Chris Holmes: ‘Mean Man: The Story of Chris Holmes’ documentary

Released on January 15, 2021 (Cleopatra Entertainment)

Call me cheap if you will but I just wasn’t willing to pay $25 to $30 to purchase (and view) the documentary Mean Man: The Story of Chris Holmes. However, last night I came across a Facebook post where someone indicated how much they enjoyed viewing the documentary via Amazon Prime. Holy shit I thought! I have Amazon Prime. I quickly checked to see if Mean Man: The Story of Chris Holmes was indeed available on Amazon Prime and lo and behold, it was. Given that it was past 2:00 am when I made my discovery, I decided to get some sleep and watch the documentary as soon as I could the next day. That ended up being first thing in the morning. That is one definite “perk” of “working from home.”

I didn’t really know what to expect from the documentary aside that there would obviously be a lot of focus on Holmes‘ time in Cannes, France — where he continues to reside with his wife Cathy-Sarah Holmes — and the guitarist’s time in W.A.S.P. — one of most iconic heavy metal bands from the ’80s. To put things into perspective, it’s hard for a band to put out two or three really good albums in a row — just ask Mötley Crüe — but W.A.S.P., put out in my humble opinion, five really great albums in a row with W.A.S.P. (1984), The Last Command (1985), Inside The Electric Circus (1986), The Headless Children (1989) and The Crimson Idol (1992). I really can’t think of another band that released five great albums like that aside from perhaps Iron Maiden with their first five studio albums. In any case, Holmes played on the first four W.A.S.P. albums so as far as I am concerned, he has more than earned his stripes and can rest on those laurels for the rest of his career.

As it turns out, Holmes is apparently still hungry to play music and similar to the Anvil documentary when you see those band members touring on a very limited budget throughout Europe, Holmes is doing the same thing in his documentary. One thing that differentiates Holmes‘ documentary from Anvil‘s is that he does not seem to play to virtually empty little holes in the ground. Whatever the case, Mean Man: The Story of Chris Holmes does not glamorize the guitarist’s current situation and he even compares what it’s like touring now to what it was back in the ’80s heyday. I have to say that I learned a lot about Holmes through the documentary. I knew his story more or less going in but hearing about the last time that he ever saw Blackie Lawless and hearing people speak on how wild that he really was back in his heyday was really fun. One of the most insightful people that was interviewed was roadie Curt Levis who was apparently with the band right from the beginning.

I am sure that the Duke TV producers Antoine De Montremy and Laurent Hart tried to reach out to them but it was a bit disappointing that the only two former W.A.S.P. band members that are featured in the film aside from Holmes is bassist Johnny Rod and drummer Stet Howland. It would have been nice to have drummer Steve Riley or guitarist Randy Piper, or even the reclusive drummer Tony Richards, chime in about Holmes. It would have been nice to have Lita Ford chime in on her time with Holmes. Or how about Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi who reportedly told Holmes that he was trying to emulate him with his guitar sound. That seemed hard to believe — even if Holmes has a killer guitar tone — and it would have been a much better story coming out of Iommi‘s mouth. The elephant in the room throughout the documentary is of course Blackie Lawless who is nowhere to be found and missing in action (aside from some video footage of a MTV interview where he speaks about reuniting with Holmes).

Lawless, whose real name is Steven Duren, gets bashed by Holmes throughout the documentary but what becomes clear as you view Mean Man: The Story of Chris Holmes is that Lawless was clearly the sober brains of the operation and the real driving force in the band. There seems little doubt that Lawless decided early on that W.A.S.P. was going to be the Blackie Lawless show. Holmes rightfully pointing out that Lawless is the focal point of the band from The Last Command onwards makes a lot of sense when you look at the album covers from that record onwards. That being said, it seems hard to believe that Holmes could have kept things together and run W.A.S.P. without Lawless‘ guidance. After all, Holmes laments throughout the film that he has never received any publishing royalties but at the end of the day, who is to blame for that? Although Holmes puts down Lawless time and time again, I am glad that the documentary producers included the segment where Howland indicates how Lawless cared for Holmes and spent time and money to help him get sober. Holmes acknowledged that getting sober was the best thing that ever happened to him. Say what you will about the reclusive Steven Duren, he probably saved Holmes‘ life.

I don’t want to give too much away from the documentary. It’s fun to watch and the producers did a good job of switching from one topic to another, and one era to another. I did find it puzzling to hear Holmes and his band play a cover of Neil Young‘s “Rockin’ In The Free World” at a rock festival in Vienna, Austria when the guitarist has so much stellar material from his W.A.S.P. days to choose from. I also still think that Holmes is a terrible singer but I am glad to see him still playing and of course, I was looking forward to seeing him play for the first time (alas, Holmes‘ Canadian tour has been postponed a few times due to the Covid pandemic). Overall, Mean Man: The Story of Chris Holmes is a quality documentary and in hindsight, I should have just forked out the $25 to $30 to purchase the documentary rather than wait for a few months and stumble upon it via Amazon Prime.

Filmed and written by Antoine De Montremy and Laurent Hart
Edited by Sophie Nogier

Chris Holmes & The Mean Men’ Official Website
Chris Holmes’ Bandcamp
Duke TV’s YouTube

Mean Man: The Story of Chris Holmes trailer: