to accompany the release of 65daysofstatic’s new record, a rescoring of the 1972 science fiction film silent running, i have written a fairly in depth article that discusses the creation of the artwork. the article is the third in a series that i’ve written for the independent filmmaker project and you can read an excerpt of it here –
so a week passed, the hurricane was about to hit and i knew where i had to go with this. i chose not to run the idea by the band, mostly as I simply had no idea whether i could successfully pull it off any way. i?d never really drawn spaceships before and whilst i had an inkling of how i was going to do it, i truly expected a messy failure of some description to result from it. sitting down at my machine as people along the brooklyn waterfront were taping big Xs in their windows like hundreds of fox mulders with too many unanswered questions, i began to piece things together. all of the while i couldn?t stop repeating over and over what sara goldfarb says at the beginning of the film?requiem for a dream,?as her son is stealing her television to pay for drugs –
?this isn?t happening. and if it should be happening, it would be all right. so don?t worry, seymour. it?ll all work out. you?ll see already. in the end it?s all nice.?
by which i think my brain was saying that sometimes you have to trust there?s a reason for your motivations, because sometimes your subconscious is simply way ahead of you.
when 65daysofstatic were asked to write an article for issue 2 of underscore magazine, the magazine’s editors got in touch with us and asked that they might use some of the photographs we’d taken of the band whilst touring with them. we have since stayed in touch with the magazine, and were very kindly asked to pitch a story for issue 3, the fight issue.
we pitched three story ideas to them, one of which was a photo essay that i’d taken last christmas whilst visiting my grandparents in norfolk, england. they immediately took to the photos but asked that i accompany the shots with a small piece of writing, explaining my intentions with the shots. this soon developed into something much bigger than the intended couple of paragraphs, and swiftly started to take precedence as the driving force of the piece.
here’s excerpt from the essay –
at the end of the 1982 science fiction film blade runner, the replicant roy batty delivers a profound and lasting statement. he talks of the loss of experiences, memories and moments that occurs when someone dies. after all you certainly don?t just lose the person, you lose a completely unique perspective both on your life and the lives of countless others. an irreplaceable recording of details seemingly too obscure or trivial to write down or photograph.
quite how trivial is all relative of course. what of the tears no one saw quietly forming at the corner of the eyes that looked through the camera that photographed you being born? what of the rip in the dress on the person holding that camera, or the fight nine months before that caused that rip? the big scene. the making up. the kiss. the sex. trivial to some, but probably not to you.
you can read the rest of the essay here, and you can see the original set of photographs i took here.
nothing will compare to buying the issue, of course. this magazine is always has great articles, is printed on really nice paper stock and the overall design is pretty much impeccable. if you dig this sorta thing, by all means grab yourself a copy here.
the website for the feature film PAVILION went live today, and along with it my second blog article for the IFP in which i discuss the process that went into making the site. we were also fortunate enough to be asked to handle the film’s posters and the credit sequences. the article discusses this and explains why our treatment on all fronts aimed to reflect the very minimal, atmospheric nature of the film.
here’s an excerpt –
my co-worker zach referred me once to a film (portrait of jason, 1967) where a man is sitting there smoking a cigarette for pretty much the entire film. that?s it. talking about this on the way to get lunch one day we agreed that in a film like that, where that?s all that happens, the small things turn into huge events. zach then stopped, scratched his head and thought for a moment, whispering to the air in front of him, ?what was it that happened in that one??. i stopped too, waited, and then finally he said ?ah yes, he ran out of gas on his lighter. huge deal!? we both laughed and then stepped inside?jimmy?s, our regular lunch joint.
so to reiterate,?pavilion?really is one of those exact films. it?s almost fair to say that if you blink or cough, you could miss the entire ?reveal? at the end of it. there are tiny fragmented shards of dialogue that tell you what?s happening whilst all the while you?re watching the most detached, beautiful and mesmerizing footage of kids feeling out the moments in those long, long, useless days of our youth. in fact what i said when i came back from the bathroom after tim had screened his movie for us was ?congratulations?. congratulations for capturing that feeling of the abstract, aimless ennui of what it was to be young, with almost no sense of responsibility at all.
