Shihad: Documentary 2012

This was the official website for the documentary about the legendary Kiwi group Shihad, chronicling their two-decade rise to greatness. From their roots in Wellington's '90s punk metal scene, Shihad's rock dreams faced wild days in Berlin, the tragic overdose of their manager, the international explosion of their The General Electric album and the infamous American name-change. This "all-access pass" doco charts the journey, and the bands fight with fame, the industry and finally – itself.
Content is from the site's 2012 archived pages as well as from other outside sources.


Winner Documentary Director and Best Documentary Editing at the NZ Film Awards 2012.

Shihad: Beautiful Machine - official movie trailer 2012

Rialto Distribution and Pacific Lightworks present the highly anticipated documentary film Shihad: Beautiful Machine, in cinemas across New Zealand from 17 May. For over two decades, 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.


Shihad: Beautiful Machine documentary released

Thursday, 5 April 2012
Press Release: Rialto Distribution

Shihad documentary provides an all-access pass to the legendary band’s fights with fame, fortune, the industry and themselves

Rialto Distribution and Pacific Lightworks present the highly anticipated documentary film Shihad: Beautiful Machine.

Shihad: Beautiful Machine, directed by Sam Peacocke, will be in cinemas around New Zealand from 17 May.

Shot in various locations including Wellington, Melbourne, New York, Nashville, Berlin and London, the film follows the tumultuous trajectory of New Zealand’s best-loved rock band which celebrates its 24th anniversary this year.

For over two decades, 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?”

What makes this documentary unique from many other music genre documentaries is its focus on not only the music, but also on the band member’s relationships with wives, girlfriends and their parents. Interviews with the band’s nearest and dearest illustrate the extent to which these were instrumental in shaping the voice and journey of Shihad over time.

Producer Laurence Alexander says, “When we first discussed the idea of the film, I met with a friend of the band who told me many stories that had occurred during the band’s career and it started to paint a picture of the adversity they had been up against.

“Beyond the band exists family and personal relationships that all feed into the story of the survival of New Zealand’s longest-running rock act.”

None more so than the relationship of Jon Toogood and his former wife, Ronise Paul, which provided much inspiration for Shihad’s lyrical material.

The documentary marks director Sam Peacocke’s debut feature-length film. Peacocke won attention with a slate of distinctive music videos, including Shihad’s Beautiful Machine, and his short film Manurewa was selected for the Berlin International Film Festival, where it won the Crystal Bear for Best Short in the Youth section.

Shihad:Beautiful Machine is a truly unique Kiwi film experience and an unflinching look at the elusive reality of a true rock dream.


"Huge fan and worked for over 12 of Shihad's 20 years as one of their roadies - worked on their concerts in Wellington, Berlin, and the outdoor festival in Sydney. Observed several different phases of their evolution, lived through the death of a manager, the USA tour, etc. They even went through a Batman phase, where everyone, including the technical crew wore Batman t shirts. On cooler days we'd be in Batman hoodies or sweatshirts, but always wearing apparel branded with our Dark Knight hero. Started in Berlin because we were there when the movie came out and we all went crazy for Batman. We might have bought out all of the supply of Moon At Midnight Batman shirts during that time. This was a short lived happy time for us - we got loads of positive reviews and we chalked it up to our association with Batman's karma. Unfortunately it didn't last very long. The worst time though was the USA tour after the terrorist attack of 911 when all that anti-Muslim hatred rained down on us even though none of us were Muslim - we just had name that rhymed with "jihad" - crazy! But horrible for us. Not even the real Batman could have saved us from the vitriolic attacks triggered by complete ignorance. We all dreamed of the American tour, but that one turned into a nightmare." James Loft


For over 20 years, Shihad has defined New Zealand rock music. From their roots in Wellington's furious 90's 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?




Director – Sam Peacocke

Peacocke won attention with a slate of distinctive music videos (eg. Mint Chicks Vodafone award-winner Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No!). His drama debut, Manurewa, re-imagines events surrounding a high profile 2008 liquor store shooting. At the 2011 Berlin Film Festival, it won the Crystal Bear for best short in the Generation 14plus section. He has also won awards for commercials, this is Sam's first documentary of any length.

Producer – Laurence Alexander

Laurence is the currently head of Wellington based film production, rental and sales company Rubber Monkey, more commonly known for it's primary role in the production of NZ Film Secondhand Wedding. Previously a veteran Music Producer based in Sydney he has been involved in projects ranging from Australian Idol, Popstars (AU), a range of writing and production credits incl Artists Guy Sebastian, Sophie Monk, Short Stack, Slinky Minx, Paulini, Kate DeAraugo, Westlife and more. Currently he is developing a range of future projects with fellow producer Grant Roa through their partnership venture Pacific Lightworks. Their first foray into Feature Film being Shihad: Beautiful Machine.

