“Pleasure is the ultimate revenge, and I love revenge…” chortles Lydia Lunch on the D.I.Y. or DIE DVD, a video handbook for the independent artist. Created in the spirit of Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book, D.I.Y. or DIE isn't just the artist’s DVD guide to doing it yourself and surviving—it’s more like a sermon as to why D.I.Y. and following your own happiness without selling out is the better route. And to prove they put their money where their mouth is, the DVD has no region restrictions or even copyright protection and buyers are encouraged to burn non-commercial copies for friends. D.I.Y. or DIE is a labor of love, by indies, for the indies.
Discussing important survival subjects such as Inspiration, Publicity, Dealing with Adversity and Commerce, the film sidesteps things like tools and technique, giving the audience more of a pep-talk to put some fire under their own creative asses. Creator/director Michael Wareham Dean says in the film, “If you need an Independent Artist for Dummies book, then being an independent artist is not for you.”
D.I.Y. or DIE features interviews with famous independent artists, some who’ve become very rich, others who are just scraping by and many falling somewhere in between—but all who are true to their own artistic vision and living a rich and fulfilling life. Punk fans especially will appreciate D.I.Y. or DIE, which features legends such as Ian MacKaye (Fugazi), Lydia Lunch, Mike Watt (Minutemen) and Ron Asheton (Stooges). Other interviews include J. Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.), ‘demonic erotic’ painter John John Jesse, freak show king Jim Rose (Jim Rose Circus), Jim Thirlwell (Foetus), filmmaker Richard Kern, Madigan Shive (Bonfire Madigan), David Brockie (Gwar), and others.
“How can an artist not be an artist when they’re making art?” asks Ian MacKaye. “There’s a sense they’re not authentic artists until they’re making money,” he observes, adding that he thinks this popular belief is complete bullshit.
While the opening of the film is inspiring, it’s probably nothing artists, musicians, writers, dancers, filmmakers, photographers and the like don’t already know already. In a nutshell the lesson is: artists do it because they have to. “I didn’t fit in so I built a parallel universe,” was the way Mike Watt put it. The following video chapter subjects continue the intimate and off-the-cuff commentaries by people such as Watt, who also says about rock star ego and the spirit of collaboration, “I don’t think you can learn everything always being the boss…you have to take turns…how can you ever know if you’re always getting your way?...still, it’s hard to dream by committee.”
Perhaps even cooler than the film itself is the Extras Menu with still more interviews. In addition to expanded interviews with the artists mentioned above are people such as writer/performance artist Maggie Estep, zen guitar master Philip Toshio Sudo (who tragically died of cancer 21 days after this interview), and an enlightening chat with the famous Steve Albini, who warns of the dangers of linking art and career; thereby setting yourself up to sell out in order to make a living. “If you expect it to be your job as well,” Albini says, “you will come to resent it as most people resent their jobs.”
The DVD also contains a “Making Of” segment, Jim Rose live footage, and a “Touring Of” segment, plus the full audio of the 20-minute Mike Watt interview. There are a few hidden things as well, and of course, Brockie from Gwar doing something really gross.
West coast filmmaker, author, artist and musician Michael W. Dean is available to speak at public showings of D.I.Y. or DIE, with the offer that half the money goes to the sponsoring organization and his half goes to local animal shelters. Check out www.DIYorDIE.org for more information.
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