Fans around the world are obsessed with the inner workings of their favorite bands. This is why music documentaries have always been popular, offering audiences a look at the creative process of their beloved artists. However, most of these films fail to paint the entire picture, neglecting to spotlight an underappreciated group of talented individuals who are integral to the industry: session musicians.
Hired Gun fills that gap by putting these contract players front and center and giving viewers a glimpse of what it’s like to be a backing musician for the biggest rock bands in the world. Directed by Fran Strine and edited by Tim Calandrello (Foo Fighters: Back and Forth), the documentary focuses on the lives of touring musicians and professional studio players. They’re the ones operating in the background of your favorite albums and providing face-melting licks on the concert stage.
Hired Gun features interviews with guitarist Steve Vai, ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted, Billy Joel’s former drummer, Liberty Devitto, and Alice Cooper’s guitarist, Nita Strauss , among others. The film paints an intimate portrait of what it’s like to be a professional musician without all the fame of being a world-renowned rock star. This includes the complicated frustrations of these talents who have had to accept the fact that they’re better off playing other people’s music than creating something of their own.
Hired Gun will change the way you look at the music business, as you become more aware of these hardworking men and women behind the scenes, unsung heroes who make the recording industry go round. Aside from the personal aspect, the documentary also showcases the massive talent that these musicians possess. Which then leads to an important question: why aren’t these people given as much credit as the rock stars they play alongside? The difference between how the faces of the bands are treated as compared to these hired guns is glaring.
While Metallica lead guitarist Kirk Hammett has become so prolific as to develop his own version of the iconic Dunlop Cry Baby wah-wah pedal, Newsted certainly can’t say the same for himself. Even though Newsted is responsible for coming up with some of the most iconic, influential, and meanest licks in heavy metal music of the ’80s and ’90s, he remains mostly unknown to fans today. There are exceptions. Strauss is heralded in the industry, even managing to earn herself her own signature guitar from Ibanez. Vai is another player who has managed to make a name for himself, winning three Grammy Awards for his various contributions. Ultimately, this is what a “hired gun” musician aims to do.
Strine’s documentary puts the spotlight on some of the hardest workers of the music industry in the hope of normalizing the recognition and success of players like Straus and Vai. They all undoubtedly deserve better than just working tirelessly in the shadows.