For starters it’s split into two separate chapters, a mini movie if you like – the complete antithesis of MTV’s green screens and 3minute 30second radio friendly fare. But what makes it truly remarkable is not it’s non-conformist length, it’s in its delivery, it’s attitude and it’s nightmarishly effective execution.
There’s unsettling dialogue that wouldn’t seem out of place in a David Lynch movie, surreal Dali-esque dream sequences, black light underwater scenes oh and did we mention there’s two runway models who have octopi crotches?
There’s a genuine story being told here in amongst the madness, but it will take you multiple viewings to appreciate the subtlety of each scene and the journey inside its central characters psyche.
The entire clip, is the end result of Wes Borland and acclaimed director Agata Alexander’s creative forces colliding and spilling out onto the internet over 13 glorious minutes. Below is the recently released Chapter 2 (you can view Chapter 1: The Moment You Realize You’re Going To Fall further down the article), turn the lights out sit back and strap yourself in….
Pretty remarkable right?
We thought so too, which is why we caught up with director Agata Alexander to find out the process, story, concepts and intricacies of creating such a work of art and more importantly what actually makes her tick.
She’s very generously given her time to answer these 9 questions we posed to her and we have to say, what a world it would be if every celebrity was as forthcoming, refreshingly honest and as revealing as she is.
1. Firstly, congratulations for creating such a startling original and compelling music video – it’s something of a rarity these days. It’s an inherently strange, surreal and nightmarish world that you and Wes have concocted in the clip, can you tell us how the collaboration evolved?
Thank you so much! I’m extremely happy that it has been received with such a warm embrace.
Well, I’ve been a huge fan of Black Light Burns since day one. I saw a commercial for Cruel Melody and I found them so visually mesmerizing. I didn’t really know much about Wes Borland at the time, so when I realized what an all around creative human he was, I felt that I really needed to work with this person, so I reached out to him. He was very nice, positive and happy about working together for BLB. That was 3 years ago.
Earlier this year when he decided that it was time to release the new album, we got together for the first time and it was just an instant connection. Since then we’ve become very close creatively.
We finish each others ideas. It’s special and fearless. It’s very much one of those things where I tell him ideas that I wouldn’t tell anyone else out of pure embarrassment or fear of people thinking I’ve lost my mind, and his response is usually “let’s do it!” I love that guy.
2. You’ve worked & collaborated with some of the biggest artists across the industrial / goth / rock genres including Marilyn Manson, Combichrist, Five Finger Death Punch & now Black Light Burns – is there a common theme between them all?
Yes, I am drawn to extremely visual acts. I like a show, raw energy, mystery and the element of unpredictability. I remember the first time I bought a Manson album when I was 14, looking at them and listening to it was such a new feeling of fear mixed with fascination. I loved that and it’s a feeling and balance I still chase.
3. With such a diverse and visually arresting scenes, how long did the filming take?
4. With that in mind, which was the most intensive part of the shoot?
I think every element had a moment where I went “ok this is insane”.
We shot chapter 1 by the ocean the first day. When we drove out to the beach at 3am and I heard those waves crashing in the dark, I felt like, “fuck, I hope I don’t kill Wes Borland today”. Wes was under water for very long and on the verge of hypothermia, but he is a trooper, crazy and 100% dedicated to making something truly special.
Then a month later we began shooting chapter 2 in Wes’ freezing cold pool. So I got to almost drown him twice. I just call him Wet Borland now. I think the pool was a really cool moment for me cause it was a shot I’ve been imagining for a while. I’ve never seen black light under water before so we had to figure it out from scratch. It took a lot of time and planning to make that scene work.
Day 3-4 we shot the rest, during 100 degree heat in a place that had no air conditioning. I don’t think anyone went to the bathroom the entire time cause we just sweated out all the fluids we drank. We had so many set ups. But it was fun. Very much a family affair where we asked all of our friends to come and help. I think both me, Wes and my DP (Tom Lembcke) couldn’t move for a solid two days after that weekend though. So sore.
