I said to Lou the other day that I wanted to make a clip like Lily Allen’s Sheezus or Danny Brown’s ODB.
Though it’s completely obvious now, I didn’t realise they were by the same director – Ruffmercy. Since then, I’ve been devouring all his other videos.
Ruffmercy – real name Russ Murphy – is a Bristol-based animator and director. He’s worked for companies like MTV since the 90s, but it was his video for Dahlia Black’s Fuck A Rap Song that made his name as a director. Inspired by a gif he was sent for reference, he started drawing over the frames of the video, inventing an aesthetic that synthesises graffiti, Ralph Steadman, Basquiat, and every schoolkid that’s added a moustache and a black eye to the cover of a magazine. I love how his motto – ruff, rugged and raw – applies equally to hip-hop and punk. Being a relentless doodler and former stencil artist, it’s a style that immediately appeals.
Messing up film has been an ongoing pursuit for me – I’ve written before (a year ago to the day in fact!), about a Central West gig where multiple projectors where running 8mm reels. Some of this footage was blank frames that had been painted on – it looked amazing. Nearly everything is easier to do digitally these days, but replicating that is not one of them – I ended up buying an off-the-shelf set of ink and paint splattered footage to overlay over my videos, but it’s not the same.
However, what Ruffmercy’s work first reminded me of was the unexpected ending to one of my fave movies, Irma Vep.
I was very taken with the effect, how punk and tactile it felt.
It’s surprising how adaptable Ruffmercy’s technique is – here’s another video utilising the same approach but with a different vibe.
The harsh and jagged lines, the scratched out eyes and teeth, have been replaced with ballooning squiggles and dots. This completely changes the effect, from violent paranoia to something bubbly and pop. The song contributes, but there is no doubt how much personality we imbue into the lines and marks themselves.
In the few interviews online with Ruffmercy, I pieced together enough of his workflow to try myself. Armed with a borrowed drawing tablet, I had a crack over the weekend. I tried a mixture of the poppy and grungy stuff over a few seconds of Kev dancing. It’s clumsier than Ruffmercy’s work, but I was encouraged enough by this first attempt.
As any animator will tell you, it’s time-consuming work. There’s over 500 individual frames making up this brief proof of concept. That said, it’s the kind of work that can be pleasantly done with the radio or TV in the background. I still haven’t figured out how Ruffmercy times his stuff so well to the music, and that will be the focus of my next test.
Music videos are a natural fit, but I’ve also been considering its use in other genres – as transitions between scenes in a sitcom, or in a stylised action sequence. It’s given me a taste for the possibilities in animation – I also stumbled upon this video yesterday AND OH GOD I’M ALREADY BUSY ENOUGH…
This is a piece of my costume from Bomb Collar, my one-man show which debuts in two weeks at Crack Theatre Festival in Newcastle. This piece was made and photographed by Adam Thomas, who as I write this is a couple of blocks away at our friend Paul Heslin’s house integrating the stuff he’s made with other materials that Paul has purpose-built for the show. I’ll be going round there in a moment to pretend I can follow the technological aspect of anything that they’re doing.
I promise answers will be forthcoming soon, but in the meantime I welcome your guesses and conjecture!
Nick: So I went to Luke’s place for dinner last night and pretty much as soon as I got in the door he surprised me with this, the final of five videos for my EPINADAY. I’d pitched the basic approach for this one (and written the ‘dialogue’ and ‘where-are-they-nows’) but Luke took it above and beyond. It’s easily my favourite of the five.
This was another song that I used to play with Big Score, and the arrangement owes a lot to Big Score’s Beth Monzo in particular and Nick Peddle. They were the ones who first turned it from an indie chord-chugger to the afrobeat-ish shuffle it is now, so having Nick drum on this take felt like a nice tribute to all those sweaty pub gigs we’d shared.
I don’t know if this is one of my better songs or not but it’s definitely one of my favourites. I wrote it in my early 20s, I used to write a lot of songs from the perspective of an old man back then. Probably a perverse desire to avoid the normal young-person concerns, or maybe just an attempt to ape all the Old Fogeys Of Song that I love so much.
I had a strong hunch that I’d be personally very satisfied by this project, but I’ve been humbled by the positive response I’ve gotten from those that have watched the vids. Thanks again to the Rogues Gallery who helped me achieve this: Sam King, Julia Johnson, Matt Lustri, Nick Peddle, Shane Parsons, Adam Thomas, Leon Twardy, Adelaide Rief and Luke ‘Beyond Rebuke’ McGrath!