Producer – Grant Roa

The six foot tall, green eyed, Maori boy raised in Porirua Wellington is now a familiar face to most people in both New Zealand and Australia. In 2001 Roa impressed audiences worldwide with his fabulous portrayal of Uncle Rawiri in the award winning Oscar nominated New Zealand feature film Whale Rider with Keisha Castle Hughes, Cliff Curtis and Rawiri Paratene. Other film credits, among his ten feature films, include roles in Separation City along side Joel Edgerton, Danielle Cormack, Rhona Mitra, Les Hill and Thomas Kretschmann and James Cameron's Avatar.


Roa has also had his fair share of work in television with roles on New Zealands' longest running show Shortland Street, The Lost Children, The Hot House and the children's horror series The Killian Curse amongst others.

In addition to this, Roa loves comedy and his work on Facelift and the very popular McPhail and Gadsby back in the 90s reflect this. Shihad: beautiful Machine is Roa producing debut but he is putting the knowledge that he garnered from all his past work into creating something special.

Co-Producer – David White

David White started out as an actor with Guest roles on "The Strip" and "The Tribe". Since this fleeting foray in front of the camera, he turned his hand to producing and directing. He started with music videos which won an array of awards before producing the Independent feature film The Last Great Snail Chase (2007) and most recently and obviously Shihad: Beautiful Machine. He has just finished directing two other short documentaries one for BBC knowledge other the for NZFC and has array of different projects on the horizon.

Editor – Cushla Dillion

Cushla Dillon is an award-winning film editor and screenwriter with over 20 years experience, and has a passion for story-telling in both dramatic form and documentary. She won Best Editor on a Feature Film for TOPLESS WOMEN TALK ABOUT THEIR LIVES and SNAKESKIN at the NZ Film and TV Awards, and in recent years has edited some of the most successful NZ feature documentaries, including Academy Award-short listed documentary feature THIS WAY OF LIFE and the critically acclaimed TROUBLE IS MY BUSINESS. In 2008 she attended the Binger Filmlab in Amsterdam with her screenplay, A GUIDE TO MAGICAL THINKING, currently in development. Since completing BEAUTIFUL MACHINE in 2011, she has been editing two documentary features, JERUSALEM/HIRUHAMA and PICTURES OF SUSAN, as well as additional editing for Berlin Film Festival selected MAORI BOY GENIUS. Earlier this year, Cushla was Jury Member at FIFO, the Oceania Documentary Film Festival held annually in Tahiti. Cushla's continued attraction to the documentary form is her respect for a genre that continues to evolve, with a seemingly inexhaustible capacity to "challenge our perceptions of truth and fiction".


Producers Story

The inspiration to tell this story was clear to me from the start. Personally, I was curious to know what had happened during their 23 years. Curious because, outside of being a filmmaker, I am a musician, and curious also as to how the band had achieved their longevity despite numerous career setbacks. A lot of talk about a band that changed their name after the 9/11 tragedy had given Shihad notoriety here in New Zealand but beyond the outcome of that one event, in fact, here was a bunch of guys who as teenage boys had set out to be the best band in the world. 4 uniquely difference personalities coming from the tiny country of New Zealand and setting out to conquer the daunting US Music business

Behind the Scenes: Shihad Beautiful Machine a documentary

Beyond the band story and beyond the music exists a human drama that explores the meaning of loyalty, desire, friendship, loss, success and purpose. This is the universal story that many other band documentary have failed to explore. In Shihad: Beautiful Machine one of the main things I've drawn from the film and notice whenever we screen it, is that it gets people talking. It's a film about goals and dreams and whether or not fulfilling those goals necessarily bring you the success you'd hoped. It explores what place New Zealand has in the Americanised arts world which has become almost entirely focused on commercial gain, rather than artistic merit.

In 2009 when we first discussed the idea of the film I had a sit down meeting with a friend of the band who told me many of the stories that had occurred during the bands career, and it started to paint a picture of the adversity they had been up against. Beyond the band itself also exists family and personal relationships that have all feed into the story of survival of New Zealand's longest running rock act.

The difficulty from that point in telling the story would start with how truly open the band would be to telling it. Luckily they were, and from the very start they had expressed an interest to tell their story warts and all, avoiding spending too much time on the music and delving more into the personal journey that they're been through.

Several passes at an original treatment gave us a framework for which we could now use to sell the idea and get funding. Resourced with this and our own passion for the film, we were able to secure the funds and go into production in 2010. The next step to getting this story on screen was somewhat more difficult. The band throughout its career had been interviewed hundreds of times and without some unique approach it was difficult to set the stage for a unique interview, where we would delve on the Shihad world in an entirely new way.

