I Had A Visual Album Before Beyoncé
After a year-long slog, producer The Last Skeptik has finished his visual opus for LP 'Thanks For Trying'. We asked him why he put himself through the stress and did Bey take any tips from him.
You may remember The Last Skeptik from mixes such as this Noisey one and this wall-punchingly great Andre 3000 one. Turns out he's also pretty handy at producing, specialising in the kind of orchestral hip-hop that has you welling up at the cinema. So it's pretty fitting that for instrumental album Thanks For Trying he decided to make a mini-film for EVERY DAMN TRACK. Having an embarked on a year long slog of making videos I asked him why he put himself through the pain when he could've just been in bed eating Cheezits and was he a little ticked off that Beyonce so flagrantly stole his idea for a visual album.
Why did you decide to make a visual album; surely that's a massive undertaking?
I like punishing myself. And I like setting vastly wild challenges I don't intend on surviving through. Initially, I thought I'd probably die before they were all done, and the last three videos could just be different people making my corpse do weird stuff. Like dressing me up like a fat He-Man or something. But, yeah, it took a really long time. About a year and three months to make them all.
If money and time were no object what would be the ultimate visual album for you?
A feature film solely for an album. Lots of explosions and more emotional turmoil than you can imagine. So many big string accompaniments and fight scenes and teary re-unions post intestine impaling, a bit of cannibalistic battle here and there. And I would get John Williams and Jon Brion involved.
Lulz. And who would you like to see a visual album from?
...Okay. Do you think this is the future of the album?
I hope not, because then I won't be special. I hope everyone forgets that I've done this until my next album comes out and I do it again, but bigger, and everyone is impressed again but can't remember why.
Alright...what about album artwork? Will trailers and stuff like that dead it?
I love album artwork so I hope that's not the case. For me, the cinematic element of my tracks lent itself to this many videos. From the beginning as I was making it I could envisage the high drama, and knew it had to be lived through film to get all the hyper-emosh stuff out there. I do, however, think that people will have to be a lot more creative in promoting their albums the lazier the audiences and blogs get in searching and supporting new music.
Finally, did you talk to Beyonce about making a visual album and she copied you? Were you pissed?
I'm definitely not saying anyone copied anyone. But... Bey, I'm just saying one day I was Snapchatting you clips of me writhing about in a leotard in a Vauxhall Astra and the next your fifth album came out. Rude.
Mad rude. Let's take a look at the videos anyway.
My boy Rufus Exton shot this in the Cotswolds. All he told me was that there was going to be some alpacas in it. Plus a bit of cheeserolling and a cameo from his mum. He had me at alpacas.
This was the first video to be shot from Thanks For Trying, in November 2012. My boy Sonny Malhotra shot on Hampstead Heath with his dog Cosmo and basically just strapped a Go-Pro camera to him, and let him run wild doing dog stuff. Sonny had the idea of making it split screen to make it even more like a weird LSD trip.
Also shot by Rufus Exton in the Cotswolds, but this time he documented a chilli eating contest, and Jesus eff does eating the world's hottest chilies fuck people up. The opening shot is of a sick bucket, filled with a beautiful crimson-hued vom.
"The Best Part"
This one was shot on spyglasses in a strip club by the excellent photographer Edith Bergfors. The quality is as seedy as the subject matter for that reason. The video was originally cut to "Those Ones", but I executive decided to change it, mostly because the sample in the song sounds like it says "ass", hence the name of the song being "The Best Part"...GEDDIT?
Filmed entirely on a casual jaunt through Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand, there was loads of footage to plough through. Mostly of me in world heritage sites of historical importance being really cunt-y. I wasn't even drunk. It cost zero money to make this video and I got to be a prick in it.
Shot by Cara Barry entirely in Southwold, Arron who played the fallen angel was basically frozen half naked in this seaside cabin decorated top to bottom in carcasses. A very dedicated team of people made it happen, and the result is beautiful and twisted.
"Pick Your Battles"
This is undoubtedly my favourite video of them all. Directed by Jeff Metal, four of us went to the Peak District with a lot of homemade sandwiches and a bear suit, then filmed from about 5am until 5pm in the woods. The whole thing killed me but fucking hell did we make a masterpiece of a music video.
Sonny struck gold again with this one. He told me very little, and i trusted him completely. He used a lot of paint and made a lot of mess, and really only had one chance to get it right as the whole city was painted white at the beginning.
I was looking for found footage to do a chopped up video for "Horseplay". I found some shit about a mediaeval baby...WHO HAD A BEARD...and instantly connected. We then just added some "hilarious" subtitles. Mostly about balls.
The girls from Fandang came to me with a bonkers as fuck idea about some dude with a pig head and some chick in the bath eating cheese. Naturally I just said yes. The scene at the end where the pig dude comes out of the shadows is genuinely frightening.
"Lullaby ft. Jehst"
Another bit of Sonny Malhotra genius. All shot in one day, then edited that night with fuckloads of cameos. Sonny wanted to edit to the drumrolls. Clever bastard.
This was the final video we shot which I wrote the screenplay to. It's mad stalker-y and involves me following my mate Ashley around. My boy Ed Andrews shot it and we did it over two days. We confused a lot of people in Hackney Wick hanging out by the canals playing dead with a rope around my neck.
Shot by Kana Waiwaiku, its precisely the amount of twisted that I wanted it to be. It follows a dude in a bad way taking pills and drinking wine, slowly trying to kill himself. There are a lot of baths in the videos for this album. None of the directors spoke to each other about this, but managed to get that vibe from the music. Deaths, suicides and baths. That will probably be the name of my next album.
I met the L.A based director Shawn Butcher in London through our mutual friend Charlotte DeCarle. He was here with his girlfriend, Tabitha Hall, the actress in this video. They shot this in L.A and from what I gather, Tabitha had to hike a long way in a long uncomfortable skirt to get these shots. It's one of my favourites. So beautifully shot, seriously elegant and subtle. And the story itself is heartbreaking.
The final song on the album has a lot of changes, so the video itself had to reflect the schizophrenia of it, an emotionally volatile journey. Cara Barry came with the absolutely mental idea of a birthday party gone wrong - with the excellent Lucy Baker playing the girl who's impatience for her guests to arrive and ends up smashing up her entire table of cakes. We shot it over two days in Limehouse Town Hall with an incredible team of people and a LOT of stinky mouldy cake. Most of it wasn't even made out of food, but the ones that were were rotten. Fucking hell it stank. Bless Lucy for rolling around in it willingly.