It's Not All Rock & Roll
23 Jul 2022
Angela Slaven & Jim Burns
Dave Doughman, Ludwig Jackson Hummer, Martin Boeters
There are layers that exist below all art and all artists. Different faces of the same people that come together to create works that speak to fans and admirers who the creator may never meet. It’s Not All Rock & Roll is a classic rockumentary examining niche, Hamburg-residing indie ban Swearing At Motorists’ frontman Dave Doughman – and whilst its subject might not be throwing any TVs out of windows or engaging in all-night cocaine binges, this deconstruction of the man behind the music is an endearing examination of an artist and life on the road.
The film intimately follows Doughman through his life – on stage, on the road, at home and at work. Far from the luxury rockstar lifestyle, Doughman plays most gigs at small clubs and bars, works at a dockyard to support his music, and raises his son lovingly at home. But his undeniable stage charisma is clear when performing for the band’s die-hard fans. As he performs in both Germany and his native America, the documentary is a consideration of Doughman’s dissonance – as both a rock maverick and an everyday working man.
It's Not All Rock & Roll is really (ironically) for people who love rock and roll – and Swearing At Motorists especially. As Doughman himself states in the film – it’s about his lack of fame. It’s about the co-existence of a relatively normal everyday lifestyle with the pursuit of passion. However this is no sob-story about some loser who laments never hitting the big-time or being dragged kicking and screaming into obscurity – but instead about a man who on the surface at least has balanced his art and his family.
That’s not to say that the film doesn’t focus on a complex individual. Doughman talks at length about his upbringing and his battles with depression, as well as his struggles in raising his own son. His affable demeanour clearly hides personal battles that he details through his music. And one scene in which he argues with a pool-player making too much noise at one of his gigs makes for an electrifying exchange in which a confrontational nature reveals itself and causes high tension on stage (although any self-respecting rockstar really ought to be drowning out the sound of a game of pool – sorry Dave).
There is some sense of ‘why’ lacking from the film for those who do not follow the band or care much about the lives of musicians. There is no real dramatic thread-line to hook viewers as they watch the band’s tour get underway, and where the film clearly tries to uncover what drives Doughman to continue his unique dual-life for as long as he has, there is also the lack of a ‘Eureka’ moment to capture the heart of the man at the heart of the film. Audiences would be forgiven for feeling they still have things to uncover about the true Dave Doughman despite the length of time spent with him – though this may be down as much to Doughman’s inherent enigma rather than any fault of the filmmakers.
It’s Not All Rock & Roll shows the reality of most artists and musicians who spend their lives balancing their creativity and the demands of the modern world. Whilst it is a little overlong, and a little lacking in drama, even non-music lovers should appreciate the lengths artists like Dave Doughman go to brighten up the world – even when it feels like no-one is watching.