Making music videos

Ahead of our Music, Video, Art? event tomorrow Cornerhouse Programme Coordinator Christina Millare talks inspirations, aspirations and collaborations with director Ian Pons Jewell and visual artist Max Hattler…

Christina Millare (CM): How did you get into making music videos?

Max Hattler (MH): My dad is a musician, so I grew up with music around me. It began with making electronic music throughout my teens, and then transitioned into animation while studying at Goldsmiths. When my dad saw my graduation film, he asked if I would mind re-editing a version as a music video for one of his songs. I obliged.

Ian Pons Jewell (IPJ): I never had a plan to go into music videos, but realised after university that short films were a bit of a fart in the wind. Don’t get me wrong, I love farting short films into the wind and this year I’ll be getting back on this airy process. But in order to get ahead in terms of career, music videos seemed to be the way forward. I ended up contacting Otto Von Schirach after meeting him at a festival and was asked to make a video for him, he said yes, allowed me to stitch three short abstract tracks of his together and do what I wanted.

CM: What comes first, the audio or the visual? Also how separate do you feel each of these elements are in your own video works?

MH: Sometimes I have a visual idea and wait for the right song to come around. At other times, visual follows audio. But in either case I tend to try and link both elements very closely so that the end result ideally becomes a synergistic whole, more than the sum of its parts.

IPJ: I find that the visual is actually third. Before, it was the audio, then I would work out the narrative, which in essence is the visual. But the key for me is to have a narrative idea at the core which I can then bounce off. I find it extremely difficult to write purely visual videos so have stayed away from it. I regularly get briefs asking for performance videos and I have nearly always had to turn them down as I’m not very good at working from that basis. So I would listen to the track over and over, go for walks, go to sleep, scribble ideas. Now I try to keep filling up my notebook with narrative / visual ideas before I even get tracks, which is how I should have been working before. But then in the process of then finalising the music video script, the music and visual are something I try to intertwine as fully as possible.

CM: Would you say the videos you create become an element of a band or musician’s image and/ or brand? What are your thoughts on the video work forming an element of branding?

MH: By and large, I’m not interested in showcasing the band or musician in my work. If a music artist understands my angle, they can use that to their advantage by creating a collaborative work in which audio and visual are on an equal level of importance, and under ideal circumstances – so feed off and enrich each other. If they want a traditional promotional vehicle then they should find someone else to work with.

CM: Are there collaborative aspects in your process? For instance, when developing the videos is there a constant dialogue with a band’s label and also with the band themselves?

IPJ: It totally depends on the artist. With Teef for example, we have a very similar outlook on creative works, so we collaborate very well together, it’s pretty much no holds barred. He isn’t signed to a label, so we plan to push it on the next video simply because there are no commisioners, labels, managers and the rest of it involved.

Then with Crystal Fighters, their aesthetic was totally part of the video. We used the Basque Dancer folk figure in the video and kept it colourful and psychedelic in tune with their previous works. They were also great in terms of sending the script back and forth for adjustments. But then with DJ Shadow, I never had one piece of communication with him, not even a hello, apart from when the video had been edited and he asked for some bits to be taken out.

Want to hear more from Ian and Max? Music, Video, Art? takes place tomorrow Wed 22 Feb at 18:00 as part of exposures festival. Book your tickets here.

Image courtesy of Max Hattler, Heaven Hell at Videomedeja 2010