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What’s the best promo you’ve seen recently and why?

So it’s not that recent but like five years ago the Tiga - Bugatti video more than successfully burrowed into my brain, for better or worse, I still don’t know if I’m honest. I feel like I see imagery from it all the time in my day to day life. It’s equal parts haunting and hilarious. Sinister, but my preferred flavor thereof.

Levity aside, the repeated imagery, but-not-quite-repeated-because-wait-what thing either appeals to me and/or just simply finds a way to fuse itself to my brain stem, this piece and others in its brain-fuckery genre. Dream-like -- more so than anything Inception did, for real.

There’s clearly some sort of goofy indictment of consumerism going on here, which cool, great, I’ll take it. But I truly think this video is one of the best visual representations about how the unseen, behind the eyes narrative unfolds -- at least for me. If I’m not intentionally focused, and even in the midst of that focus -- a staccato series of images play on loop and tend to become inconsistent within what otherwise seem like a pattern. It just is what it is, and I suppose has served me well. This video and the ‘random’ mix-up of images within the pattern, it’s less random than it is a representation of fantasizing about something else in the midst of of the painfully predictable and monotony. It’s like you’re being forced to be your own unreliable narrator… I dig that sort of thing.

I also like being made to feel uncomfortable.

Tiga – Bugatti

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What’s the first promo (commercial) you remember being impressed by?

Probably Soundgarden - Black Hole Sun when I was 10? Growing up, MTV was strictly forbidden viewing in my household (very religious vibes were a’swirling). When I was around 9 and 10 years old, I began to forge what would become quite a formidable path toward all things secular. In these early days, the mainstay manifestation of this path-forging would be clandestine channel changes to MTV when a parent was out of the living room (I mastered the use of the ‘jump to’ button on the remote). So I’d catch quick snippets of music videos, usually nothing in full before mom or pop glided back in the room. This was usually done in the hope of sneaking a look at something ‘sexy.’

Anyway, I came upon Black Hole Sun in the middle of bulbous, demonic-eyed weirdsville scenes from what surely had to have been hell (as interpreted by my skeptical-but-still-conflicted belief-steeped kid-brain). I found myself getting hot in the face, with fear and a knowledge that mom or dad would surely magically appear and I’d be toasted (re: punishment and quite literally when it came to my hell-bound soul). But it was mesmerizing. And I stayed on it. And watched, essentially paralyzed. It was… somehow beautiful, like Edward Scissorhands, but without the Danny Elfman charm backing it (side note: watching pretty much any movie was okay in my household, the Reagan-era ‘music is the direct frequency to the soul’ dogma was still going strong in our house’s morality ethos, long story).

I didn’t see all of the video in that quick spurt. But I would soon thereafter. And made my older sister watch it with me, at risk of being narc’d on. It was effectively my gateway drug to the weird. And here I am now...

Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun

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And what’s your all-time favorite music video?

The Double Conscience project that Kendrick Lamar and Khalil Joseph collaborated on about four years ago was one of the best “music videos” I’ve ever experienced. When I saw it at the MOCA it felt like it happened to me, I didn’t just watch it. You were made a participant by virtue of scale, the sometimes-dueling, sometimes-coalescing imagery that converged against and with each other. It’s absolutely the visual personification of the Good Kid, m.a.a.d. City album, an amalgam of what feel like found moments, uprooted straight from Lamar’s memories, mixed with sometimes supernatural or otherworldly, almost religious imagery unfolding in the fucking streets. I live for this kind of media palygamy.

And the Chris Cunningham directed Aphex Twin - Rubber Johnny. Another not-quite-music-video, more of an extremely uncomfortable art piece that feels like a nightmare straight from the Elephant Man’s psyche. It’s apoplectically discharged onto the screen. Honestly, I love being made uncomfortable by anything I watch, for better or worse. I don’t really know why… it’s a steadfast preoccupation I have with clever and artful expressions of subversion in general, I suppose. Discomfort aside, I also find this video hilarious. The image of Johnny pedantically cutting a line and blowing it is one of the most potent “did I just imagine that or did that really happen?” moments I’ve ever felt as a viewer… I’m only being maybe one-third hyperbolic about that.

Aphex Twin – Rubber Johnny

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What other directors/artists do you look to for inspiration?

