Mat Devine of Kill Hannah Talks "Promise Me," The Smashing Pumpkins, "The Girl Next Door" and More
Mon, 28 Feb 2011 08:10:06
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Kill Hannah Videos
Kill Hannah didn't hide anything in their latest video for "Promise Me" from Wake Up The Sleepers.
In fact, singer Mat Devine rips himself open for all to see over a lush melody and a haunting chorus. It's one of those tunes that'll make you think and make you feel, and the video remains evocative of David Lynch and Tarsem Singh. There's fire, there's anger, there's loss, but most importantly, there's a lot of love behind this video. Devine and his band mates created it outside of the "label system" and poured every bit of themselves into it. That’s why it stands out as a modern music video classic.
Kill Hannah mainman Mat Devine sat down for an exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino about the music video for "Promise Me," David Lynch influences, how awesome touring with The Smashing Pumpkins was and so much more.
Check out the video below and read the interview!
What was your vision for the "Promise Me" music video?
That was a real passion project for me. That was one of the cases where the vision for the video literally became the video. As a band, sometimes you make creative decisions. You'll go into the studio to make an album, and the result may not be close to what you were expecting when you went in because there are a lot of people involved—from management companies to labels. It'll evolve over time. This is one of those rare cases where the concept for this video was so clear to me and easy to visualize that it haunted me. It was never a discussion. That's how I knew we had to do it. A sign of a cool idea is when it doesn't leave you alone. That's what happened here. The challenges for this video had nothing to do with the concept or art direction. Those ideas were so clearly laid out. I had storyboards sketched out and locations scouted. We prepped it so thoroughly. The real questions were how can we pull this off logistically and financially? The label wasn't funding the video. I took a day to soak it in and we just went for it full on. I decided to call every friend I had and do it as cheaply as possible and to fund it ourselves.
How did you choose the director?
I found a director named Alan Ortiz who I really admire. He's a friend of mine and he's up and coming. He gets the aesthetic. The video has almost a colder, European palette. Based on his work, I approached him. I told him the story, and I told him we didn't really have any money. Thankfully, he agreed to do it based on friendship more than anything else and because he believed in it. There isn't some model in the video who clearly in her personal life doesn't listen to the band. Even though there is some kissing in the video, we tried to avoid every major music video cliché that we could. That was part of the appeal to Alan. If I was like, "We're going to be in a warehouse with a chick dressed in leather," I don't think he would've done it [Laughs].
There's a David Lynch vibe to the video. Are you a David Lynch fan?
Yeah! There could've been even more of that, depending on how nonlinear and experimental we wanted to get in the editing. It could've even be more David Lynch. We could've reversed some shots and made it even more tripped out. It has a David Lynch feel in the sense that there's a unique environment in the video. It was shot in Chicago but we deliberately avoided all landmarks of Chicago. The final scene is in a coal yard which could literally be in Birmingham, England or South Africa. You have no idea! In that sense, there's a David Lynch atmosphere.
Where did the idea for the fire come from?
Well, as a kid, I got arrested for playing with fire a few times. I wondered, "Does every healthy boy go through a pyromaniac phase?" It seems like that's part of American childhood. When your parents leave, you go through the basement looking for things that have the biggest warning signs on them. You get to learn a lot about fire. When I was 14-years-old, I made the discovery that rubber cement burns like a motherfucker and can't be put out [Laughs]. The idea for the fire in the video was a simple and obvious one. With anything in life, even if you bury it ten feet underground in your backyard, you know it's still there. One of the only ways to thoroughly destroy and remove something from the world is to burn it. The inner 14-year-old was excited within me. I knew we only had one shot to do it as well. We decided to ere on the side of irresponsible in terms of the chemicals we used. That's the one antique pump organ from 1890 that we had and the one day we had to shoot it. We had to shoot it while the sun was setting so the window was really tight. We filled that thing from the inside out with liquid rubber cement and a lot of lighter fluid. We emptied the gun powder from the inside of some flares and peppered that throughout the whole thing. We got lucky because, when it went up, the wind started gusting off the lake so it really took off. It was only afterwards when we saw the footage that we realized how lucky we were that it did rage as such an inferno.
Does the song's meaning really come through in the video for you?
We write all kinds of songs. In some of them, the subject matter is personal. In other cases, it's whimsical or fanciful. Sometimes you write about things you know and things you wish you knew. In this case, there were literally tears coming out of my eyes as I sat at the piano. I was a total mess when I was writing. The lyrics came out in about two minutes because it was just a conversation in my head at the time reflecting on the end of the most important relationship in my life. It was just me finding therapy in music. I was very vulnerable and finding a way to move on from something. I found a way that I could cope with loss. I said, "As long as I know this other person will never forget me and as long as she can tell me she'll always remember me, then that's enough." That's where it came from. It was very real. That was very raw and there's something special in it. It breaks convention, and it's a song you can feel.
Was touring with The Smashing Pumpkins a dream come true?
It really was! Coming out of Chicago, they were it. There's no one else that came close. They're one of those bands that I literally remember where I was the first time I heard them. They're so special to us. That tour was special for a lot of reasons. It's a payoff for a decade of perseverance. We met Billy Corgan a long time ago. I think it was 2001. We begged him to go on tour every single tour that they ever had. When they were on their last European tour, we flew out just to ask him if we could open the Chicago show [Laughs]. It wasn't only a dream of ours, it was an obsession! We'd heard that they were going out. About three weeks before their first show, I sent a text to Billy saying, "Hey, is this going to be the tour where my dream comes true? Are we going to finally open for you?" This is after all of the booking agents told us we were crazy. Billy was like, "Sure, let's make it happen!" The tour itself was great for no other reason than we got to watch them every night! We had artist laminates that said we were allowed to be there [Laughs]. I've snuck into so many Pumpkins shows in the past that it was kind of a weird feeling to be allowed where we allowed to be [Laughs]. The tour was awesome. They killed it every night, and we had a great time going out to dinner a lot and sharing some great stories. Billy is not only a super gifted and intelligent guy but he tells the most hilarious stories. He's led the most interesting life. The stories he tells about the predicaments he's been in and the conversations he's had with the people in the business are just jaw-dropping. The highlight of that tour, which is also one of the top ten highlights of my life. The finale was in Chicago at The Metro. The last show of that tour we played our favorite stage in our favorite city with our favorite band and we joined them on stage to play "1979." It was mindblowing.
If Wake Up The Sleepers were a movie or a combination of movies what would it be?
I think there are moments of Less Than Zero in there. I think there are moments of any Michael Mann film. I'd say Heat. There's definitely some Dead Poets Society and The Breakfast Club moments in there. It's a real spectrum record. It's probably the furthest thing in the world from the remake of The Karate Kid [Laughs]. There's a sexiness to the record. I'm a huge fan of that movie, The Girl Next Door. I think it was marketed as a cheap teen titty flick, but it's actually got a lot of depth and romance. I'm a huge fan of that movie.
Did you dig the "Promise Me" video?