Feature: Perry Farrell Goes All the Way for "Twilight"
Sun, 16 Nov 2008 01:05:08
When the voice of Jane's Addiction, Perry Farrell, calls, you listen to what he's got to say—especially if it has something to do with "Going all the way." That's the situation that music video director Andrew Bennett found himself in when Perry approached him to direct a video for his new song "Go All the Way (Into the Twilight)," featured on the soundtrack to the film adaptation of the massively popular book series of the same name. So Andrew did what he normally does; he thought outside the box. Yes, the movie has vampires. Yes, Perry wanted a vampire theme. However, Andrew found a way to do the video without blood, bites and bats. He came up with a sexy concept that yielded a hypnotic video centered on a seductive party in the Hollywood Hills. The results are definitely worth sinking your fangs...err...teeth into.
Andrew's been directing music videos for the last few years, and he's worked with everyone from Van Halen and Deftones to the Jonas Brothers and 3 Inches of Blood. He possesses a unique style that combines the best elements of gritty indie filmmaking and high concept cinema verite. Sitting at the Daily Grill in Santa Monica, Andrew took some time to discuss the video for "Go All the Way (Into Twilight)," working with Perry and much more in this exclusive interview.
You capture the more visceral elements of the artists you shoot, but you filter it into a palatable work of art. Would you say that's the case?
Every video I shoot, I do so with that particular band in mind. That may seem like an obvious statement, but what I'm saying is, I don't want to follow the cookie cutter formulas of a lot of videos that says we have to allot this amount of time for performance, this amount of time for story, and there should be this many cuts per second. At the same time, I know I have a label to please, as well as a band of course, and that I'm not going to change their minds of how a video is structured. When it comes to the story we are telling, I try to keep it simple but effective. Simplicity is underrated. Ultimately, you have a minute and a half at the most to tell the story when you are adding in performance, and nine out of ten videos miss the mark and end up making a video that has elements of a story, but no real punch. They are trying to make short films without the budgets or the time, and they tend to fall flat. I have actually been writing treatments lately where I can include the band performance within the story, where they act as the entertainment for that situation, rather than a separate place and time, like a cliche wetted down warehouse downtown. But videos for certain bands should highlight the performance rather than trying to turn a rock star into a movie star, Jared Leto being the exception. And Keanu too, I guess. Well, maybe not. Like I said before, I take the band's music and their personalities into effect when I shoot them. I respect those who have an image to maintain or protect and always want to please everyone, but some bands just weren't meant to be acting in front of a camera, they were meant to rock. A perfect example would be the Deftones.
You're never going to get narrative lyrics from Chino Moreno, ever. I think "Change (In the House of Flies)" is as close as you're ever going to get. So when you're not going to tell a story, you've got to find a visual way to present a video that's not putting a band in a big, empty warehouse, wetting down the floor, giving them all black t-shirts and shaking the camera all around. When you watch Deftones, there are lots of little intricacies to the band that are very interesting. If you watch the "Digital Bath" video that I did, those intricacies include everything from watching Abe Cunningham's foot on the kick drum to the way Chino ties that mic cord around his wrist. I find those moments to be visually pleasing as a viewer, and also, they're very direct to that band. If there's one thing Chino's known for, when he walks out on that stage, you know he's going to pick up that mic, start wrapping that cord around his wrist. He looks like a boxer taping up his fists and getting ready to go into battle. That's what I love.
You certainly capture those idiosyncrasies, and you did it with the Jonas Brothers as well.
With the Jonas Brothers, I didn't know what to expect. They were fairly popular when I shot the video for them, but they weren't as massive as they are now. When I did the video for them, they weren't this huge popular phenomenon, so I didn't know a lot about them—not that I would ever sell a band short prior to hearing their music.