the above cover of the new big black delta album has existed in one form or another for a year or more. aside from the protomen act II logo, this is the longest we’ve had to sit on something and let it mature. it has therefore had to suffer being discarded a few times and consequently being heaved back onto the table for repair. this is largely because we were nervous and didn’t trust that the visual came close to the power of the music. thus we kept searching for a way to express that, and consequently found ourselves staring at this piece again and again, realizing it was the closest we’d ever come.
the idea behind this cover was essentially two-fold –
first up whilst the EP depicted elements passing through space toward something, the LP we felt should be emblematic of the place they were all headed – the core or nucleus sucking everything in. this way we had a story of sorts, both visually and conceptually. conceptually because, as with most EPs, the songs were tested out and then some found their final resting place on the LP.
secondly we wanted something that gave you the sense of being in a minute, inner-space, just as much as the more obvious, vast, outer-space setting the artwork appeared to depict at first glance. we wanted it to feel like the genesis of an idea, or the microscopic core of the beginnings of an erruption, as much as a planetoid or huge cataclysm in space. you see we were into the idea that jonathan bates’ first band, mellowdrone, had had an album cover with a man clutching his head as it exploded, and that subsequently this record was perhaps illustrating the inside of that same head. the nucleus of the eruption, be it psychological or physical, that lead to the head exploding. the assumption being that both images, for us, represented the state the band was in, the lyrics and the overall tone.
whilst big black delta is very much a more personal, solo musical endeavor for jon, mellowdrone saw him very much more in a band environment, in more of a democracy and also dealing with a sense of disenfranchisement. so the angry bear album cover was an external view of the result of a certain psychology, and the BBDLP1 cover?is a depiction therefore, also, of something more personal, from somewhere more unique to just jon.
beyond the hand-drawn elements themselves the cover was also treated with a level of distressing and texture. the reason for this is that the music itself was treated in a similar fashion. jon deliberately kept certain glitches and errors that happened in the processing or compression of each track in order to give it a more freeform and ‘fuck it’ attitude. so in turn we effectively threw the record on the floor at a UFO convention and let everyone stampede across it as they made their way from bob lazar’s talk on alien spaceship reverse engineering over to the preview screenings of the next series of ancient aliens.
so what next? well jon is of course working on new music and we’re already working on new artwork. as jim carroll says in the basketball diaries “come on, reggie, you know this game never ends.”
caspar has been invited to write a monthly blog for the independent film project.?the first article went live on monday and it’s on the subject of trust.?here is an excerpt –
in terms of the work i do for version industries, i have a healthy obsession with narrative and pathos, and feel that one should inherently lead to the other if you?re going to win the trust of your audience, whatever the medium. for this very reason i try wherever possible to tell a story with each project, be it a website, a record cover, a poster or a music video. i don?t mean a ?story? in the ?fashion magazine? sense, i mean a story with characters, scenes, events and climaxes. now of course it doesn?t have to be a sad story to be a good story, but without a sense of pathos somewhere along the line, you won?t glean any real loyalty for your work. take the funniest film you?ve ever seen and there?ll be a moment of sadness sitting right at the heart of it, and whether you like it or not it?s that moment that grounds everything else. why? because sadness feels more true than happiness. we might only recollect the happy memories and we certainly don?t have much memory of pain, but it?s a fact that it?s the sad moments that help us lower our defenses, bring us together and help us trust each other. trust being fundamental if you are an artist trying to earn the respect of your peers and garner support from your audience. it?s trust that leads them to follow your progress and consequently support for your next piece of work, be that financially or other.
working with makeup and vanity set continues to be a very exciting, fluid and rewarding process. we will never take for granted the fact that we get to work so directly with such an exciting, cinematically driven collective of musicians down there in nashville, tennessee. MAVS and the protomen continue to challenge and inspire, and this project was no different.
