing desk (the Neve 8078), now resurrected by Dave Grohl himself, helping to record an assortment of stars such as Paul McCartney, Trent Reznor and Stevie Nicks (and many more).

I found the film to be really inspiring and appreciated the passion by all involved. It was fantastic to see all of these musicians come together to reminisce, as well as write and record together at the end. That’s how that whole Paul McCartney & Nirvana collaboration came about.

DIY Musician Takeaway

My take away for us DIY Musicians from watching the film was to document more of the process of what we do.

There’s such a rich history for each band who used the studio, like I said, and it got me thinking. Can I even remember what day I recorded a certain song or whereabouts I was or how I was feeling at that moment?

Did anything happen that could equate to an even half interesting anecdote to tell later on?

All of that sort of tells your story and if they were able to document as much way back then, we really don’t have many excuses with all of the tech available to us these days.


Buy the Film on Amazon

02 – Anvil! The Story of Anvil (2008)

Anvil – The Story of Anvil

What’s it About?

No surprises here that the film documents the story of the metal band Anvil. After some fleeting success in the 80s, the band are still going, although playing mainly in local clubs, as well as keeping day jobs.

Through the film we see a glimpse of hope for the band to make a comeback as they’re offered some bigger shows and a chance to record their new album professionally, notably very much like their most popular release.

It’s a trials and tribulations sort of an account and one that really hit me like a shot in the heart. I think a lot of us DIY musicians can relate to some of what they’re going through. It can be tough staying with your goals whilst everyone you know seems to go on to bigger and brighter things.

But I suppose also like most of us, they wouldn’t change what they were doing for the world as they’ve carried on doing what they love. It’s the journey that matters, not the destination and all that stuff.

DIY Musician Takeaway

My take for us DIY musicians from the film is to stick at it.

If music is something we really want to do, then opportunities will arise if the music is good enough and we’re good enough.

Those guys didn’t have the benefit of social media back in the day to help spread their music, but we do. I’m not saying go crazy and quit your day job, but I am saying put the work in outside of that and see what happens.


Buy the Film on Amazon

03 – We Are Twisted F**king Sister! (2014)

We are Twisted F***ing Sister!

What’s it About?

This is the origin story of Twisted Sister, a band I literally knew nothing about apart from that song, you know the one; “We’re Not Gonna Take it”.

I was surprised to find out just how hard working the band was, and how fierce they’re DIY ethos was as they were constantly turned away from record deals and had to do everything themselves.

It wasn’t until they were headlining over signed acts and playing high profile overseas slots such as the Tube in the UK, that the record companies caved and just had to sign them.

I was really inspired by this one and although, still coming out of it only knowing that one song (I need to have a proper listen, I’m rubbish I know), I had a lot of respect for their work ethic.

DIY Musician Takeaway

I’ve already mentioned their DIY ethos but one example that popped out to me was that they were always paying for advertising.

I feel there’s kind of stigma when a band boosts a Facebook post or pays for an Instagram advert these days but honestly, there shouldn’t have to be. Bands have had to do it forever to reach new and existing fans. It’s just a part of the process.

Another thing I took from this is the power of collaboration.

When they came over to the UK to play on the Tube, they managed to get Lemmy and Brian Robertson from Motorhead on the stage with them which must have made them look boss! That’s the power of utilising collaborations there, so make sure to make friends, not competitors.


Buy the Film on Amazon

04 – Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (2004)

Metallica – Some Kind of Monster

What’s it About?

There are bands and artists that we kind of put on pedestals, you know, treat them as sort of idols. I know I do that now and again with the likes of David Bowie or the Beatles. I suppose part of that comes from the mystique as a lot of their creative process are hidden behind locked doors, with only second hand stories leaked out in dribs and drabs fuelling our curiosity.

That being said, there’s something to about getting a full behind the scenes, warts and all look at a band. Obviously, It’s not that novel these days. I put out videos of music sessions and chat out all the time (like this) but a band like Metallica? To do so pre-YouTube just after the Napster debacle? That’s a wonderful thing.

The film goes further than I think they intended it to go as we get to watch the band work on their upcoming album for the time. There are creative differences, emotional roundabouts and trips to rehab.

All this, as well as having to audition a new member. My jaw dropped when I see them offer a million dollars to the new bassist for joining. Umm, yeah OK, I’m in!

DIY Musician Takeaway

As I’ve mentioned before, document everything you do.

There’s a reason why the Beatles Let it Be documentary is getting made (or remade, *cough*) by Peter Jackson and that’s money obviously, well not just money.

People want to see the human side of the story and are interested in how the art is made.

I know there are people who’d rather not have that curtains pulled away and have everything revealed, but for me it’s inspiring to know these successful musicians go through everything that we go through, as regular human beings.


Buy the Film on Amazon

05 – Mistaken for Strangers (2013)

Mistaken for Strangers

What’s it About?

In this one, Tom Berninger who is the younger brother of the National’s singer Matt, documents the band on tour and helps out as one of the crew.

We get a great behind the scenes look of the band as they play massive shows, hang out at hotels and even perform for the President.

Obviously, it’s better if you’re a fan of the band but I found it quite emotional and humbling watching Tom attempt to create something notable and find his way in life, all the while in the shadow of his successful brother.

DIY Musician Takeaway

Like the Metallica film, I found the honesty on show in this one quite inspiring, especially when Matt talks about how “nobody would be coming” when they used to go on tour, and he’d go back home and cry.

Then he’d put all that tension and anxiety into the music, and it created a sort of connection with the audience.

There’s something about that which really hits home for me, and most likely to a lot of you watching. We can only put our truth, anything else won’t last, so embrace it and things might get better – or at least easier.


Buy the Film on Amazon

Until Next Time!

Anyway, that’s five and we’re done.

Go follow me on Instagram @mrstej where I am posting a new film I’ve watched every Monday.

If you have any recommendations for what I should watch next, just leave a comment down below and maybe I’ll get to them.


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