Nick Gazin is VICE's art editor and our pal, so when he told us he directed the new music video for Simon Doom's "I Feel Unloved," we asked him to write some stuff about it. This is that stuff. It's good, trust us.
For many years Simon O'Connor has been floating around the New York music scene, being in bands, making records, and being a charming guy. His newest band, Simon Doom, released their first record Babyman this past Friday. It's out on Votiv Records and it's great (buy it here). It sounds big and timeless and like something from the English post-punk sad romantic pop era of the early 1980s. Ben and Andrew from MGMT produced the album and you can hear the level of quality they bring to everything they do sweating out of every fun and pretty track on the record. While Simon and I were drinking at my house a month back I volunteered to make a music video for him and he said, "OK," despite my never having made one before and there being no budget. We rallied some pals and did our very best. I directed and made the costumes. Justin Nge shot and edited it. On makeup and styling we had Jacob Hill. Anni Rossi who sings the chorus in the song plays the ghostly and mysterious Blue Woman character and Simon plays himself. Noisey agreed to premier the video and now here we are. Simon and I interviewed each other about the video and the record and this is that.
Nick Gazin: Simon Doom was your punk name from when you were in high school, right?
Simon O'Connor: It was, although I think I wanted people to call me that more than they actually did. I rejected punk intensely when I met all these hippies in college. It was one of the biggest regrets of my life. Were you nervous about turning your drawings into real people?
Gazin: Not really, the stakes are pretty low. The worst that could happen is that I'd make a shitty unusable video. What inspired you to write "I Feel Unloved?"
O'Connor: I wrote the song right after my kid was born. I was watching his mother breastfeed him and was thinking, "What a beautiful and sacred bond," but also, "No one's paying attention to me right now! No one's ever going to pay attention to me again! This is it. This is the end of the period of my life where I am allowed to be selfish. I am no longer important. I am no longer loved the way once was."
Gazin: How does your wife feel about this song?
O'Connor: I think it's her favorite track on the album. As a primarily visual person, when you hear music you like, does it immediately manifest itself visually in your head?
Gazin: Yeah, it's like in Clockwork Orange when Alex is listening to Beethoven in his room and sees flashes of images of himself as a vampire and people being hanged. If the music affects me I get pictures in my brain. Tell me about The Flys. You mentioned they were a big influence on this record.
O'Connor: I first heard of The Flys when Dan Treacy, of TV personalities, posted one of their early tracks on Facebook. I finally found the "Own" LP and played it to death. I can see why it was overlooked. It jumps all over the place. It sounds like the Only Ones sometimes, Wire sometimes, Chris Spedding sometimes, the Fall sometimes, and then goes kinda Tubeway army meets Nick Lowe. It probably wears too many hats for '79, but for me, it was perfect.
Gazin: The last record you made was under the name Kuroma. It's one of my favorite recent albums. Why isn't this a Kuroma record?
O'Connor: This isn't a Kuroma record because when I played some early demos for Ben Goldwasser, he said, "This isn't a Kuroma record." Also, every second of "Babyman" is EXTREMELY personal and I would feel gross making someone else sing it. What visual and narrative inspirations shaped the video?
Gazin: The video is sort of softly informed by a part of George Lucas's first feature film, THX 1138. It's a dystopian sci-fi movie with a limited color palette set in a subterranean restrictive society. When the main character stops taking his mind-controlling drugs he's trapped in a "prison without walls" that's just a white void. He eventually escapes both it and the dystopian society that placed him in it but presumably at the cost of his own life. For me the video's about escape but from your own self-destructive behavioral patterns though, not society. What was it like having Ben and Andrew from MGMT produce this record?
O'Connor: Very early on in the process, I played some songs for Andrew and Ben, they both dug, and were down to help me finish the album. I think this was the first time they worked together on a non-MGMT record. They really helped me cut fat off the jams. They pushed me to sing clearer and prevented me from masking imperfections with audio effects. They played and sang on the record a bunch, and worked really well with my band. It was actually Andrew's idea to have Anni sing the chorus on, "I Feel Unloved." Right after we were done recording, they went in the studio and started writing the new MGMT album.
Gazin: Both this record and your last record feel big and polished to me for being relatively small releases.
O'Connor: I wanted to make a record that didn't sound dated I guess. I hear reverby guitars and drums, distorted vocals and think, "Oh that sounds very Two Thousand and Blah." I also think that a lot of people use effects to mask poor writing. I am definitely more of a post-punk guy than a garage guy. In this day and age, a lo-fi record costs just as much to make as a "hi-fi" record. Any big projects coming up?
No but I'm making a cartoon about how Killer Mike met his wife for Party Legends and I have an art show that's just my sketchbooks at the Boo Hooray Summer Rental in Montauk in June. I also did the art for the new Wavves record.