I wrote the treatment for them, giving them a little credit as musicians, but when I got to set I was amazed. The Jonas Brothers are extremely talented. These kids know how to sing. They know how to do a production. They know how to play their guitars. There was a point that I realized that these kids were a little cooler than I initially gave them credit for. I was documenting the Van Halen reunion when I was doing the video for the Jonas Brothers. We did this thing at a garage somewhere in Encino, and we needed a backline—amps and heads. The kids didn't have anything. They just had some black Marshall stacks that they toured with. Ultimately, they had nothing though. Eddie Van Halen has what is probably the most stellar collection of speakers and amps ever—vintage stuff. Because the video was a teen pop video, I said to Ed, "Do you have anything colorful, like cool Vox amps or anything?" He just said, "Take a look." He opened up this garage, and it was incredible. I picked an orange head, a purple head and all of these other cool vintage amps. Anyway, the amps get delivered to set. The guy that dropped them off gave me a bunch Eddie Van Halen guitar picks. I gave them to the boys, and they said, "How did you get these?" I said, "I'm working with Van Halen. All of these amps are Eddie's." These kids freaked out! When a 15-year-old knows who Van Halen is, it means a lot. When we were documenting Van Halen, we were wondering what was going to happen with the tour and if it was going to be arenas packed with 50-year-olds. It was cool to meet kids who knew Eddie Van Halen. At that point, I turned to Nick Jonas, and I said, "So you know Van Halen?" He was like, "Yeah man, I've seen everything. I've watched all the stuff from the '80s." I just responded, "You know how to do the jumps?" He smiled, and that's how we got Nick jumping and doing the side-scissor kicks. If you take kids like that and give them the opportunity to be rock stars—forget this whole Disney thing, forget Hannah Montana and all that—they really shine. Everyone there expected them to be energetic and flash those smiles, but when they rocked out, I think everyone was a bit surprised and impressed, and ultimately them playing from the heart as real musicians, not a manufactured act, which they are not, is what made it into the final cut and made that video a hit. And about 20 million screaming teens.
You let the artists be free. They're very comfortable with you.
Absolutely, if you're in a band and you've gotten to the level where you're spending 100,000 dollars on a music video, you did something right to get there. So now, it's a matter of holding onto that essence of what got you there before it gets chucked into the machine. I'm not anti-label or anything. There are great people working at even the biggest conglomerate labels, and they truly believe in a lot of the artists. I watch every band. Even before I do a video for them, I go on YouTube and watch all the bootleg shit of them playing the crappy club to 150 people. That's when they're going to be themselves. That's when they're at their most uninhibited, and because I edit every video I shoot, I can take those elements and make them shine.
It stays a completely cohesive vision if you edit it yourself.
A lot of directors will sit with an editor too. I find that process to be very weird. I don't like sitting with editors because I always have that feeling like, "Let me do that real quick!" Ordinarily, you'll have an editor because the director doesn't know how to push the buttons and slide the tracks around. When I did the Deftones documentary, I hired an editor for some exorbitant rate. I said, "We'll hire you at this rate, but you will teach me Final Cut Pro." That was the exchange. When I went to do the "Digital Bath" video—that was the first thing that I had ever cut in my life. From then on, I always cut. Abe Cunningham taught me how to properly edit a music video. It really comes down to the drummer. He let me know, "Number one, a music video is about timing. There's only one person in a band that really knows how to keep time, and that's me. You should always be watching me!" Quickly, I realized a lot of the great shots were those big cymbal crashes and snare hits. Due to Abe Cunningham, now every music video I do, the first thing I do when I get into post production is I lay down the audio track, and I put on the big fat headphones, and I blast it so I can hear every detail. Then I set a marker on certain beats. I'll just listen to the drummer and label where the fills start, cymbals crash and the crazy double bass kicks in. The way I learned that is Abe watched a rough cut of the film. He called me and told me to come to Sacramento. He sat me down for two days and explained to me everything that was wrong with what I had just done. When I left there, I knew how to properly feature a drummer [Laughs]. On half the videos that I do that are under 100k dollars, there's no sync slate. I don't have anything except for the sound from on-set where I can match up the drum hit and literally just watching it with my eyes. That's all due to Abe Cunningham.
How did everything come about with Perry's video?
