All posts tagged documentary

  • Backchannel story: ‘The Heroin Heroine of Reddit’, July 2015

    A story for Backchannel, the technology section of Medium.com. Excerpt below.

    The Heroin Heroine of Reddit

    How a former addict uses the internet to save drug users’ lives

    'The Heroin Heroine of Reddit' by Andrew McMillen on Backchannel, July 2015

    On a quiet night in late April, Brad Treseler slipped off to his bedroom at his family’s home in Cumberland, Virginia. His friends kept on chatting in the living room, but after a few minutes they began to wonder what Brad was up to. They found the 25-year-old slumped on the floor of his room, blue and unresponsive. He had overdosed on heroin and benzodiazepine.

    Brad’s friends cycled through the options. They could call 911, but the responders might not arrive in time and might tip off the police. Or they could run to the apartment next door and wake Treseler’s older brother, Bill. They knew that Bill had a small vial containing a clear liquid called naloxone, which can counteract the effects of an opiate overdose. In a panic, they opted to make the short sprint and bang on Bill’s door.

    Together, they carried Brad into the bathtub and cranked on the shower. Bill dipped a syringe into the vial and drew in the naloxone, then injected the the liquid into the fatty part of Brad’s thigh. Nothing happened, so Bill refilled the syringe and injected him again. Brad stirred, and opened his eyes to see his brother and terrified friends peering down at him. As he came to, he thought: This is what being dead is like.

    Brad had acquired two vials of the naloxone months earlier. Some states—including New Mexico, Washington, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and California—allow it to be sold over the counter. But it is illegal in Virginia, so Brad received his shipment in the mail from an unlikely source: the online forum Reddit.

    Brad is an active member of the Opiates subreddit, a lively forum where queries about safe injection practices and rehabilitation are posted alongside tactics for hustling cash and coping with constipation, an unwelcome side effect of frequent opioid use. He saw a thread where a moderator known as the “mother of r/opiates,” named Tracey Helton, was offering to send clean needles to fellow Redditors. When he reached out to Tracey about the free needles, which were rare in his scene, she told him that the package included naloxone. Brad replied, “Oh man, that’s awesome! That’s a great idea!”

    Five days later, a yellow padded envelope arrived from San Francisco, where Tracey lives. Inside was a bag of clean syringes, two vials of naloxone and a post-it note with a hand-drawn smiley face. “I thought, ‘Holy crap!’ I didn’t send her any money. All I did was send her one little message,” Brad says. “Somebody out there cares that much.”

    To read the full story, visit Backchannel.

  • Qweekend story: ‘Orange Crush: Thomas Broich’, April 2014

    A story for Qweekend, published in the April 5-6 issue of the magazine: a profile of Brisbane Roar footballer Thomas Broich. An excerpt appears underneath; click the image below to view a PDF version.

    Orange Crush

    His sublime skills made Thomas Broich one of Queensland’s most welcome sports imports. And his move from Germany not only revived his passion for football but gave Brisbane Roar a man for all seasons.

    Qweekend story: 'Orange Crush: Thomas Broich' by Andrew McMillen, April 2014

    Story by Andrew McMillen / Photography by Russell Shakespeare

    The Saturday morning sun warms the lawn as 20 or so men in orange shirts follow the path of a round ball. Players yelp after bone-shaking tackles and groan at the sight of missed shots skirting the crossbar. Complimentary coffee and bacon-and-egg burgers are on offer for the crowd that has gathered outside Ballymore Stadium in Brisbane’s inner-north Herston for this open members’ training session.

    Wendy Shaw stands with arms crossed beside a sign that reads Beware: flying footballs. The 55-year-old supermarket manager hasn’t missed a Roar home game since the club’s inception nine years ago. She stares intently at number 22, a tall, tanned man with dark hair and green boots.

    “He’s had a shave, that’s always a good thing,” she laughs. “That’s one of our superstitions – if Thomas has a shave, it means we’re going to win!”

