How did you get involved in the project? Were you in contact with Hak directly? What were the initials conversations? Was it a concept you already had in mind?
Myself and Hak working together has been something bubbling for quite some time. I met a friend of his and former manager Ash at a house party and burned the ear off him about an Irish artist called For Those I Love that Ash ended up managing a year later. What felt like a sort of thank you for putting him on to FTIL - Ash introduced me to Hak and I went over to his flat to talk about video stuff. I think we were throwing an idea around about setting fire to a wicker Boris Johnson but not long after, the pandemic kicked off and well, you know what happens next.
A few years go by and then Laura Clayton gets sent through the brief at Riff Raff and puts it in front of me. I listened to it and came to an idea unusually fast, which in hindsight was probably a good sign. I gave Hak a call and asked him how far we could go, and mentioned stop-motion animation and Tokusatsu, and he said "go as mad as you can".
I gave Hak a call and asked him how far we could go, and he said "go as mad as you can".
In terms of a concept I already had in mind, no. I don't think I've ever made anything that way if I'm honest. There's definitely some stuff I have in my back pocket I'd like to try but I think they'd all probably change in response to whatever song I was pitching on, but with this specifically, it all came from the song.
Social media / phone use on screen is one of those things that is very difficult to present in an interesting and engaging way, so I think my mind just went to a narrative about a phone thief because it's just a more visually engaging way to talk about the toxic elements of our relationship with technology.
I will say however that I've made quite a bit of stuff about people stuck in sort of limbo-esque cycles, so that definitely fed into the structure of the story here.
Had you experimented much before with the techniques in the promo - stop-motion/AI-generated images? What did you learn from the process?
Stop motion is something I've always had a proper grá for. I think the first moving image stuff I made was Claymation. There's a small bit of very crude stop motion in the Sha Sha Sha video I made for The Fontaines.
I met Ben Cresswell (our stop motion animator) at film school, and I was blown away by his personal work. I knew that by getting him on board the stop motion would be elevated and far superior to anything I could attempt.
When we got that first round of [AI] back and we saw what could be done, I had an adrenaline high that lasted 48 hours.
I've been playing with AI for a few months now (like every director I know). I made an Instagram account for it called @newirelandincolour which is how I came across Dom's work (@infinite_____vibes). Initially, the plan was to work with Dom to interpolate the frames of the stop motion. I was really curious to see what it would do, but then the stop motion just worked so well on its own that we got him to have a go at some other moments.
When we got that first round of stuff back and we saw what could be done, I had an adrenaline high that lasted 48 hours. We were lucky that what we shot, particularly the stuff on the [chest-mounted] SnorriCam, lent itself really well to being manipulated in this way.
I think this is really just the tip of the iceberg. I'm very excited to see what happens when we shoot more intentionally to provide Dom with more fodder for his AI spell-casting.
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Let’s talk body-horror. The film clearly takes inspiration from Tetsuo the Iron Man, amongst some other Cronenbergian/Lynchian moments - what is it about these films that enticed you? How was the experience of creating it for yourself?
To be honest, I've just always been drawn to practical effects, prosthetics and grotesque stuff. Stuff like this in particular makes me feel like a kid, and I've learnt that tapping into this feeling as much as I can brings me to ideas that are more instinctually formulated, rather than ideas I've had that feel forced or ostentatious.
My mam was a nurse, and she likes to boast about going back to work when I was three days old and prepping the body of someone that had passed away for the morgue, with me in the room. I know it sounds a fair bit like The Addams Family, but she has a very matter-of-fact attitude to death, and I think that's just made me comfortable with this type of stuff. She also collects little masks and clay faces and they used to terrify me as a kid.
My mam was a nurse, and she likes to boast about going back to work when I was three days old and prepping the body of someone that had passed away for the morgue, with me in the room.
My old man was a proper cinephile and I think in attempting to amend his very strict Catholic upbringing would let me watch almost anything (I distinctly remember watching Elephant and Kill Bill back to back when I was 10 and going white as a sheet). This, partnered with having an older brother that was a teenager in the 90s, meant I was getting stuff like Spawn, The X-Files and Celebrity Death Match when I was probably a) too young for it and b) far more absorbent of it.
So, I think images of gore, prosthetics etc just bring me back to that sense of being a kid.
In terms of the experience of making it was just very, very fun.
Did you have any other influences? The Thing, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gut Magazine?
I think probably one of the biggest influences on me in the past year is Rory Mullen who was the set designer on the music video.
Rory's an artist and university lecturer and has had a profound influence on how I approach making work. We're both from Ireland but only met in London nearly two years ago.
He makes work that is just untampered with and always 100% his own and, by proxy, he's made me far more comfortable and confident with my own ideas and personal taste.
Above: Mulhern models the prosthetic stomach.
Can you tell us a little about the shoot itself? How long did it take, and did you run into many issues?
Shot it in a day in the Riff Raff office. Of course, we ran into issues.
We didn't have an A.D so without realising we got far too excited about the stop motion and spent about 3/4s of the day shooting it. It meant we had to really condense the shot list and figure out a more economical way to cover the story beats, but surely that's any low-budget music video shoot.
The post must have been gruelling. How did the edit come together? What was the process for integrating all of the disparate elements?
Ah, I wouldn't say gruelling. Can something be gruelling when it's enjoyable? Maybe Joseph [Taylor, the editor] will disagree, but I was hopping around his edit suite like a pig in muck.
I was hopping around [Joeseph Taylor's] edit suite like a pig in muck.
We had a cut that was structurally there and then had some gaps where we wanted to put in found-footage that made sense for each section. The AI started coming in last, but it functioned to emphasise certain moments and there was zero restructuring as a result.
It seems crazy to ask, considering the content, but was there anything too extreme for you to include?
Above: Hak Baker peeks from behind the stomach prosthetic, and the crew works on some gruesome stop-motion.
How were the initial screenings? What did Hak think?
Most people we sent a link to would call us after which is definitely a good sign. Hak sent a lot of very happy voice notes.
What’s up next for you?
I'm really chasing to do more narrative work this year, so fingers crossed some of that lands.
I've always been drawn to practical effects, prosthetics and grotesque stuff.
Joseph and I are in an edit at the minute on a film for Irish designer Simone Rocha that Eoin McLoughlin, Rory and I shot backstage at her show.
There are magic snails in it.