A few days ago, Booga and I watched Swagger of Thieves, a documentary by filmmaker Julian Boshier. For five years Julian has filmed Head Like a Hole (after they reformed in 2009). He’s stayed at our house, hung out with our kids and shared meals with us. Julian has toured nationally with the band several times and he attended our wedding last year. So far, he has been committed to this project for half a decade. Seeing his first cut stirred something in me, enough for me to write about it.
Suddenly the release date is close. The process has been so long, I hadn’t thought about the practicalities of this until now. Exposing Head Like a Hole and its extended family is risky, I was always aware of that. There’s a lot of water under the bridge; friends who’ve become foes, deeply personal moments and hard times for each of the band members (past and present). It’s a brave move for the band to present such an honest story.
Julian has history with Head Like a Hole and he’s collected footage over the lifespan of the band. It’s taken him eighteen months to search through his archives and to chase people across the country (for any missing pieces of the band’s history). It was scary to think what content could have made it into the film.
There’s a bit of a villain and heroine thread to the story. Booga’s soft side will continue to elude his fans, and the editing has been kind to me. You’ll see (below) I refer to him both as Booga and Nigel, this is something I regularly do in everyday life. Our family and close friends know Nigel Beazley and everyone else knows Booga Beazley. They’re two very separate characters. Booga dominates the film, as he should.
Booga and I have known each other for about twenty years, we moved in the same circles and had mutual friends in Tom Watson and Andrew Durno (past members of Head Like a Hole). I always thought Booga was a bit too cool and confident, if not arrogant. We used to tease each other a bit, looking back it was probably playful flirting. But, I would never have expected he would become my husband and the father of my twins – how ridiculous!
When people ask how we met, some say, in a smarmy voice “were you his groupie?” They think nothing of their sexist and degrading comment (interestingly it’s mostly women). I’ve heard it many times and it increasingly pisses me off. For in fact – if there was ever a groupie – it was Nigel. He’s a romantic and very respectful of women, he understands them. Booga, on the other hand, can be a little cruder in his performance and lyrics.
Nigel and I reconnected late 2003 when Head a Like a Hole was over, kaput for good. With no band to boost his ego, I got to know the real man. He was shy, caring and very funny. It didn’t take long to fall in love with his humour and his positive dreamy ways. He wanted the same things in life as me, and this didn’t involve music.
Booga was lost without his band, but he had left that scene behind for a good reason. Some people thought I was mad; hooking up with a recovering ‘junkie’ that lived with his mother. In truth, he was on the road to getting clean and he was caring for, at the time, the most important woman in his world. I respected that.
There’s an assumption that drug addicts no longer have personalities or morals. Unlike alcoholism, drug addiction makes people feel very uncomfortable, especially intravenous use. In most people’s minds, it’s a short journey from the casual dabbler to a full-blown junkie. Drug users quickly become no-hopers, basket cases that can only change if they want to. It’s a sad mindset that lacks truth and is full of hypocrisy.
Nigel’s support for me, and anything I do, is huge. He’s my biggest fan, and me his. Together we’re raising an amazing family, I have a successful career and we’ve kept Head Like a Hole viable for another decade. I initially managed them from 2009, then I handed the task to Booga in 2012. After many rejections from NZ on Air funding, together we found ways to record new material, tour nationally and get tracks in the charts on a tiny budget. We were dedicated to the cause and continue to be.
In this film, Julian has captured how Nigel and I work well as a team. It magnifies specific parts our life together, so understandably I’m nervous to appear in the documentary. Being filmed was easy – sitting down to watch it was difficult. I don’t like the limelight like Booga does, he owns it and I hide from it. It’s especially hard to see people you care about bare all, particularly clips of our innocent children being mixed in amongst stories of drugs, death and betrayal. But the band has never been so close, healthy or committed than it is today and this helps to ease any anxiety for us all.
Swagger of Thieves is not the stock-standard rock-documentary I was expecting. The result is an artful tale of hard times. A bit brutal, but very truthful. It’s sensitive to the cast, while still sharing a lot of emotion with the viewer.
The anticipation is over, I’m pleasantly surprised how beautifully this film has been crafted. I hope viewers enjoy the story that Julian has so thoughtfully created and passionately invested in.