    Just out of earshot, attacking midfielder Thomas Broich is delivering cross after cross to the team’s strikers, who attempt to put the ball past goalkeeper Michael Theo. The 33-year-old Broich – who earlier this year played his 100th game for the club – has been a professional footballer for nearly half his life, and has been subject to intense media and fan scrutiny.

    After a rollercoaster ride of a career throughout the 2000s in the German premier league, the Bundesliga – the world’s most attended football competition – Broich was near the end of his tether, and considering quitting. It took a timely transfer to a club halfway around the world to reignite his passion.

    Since he first wore the orange jersey in the 2010-11 season, Brisbane Roar has been a consistent presence at the pointy end of the A-League, winning two of the past three championships.

    A home game on March 22 saw the team secure its second premiership in four years; the match-winner arrived in the 92nd minute, when Broich attracted the close attention of four Melbourne Victory defenders before he passed to midfielder Luke Brattan, whose pinpoint strike sealed the game 1-0. The team heads into the finals series as favourites to take its third championship.

    ++

    So deafening was the buzz surrounding the young midfielder in the seasons leading up to his Bundesliga debut that a television journalist named Aljoscha Pause approached him in 2003 with a tempting offer: to be the subject of a feature-length documentary, the first such film portrait of a German footballer.

    “I wanted to find somebody who would be charismatic enough to carry a whole film, and intelligent enough to reflect the business from inside – not an easy task,” Pause tells Qweekend. At the time, Broich was 22 and playing in the second-division Bundesliga; the project was initially scheduled for two years.

    “It was meant to show me break through into a big club, or the national team,” says Broich. “Then it just turned to shit. Excuse my language!” He gives a sheepish grin, momentarily forgetting his well-practised media manners. “It went the complete other way. That’s when the project became interesting for completely different reasons – it wasn’t about the rise of a footballer any more, it was more about the fall of a footballer.”

    Pause estimates that the pair spent about 400 hours filming together, over the course of eight years and several club transfers, first with Borussia Mönchengladbach (2003-06); later, FC Köln (’06-’09); and finally, with FC Nürnberg (’09-10). The pair became close during the process, which made Pause’s job more difficult; the line between filmmaker and friend became blurred. The result, Tom Meets Zizou, was released in 2011 and charts Broich’s youthful naivety.

    Early on, the football press picked up on his preferences for classical music and philosophy, dubbing him “Mozart”. The youngster was eager to please, and played up to the caricature by posing for photographs while engaged in intellectual activities such as reading, chess, and playing piano. These points of difference weren’t particularly well received in the hyper-masculine world of professional football. Says Broich with a grimace in 2014: “I look at the young guy in the film and think, oh my god, you’re so stupid. Who do you think you are?”

    Ultimately, the film chronicles an optimistic, skilled young player being gradually worn down by a ruthless industry. It was only when then-Brisbane Roar coach Ange Postecoglou travelled to Germany to offer Broich a lifeline that a fitting dénouement became clear.

    “When I hit rock bottom, I made the decision to come to Australia, and that’s where the fairytale started for me,” says Broich. “For the first time in years, I was able to enjoy my football again.”

    The film ends with the Roar’s spectacular first grand final in March 2011. Before a record home crowd of more than 50,000, Brisbane was down 2-0 to the Central Coast Mariners with just three minutes of extra time remaining. It would take something remarkable to claw back the scoreline. In response, Broich made a casual assist in front of goal to the Brazilian striker Henrique, who netted the chance and made it 2-1. Then, in the 120th minute, Broich sent a corner kick onto the head of fellow midfielder Erik Paartalu, who tied the game, resulting in a penalty shoot-out won by the home team. It was Broich’s first championship trophy. He was 30 years old.

    To read the full story, visit The Courier-Mail.

     

  • Rolling Stone Q+A: Paul Kelly, December 2012

    A Q+A with Paul Kelly in the December 2012 issue of Rolling Stone. Click the below image for a closer look, or read the article text underneath.