Behind the Scenes: Shihad Beautiful Machine a documentary

The answer came in the form of our Director Sam Peacocke. Sam is a young and up and coming Kiwi director had having already developed a relationship with the band having directed a number of their music videos. He used the trust he'd had gained and took the band out of their comfort zone and into a entirely unique space where questions couldn't be answered so automatically. This style produced a very genuine response, and from then on the story began to build in depth and honesty.

Relationships with wives, girlfriends and families are a key part of this story and in many ways help to set it apart from other music genre documentaries. Meeting the parents of the band members and relating to their observations of their sons upbringing and journey in the group. And then the wives and girlfriends which helped define in many ways create the voice of the band, none more so than the relationship of Jon Toogood with his Partner Ronise Paul with much of Shihad's lyrical material drawing from that relationship.

This film serves up an example for all NZ artists who desire to take their art to the world. In some ways it's a cautionary tale and in others it's about a balance between your goals, friendships and family. For the producers we are proud to have created a truly unique NZ film experience and hope audiences will gain insight and be challenged as much as being taking on a great ride of 23 years of Shihad history

-Laurence Alexander




IMDb Review

17 years overdue, NZ film funding mistake
6 January 2016 | by maxastree

"Beautiful Machine" had no reason to exist upon release, and less after seeing it; its essentially the story of Wellington, New Zealands most successful post-grunge/radio metal band who made their most successful recordings prior to 2003. Decamping to Melbourne in the nineties, the band released a string of radio singles, and toured the Aussie pub band circuit and further overseas, a tradition that New Zealand musicians have held since the 1970s.

My main issue with the film is that NZ arts funding bodies supplied some $980,000 to produce what is essentially a series of found-video excerpts, home interviews and some in concert clips - much of it about the quality level of a well made student film. Where the money actually went I can't say, but possibly the bands ever-declining recording sales was the main motivator for this NZ music nostalgia flick; fans should be aware of their plans to recently try and sell their live performances as pay-per-view broadcasts to bars, part sponsored by NZ house paint company Resene. (note: a musical act is not a rugby or cricket team, but anyways. . .)

But what about the film's content? Well, back in the mid nineties, Shihad and a group of other popular acts (Supergroove, Headless Chickens and to an extent smaller groups like HDU or the Nixons) were on the warpath in NZ, impressing kids via radio sponsorship or live sets at local college orientation gigs etc. Shihad were originally a high school metal band, based around rich-kid drummer Tom Larkins impressive rhythm chops, with the rest of the band playing along. Frontman Jon Toogoods cartoonish, manic stage energy helped engage an audience often indifferent to local releases in the countries tiny commercial music market.

Ultimately, what happens in reality is not what happens in this documentary; for starters, it should be noted that the bands early alt. metal gigs were surprisingly sharp and self-assured, but later attempts at coercing the bands sound into a radio-friendly singles format made the same strengths weaknesses; their robotic, soulless sound may have suited industrial tinged metal, but sounded like generic radio rock on air years later, maybe in part due to the influence of Warners NZ music manager James Southgate, an ex-pat Brit that likes overproduced, American accented radio bands that people will pay to see in a pub somewhere, but have about as much personality and zest as the plastic bags you use for weekly shopping.

I can't stress enough how annoying Jon Toogood actually is: the frontman of the strident, earnest metal group later came across as a sort of charmless, macho New Zealand jock, annoyingly self assured, almost arrogant.

The films raison d'être is ostensibly that they could have been huge in the US, but the stigma of the 9/11 attacks on US soil was too much of an issue for music managers at the time. NOT TRUE: in reality, dozens (in fact hundreds) of bands were submitting their albums, promo kits and demos to US record labels, trying to be the next "modern rock" band, a kind of macho, heavy-handedly earnest format that culminated in Nickelback, The Calling, Alter Bridge and other bands too vile to mention.

Not that Shihad were a group that started playing to become that format, they started playing in high school circa 1988, and if they'd been documented in the mid-nineties, the nostalgia of seeing the item today would be relevant. As I suggested above, this 2012 release is some kind of cash-in, and one that sells a pretty mediocre retelling of their story to the public.



Shihad: Beautiful Machine

16 May, 2012

Put the music to one side for a moment, because this documentary about Shihad digs the dirt and along the way tells a good old-fashioned rock 'n' roll yarn.

The music is by no means a secondary element here, it's just that the film delves into the personal lives of the four band members. So, at times, it plays out more like a soap opera than a rockumentary.

Which is fine, because you can guarantee that everyone who goes to see this film about our longest-running, and arguably best, rock band, will have already seen them live many times.

So a concert-style music documentary, while worthy, would really be nothing that new.

But the lives, loves, and rocking good (and bad) times of Jon Toogood, Karl Kippenberger, Tom Larkin and Phil Knight makes for intriguing viewing.