I’m a lifelong cinephile, so honestly, my cop-out answer regarding directors is “the ones who commit.” I take inspiration just as much from bad cinema as good or great cinema. Even if something is technically bad, if you can glean 100% commitment from a director, I think there’s something admirable to take away. Take Zardoz, John Boorman committed to it, there is nothing ambiguous about that fact. Yes, the movie is arguably a complete trainwreck, but a fully realised trainwreck.

David Lynch and Sidney Lumet are probably *technically* my favorite directors of all time. Directors I’ve been turned on by lately are Ari Aster, Robert Eggers, and Ingmar Bergman. I’ve been going through all of Bergman’s films (my wife bought me the hedonistic Criterion box set, bless her), and it’s so illuminating to juxtapose what you could call his “failures” against his magnum opuses (which he certainly has more than one). I’ve also been rewatching Aster’s films (Hereditary and MidSommar are tragically good); and the trailer alone for Eggers’s The Lighthouse couldn’t be more my “thing.” Incidentally, Aster and Eggers were on the A24 podcast and discussed Bergman-inspired throughlines in their films, and I live for that nerd-laden riffraff.

As far as artists go, Doug Aitken all the way. The Electric Earth exhibit he had a MOCA some years back still sticks with me. It’s another instance in which the marriage of sound and imagery makes me feel as if I’m being pulled into someone’s brain -- as if the art has consumed me and I’m a drug that gives the art its mind-changing potency. More of that please.

Above: Doug Aitken's The Garden.

What are you listening to at the moment?

Lately… Sunn 0)))’s Life Metal and Void 00. Slowdive’s self-titled album from 2017. Pretty much all of Flying Lotus’ albums. And I just rediscovered Belle & Sebastian’s The Boy with the Arab Strap, a deep cut from yesteryear.

What’s your favorite bit of tech, whether for professional or personal use?

I’m really not gadget or tech obsessed. I like things to go smoothly and intuitively, that’s about where I’m at. I suppose Dropbox Business is pretty rad.

What artist(s) would you most like to work with and why?

If we’re talking specifically about musicians… if there was a world in which I could arrange some sort of film project in which a musical collaboration between Flying Lotus and Mica Levi was possible, my skull would probably crack right open. On the surface, their styles of composition are extremely disparate, but they are both masters of finding alien-like melody in what’s traditionally perceived as dissonance. Whether dissonance of diametrically opposed rhythm, dissonance of pitch, or otherwise. Levi’s scores to both Under the Skin and Jackie are so from- another-planet and primal at the same time, yet they ground themselves in a tonal conflict that’s located somewhere between the listener’s diaphragm and gut. 

The majority of Flying Lotus’s work gives me a similar kinesthetic sensation, so a melding of their sensibilities would be incredibly interesting to hear, if nothing else. Even if it was a failure, though I can’t imagine it wouldn’t result in something absolutely new; a success in its own right.

In my wildest dreams, say if you were making a short for them to score, you’d start by pitching the two of them a logline with very little tonal direction. Then you’d have them compose. Then you’d base the actual script and tone off of what they created. Hmm… let’s do that, please.

How do you feel the promo industry has changed since you started in it?

The single-most obvious thing, to me, is that the industry has incrementally destabilized over the past several years. Advertising is one of the most fickle and fiscally volatile industries, and always has been. If you examine early indicators of imminent financial crises, the cutting of advertising budgets is consistent; and it’s one of the last industries to see an upswing once the crisis has settled. With that -- the fickleness of the industry has become more prominent than in years, even decades past. Much of this is due to innovations in media platforms in which these innovations of viewer consumption unfold faster than advertising can adapt to them; faster than media buying precedent can be established. And this ever-present volatility (catalyzed by the compounded and ramping rate of innovation) is only exacerbated that much more when en masse economic instability is at hand.

In short, we’re continually encountering scenarios in which no precedent exists; and this is happening with more frequency than anyone’s seen since the advent of the broadcast television commercial. We’re steeped in a sea change that we all seem to be waiting to resolve... but I’m not sure it ever will in my lifetime. Which I’m cool with.

Where do you see the music video industry being in five years’ time?

More sponsor-driven. The line will blur between “music video” and “branded content.” It should, anyway. Music videos will start to become more like ads; ads have already become more like videos with the advent of limitless running times due to internet ad buys. Yada yada.

Tell us one thing about yourself that most people won’t know...

Some years back I used to put up very large wheat paste murals with irreverent and profane haikus on them in and around LA.

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