MEET THE SPEARHEADS OF MODERN VJING: „ADDICTIVE TV“
ALEC EMPIRE TALKS WITH GRAHAM AND TOLLY, THE TWO MEN BEHIND ADDICTIVE TV!
Alec:“Please quickly describe for us…what is it that you do? Exactly? ;)“
Graham:“ Well, we’re producers and audiovisual artists, a music act but we work with film too if that makes sense – I guess kind of ?think DJs but with added pictures?, though that?s a terrible description –
it’s actually much much more than that, but it gives you an idea. We produce all our own material based on audio/video sampling and remixing of films, concert footage etc. To us, the whole visuals thing is really a natural extention to our music and a logical progression of remix culture.“
Tolly:“ We perform a fully audiovisual set of totally synced and integrated music and images, where everything you see, you also hear, and vice versa. Actually, a good example, is we?ve just created a drum ?n? bass track by sampling a classical Orchestra.
The idea came from the BBC series Maestro here in the UK, where famous people had to conduct an orchestra and Goldie took part and came second. I mean the BBC took Goldie out of his comfort zone of drum ’n‘ bass, by making him conduct classical music – so we thought we’d put him back in the world of drum n‘ bass but with violins and cellos. So we remixed the orchestra, sampling everything from violins to kettle drums, and created a mad drum ’n‘ bass track made from those samples, with Goldie conducting.“
Graham:“ And unbelievably, we found a perfect drum ’n‘ bass drum loop played on a kettle drum from the 1812 Overture! It’s amazing to see something like that just fit, I mean finding a bit of drumming written a couple of centuries ago that works as a loop for drum ?n? bass kind of shows that music at it’s very roots always follows the same rules.“
Alec: „Which is more powerful to you? the image or the sound?“
Tolly: „Both ? that?s the whole point with what we do! They work completely in unison ? if you see a film at the cinema, what?s more powerful? The images or the accompanying music? The answer is both, as they are working together, if you took either away, neither of them are as powerful on their own.“
Graham:“ Yeah, our AV has to still work as music and follow most of the rules of musical composition, but at the same time following some of the energies and ideas of film-making. Say, when there?s a breakdown in the music which, say, then slowly builds back up into a heart-thumping dramatic crescendo; we might build that musical composition underneath a very specific dramatic sequence within a film remix, making full use of the dramatic power of the images that you?re seeing, into ?an AV experience? – for want of a better phrase – that in a club, music simply can?t do by itself.“
Alec: „When one thinks of remix culture, copyright theft and exploitation of other artists are mentioned often at the same time…where do you draw the line? How should our society handle these issues?“
Graham: „It?s a complicated issue, and maybe I would argue for some kind of a system that made it all simpler and clearer; something along the lines of an extended Creative Commons type approach, which allowed unrestricted artistic use of sampled content, but had the additional mechanisms in place to allow for commercial use, where percentages of profit could go back to the rights holder.
Those are complicated to put in place and collect of course, but not beyond the collective power of the creative industries to solve. If rights holders saw a monetary upside from allowing certain kinds of video sampling, then more people would allow it and the idea would spread. If it can work with sampling in music, it can be made to work with films and other mediums.“
Tolly:“ More of a problem is the idea that certain artists or rights holders do not want their work messed with, and irrespective of money, would always say ?I created it that way for a reason, I don?t want it altered? and that?s more complicated to argue against. Everyone just has to come to terms with the fact that with modern technology artists will sample and use other?s work, but we just need a workable framework to do it in. But sadly life isn?t that simple?!“
Alec:“How do you prepare your work?“
Tolly: „Generally we sit in the studio, look through the video, whether it?s a movie or a music video, and then sample it, and like any DJ or producer looking for great audio samples, what we look for has to sound good but also has to look good too. But with film remixing, there’s the added complication of finding shots that’s also help explain the narrative and essence of the story and characters! Thinking in two mediums at once can get complicated!“
Graham:“ It’s not easy to describe our working process, and it’s something we’ve had to work out how to do from first principles to achieve just what we want. It’s a kind of cross between film-post production and music producing, the difference with us though is that we don’t separate out the processes for audio and video – we treat them as part of just one production process, creating them both at the same time, and we think that shows in the end results.“
Alec:“In this clip we can see you perform in a live environment. Can you react to the audience? Or do you plan out the crowd reaction beforehand?“
Graham:“ Both – just like any band or DJ, we usually work out roughly what our set will be, knowing what works at times during a set, but can always change and adapt it, drop tracks we were thinking of playing and swap them for one?s we weren?t going to play and so on. We?re not fixed, it?s audio/visual but it?s not a movie.“
Alec:“I keep having the same conversations with film directors who feel that a film will never be able to compete with a live show of musicians, because a show creates a different atmosphere, an interaction with the crowd. While I find it very fascinating when directors manage to set up a scene which has such an emotional impact on the audience when it’s being screened at a later point in time.
