This week, music and film lovers from around the world are convening at Austin’s SXSW festival for their first taste of the year’s upcoming cultural achievements. And for the folks who can’t live without classic rock, there’s a surprise — the Jimi Hendrix biopic All Is By My Side will screen at SXSW before its proper theatrical release in June.
Casual fans might recognize the film’s leading man as André 3000, one-half of legendary hip-hop group Outkast. Born André Benjamin, he has also appeared in the films Be Cool, Semi-Pro and Four Brothers in addition to Outkast’s own film, Idlewild, released in 2006. And according to Danny Bramson, the producer of the new Hendrix biopic, Benjamin was the only choice for the film’s subject, the revered and inventive guitarist who died tragically young over 40 years ago. As a result, Benjamin practiced guitar for over six hours every day in preparation for the role.
As Bramson told Billboard, “His guitarmanship had to carry the idea of grace and fluidity…We didn’t want to have the camera cropped on his face and not the guitar. He kept working in a rehearsal room throughout the production.”
It was important for Benjamin to get the talent right because Hendrix, in addition to being one of the most prominent guitarists in the history of rock music, also played left-handed. For the film, Bramson said it was essential that Benjamin do the same.
“It is not surprising that guitar, amplifier, and effects makers still try to emulate Jimi’s tone today,” explains David Locke, President of LAWK STAR Guitars. “You definitely do not have to have vintage gear to get his great sound. Great amp builders today cannot only emulate Jimi’s tone but their amps also give you the diversity to emulate tones of other great guitar heroes that have followed in Jimi’s footsteps. Main stream and boutique amp manufacturers are always creatively engineering new ways to copy and, if it’s even possible, improve on the great tones and sounds of Jimi Hendrix.”
“In my opinion, the best tones in the world, and I think Jimi would agree, come from tube amplification,” continues Locke. “Add a great fuzz pedal and a sweet wah pedal and boom, you are ready to throw down some of those iconic Jimi Hendrix licks.”
What’s also notable about All Is By My Side is how it won’t actually feature any of Hendrix’s recorded music. The producers couldn’t secure the rights from Hendrix’s estate, so to compensate, Bramson partnered with Waddy Wachtel, a session musician who’s played with Stevie Nicks, Keith Richards, Warren Zevon and other legends, to help compose some material that sounded era-appropriate. The film focuses on Hendrix’s rise to international stardom in 1966 and 1967.
Additionally, the film features music from The Beatles, Muddy Waters, The Troggs and other classic artists.
All Is By My Side is in good company at the festival, as other music-centric movies like the John Lennon-Yoko Ono story Rubber Soul and a Swedish House Mafia documentary are all set to be screened this week as well. As for Benjamin, he’s soon to be hitting the road with his Outkast better half, Big Boi, for a 40-festival mega-tour throughout 2014. The first stop is Coachella on April 11. No word if the pair have lined up any Hendrix covers yet.