that said, when MAVS first approached us for this project we had a lot going on and so he was forced to go elsewhere. however when that didn’t pan out as planned, he offered us another shot at it. by this point we’d had a chance to listen to the record a great deal and lament on the fact that the job was no longer ours. this of course meant that the moment we got given the reins again everything came together very quickly. the work was done in 2-3 days and proved to be a rather cathartic and emotional experience for all involved. both MAVS and i had been through intense personal experiences around this time and listening to the record now whilst looking at the cover, it clearly expresses both of our desires to keep searching for an answer no matter how dark things got.
beyond the obvious emotional understanding, we’d been informed that it was to be a cassette only release and that MAVS was keen to echo a visual from the VHS era of home entertainment. old enough to have lived through a great portion of the VHS and cassette era, we understood how this record would sound when fans heard it and very much where it was coming from in terms of cinematic narrative. the decision to in some way make it photographic and involve some sort of backlit misty scene came very quickly, and was undeniably influenced by our shared love for shows from that era like?twin peaks and the x-files. so it was then a matter of building that out with a combination of photographic elements and a series of photoshop brushes and textures. finally, the typography came about as a result of wanting something elegant and not too clich?, but that would also feel a little like film credits.
it goes without saying but we can’t express just how fantastic the music is on this record. it’s powerfully cinematic and takes you back into a world made mysterious by not just the technologies used to create and record it, but also by the melodies and the concepts behind them.
stream the record here and by all means buy a copy of if you dig it. it’s only $6 on mp3, or $15 if you want the cassette version.
once again we could not be more grateful to topspin. they have put us in touch with an eclectic range of radical artists with whom we’ve had the most exciting and rewarding relationships. the gregory brothers, better known as the auto-tune the news guys, are no exception. a month or so ago they walked into our studio and told us they needed a new website. they then hit the road and we sent them our ideas as they criss-crossed the country on the youtube tour. the trick was to combine their already burgeoning aesthetic with a number of new levels of functionality. their old site had been pretty much built entirely by them using dreamweaver and they were understandably into something that would be a little easier to update. needless to say, but the process was a breeze and often funny too.
as the project went on we of course became more and more familiar with their work. aside from the classic auto-tune videos that we’ve all seen, it was very apparent that they were a talented 4 piece band in their own right. not only are they capable of making a hilarious youtube videos but they’ve got an album’s worth of solid, self-proclaimed?folk ‘n’ roll jams. hit up the music store on the new site to check some of them out. they just got back from playing bonnaroo festival and i’m sure will be announcing more tour dates soon. seriously, go. they’re fantastic people and their show is seriously unique.
a while back we were asked by loft publications in barcelona, spain, to have some of our work featured in a web design handbook that they were putting together. the book is now out and available from amazon here.
a huge thanks to paz diman and all at loft publications for the invitation. we’re very honoured.
a couple months back alessandro cortini pushed the button on the sequel to his experimental synth project sonoio. he’d finished a rough version of the album and was keen to get some ideas for the artwork rolling. the first record’s aesthetic had been based around the colour blue, and we’d known for a while that this record was likely to be coloured, and called, red. in fact there was already a version of the album cover from the original design sessions that had been cast in red and he’d been using for his demo mp3s. however once we’d heard the record and fallen under its spell (it is even better than the original), we knew a new cover was needed. something that felt more involved, continued the abstract character based narrative of the first cover and took it into a new realm of introspection, if you will.
we’d also already developed the blue cover in a number of directions for the remix album that came soon after it, and so realized there was space there to keep telling the story in a fashion we felt true to the new material. it took a while to stumble across something that still felt immediately connected to the first cover, whilst offering a fresh angle on things. the resulting piece is of course deliberately open to interpretation, but features our white and black characters again, now in different circumstances and states of repair. we also started to pad out the design with more intricate textures and new colours, as the new album felt like a development and growth musically in such a way that the artwork had to follow suit.