I met Perry two years ago. We worked together with Satellite Party. We had a project working through the label that never came to fruition. We really liked each other. I was in New York a month ago, and I went to this after party. He was there with Dave Navarro playing a bunch of Jane's Addiction songs. It was at the old CBGB's. There were about 200 people there. I sat on the stage and watched "Jane Says." I talked to Perry afterwards, and I said, "We need to finish what we started." We worked really well together, but we never got to finish this project. Now, he's doing a solo track for the movie Twilight. The song's called "Go All the Way," and it ties into the vampire theme of the movie. He had this idea. He wanted to do something. He wrote a song with a hook in it, and the hook says, "Going all the way." He means that in the most juvenile terms. It's a song about "Going all the way!" That's all he came to me with. He said, "I want a video that's about going all the way." So we came up with this idea. Instead of doing fangs, bats and blood, we would focus more on the personality traits of vampires—the debauchery, the sin and the consumption. We're going to throw a little party that Perry hosts, inviting 20 of his uber attractive friends I'm sure. His wife will be the guest of honor. She'll show up in all white, amidst an all red and black-clad crowd. He basically spends the evening trying to bring her to the dark side, seducing her with juicy red fruits and red wine. Eventually, they "go all the way." I still don't know how much we're shooting. Perry's a very classy, tasteful guy. He's amazing, man. He is the smartest motherfucker out there. He's probably smarter than all of my friends [Laughs].
Artists like Perry have a certain otherworldly brilliance.
That's what it is. If you've gotten to that point, you've done something right. Especially in the case of people like Perry and Eddie Van Halen, not only did they get to legend status, they did it without compromising themselves ever. Eddie has no regrets about any of his music. There's nothing out there that he's embarrassed of—even the Hagar stuff. It's like Deftones. Chino never sacrificed his artistic integrity ever. They could've easily done a George Michael cover song, and become MTV-successful. When they had the opportunity to ride the same train with Limp Bizkit and KoRn, they were willing to do it, but never by sacrificing what they do. Chino was never going to stop screaming.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
It varies. If you look at my work, I've done everything from motion graphics to stop-motion videos on miniature sets. I would never want to be pigeonholed into "the guy that does the big, glossy rock video." Even though I can do your big, glossy rock video and I'm happy to do it, I just find music videos to be more interesting when there's range to them. I don't have seven videos that are all alike. There's no reason to limit yourself as an artist. You genuinely want to find something good that's particular to the band. I want to capture those idiosyncrasies of each band—their sense of humor, aesthetic and everything. As a director, you want to make the video that no one else can make again because yours was too fucking good. Think of the Fiona Apple "Criminal" video Mark Romanek did. Every director wants to write a treatment like that. I never saw any boundaries when I watched someone like Romanek's work. Every band I work with, whether they're my favorite band in the world or a band that you wouldn't catch me dead listening to, it doesn't matter when I'm doing their video. They're my favorite band in the world for that week. I don't see how else I can deliver to them unless I'm going to do it with that kind of energy and really getting to know them as people and understanding what they like and what they can bring to the video.
A perfect example is, I just did this teen pop video for a girl named Tiffany Giardina. Tiffany is in the realm of Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus but is a true New Yorker and has an edge to her that separates her from the rest. She's going to blow up. I'm doing a video that's kind of goofy. This teenage girl is running around New York City. She's clumsy and she runs into people. She finds herself in these weird little scenarios. She ends up in Times Square rocking out to her friends. When you're in the middle of Times Square and you have 200 people that have never heard of this girl, I had two choices. I could be the cool rock guy and frame her right, so you don't see all these shlubs. Or I could just be "Team Tiffany." It was to the point where I put on a "Team Tiffany" shirt in the middle of Times Square, got up on the kick drum and I gave the most impassioned, Obama-esque speech to the entire Times Square. I had 250 people rocking like this was their favorite song in the world because I was acting like it was my favorite song in the world. The energy gets returned. I never underestimate the act. I guess my edge is I actually give a shit.