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Rock doc ‘Hired Gun’ puts the sidemen out front

When “Behind the Music” was launched 20 years ago on VH1, Jason Hook was hooked.

“I have always been a fan of documentaries, especially that series,” says Hook, guitarist of Five Finger Death Punch. “Lynyrd Skynryd, Journey, Foreigner … I was fascinated by the process of pulling back the curtains and learning about these bands.”

A Las Vegas resident and a hired gun himself, Hook is seizing the “Behind the Music” tenor with the new documentary, “Hired Gun: Out Of The Shadows, Into The Spotlight” which focuses attention on the great unsung musicians who have worked with rock legends.

The film debuts Thursday across the country and in Las Vegas at the following theaters: Orleans 18 at the Orleans hotel-casino, Sam’s Town 18 at Sam’s Town hotel-casino, Century 16 Santa Fe Station, Century 16 South Point, Colonnade 14 at 8880 South Eastern Ave., and Regal Village Square 18 at 9400 W. Sahara Avenue.

Along with the clear inspiration of “Behind the Music,” “Hired Gun” is shaped in the same fashion as the Oscar-winning doc “20 Feet From Stardom,” about great backing vocalists. The list of rock performers depicted in the movie includes, but is not exclusive to: Liberty DeVitto (Billy Joel), Kenny Aronoff (John Mellencamp), Rudy Sarzo (Ozzy Osbourne), Phil X (Bon Jovi), Justin Derrico, Mark Schulman (Pink), Ray Parker Jr. (Stevie Wonder), Jason Newsted (Metallica), Eric Singer (KISS), John 5 (Rob Zombie), Glen Sobel, Nita Strauss (Alice Cooper), Steve Lukather (Michael Jackson, Toto), Steve Vai (David Lee Roth), Paul Bushnell (Katy Perry), Jay Graydon (Steely Dan), Derek St. Holmes (Ted Nugent) and Chris Johnson (Rihanna).

Hook says he sharpened his idea for the documentary the old-fashioned way — at least, in the rock culture.

“We were sitting on a tour bus, talking about how much we loved these TV show-type docs,” Hook says, referring to a conversation he had with Five Finger Death Punch drummer Jeremy Spencer. “We both had such a Rolodex full of friends who are working musicians, some very well-known and some not well-known, and it grew from there.”

Hook found it comparatively easy to lure musicians to a film project.

“You now how it is, actors want to be musicians, and musicians want to be actors,” Hook says. “Musicians just like being in movies, because it is a very rare experience.”

The success of “20 Minutes of Fame” was a convenient selling point, too.

“They won an Oscar, so to be in that class would be great,” Hook says. “Our movie is just a rock version of that, and I really expect that a lot of these musicians’ profiles are going to be a lot bigger after the movie than they were before.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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