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I met your children… what did you tell them ?

October 3, 2015

Anyone who actively followed pop music in the 1980s and beyond will know that the promo video was everything.  Without a video you were invisible. Since Top of the Pops and the Old Grey Whistle Test aren’t calling me any time soon I knew it was inevitable I was going to have to make a promo video for at least one song from the album siliconchipsuperstar.

A single used to be a self-contained publication by the pop artist. The A-Side was a statement of intent and a knock on the door for entry into the canon of popular music. Landmarks and memory triggers in the life of a music lover. Even now you and I will only need to hear a song and be transported back to a moment in our lives. Singles age us and singles never age.

Promo videos on the other hand might not age so well. We are less-forgiving of how we looked back then. We adore the lo-tech make-do-with-what-you-have production values (Ultravox never did get to Vienna…. and the video director wanted to send them to Venice!).

An early-21st century independent music artist has to look to whatever tools are at their disposal to present their brand. It’s not enough to upload some tracks to a website and wait for something to happen. Arguably pop music and especially my brand of synthpop electropop requires a video expression as much a part of the music release as the vinyl itself.

Some websites and zines need a way to filter the multitude of MP3 and ‘please mention our band’ emails.  Having a video helps position you on a different level. This might not be true for all genres but for synth/electro it appears to be the case.

So, that’s my position on the matter: I was going to make some promo videos.  The album stands alone as a piece of art and the singles help me get people interested in what I’ve produced. Hors d’oeuvres to the … main course? (I’m becoming terrible at analogies).   So enough of this: 3 songs will precede the album release. First up is ‘New Man‘.

In early July 2015 my son Oscar was volunteering as a light and sound tech at a local youth theatre production in the lovely Draoicht Theatre here in Dublin.  On the Friday night we attended the showing of DNA during which I noted the stage set would be perfect for a video shoot. I asked a favour and they said yes. Next day we had 1 hour before the cast arrived to shoot a promo video with one handheld camera.  Guerrilla video !

No one driving?

No one driving?

The set consisted of a crashed car which had been rigged out with stage lights and a smoke machine. We used the viewpoint from the bonnet of the car, the rear seat and the sunroof. I mimed the ‘New Man’ track a couple of times and moved on. The track was processed to playback at faster speed so that when I played the video back at regular speed it would give a slow-motion effect at times. In retrospect I should have sped the video up even more and gone for a very slow-mo effect. Maybe next time.

darkroom 01On the opposite side of the stage the crew had built a wire and scaffold tower which was also well it and gave me an opportunity to generate more shots for the third single from the album ‘Darkroom‘ which will be available in late 2015.darkroom 02

darkroom 04We propped a synth on the boot (trunk) of the car while I mimed the song 3 or 4 times. Maybe it was because it just Oscar there or maybe it was because I’m an extrovert I was getting more comfortable ‘performing’ and mugging for the camera.  The hour flew by but I’m amazed that we got 2 videos out of the time available.

I began editing the first video ‘New Man’ almost immediately and soon realised it needed more. The shots in the car were very good but after a few lines the video became repetitive.  ‘Darkroom’ on the other hand came together in the edit very quickly. There was enough movement and angle to keep the interest going.

In September I booked a rehearsal room and brought a cheap eBay purchased set of lights and black backdrop with me along with the smoke machine and small LED ‘laser’ light machine. I think the total cost of the lights and effects is less than €300 and will be re-used again and again.

NEWMANVIDEO 01The smoke machine was almost overwhelming – fortunately the room was not fully wired up and the smoke alarm wasn’t yet connected. Health & Safety types please look away now !   Every time we opened the door to go get something wisps of smoke chased us out into the lounge area in the rehearsal studios.

NEWMANVIDEO 02

The rehearsal room was just big enough to setup a ‘stage rig’ with synths and my reel-to-reel.  NEWMANVIDEO 03Over 3 hours we shot additional pieces for the ‘New Man’ video moving from some solo ‘vocalist’ shots to some ‘synth player’ shots.  My inner Jim Kerr came out and I played to the camera eyeballing it constantly and relying on feedback from Oscar on what was and was not working.  I knew the post-production and editing would be important and we experimented with a few lighting tricks that Oscar knew.  The previous evening we had looked at old John Foxx and Gary Numan videos from 1979-82. Made with basic lighting and limited post-production facility I wanted to capture some of that essence but not make my references too obvious.

Hope you like the videos as much as I’ve had fun making them. ‘New Man’ is below.  I’ll add “Darkroom” when it’s published.

The next single from siliconchipsuperstar ‘Ghost Machine’ will be released at the end of October 2015 and will have a completely different type of video. In fact it will have 2 videos.   You read that right: two videos.

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