caspar was recently interviewed for a podcast about the record covers he’s made for bands such as 65daysofstatic, alessandro cortini and big black delta. the interview was conducted by vic tory for his art of the sleeve podcast. you can listen to the interview now on spotify, google podcasts, and other streaming services.
the video above is for ‘thanks for calling,’ the new single by our friend and long-standing collaborator, alessandro cortini. a man of many side projects, we have been fortunate to be most closely involved with sonoio, arguably his most lyrical outlet to date. it’s no secret that the dialogue between us is a constant thing, but it was around the time memphis was being shot that our discussions regarding a video for the song really started to bear fruit. the treatment matt sundin and i put together was a personal one that we felt tied strongly to the lyrical themes of the record and also harked back to the european filmmakers that had featured so heavily in all of our upbringings, for one reason or another.
that summer we found ourselves on the ground in los angeles. our producer,?friend and hero?katharine o’brien had already introduced us to the fantastic director of photography, monika lenczewska, and we were scouting locations, machetes in hand, in the creeks of the santa monica mountains. monika’s enthusiasm and humour as we hacked through the undergrowth planning each shot breathed new life into the project, to say the least.
soon enough emails were flying back and forth with various crew members and our crazed psycho-drama was beginning to look like a reality.
casting, always the rogue element in any film, certainly took us to the brink. we’d crawl out of building sets deep in the forest and find ourselves sitting in a coffee shop or in front of a computer picking gunk from beneath our fingernails, looking at actors and actresses. the trick of course with this film was that we had to find someone willing to play not just the swanky LA party goer, but also the sunbaked, blood-soaked, creek fiend.
with an entire nation of poison oak cleared away, half the garbage in the surrounding 2 mile radius dragged into one spot and a crew of 20-30 people making a home somewhere long a trail through the forest, we hit the first day and watched marshall allman awake from his fall; delirious, smashed and looking for little more than a sip of water.
naturally things got out of control and as marshall was dragged away by some curious ‘locals,’ we got into our fair share of technical scraps too. as he pretended to piece together the reasons for why his world had been turned upside down, we?hauled machinery around rocks, through undergrowth and in and out of ponds.
as the day went on we threw everything we had at marshall to try to keep him down. including a spectre of his wife, played by a rather radical looking daveigh chase. pretty soon he was telling us exactly how he planned to kill everyone in sight.
technically speaking one of the highlights of the shoot was hugh bell bringing a prototype of his incredible MOVI rig to the set. when the ground is basically all big rocks, this thing kept the shots looking and feeling like we were floating like a feather across the landscape. naturally it also allowed us a few evil dead style movements through the forest, which was cool. having hugh on set meant he could take apart the rig in a split-second to make any necessary adjustments as we moved forward and tried new shots — an advantage we never took for granted.
all the while we just tried to keep track of things.
the next day and night we were in a convoy of cars racing around corners on one-way roads throughout the forest canyons. first we did a few runs with monika and hugh sitting in the back seat of the mustang, then, with an enormous camera strapped to the back of another truck like the outboard motor on a boat, we set them off by themselves. we then coaxed marshall and daveigh deeper and deeper into a screaming match via a walkie-talkie hidden in their car, as we swept back and forth across dark canyon roads — our lights out, unaware what might come from the mist at us with each new bend.
it was a two and a half?day shoot that ended by the side of the road early on a saturday morning. all of us, exhausted but content, stared down into a fog filled canyon stretching out toward the ocean. as our 1965 mustang’s headlights cast our shadows into the early morning mist, we wondered equally if we’d got every shot we needed and how good bed would no doubt feel when you’d driven yourself into the ground in this way.
editing the film was a tough process, as is always the case. there are many ways to skin a cat as they say, and this one was often screeching as we did it. we ended up with not just 3-4 different edits of the video, but also two entirely different mixes for the song itself. in the end alessandro made the call as to which combination should be the ‘official’ cut. however we also agreed that one of the other cuts made a good accompanying piece in terms of the different interpretations of the narrative. edit-wise it doesn’t vary hugely, but the colour grade, sound design and song mix set it apart in ways that are worth experiencing — the song mix in particular couples well with the new sound design and puts a different emphasis on the percussive elements of the outro.
