Vienna Rockers Blast Away Mozart, Strauss in Underground Movie

Andrew Standen-Raz
Andrew Standen-Raz, a U.K. film director, directs the documentary "Vinyl: Tales from the Vienna Underground." The film premiered at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in Carlsbad, Czech Republic. Photographer: A.C. Standen-Raz/Lushfilms via Bloomberg

Forget Viennese waltzes. A film that premieres today shows how techno, experimental and thrash-punk bands are boosting the Austrian capital’s rock scene.

Briton Andrew Standen-Raz wrote and directed “Vinyl: Tales from the Vienna Underground,” which pushes Vienna’s musical reputation beyond Mozart and Strauss.

The 78-minute documentary is being shown at the MuseumsQuartier, the former royal stables that now houses two art museums and theater stages. Bands appearing in the film, including underground performers Rokko Anal and avant-garde-pop singer AVaspo, will perform after the screening.

“A city builds a history and can either learn from it or sink under its weight,” Standen-Raz said in an interview. “As a storyteller you are looking for contrasts that potentially set up conflict. In Vienna you have those extremes.”

The movie, made over three years, captures a pierced and painted tribe who rebel against the heritage of a city that attracts millions of classical-music tourists a year.

“It’s going to take us at least another 200 or 300 years more to convey a modern image of Vienna,” quips DJ Heinz Reich in one scene.

They struggle to find acceptance even as Vienna turns former Nazi bunkers into art installations rather than tearing them down to make space for a new generation of artists. The bands’ hopes for the uniting power of music contrast with the demagogy of Austria’s nationalist parties, who are the subject of a second Standen-Raz movie to be released in January.

Stark Contrast

“Growing up in England, we didn’t have a very positive view of Austria,” said Standen-Raz, 40, sitting in the basement of Celeste, a jazz club near the Secession Museum.

He managed foreign-rights film distribution at 20th Century Fox before dropping out in 2001, “burned out by Los Angeles,” and returned to his native London to plan an independent career.

A 5,000 euro ($7,180) Austrian grant in 2007, along with donated equipment and volunteer labor, helped launch the documentary and convinced him to move to Vienna.

“The Austrian system gives assistance to artists,” he said, casually dressed and with three-day stubble. “There’s no endless supply of money but access is easier than in other cities.”

Standen-Raz, who has a film degree from New York University’s Tisch School, used in-camera special effects to paint over and accentuate his outsider’s impressions of Vienna. The technique tries to capture “the blurring of musical boundaries that makes the city so fascinating,” he said.

Obtaining the music-licensing rights among the more than 30 acts who perform on film, including dub artists like Peter Kruder and Richard Dorfmeister, was the hardest part of the project, Standen-Raz said.

“Vinyl” also showed at this year’s Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the Czech Republic, which runs until tomorrow when its awards will be announced. The festival, central and eastern Europe’s premier movie showcase, previously screened the 2008 Oscar-winning documentary “Man on Wire” and launched feature films such as “Amelie” and “Terribly Happy.”

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE