What’s the best promo you’ve seen recently and why?
The last one I remember really enjoying that made me smile was Michael Kiwanuka’s ‘One More Night’. It’s a simple idea executed well, which is what most of the best videos are. It uses a VFX technique that I first remember seeing in a Christine & The Queens video whereby limbs are stretched in post in a way that doesn’t distort the background. I’m not quite sure how they do it but it’s very effective, especially in a dance video where there’s a lot of movement. However, the last truly great video I saw was probably Romain Gavras’ epic for Jamie xx's ‘Gosh’, which picked up Video of the Year at last year’s UKMVAs. That was truly awe-inspiring!
What’s the first promo you remember being impressed by?
I have a vivid memory of watching Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ on VHS late at night with my mum when I was very young, maybe five or six. It left a big impression on me, both filmically and musically. I think what it instilled in me was the idea of music videos as short films. You could argue that music videos fall into one of three categories: narrative, conceptual or performance (although sometimes you might have a combination of two, like a narrative with a performance aspect). My work predominantly falls into the narrative category. I love stories and characters. I also really enjoy working in bits of sound design and dialogue into my videos, which is something MJ pioneered.
And what’s your all-time favourite music video?
That’s like someone asking what your favourite film is, it’s an impossible question. Well, perhaps whilst on the subject of the music video master himself I could list my other favourite MJ videos, they would probably be ‘Beat It’ (love the way it all comes together at the end in a West Side Story-rival gang-dance off-stylee), ‘Smooth Criminal’ (hands down the best choreography in a video ever), ‘Leave Me Alone’ (amazingly surreal stop motion animation) ‘Remember The Time’ (unreal production design and VFX) and ‘Scream’ ($7,000,000 well spent). More recently, my favourite music videos of last year were Miike Snow’s ‘Genghis Khan’, The Shoes’ ‘Submarine’ and Jamie xx’s ‘Gosh’.
What other directors/artists do you look to for inspiration?
I generally look to cinema for inspiration, I feel like that’s what we’re all ultimately aspiring to, cinema came first. But more and more I’m looking to the photography and art world for a different perspective on things. Painting and photography can teach you so much about composition and use of colour. I particularly like portrait photography as I love people and faces. I recently went to the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, which I found really inspiring. I also caught the Abstract Expressionism exhibition at the Royal Academy just before Christmas, which was fantastic for looking at colour, texture and tone.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Apart from George Michael’s back catalogue (RIP), I’ve been listening to a Chilean-American experimental electronic artist called Nicolas Jaar, I went to see him play live recently and he was amazing. I’m a bit late to the party, but I just discovered Jai Paul and his ‘leaked’ 2013 album, which is very cool. Also been enjoying The Lemon Twigs, Sinkane, Quantic and Glass Animals. The American Honey and La La Land soundtracks are killer and a bit of Gregorian chant never hurt anyone.
What’s your favourite bit of tech, whether for professional or personal use?
If it’s hardware, then it’s obvious but it has to be my laptop. I could live without my phone but not my laptop. In fact, I might go as far to say I
hate strongly dislike phones. I put off having one for years and used to carry around a little notepad and pencil with all my mates’ numbers in instead. I’m often a bit slow to adopt new technologies until I’ve seen other people use and test them first. If it’s software, then I recently discovered the website builder Fabrik and finally built myself a decent personal website. It’s a dream to use and I would highly recommend it. I also finally started using Instagram when I realised it wasn’t going away. I shoot a lot of 35mm photography on my trusty, old Pentax K1000 camera so it’s a nice platform to share them on, although it still frustrates me looking at photography on a small phone screen.
What artist(s) would you most like to work with and why?
I think artists like Beck or The Flaming Lips would be great to do a video for, their music is always so fresh, colourful and sonically interesting, you could do a lot with one of their tracks. I’d also love to do a big, slick pop video for someone like The Weeknd or a Major Lazer-affiliated artist like MØ or Bieber, something really over-the-top with big MJ-inspired dance choreography would be sick. There’s a lot of smaller bands I’d love to work with too – Mac Demarco, Liss, LA Priest, Snowblink, Klyne – but the problem is they don’t have much money behind them, which can make it tricky. I’m hoping to do another Stealing Sheep video this year, I did a couple of their early videos back in the day but they’ve evolved so much since then and had Dougal Wilson direct their last one. They’re releasing a new album later this year so hopefully we can make something work.
How do you feel the promo industry has changed since you started in it?
I’ve only been in the industry for a few years so I can’t say I’ve noticed a huge change in that time. I do think there’s some great work being made now and even though budgets aren’t huge it does feel like quite an exciting time to be making music videos as people are forced to be more creative and inventive with their ideas. Limitations can be a good thing.
Music videos have had a resurgence of late; where do you see the industry being in five years’ time?
Honestly, I’ve no idea. I’m not much of an industry soothsayer. I just hope that they find some way of improving budgets as it is getting pretty dire. A lot of the time it feels like record labels rely on directors and production companies to do it for the love (guilty as charged) but there’s only so many favours you can ask for, it’s still a job and people need to get paid. Anyway, not to get all political – music videos yeah!
Tell us one thing about yourself that most people won’t know…
I once conducted a shakey egg orchestra. They call me The Golden Egg.