Many directors sweat quite a bit when they are present at their own film premiere, because there is no chance anymore for maneuvering. What is your view on that and how do you deal with this? Will VJs be able to build the bridge and will they perhaps influence directors and musicians, inspire them to approach their work in new ways?“
Graham: „Film-making is a very different discipline to what we do. Film directors engineer their scenes to create an emotional response or sometimes it?s just narrative thrust, or hopefully it?s both at the same time and the composers film score illustrates or informs the mood, or sometimes it?s even the driving force. What we do is give a pr?cis of the narrative, in quite an abstract but musical way, and of course it?s the music that drives us because the music and visuals are in essence the same thing in our work.
We?re not constrained by the same rules and conventions as film directors and composers at all, and we can find new ways to tell a story in a more abstracted musical way; like I said, when we play live we react to an audience more like a DJ or band. And yes, it would be great for VJs and AV artists to influence cinema, I think there?s definitely a new kind of cinematic syntax being developed now by AV artists and I?d love to see this working its way back into mainstream film-making.“
Tolly:“ But after making remixed trailers ourselves I?ve definitely now seen some TV ads and broadcast trailers in the last couple of years that have used a style which appears to be influenced by what we?re doing! But there?s been little hints of audiovisualness in films for a long time though, probably as long as films have been made. The old movie ?Bedknobs and Broomsticks? springs to mind, as does ?Mary Poppins?, and of course Disney?s ?Fantasia?, where sequences were inspired by the work of Oskar Fischinger who also worked for Disney on that film. I think sometimes modern VJs tend to like to think they?re cutting new ground but mostly they?re finding new ways to use old tricks!“
Alec:“When you watch films do you always stay alert to scenes that you might want to use later? (My brain always sends me messages, when something might be a good loop or something haha)“
Graham:“ Yes, absolutely – it?s kind of hard these days now to watch films without thinking ?that?d make a great sample?!“
Alec:“Tell us about your remix for Slumdog Millionaire…how did that come about? I guess everybody is asking the question right now 😉 This will haunt you for the rest of your lives? what do you think?“
Tolly:“ not sure it will haunt us – it was a great remix to be asked to do, but yes – everyone in interviews is now asking us about it! It?s phenomenal what?s happened to the film since we were asked to be involved, an absolute sleeper hit as they say.“
Graham:“ I know, 8 Oscars, a bunch of BAFTAs, Golden Globes and dozens more awards. Crazy to think when we were remixing Slumdog Millionaire and told people about it, no one knew what we were talking about! It was something we are asked to do by the film?s distributors, and we’d only really done film remixes for the US studios up to that point with films like Iron Man, Take the Lead etc so it was great to work on a British independent film. British films have a whole different vibe to the Hollywood movies and Slumdog in particular is really fresh and brilliantly captures India and the slums in particular.
The film?s director Danny Boyle saw our work and wanted us to do it, and it was a fantastic film to work with, really vibrant, colourful, and full of energy. It?s one of those films that you would think would be really easy to remix but it was actually quite hard, it took us a couple of goes to get it right, to match the film?s energy and pace. Looking back now, it?s been a great ride and we?re really pleased to have been able to remix an Oscar-winning movie, particularly as it also means that the idea of film remixing has just become a bit less underground than it was before.“
Tolly: „Well even Iron Man was nominated for an Oscar for its special effects, so to have remixed that too for Paramount shows film remixing certainly isn?t underground any longer. As it happens, last year we were also asked to remix the Gus Van Sant film Milk as well, which Sean Penn won the Oscar for. Sadly it didn?t happen in the end, but again shows the people behind such high profile movies are thinking of getting their films remixed.“
Alec:“Please name 6 of your favourite films EVER!“
Graham:“ Definately both ?Brazil? and ?Time Bandits? by Terry Gilliam! ?Brazil? might be a bit of clich?d answer I know, but it?s a visionary piece of film-making and still stands up to this day. In fact, in many ways it has more in common with what?s happening in the World now with terrorism than it did at the time in the 1980s. I?ve also always liked Michael Powell?s ?A Matter of Life and Death? amazing film and of course the original ?Star Wars? which really inspired me as a kid.“
Tolly:“ I?d put ?City of God? in my list and ?The Lord of the Rings? – but that?s a trilogy, does that count?“
Alec:“What do you have in mind for the future? In times when storage and hard drives have no limits anymore, will you give us a 3h remix version of…let’s say all Kubrick films? Or what do you guys have planned for the coming decade?“
Tolly: „Not sure creating a 3 hour remix of anything is a good idea – we might send our audience to sleep! But in the coming decade, yes I can see something like this working. The more audio/visual sampling and remixing becomes established, I think it?s quite clear that live AV shows based on, say trilogies like ?The Lord of the Rings? or movies by one director, will happen. I guess someone just has to try it and see if there?s an appetite from audiences; if you could get it right then I think it?s a great idea. Yeah, maybe we should do a feature length remix of ?Mamma Mia? and make our fortunes!“
Graham: „Er, maybe not! It would be nice though to think that all our remixes in 10 years would be in 3D, with surround sound, a fully immersive experience. In reality who knows what will happen, I think things will develop in unusual and unexpected directions, that?s part of the adventure, there?s currently few rules and the way technology evolves tends to mean eventually the imagination becomes the limiting factor.
Time and money in practice always interfere, but in theory pretty much anything will be possible. Maybe we?ll all stay at home and send our avatars out on virtual tours of Second Life. That would limit our carbon footprint, but would be infinitely more boring.“
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