Shihad: Beautiful Machine
A film about four friends that almost took the biggest industry in the world by storm.
For over 20 years, Shihad has defined New Zealand rock music. From their roots in Wellington’s furious 90s punk metal scene, to the wild Berlin days, the tragic overdose of their manager, the international explosion of The General Electric, and the infamous American name-change, Shihad: Beautiful Machine asks – what went wrong?
More than a documentary, this is an all-access pass to an extraordinary rock saga, charting a legendary band’s fight with fame, fortune, the industry, and finally – itself.
What began in the backrooms of Wellington’s punk rock underground, with Toogood, Tom Larkin, Phil Knight and Karl Kippenberger coming together to form ‘a kickass band’, would see Shihad transplanted to Germany, Australia and eventually, the musical Mecca of the U.S. Encountering every obstacle in the rock book: drug abuse, tragic bereavement, alcoholism, fame’s distortions, relationships imploding under the pressure of constant absence, total breakdowns – the band would beat all of it, playing up to 150 shows a year, producing the most Top 40 hits in New Zealand history, and becoming the focus of a major bidding war.
But nothing could prepare them for the American music industry. With the hopes of a dozen A&R men riding on four guys from New Zealand, Shihad were convinced – in the wake of 9/11 – to change their name, sounding too much like ‘Jihad’ for the U.S. market. Enter Pacifier.
The Viper Room show was a debacle. The tour was a nightmare. The return to New Zealand was even worse. A country felt betrayed, and the band felt they’d betrayed themselves. In these dark days, Shihad nearly vanished.
Only the strength of a 20-year brotherhood saved them. What followed was the resurrection of Shihad and a landmark album – ‘a bonfire to burn the remnants of the Pacifier experience’.
A wild ride from anonymity to being the next ‘It’ band, and into the present day, Shihad: Beautiful Machine is an unflinching look at the elusive reality of a true rock dream.