5. We have to ask….the tentacle sofa scene, whose insane idea was that and WTF?
HA! Ok well, Wes mentioned pretty early on that everyone should be naked in the video and only wear octopi crotches. I didn’t think much about it at the time since we had so many crazy ideas floating around, so I kind of said, “yeah totally dude” and 10 minutes later he is tweeting it for everyone to see. So I was like…ok…I guess I have to incorporate this somehow now. What we did not realize, is that an entire dead octopus is pretty gross and smelly.
He asked me to take photos for the new album and I suggested we incorporate the octopus since we knew it would somehow be in the video at this point. So the next day, Wes went and bought a real octopus and came over to my place. I made him shove it in his mouth…because I’m kind of a dirtbag. We snapped a couple of pictures and he was gagging and dry heaving cause it smelled and it was gross.
After we were done, we put the octopus on a paper napkin on the floor, within a minute my cat was there, burying it with imaginary dirt. We realized we had to truly rethink this “everyone will wear an octopi crotch in 100 degree heat for two days” idea. So when I wrote the treatment the crotches became a small segment. And since I wanted to push it further, I made it into a blow job scene.
We’re inside Wes’ head at that point in the video, I figured it would be funny if it ended with him getting just that…head. It was so stupid that it just felt right. And I also really wanted to incorporate a black light “jizz” segment. So we are both responsible for that little gem I guess.
6. Throughout your career, which artists have & continue to influence your work?
I used to be influenced by a lot of people, but things have kind of shifted lately. I get inspired by really random things. Someone can say a sentence that I connect with or disagree with or gets me emotional, and I’ll bring it into a different world and make it into a full concept. I’m a very emotionally driven creator and I let my gut feeling lead me.
But I try to surround myself with creative, like minded people. I’ve been lucky enough to connect with some mad geniuses like Wes, Clint Mansell and Kevin Kerslake who are all close friends and they inspire me and push me on a daily basis.
7. How did you first start getting involved with filmmaking? Was there a defining moment when you knew you want to be a director?
Back in Sweden where I am from, I was originally into dance and started at the age of 7 and practiced up to 8 hours a day until I was 19, with the goal of becoming a dance choreographer. I was seen as a black sheep, always breaking the rules, usually in another room dancing to Aphex Twin, and the teachers weren’t supportive and forced musicals and jazz-hands on everyone, and something that I use to love, I now hated.
So I quit.
As I walked out the door, I already knew that becoming a music video director was going to happen. I couldn’t think of a more badass job, sitting in a directors chair, pointing my finger, telling rock stars how to move, yelling action…hey, I can do all those things!
Unfortunately, I had never touched a camera before, or used a computer for anything other than email and playing solitaire, so I was basically behind square one. I took 2 summer classes and had to create a demo reel so I could apply to film school in Gothenburg. My very first music video was a mock up for Felix Da Housecat and it somehow got me in to the school. I absorbed everything like a sponge. I wasn’t scared of asking lots of questions because I knew nothing, and the teachers at the film school believed in me and pushed me, so everything felt right and went pretty fast from there on. So I guess I was a late bloomer when it comes to film.
But I do feel that dance has helped me a lot. I edit all my work and that part of me has made me a better editor. The constant awareness of rhythm and movement makes a difference.
8. For all those aspiring filmmakers out there, what’s the greatest piece of advice you could share with them?
Work hard, it will show.
Be willing to learn. Get educated, learn all the rules and then break them. Be fearless. And the most important thing, have fun, cause you didn’t choose brain surgery as your career, you chose filmmaking, so there is no reason for an aggressive and volatile attitude. As long as you did your absolute best with the circumstances you were given, you’re good.
My dreams of pointing fingers and yelling action were beautiful, but in reality it’s a lot of hard work and a lot of sacrifices. Long nights, no sleep, running countless errands and lifting heavy gear while you are trying to give someone solid direction that makes sense while they are choking on octopus jizz.
9. You can collaborate with any artist in the world, from any moment or time in history, who would it be and why?
Charlie Chaplin, cause he was the master of mixing darkness with comedy, that guy had some balls. And Fritz Lang, he managed to create such amazing visuals out of nothing, I’m a huge fan of German Expressionism. I hate green screens, I like to see stuff built, sculpted and created in a more organic way so I will always have a huge appreciation for those early eras and mindsets.
Black Light Burns