    Q&A – Paul Kelly

    The singer-songwriter on his new album, having his life documented, and nephew Dan’s cooking skills

    Few of us will ever know the feeling of watching a feature-length documentary about our own lives while sitting in a cinema filled with friends and family. Paul Kelly is one of the lucky few, though he probably wouldn’t use that adjective when describing the premiere of Stories Of Me at the Melbourne International Film Festival in August. Its limited release in October coincides with the release of the acclaimed singer-songwriter’s eighteenth album, Spring And Fall, which sees Kelly pare back rock-band tropes in favour of largely acoustic, softly-sung songs.

    Before we discuss that, though: what was it like to watch your life dissected on film? “It’s something I want to do only once in my life,” Kelly replies. “I had some of my brothers and sisters there. That was the best part of it for me; the celebration of my family. The rest of it was a pretty awkward thing to watch. But I got through it.”

    First the memoir two years ago, now this film. What in your life hasn’t been documented, Paul?

    I think too much has been documented, so it’s probably time to jump back into the shadows again for a little while! [laughs] I gave Shark Island [Productions] pretty good access, but from that point it was their film, not mine. It’s funny; I don’t feel connected to the doco like I would to my own work. I liked that they picked up a lot on my family; generations back, as well as my wider clan. That’s showing that people don’t work in isolation – they’re a product of a whole lot of things.

    Speaking of family, you and your nephew Dan have spent thousands of hours together, both onstage and off. Which trait sticks out more in your mind: the fact that he’s a great musician, or that he’s family?

    Family’s first, but he’s a joy to play with. He can be a bit of a worrier. He’s a great cook, so he’s great to travel with. He cooks like he plays [guitar]; never really follows a recipe, but he’s a great improviser. His playing has big, deep roots, because he listens widely to a lot of music. He’s got one of those ‘fermenting’ brains: there’s always a lot going on in Dan’s head, and it’s just a matter of catching it as it falls out.

    Spring And Fall is a love story – what can you tell us about the starring characters?

    It’s a love story from a couple of different points of view. Some of the songs are narrated, like ‘When A Woman Loves A Man’; ‘Time And Tide’ feels a bit more like a third-person story. Others are more directly speaking from the characters involved. But to me, the emotional arc of the record starts with love’s beginning – the ‘spring’ – and there’s a turning point in the middle around ‘Someone New’, followed by the aftermath.

    With your characters, do you go as far as envisaging their physical appearances and personality traits?

    Not on this record. I didn’t have it that defined; I don’t have names for them. But a bit of a model was a Willie Nelson album from 1974 called Phases and Stages. It’s the story of a divorce: side one is the man’s point of view, side two is the woman’s. I wasn’t getting quite as specific as Willie, but I kinda liked that idea.

    I’m not sure what you’ll make of this, but every time I listen to your song ‘When A Woman Loves A Man’, I think of how perfect it’d be as the soundtrack for a sex education video.

    Really? [laughs] Well, you know, if you know people in the know, then send it off!

    “Time and tide wait for no-one,” as you sing. You seem to have taken aging in your stride better than many musicians, perhaps even working harder as you grow older.

    Songwriting’s really a form of play. I still find it fascinating. It doesn’t feel like a grind. There are certain aspects of my job that’s grinding; sometimes the touring, and proofing, and approving YouTube videos. [laughs] If you want to be any good, you have to get involved with everything. There’s more work on the creative side now. And also, the record companies do less now than they used to: I do it, or me and the team do it. But the actual thing that starts it all is ‘play’: writing a song. Nothing would happen without playing in the sandpit. And that’s all it is.

    That’s a view that hasn’t changed over the years?

    Yeah. Songwriting’s not real work. Don’t let anybody tell you it’s a “craft”. It’s play.

  • Brisbane Times story: ‘Tools of fine wine: Maynard James Keenan’s wine hits Australia’, May 2012

    A story for Brisbane Times, which is republished below in its entirety.

    Tools of fine wine

    It sounds like a set-up to a bad joke. What happens when you combine Californian progressive metal band Tool, a couple of entrepreneurial Brisbane men in their mid-30s, and wine made high in the Arizona desert?

