William D Drake: Distant Buzzing
Friday, 13 December 2013
An awesome Friday the thirteenth. William D Drake was playing his second “Christmas Do” at Schott’s Music Store near Oxford Circus. I took some pictures:
At the end of the show, we got talking and discussion moved onto possibly making a video for a song from the forthcoming album. Bill asked if I would like to come to the studio to listen to the inchoate album to see which song might make a good video. “Hmmm. I’ll see what I can do.” Not really – I was cock-a-hoop. Silly question really, isn’t it?
Monday, 30 December 2013
I bloody love Christmas. But this was the best day of the holidays. I spent a few hours listening to the incomplete recordings of what would become Revere Reach in the studio with Bill and Ben Davis. Bill was keen on Distant Buzzing (which didn’t have any drums at this time). I told Bill he needed to make The Blind Boy longer because it deserved to go on for a lot longer. He never did.
Over the next few months I saw Bill at several gigs.
Sunday, 27 April 2014
In April 2014, we filmed Bill’s band playing some songs, including tracks from the album in a not-very-secret location. This was a very special day.
Tuesday, 17 February 2015
In February 2015, Bill brought a copy of the completed album to my house on CDR. I sometimes have to pinch myself when this sort of thing happens. My wife thought that The Blind Boy was a bit on the short side. Distant Buzzing sounded fantastic in its completed form.
The nature of the song made me want to do something jittery, “excitable” and exaggerated. I had recently bought a big bright ring light, that combined with a full-frame fisheye lens gave a nicely stylised look. I also wanted to fiddle with time so made a version of the song at 150% the original length, allowing me to speed the performance up to give it the panicky nervous energy I wanted.
Thursday, 26 February 2015
I made a little demo. I usually do this to make sure I am on the right track. While I was recording the demo, my beautiful boxer, Edd, stumbled into the shot. Looking at the footage, I decided that the bit where Edd interrupted was my favourite bit. You can see the genesis of the look of the video in the demo: https://youtu.be/d03-ArlrzwQ
We set a filming date of Saturday 18 April. I asked my friend Jon Brain to assist with the video. Jon had been tremendously helpful at the “Live in the Studio” shoot. He’s clever, funny and creative and has an excellent eye for detail.
Here’s a bit from an email I sent everyone on March 26 – I love looking back at these things and seeing how they compare to the eventual product:
I will get close-ups of each of you*,but the key element will be a number of intercut performances, using the same (single) fisheye perspective as the demo with the band framed behind Bill.
One of the performances will have interruptions (a bit like how my dog, Edd, interrupts me here). These will include Dandy the dog and Richard’s Sarah providing Bill with a cup of tea in “glamorous assistant” mode. May also include Jamie Kelsey-Fry doing a bit of schtick and/or James Stevens reprising the consultant in shouty mode. These bits would all be brief interstitials while the “real” performances were continuing.
*I bloody never.
Bill and I had an unscheduled photo shoot two weeks before the video shoot date when I had a model cancel at the last minute. It was great to spend some time together to talk about the video and to get better acquainted. Some of the pictures are in this album: https://flic.kr/s/aHsjTAkf3w
Wednesday, 15 April 2015
I met Bill for a coffee. With just a few days to go, I asked him how he would feel about reprising his role as “William D. Drake, Cardiac c.1985”. We had already agreed that James “The Consultant” Stevens would be up for being in the video and it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. Anyone who knows me, knows that my love for Cardiacs is profound and abiding. I love everything Tim Smith has ever done; his video work is every bit as inspiring as his music. Astonishing really. I watched the Seaside Treats video the night before we met and thought “Wouldn’t it be AMAZING….” Every time I see Seaside Treats I feel like I am watching a masterclass in music video.
Anyway, I was delighted that Bill was up for it.
“Will you shave your beard off?” – “No problem”
“Can you remember how to do the make-up?” (adopts theatrical pose) “I could do it blindfolded, Dahling!”
Saturday, 18 April 2015
We shot the video at Brixton Hill Studios. The energy in the room was excellent and everyone was up for it. Lighting the room was tricky. The Jinbei EF100 LED heads I use provided most of the illumination. Jon Brain came up with the idea of putting an LED panel behind Bill to light the back of the room. The only camera was the Canon 5D Mark III with the now-discontinued Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens.
Much of what we did was as planned. What wasn’t planned was Jamie Kelsey Fry’s bit. Here’s how it went:
- I have had a bit of experience of artists not knowing their own songs. So I printed the lyrics out in A3. Just. In. Case. It’s not all bloody glamour you know.
- James had brought the cardboard horsehead with him. People who attended the Alphabet Business Convention will have seen this in the flesh. He’d made it for a family thing.
- Jamie had brought his excellent striped jacket and a reindeer onesie. Wha’?
So, in the space of literally ten minutes we put Anita into the onesie and horsehead to play the part of Donkey. I directed Jamie to behave as the frustrated lyricist trying to get a performance out of Bill. We ran through it three times and these bits are all chopped up to give the finished bit. I love it when – in the midst of something quite tightly planned – something appears out of the ether.
There were loads of excellent suggestions by the band during the day. Stuffy suggested swapping instruments with Jon and it was done in a heartbeat. I loved James’s hiding behind the keyboard. The ladies all look beautiful despite the wonky fisheye distortions. Richard’s guitar heroics were delivered without pause. Sarah performed her role of glamorous assistant with total ease. And Dandy just couldn’t have been more perfect. Richard and Sarah had picked her outfit and it just couldn’t be better. I love the bit when Bill is playing the trombone and Dandy is looking at him.
The last bit we did was the “The Consultant vs. Cardiac Bill” bit. We had to do this last because Bill needed to shave his beard off and put greasepaint on. James Stevens was an absolute star and delivered the goods, Consultant-wise. I asked him to rough Bill up a bit, but he came up with the punch and all of the excellent shtick. There are nods to Seaside Treats and the Tarred and Feathered and Too Many Irons videos. I remain in awe of all those videos. Oh and Susannah’s Still Alive. I know it’s a bit cheeky and of course I had misgivings about doing something so overtly referential. But I hope everyone enjoys it as the playful homage that it is intended to be.
Sunday, 19 April 2015
I stayed up until about 1am on the Saturday night and completed 95% of the edit. The footage was so good that it really took no effort. Richard knows me well and that I tend to work somewhat obsessively. So on Sunday night, he texted me with the message “Come on Ash. Poldark’s finished. Where’s the video?” I was almost embarrassed to confirm that it was pretty much done. It was more or less what you see now.
Wednesday, 29 April 2015
I met up with Bill and asked him if he thought it would be possible for us to get the video shown at the Alphabet Business Convention. I knew it was a long shot as there was so little time to get it organised. I loved the idea that people would see it for the first time in that context. And of course, this was the perfect audience for this particular video. And that they wouldn’t be able to rewind it and watch it again – to make it like an old school “Event TV” thing. You either saw it then or you didn’t.
Saturday, 2 May 2015
The video was shown at the Convention at 5:15, before the first band came on. It was absolutely wonderful seeing it on the big screen and hearing it at gig volume. I loved sharing it with the people standing around me but I would have been happy to see and hear it like that on my own. I was hugely impressed that the organisers got it together with so little notice and it was a really magical moment for me.
Here’s some stills from the day of the video shoot.
Oh yeah – here’s the video:
Distant Buzzing is from Revere Reach on Onomatopoeia Records. You can order it here.