Luke: Huzzah, the final EPINADAY video!
To begin with, I cut together a performance of the song as per the previous videos. With that as a base, I layered the collateral footage over the top – with the exception of a couple of brief moments, it completely subsumed the actual performance.
We wanted to impart this last video with a ‘behind the scenes’ vibe. I consciously left in the bits I would normally edit around – camera wobbles, refocussing and the like – as well as the less guarded moments from the musicians. Combined with the warm film look, it feels like a home movie, perfectly suiting the wistful tone of the song.
Overall, the five videos totalled around 20+ hours of editing. As with nearly everything I do, it became a larger task than I anticipated (my skills at gauging time and effort are severely underdeveloped – the silver lining being I jump blindly into a lot of ultimately rewarding endeavours). Having space between each editing session was a bonus – it allowed me to consider each edit independently, to experiment and choose something that suited the individual songs.
Very chuffed to link to this post- http://messandnoise.com/news/4671517- from Mess and Noise about Hollywood, the second single form the forthcoming Cracked Actor record.
Cracked Actor is the only band I’m in that I don’t write or Frontman (I play bass) for so I kind of feel like as much a fan of the band as a member.CA’s illustrious singer/writer Seb has always been a widescreen-vision type of guy but he’s outdone himself on this new album. I’ve never worked with anyone who’s been able to contain such a complex and specific (and excellent) vision across all the metrics of recording (song, arrangement, performance, production) and keep it so close to what he wants. He and our drummer/sonic know-it-all Graham have been sweating the details of this one for almost a couple of years now (ably abetted by Producer-To-The-ACT-Stars Sam King) and unlike a lot of records that take this long I feel like you’ll hear every moment of care on the finished article. These guys are also the most ruthless song editors I’ve ever worked with, which has had a big influence on my own writing.
The link has all the info about our little single tour that;s happening over the next six weeks. If we’re playing close-by to you please drop in and say hello!
Nick: The other three EPinaday songs have all had previous lives in bands that I’ve played them with. This track, whilst it’s been kicking around for a couple years, had never been performed live or even rehearsed by a band before. For that reason it feels like the most honest expression of the arrange-and-record-in-a-day concept.
In writing terms it’s pretty straight-up Nashville country in the Cash and Carter tradition. Boxing matches are a metaphor I seem to keep coming back to, probably because of all the great terminology that exists in the sport (plenty of my trademark apocalyptic imagery sneaks in too). Musically there’s a certain gleeful dumbness to the chunka-chunk chorus that we all leaned into. There’s a 7th chord in there among the usual major chords, which makes it practically jazz by my standards.
Luke: After the multi-cam extravaganza of World Of Hurt, and the demure black and white of Lake George, I was at a loss for how to approach Seeing Stars. Quick edits? Lots of inserts? More of the same?
Nick provided me with the key – he said (and I’m paraphrasing), “It’s a country song, innit? So go punk with it. Blank Generation. Them bleedin’ squares won’t know what hit ’em”. Blank Generation is a touchstone between us – 16mm unsynched black and white reels of bands playing CBGBs in the late 70s. It’s essentially home movies, some of bands that became the biggest in world – Blondie, Talking Heads, Patti Smith, Ramones, and others that became cult favourites – Television, Wayne County, Tuff Darts, to name a few. Put simply, it’s the coolest footage ever filmed.
I didn’t go Blank Generation on Seeing Stars. But the suggestion freed me to not be so precious with the footage. I wanted to do something similar to this video of PROM, to recast it as a long-lost VHS nasty. With that as a starting point, I put together the ‘interrupted transmission’ intro, to indicate a clean break from the slicker videos that came before (the dubbed Spanish sitcom dialogue was a perverse piece of whimsy).
There is a veneer of TV static over the footage (though not as extreme as Nothing But Flowers), and then from there, things get… weird. The doubled footage, the squiggly black lines, and the day-glo colours were the result of a fun morning of experimentation (which also yielded hideous Rubber Johnnies like this):
To me, it’s come out quite psychedelic, and I like the idea of both Nick and Julia seemingly singing this duet not to each other, but to mirrored versions of themselves.
My favourite moment though is when Sam King’s head disappears – it’s like there’s an invisible lake in the middle of the frame – his topknot bobs above a moment before sinking completely. Beautiful.