this ‘director’s cut’ we present for you now:
_categoryblog, grafiks, news, video
_tagsalessandro cortini, caspar newbolt, daveigh chase, ford, hugh bell, katharine o'brien, marshall allman, matt sundin, monika lenczewska, MOVI, music, mustang, song, sonoio, thanks for calling
i met surachai sutthisasanakul?through alessandro cortini. alessandro would always be laughing about something surachai sent him via email or ichat – usually something grotesque pulled from the murkier depths of the internet. sharing a penchant for the disgusting to the point of having a secret online forum where my friends and i post the most vile things we can find, i knew one day i had to meet this surachai.
the first thing that struck me about surachai’s music was that it didn’t immediately fall into any categorization other than the one he chose to put it in himself. it was spawned from black metal for sure, but really it was a melange of things both experimental and cinematic. moreover it marked a departure from the slightly ridiculous “second wave” of black metal?that i’d read about in the pages of UK rock rag kerrang! during my teenage years.
surachai put out two LPs before he and i had a chance to work together. both of these releases in terms of their accompanying artwork revealed once more a taste for a more refined, original and considered presentation than you’d expect from the genre. surachai himself even quipped that his sound was more ‘plagued’ metal than ‘black’. either way all my friends were impressed with the sounds he was making and whilst it still wasn’t entirely my scene, he had me convinced it was worth some serious attention.
it must have been late last year that surachai told me he wanted me to work on the artwork for his next record. given he’d already employed the likes of?bridget driessen?and?sarah sitkin?to handle such duties on his last two records, it came as a great compliment. he said the record wasn’t anywhere near done yet, and in typical fashion i told him i’m not really much use until i hear something closer to the final music. it’s always the sense that something’s close to done that allows me the chance to fully immerse myself and see what images come.
finally in march of this year i holed myself up in my studio for the weekend, put the record on loop for the umpteenth time and let loose. i remember clearly that i’d wanted to create something close to how it felt to read the end of DM thomas’s novel?the white hotel. this was a book i’d recently finished that had an ending so fiercely out of left-field that i’d found myself in tears on?the train i was riding at the time. the feeling of despair i’d been left with was quite unmanageable and combined with a photograph surachai had shown me a few weeks before of fingernail scratch marks on the wall of a concentration camp gas chamber, i felt compelled to make him something that would tear the world down. something that at the very least was as harrowing and sad.
however, as i’ve learnt over the years if you go into these things trying to force a thing like that or even start with a visual idea so incongruent from what you were actually hearing in the music and lyrics of the songs, it’s not going to work. i hold the belief that the artwork for a record must in some prevalent capacity be a visual response to the sound. it can speak to outside influences without question – doubtless you and the band will have discussed the many ideas that went into making the songs – but hopefully you’ve not been hired to simply imitate another artist or illustrate someone else’s description. hopefully your job here is to interpret what you hear visually, and in so doing create something that gives people a unique and unconscious taste of what they’re about to receive.
the lyrics to?embraced?of course painted a dark, bleak and hopeless image, but one of a resoundingly science-fiction nature. in fact once i started to really listen to them in the context of the music, all the imagery and ideas i’d had up to that point about how the record should look and feel just fell away. i was all of a sudden very clear on what i wanted to make and soon i was looking at a dark field of stars with some kind of nightmare seeping slowly and bloodily out of its shadows, ruptured amniotic sacs and all.
not wanting to make the visuals too alien and dissociative for people, the album’s inside spread was a way for me to humanize the overall story i was trying to tell. i wanted to show some kind of ‘down to earth’ response to the horrors out there in space – some kind of worship perhaps. it was then that i remembered i’d taken photographs of my friend lena marquise performing a macabre burlesque piece in the early hours of the morning at a club i used to work at. flipping through them again it wasn’t long before i was adapting them to this new world i’d created.
surachai didn’t hesitate for a moment when i sent him the final layouts. in fact i think it was just minutes after emailing him that i got a message from him on ichat saying, ‘i fucking LOVE you.’ still i can’t say i wasn’t terrified as to what he’d think. interpreting someone else’s music with a picture takes a lot of trust, and you just have to hope they really understand what they’re asking when they hire you for the job. in this case i think it’s fair to say we made a good match and i’m still incredibly honoured to this day to have been responsible for producing the artwork for such a fantastic record.
you can listen to and buy embraced here.
_tagsalessandro cortini, black metal, bridget driessen, burlesque, d m thomas, embraced, kerrang!, lena marquise, plagued metal, sarah sitkin, surachai, the white hotel
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 65daysofstatic we 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.