    While the punchline mightn’t make you laugh, the fruit of their labour is likely to prick your tastebuds. This weekend, Brisbane locals Matt Irwin and Trent Allen will conduct the first public tasting event for their wine import company, sip&listen. The pair has imported more than 5000 bottles directly from Tool singer Maynard James Keenan’s Arizona Stronghold Vineyards.

    Keenan’s deal with sip&listen marks the first time these wines have been exported outside of North America. The germ of the idea came about when Irwin, who has worked in the Canadian wine industry for the last five years, played host to his long-time friend Allen on an annual ski trip to Alberta in early 2011.

    “I’d saved this one bottle of [2006 red wine] Chupacabra for Trent, because I knew he was a massive music guy,” Irwin says.

    “We put [the Tool album] Salival on the stereo, downed the bottle together, and the ideas just started flowing. Trent said to me, ‘there’s no reason why this isn’t in Australia. This is amazing wine, there’s a great story – why don’t we do it?’ I said, ‘you’re out of your mind! There’s got to be a reason why this wine hasn’t come to Australia yet. Why is it going to come through two dudes like us?’.”

    A couple of days before Allen flew to Canada, Irwin set his friend some homework.

    “Matt told me to track down this documentary called Blood Into Wine,” Allen says.

    “It hasn’t been released in Australia yet, so I found a really terrible internet stream, which was buffering every 30 seconds, and watched it. It’s an amazing story, and a fantastic film.”

    The 2010 documentary follows the tumultuous first years of Keenan’s venture into the vineyard alongside his winemaking mentor, Eric Glomski [both pictured above].

    “We’re doing everything we can to try and secure an Australian release, because after anyone watches it, the first thing they want to do is grab a bottle of the wine,” Allen says.

    The day after consuming that life-changing bottle of Chupacabra, the two friends sat down and soberly nutted out a business plan. Irwin made the initial approach to Arizona Stronghold; national sales manager Paula Woolsey received his email. Her first priority was to ascertain that the two Australians weren’t simply Tool fanboys trying to sneak a meeting with the notoriously private Keenan.

    “That kind of thing comes with the territory,” Woolsey tells brisbanetimes.com.au. “It’s my job to whittle out the extreme ‘stalker fans’. The point is to sell wine from Arizona, not ‘Tool wine’. Maynard does not mix wine with Tool; he is a member of Tool, but it is not his band.”

    (Woolsey points out that, when Keenan is touring with his side project band Puscifer, “we do the wine thing all over the place: on stage, before the show, during the show!”)

    Woolsey had a three-month dialogue with Irwin before she allowed sip&listen to take the first shipment of 5000 bottles.

    “Having been in the wine business for over 20 years, I can honestly say that Australia has always held a special place in my wine heart,” Woolsey says.

    “We are all up [to date] on the trials and tribulations of the Aussie wine market; from too many vines in the ground and animal labels, to droughts and lost market share. All wine markets run in cycles.”

    Keenan, who has performed with the multi-platinum selling Tool since 1990 and last toured here in January 2011 as Big Day Out headliner, has been quietly working away at winemaking in Arizona since the mid-2000s.

    The region isn’t exactly renowned for its grape fertility; the Stronghold’s business motto reads, “Redefining the desert with high elevation wine”.

    True to his evasive reputation, the sip&listen pair have had little direct contact with the singer.

    “He’s so busy with all of his other projects,” Irwin says.

    “He signed off on it around a month into the process. We got an email from him saying, ‘Let’s do it. I love Australia, let’s move ahead with this’. But from that point onwards, he’s left it with his team in Arizona to manage his business.”

    Allen is by far the bigger fan, having seen Tool perform live 10 times throughout the world, including at a bullring in Madrid in 2006.

    Irwin is less enthusiastic: “I am a fan, but it really was the wine that spoke to me,” he says.

    “It’s really, really good juice.”

    Their VIP tasting event will take place at Wine Experience in Rosalie on Sunday 27 May 2012.

    The $170 cost includes four Arizona Stronghold wines: Tazi (white), Dayden (rosé), Nachise (red), and the 2006 Chupacabra which set the wheels in motion last year.

