Pigface – Free For All

Pigface – Free For All DVD
MVD Visual

The idea of watching a documentary about a Pigface tour was weird for me because for a short spell I actually worked for Pigface/Invisible records during a time they were preparing for their Fook Tour. This was back in something like 1992 if I recall correctly. What I can tell you from first hand experience is that I met a lot of cool and talented musicians, every day was some new problem, the whole thing was chaos, and at least for me it ended poorly. When the band returned they were battered, bruised, and worse for wear but in their wake they put on a bunch of really good shows.

Watching Free For All, a documentary on the 2005 Pigface tour, was proof of the old adage that “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. Many of the faces had changed, so had the location for the Invisible compound, but the problems, the chaos, and the general way the Pigface business was being conducted was very much the same. I was a bit skeptical at just how interesting this documentary on a band that is arguably past its prime could be especially since I hadn’t been a fan of their past few records. I went into it with an open mind however and soon found myself quite immersed in the film.

The documentary starts off with a very brief history of Pigface that quickly gets you to the time that this particular tour was being planned out. While early Pigface tours were a who’s-who of Industrial Rock bands all on the same stage, the modern day version for me was more of a who’s-that? I’ll admit to not following the band for the better part the last decade so the players may be more familiar to those that have stuck with the band all this time. The only recognizable faces to me were Martin Atkins (of course), En Esch (from KMFDM), Charles Levi, and Chris Mackey (from Evil Mothers who also doubles as the Pigface tour manager).

It was very interesting to see how a tour of this magnitude gets put together in the modern age. Martin was always very resourceful and for someone who has enjoyed varying degrees of success in the music business it is rather admirable to see how much of his label and operation is DIY.  They ended up screen printing their own shirts for this tour. They also had a rather odd concept of handing out coupons to concert-goers for sizable discounts on the band’s and label’s merchandise that essentially would make the show itself free for the money you saved with these coupons if you bought a shirt and a CD. Considering that so many people will purchase at least a shirt at a show, getting one for half the normal price sure would have made the evening out a lot less of a hit to the wallet. The concept wasn’t without its flaws though as you’ll learn in the documentary.

It was interesting to see the dynamic between the bands on tour and the members of said bands. It wasn’t without its share of drama which from a spectator point of view was totally fascinating and something I wish they would have dug even deeper into. There were problems with members who were supposed to play on the tour and backed out, as well a problem or two with the bands who were on the tour with Pigface.

There are some live clips from the various shows on this tour but I don’t think they ever showed a song performed in its entirety, instead the meat and potatoes of the documentary is all the “behind the scenes” stuff which makes for a far more interesting story in the long run. One thing I wished they would have done is give more screen time to some of the other players in the band such as En Esch. It seemed that Martin got the lion’s share of the camera time which makes sense to a degree but it would have been nice to know what the others were feeling at various times throughout the tour. Overall though it was a very interesting documentary film that turned out to be a lot more fascinating that my expectations thought it would be. The thing felt like it was over in no time and I actually wished it was a bit longer and went a bit deeper.

The film runs about an hour and twenty minutes and as I stated above, the time seemed to pass very quickly. The video is letterbox but not anamorphic widescreen which means those of you like me with fancy widescreen televisions will have to zoom the screen to have it fit your TV. Keeping with the band tradition, this was a very DIY project. The video quality, while pretty good, is certainly not done on professional gear but more like consumer grade video cameras. The audio is straight stereo. There are no bonus features whatsoever and the packing itself was fairly minimal in the information it presents.

Despite not having been a fan of their recent works, I found the documentary to be quite fascinating. If you have been following the band up through the modern day or have an interest in watching the life of a touring band this is definitely worth checking out. If you have never heard of Pigface before though you’d be better suited checking out some of their earlier CDs or the DVD of Glitch.