London, Ontario: home of the world's longest-running noise band. It may sound strange, but the Nihilist Spasm Band has been going strong for the past 35 years and even if you aren't a fan of noise music, chances are you'll still enjoy this film. Formed in the mid-60s by a group of London artists, the NSB blazed a small but extremely influential trail that has stretched from their hometown to the U.S to Japan, where they are considered legends. When the vocalist is asked about their being the "Fathers of punk," he replies with a laugh that they are actually the "Uncles of punk." Original copies of their records sell for hundreds of dollars on Ebay but you're not likely to find them at your local record store. Directed by Toronto's Zev Asher and shot on digital video, What About Me traces the band's history, mixing archival footage with home videos of their 1996 tour of Japan, and interviews with the members and those who know them and have been influenced by them. Delving into the minds and lives of the individual members is what makes the film work. Each unique personality is explored, which explains why they work so well as a band æ they're the kind of guys who you wish you had as parents. In one scene, a few of their sons are interviewed and they talk about how it was hard to rebel against them when they shared so much in common. And it is their traits and how they live that makes them engaging people, even outside of the band. One is a writer and painter; one builds the band's instruments and collects exotic snakes and bugs; one is a doctor who performs acupuncture on the film's director. And even though their music is probably the dominant force in their lives, they still try to keep it self-contained and away from their work and home lives. They even have somewhat ambiguous feelings about their legacy. On their first Japanese tour in the mid-90s, one member is surprised by their influence on Japan's noise music scene. He even says he doesn't understand where the Japanese groups are coming from. Though director Asher may be a fan, he's smart enough to not put too much focus on the band's music. There's just enough to pique your curiosity and not have audience members run screaming to the comforts of their favourite easy listening stations.
Published Sep 01, 2000