    As the business name indicates, sip&listen are intent on marrying the wine-tasting experience with music, Tool or otherwise.

    “We’ve always seen that beer and music goes together; all the beer and spirit companies promote concerts, festivals or clubs,” Irwin says.

    “Wine’s never been taken to that degree, because so many people have made it into an ‘exclusive’ drink. ‘Oh, you don’t like that wine? You mustn’t understand it.’ Wine’s been taken to a level that isn’t inclusive of people.”

    “We’re hoping to turn that around,” he says, “so that it’s not a bad thing to stand in front of a live band with a glass of wine in your hand.”

    For more on sip&listen, visit their website. The trailer for the Blood Into Wine documentary is embedded below.

    Elsewhere: I interviewed Maynard James Keenan in late 2010 ahead of Tool headlining the national Big Day Out tour.

  • Mess+Noise Storytellers interview: Shihad – ‘Deb’s Night Out’ and ‘Home Again’, May 2012

    An interview for the Mess+Noise ‘Storytellers’ series. Excerpt below.

    Storytellers: Shihad’s Jon Toogood

    As part of our occasional Storytellers series and to coincide with the release of a new career-spanning documentary, ANDREW MCMILLEN talks to Shihad’s Jon Toogood about two tracks from their back catalogue: an unheralded gem from the mid-1990s and the most popular song they’ve written to date.

    Shihad, one of New Zealand’s longest-running bands, have enjoyed a healthy career marked by experimentation. Now based in Melbourne, they’ve moved from industrial metal (1993 debut Churn) to include elements of pop and electronica (1996’s Shihad, 2008’s Beautiful Machine) while maintaining a central obsession with guitar-heavy rock music, as best exemplified on 1999’s The General Electric.

    I met with singer Jon Toogood [pictured above, far right] upstairs at Brisbane venue Black Bear Lodge – he was in town playing shows with new outfit The Adults – to discuss two Shihad songs in-depth: ‘Deb’s Night Out’ from 1995’s nine-song Killjoy; and ‘Home Again’, the first track from the self-titled album that followed a year later. Much has been written about how much energy Toogood exhibits when fronting Shihad on stage, and the same remains true when he’s engaged in conversation.

    ‘Deb’s Night Out’

    Andrew: I want to start with ‘Deb’s Night Out’. This song sticks out like a bit of a sore thumb, not only on that record but across your whole catalogue.

    Jon: Musically, it was very, very heavily influenced by Skeptics, who we were listening to a lot at the time. They’re a New Zealand Flying Nun band, who were quite different again from the Flying Nun crew in the fact that they weren’t using guitars. It was a lot of sample-based shit, a lot of keyboards. They used Euphonics, or E-Sonics … Some fucking early sampler. They just sounded fucking unusual but they also had this edge … [that was] quite majestic, melodically. Hard to explain. Really beautiful, but really weird.

    Anyway, we were listening to them a lot at that point. Phil [Knight, guitarist] wrote the loop the whole song’s based around, that thing that starts the whole song. That’s Phil on a sampler doing that. When he played it to me I was like, “Whoa, it’s really beautiful.” Then we wrote a bass line and then it was like, “Wow, that’s cool,” and then I just wrote a little poem over the top which was about a friend of my ex-wife’s who was a heroin addict. She came around to our house one night, in Wellington. At that point our daughter was one-year-old. She was asleep in the bedroom and her friend came around and was asking for money. We sort of chilled her out and then we ended up playing games, like Monopoly, but she was cheating. She also tried to steal some money so I actually said, “You – get the fuck out!” And it was pissing down with rain. So that’s where that song began.

    It’s a pretty relaxed instrumental, paired with lyrics that describe a dark tale of a relationship dissolving.

    It’s a song about disappointment, and a friend, really. She was more a friend of my ex-wife’s rather than mine. Oh, it was just the classic junkie thing. She was high; just never trust a junkie, really. She didn’t do anything to dispel that myth, or that cliche. She lived up to it. It was like, “Oh, that’s really disappointing”. I was a bit younger, so I learned, “Right, that’s actually how that drug works.” It was one of my earlier experiences with it. It was before Gerald [Dwyer], our manager, ended up dying of a morphine overdose.