It's like the no-holds-barred Foo Fighters' documentary, Back and Forth, from last year, which concentrated more on the personalities and dynamic within the band.

What comes through in Beautiful Machine is Shihad's passion for the band, and, well, the occasional bit of brutal back-stabbing. But most of all, it is up front and honest.

From the revelation that Knight was an alcoholic (he's now addicted to yoghurt instead) to Kippenberger, a normally lovely, level-headed chap, putting the boot into Toogood over his less than unifying antics when they first got to America.

The temporary name change - to Pacifier post 9/11 - is dealt with frankly, and Toogood perhaps sums up the debacle best when he says their options were "shit (a)" (give up their American dream) or "shit (b)" (change the band's name and give it a go).

As the film charts the ups and downs of their 20-plus year career it features candid interviews with the band, their mums and dads (including Ma Toogood with her Shihad tattoo), their ex and current partners, and music industry insiders, to find out how they became who they are as people - and as a band.

The rare footage of their very early days, back when Toogood and Larkin were still metal kids at Wellington High, is priceless. This is Shihad's story, and it's a cracker, which makes it a must-see for fans of the band.

Stars: 4/5
Director: Sam Peacocke
Rating: M (offensive language, sexual references and drug references)
Running time: 103 mins
Verdict: Shihad's riveting rock 'n' roll soap opera



Movies of My Life # 11: Shihad Beautiful Machine

June 4, 2014 by Simon Sweetman |

You should see this film. It’s the best music documentary that will ever come out of New Zealand. It has grit and heart and soul – and then there is the manipulation, the rewriting of history, the candidness that becomes a cover for what is tantamount to backstabbing. It’s all here. Shihad is New Zealand’s best live act. And the Wellington-born rock/metal band has been at it for some twenty-five years. That is reason for praise. Reason enough for this documentary.

There is not a lot of music to be seen – or heard – as part of the film Shihad: Beautiful Machine and though that might bug some fans it makes the film all the more appealing as a general documentary; a feature film about the lives of four Kiwis. They just happen to be in a band. Add to the story the death of a manager, a name-change that felt like betrayal, a singer prepared to think about selling out, a drummer who won’t let that happen on his watch, a guitarist who swaps alcohol for yoghurt so that the band can continue and a bass player who was the band’s biggest fan (that’s what got him the gig) and ends up being the most scathing about Jon Toogood’s botched joke-attempt on stage in America; the buzz-kill that contributed to Shihad-as-Pacifier’s failure stateside.

All of this is beautifully framed with the families of the band members providing touching moments of sincerity.

And the musicians know their roles off-stage.

Jon Toogood (vocals) plays the poet-fool; Tom Larkin (drums) is the defacto-manager and driving force; Karl Kippenberger (bass) is the fan-boy turned band-member, it went from being surreal to a little too real for him; Phil Knight (guitar) is the film’s reluctant star, daunted, drained, hen-pecked even, but proudly still there to serve the music.

For all the attempts to swerve the narrative towards Toogood’s lyrics, loved-up doggerel that doesn’t have the prescience that he and the film’s makers would have you believe, even when Jonny-Boy is happily hamming up a faux-troubadour gimmick, performing the songs to camera in solo acoustic renditions, it’s Knight that burns into the soul. Staring out with an intense introversion from the front lawn with his partner who he is sure would never have given him the time of day if he was still drinking. It’s Kippenberger helping his mum in the garden, still amazed he’s part of the band he used to go and see. And it’s Larkin at home with his partner and child, the band’s goalkeeper, always aware of the score.

Three musicians that are somehow just right for each other and their frontman – the best in the country by some distance. And this is everything that has happened around keeping them together. Shihad: Beautiful Machine is about so much more than just the music. And just as well.

I had an advance copy of this film – a screener-disc. I watched it three times in the first week, before the film was released. I loved the way this film was made, the story it told. I like a lot of Shihad’s music – but there’s plenty I don’t like and a fair bit I’ve never (really) heard. Maybe I’ve skimmed and scanned it, heard it once, moved on. Maybe it could reveal more with more time attached to it. But none of that matters here – this is an equal-opportunity film, you’ve as much chance enjoying this, I believe, if you’re a fan of the band or if you’ve never even heard their music. Because it manages to be the story of four people. Four mates. And then there’s a whole lot of other stuff to deal with on top of that – levels of fame, the hunger for (more) fame, tragedy and the usual insecurities around making music and being in a band – that marriage of convenience that often becomes (just a tad inconvenient).

I’ve gone back to this film recently – watched it again. And again. I keep coming away from it with the same feeling – the guys in the band were brave. They might have even been stupid. But they put themselves out there with this. And it succeeds because the filmmaker found a way to tell the story of the people as much as it was ever about the music.