Documentaries about rock bands work on a formula. First, we have the all important formative years of the band, where we learn how the group struggled to learn their craft. Interviews with the band members, record company hacks, managers and DJs that cleared the way for eventual superstardom follow, giving the viewer a portrait of the turmoil, joy, and excesses that come with success. And finally, we have the where-are- they-now or what’s-to-happen with them sequence, which is supposed to answer the all important questions fans are supposed to have.
Steal This DVD, an unauthorized biography of the band Korn, is another in a long line of heavily formulaic views of a band that changed the rock world forever. But there are some differences here. At least with the other documentaries, you can listen to the bands music while the grand story unfolds, and possibly hear early interpretations of the songs that catapulted the band onto rock n’ roll radio. But because of some sticky licensing problems, viewers of Steal This DVD won’t even attain this modicum of satisfaction. The background music is eerily similar to that of Korn, but is just another copycat band grinding away.
So what we’re left with is a cut-and-paste production of other people interviewing the band, a lot of still photos of individual group members, and a great deal of detail on growing up in Bakersfield, California.
I’ve been to Bakersfield, and believe me, it’s no mystery why a group of guys from that dusty Central Valley area would produce the intensely angry funk-metal chords Korn is known for. Still, it occurs to me that major fans of Korn would already know how the damaging effects of a conservative California city impacted these superheroes of nu-metal. In fact, it’s hard to imagine there is any content on Steal This DVD that might illuminate Korn fans any more about the dark mystique that surrounds the band.
And if you don’t know very much about the group and their humble beginnings, maybe the time is right to really listen to singer-songwriter Jonathan Davis’ lyrics, because everything you need to know is right there. Davis has joined the ranks of songwriters who willingly split open their veins and bleed their madness onto an empty page, much like Kurt Cobain before him.
So I’m not really sure who the producers of Steal This DVD are looking to market this documentary to. Maybe they think there are enough die-hard fans out there that obsessively collect anything with the Korn brand on it, or that there are even more naive kids so unfamiliar with what makes Korn the brilliant band they are and need some kind of instructional DVD to help them “get it.” Whatever their direction may be, I think the producers are in for a huge surprise.
It would be so much better if the people who pumped these damned things out really thought like real fans do. They’d actually produce some interesting and entertaining packages that music lovers would appreciate. But unfortunately, the entertainment business too often conforms to the “biggest bang for a buck” theory, and cashes in by promoting anything that has a big-named group attached to it.
Consider this a caveat emptor, Korn fans. This trashy documentary won’t satisfy you until the next Korn release. Save your money, and listen to Life Is Peachy instead.