    I didn’t know that.

    That happened after Killjoy [1995] and before the fish album [Shihad, 1996], which is probably a reason why the fish album is all over the place. Our heads were all over the place because we’d lost our manager.

    Was that in New Zealand?

    It was at the Big Day Out in Auckland. He managed us and another band called Head Like A Hole and we both had really blinding sets. We had seen him in the day; he was backstage and he’d rubbed his nose raw … because when he was on heroin, he’d scratch … The last thing I remember, it was really tragic, us all going [at the BDO], “You look a fucking mess, man. Get the fuck out of here! What the fuck are you doing?” He’s like, “There’s nothing wrong with me.” He went back to the hotel between our sets: we were on the main stage earlier, and Head Like A Hole were on the third stage later. He went back and had a hit, and it was really strong and he died. There was no one there at the hotel to help wake him up. By the time we’d got back to the hotel, someone knocked on his door, and then got it open, and he was dead on the floor. We thought it might have just happened, or something like that. But, yeah, he’d been dead for hours.

    Did you know that he had a problem like that?

    We knew that he used recreationally. But he had cleaned himself up for a while, and I think that’s what fucking killed him. Because he’d cleaned himself up for a while and then got some really pure morphine and basically decided to hit up what he used to do when he was using it more regularly – which kills a lot of people, anyway. There was no one there go to, “Hey, wake up.”

    So, ‘Deb’s Night Out’; how soon after that night did you write that song?

    Pretty much straight away, the day after. It was like – bam. [Guitarist] Phil [Knight] had given me that bit of music … It sounded like the feeling that I had, sort of bittersweet. Just sad, you know? And it was good timing. “Here you go Jon, I’ve got this music.” Great … We recorded it at York Street [Studios, Auckland], and we’d wanted it to be a loop rather than a live drum track. At that stage, as well, the studio was still new to us so everything was recorded to a two-inch tape. Before we were using ProTools properly, we went, “Oh fuck it, we’ll just cut a loop of Tom [Larkin] drumming.” So we actually cut it, had the splice going and we had to hold a drum stick in place [so that it could loop continuously] because there was only a small bit of tape. That’s why it’s got this weird skip in it, because it’s not quite perfect.

    That’s another cute thing I remember about that track. I remember laying down those keyboards right at the end, because it was always just one loop. I thought after that last line, “Pray for the rain/To wash you far away”, it needed to “rain”, musically. That’s the most Skeptics-y part, that whole [sings descending chord progression aloud]. It’s that sort of anthemic thing that the Skeptics did, but with keyboards.

    Did you ever see Deb again?

    Actually, I probably did see her once or twice, but nothing too deep. She probably was a little bit scared of me once we kicked her out.

    Does she know you wrote a song about her?

    I don’t care! [Laughs] I don’t even know if she’s still alive.

    At what point did you show your partner the song?

    At what point did I show my ex-wife? I remember her being around while we were recording it in Auckland. She would have known what it was about. [Pause] I’m always a bit cagey with lyrics, even with the people who are close to me – even with guys in the band. They’re real personal and I was always real … I don’t want people to not like them, so I keep them to myself until the very moment where I can’t hide them anymore, because we’re releasing the fucking record. Which is probably why I’m so fucking overly sensitive to bad reviews! [Laughs] Because I live in denial all the time! [Laughs] I am getting better at it. I am getting better at going, “Oh, fuck it. I’ve been doing it 22 years, this is the idea I’ve got, boom.” But around that, I was, what, 26 when I wrote that? Still very, very uptight.

    For the full interview, including questions about the classic Shihad track ‘Home Again’, visit Mess+Noise.

    Speaking with Jon about these tracks in September 2011 was a huge thrill for me, as I’ve long loved Shihad; my overall Last.FM charts show that I’ve listened to that band more than any other since I joined Last.FM in October 2004.

    The music video for ‘Deb’s Night Out‘ is embedded below.