then there’s this music video for enough, as seen at the top of this post.
for a long time my close friend and collaborator, the director / photographer?matt sundin, and i have been talking about making videos, and eventually films, together. in fact it was this desire that made the 65daysofstaticwe were exploding anyway album cover turn out the way it did. so the moment alessandro proposed a video, i gave him a call and said ‘this is our chance’.
alessandro was considering making 2-3 of the new songs into videos and wanted our ideas for each. ultimately he felt that the ‘live performance’ pitch that we included was the one that felt truest to where he was with this project right now. so matt called his crew together and asked that i start to write down a list of ideas for shots for the video. so i took an evening, put the song on repeat and worked on shot ideas that i felt would embellish the music visually and give the production a quality that had some level of character. you know, above and beyond what you usually get with these things.
we then booked a studio in green point, brooklyn and alessandro flew out from LA. the next day we hit the ground running.
matt and his gaffer / assistant craig ward had pulled together some fantastic elements, including a wild array of lighting options and a carpenter to build a small but unusually surfaced stage for alessandro to perform on. we then painted everything else in the room black and setup our dolly / tracking rig. so far everything was going well, heck there were even 2 cats wandering around the studio which proved more than enough to keep alessandro entertained between takes.
the only sad moment was when the two vintage television sets that alessandro had used for his live performances in LA arrived via post all cracked and broken inside their box. we tried our best to make them work, but it wasn’t happening.
pushing on we proceeded to do take after take of alessandro performing the song from every angle we could, taking care to include shots with him not on the stage too for some fun and games later in the editing room. it was a pretty intense process but the footage was clearly looking solid from the outset. plus the more the song got played over the studio speakers the more everyone involved started to dance a bit too, and dancing never hurt anyone.
the shoot ended pretty late into the night and the studio owner offered to keep our stage setup for some cabaret / performance art style shoot he had going on later, involving strippers and wild animals. i could have mis-remembered that though. we then headed back to matt’s apartment for the wrap-party and alessandro headed back to LA the next day.
a week or two later the intense process of editing began. matt went through the footage and started pulling together the best stuff from the vast array of material we had. soon after that he was putting together a great rough cut of things and sent this to me so that i could cut together the teaser clip that went live a couple weeks ago. he then did another cut and passed it over to me again. we agreed that what there was already felt good and exciting, but tended to get a little tiring after a while, as it all had a very similar tone. so we consciously divided the song up into 4-5 parts and attempted to address each section with a different mindset, in terms of editing. i was then left to re-imagine the intro to the video and the electronic breakdown after the verses and choruses – the part with all the ‘oh oh ohs’. sending this back to matt lead us to more talks, further edits and the delivery of the first rough cut to alessandro.
alessandro was very excited by what we gave him and made a series of notes regarding various tonal changes he was after and what he felt, due to the nature of where his head was at with the song, needed adjusting in terms of shots used for certain lyrics. in this way several cuts were sent back and forth between new york and los angeles and then just last sunday we got a thumbs up from alessandro. matt then sat down and worked his magic on the footage, grading it to give it the warm, grainy, contrasty feel you see in the final cut. it was that final lick of varnish that properly started to give us the shivers. the thing was done, we were flat out of time and there was nothing we could do but send it off.
none of us could be happier with the response to the video. you just never know if you’re going insane in that editing suite. many days in the dark with breaks at strange hours for food or beer, and then back into the darkness. hearing the song a thousand times over to the point where it’s just noises and everything in your head is tied to its ebb and flow. it gets a bit bewildering. so much so that at one point we did an edit of the video laced with eerie footage of cats that we’d shot at matt’s girlfriend’s apartment nearby. inspired as we were by the cats that had been on set throughout the shoot, and often leapt onto the stage right into the shot. of course the ‘cat cut’ really didn’t work but we felt we had to try everything just to be sure, haha. ?so yeah, thanks and thanks again.
the sonoio project is going from strength to strength at this point and we’re very fortunate and grateful to be a part of it.