This year, dubstep pair Dusk and Blackdown took their Margins Music album to the live circuit, with a lottery-funded audio-visual show across the country.
Something that defines their live show – which not only features Dusk and Blackdown, but various live musicians, vocalist Farah, MC Trim, and varying support that’s included LHF, James Blake, Starkey and more – is the work of Jonathan Howells, the pair’s video director who created videos for various staples. Today, on FACT, we’re premiering five of those videos, accompanied by a question and answer session with Howells.
The penultimate date of the Margins Music live tour falls this Friday in Reading, with support from Kowton and LHF. We’ve got five pairs of tickets to give away. Simply email us at email@example.com and you’re in. For more information on the show, click here.
So Dusk & Blackdown live is a musical project, what was a director/cameraman/VJ doing as part of it? How do you fit in?
“My role was twofold. One, to support/reinforce the theme’s of the Margins Music album visually, and two, to help create even more stage presence for the shows.
When the album first came out, Blackdown asked me to create a melange video/promo that covered several of the tracks, and the visuals for the live show was an extension of that, though had to go far further, of course.”
When they came to you with the project idea, how did you set about making visuals for the music and what did it involve?
“ My first step was sitting down with D&B to go over the themes and sounds/samples for each track. Martin is very visual (in fact, for him, each track has a strong colour identify) so we talked visuals ideas, and how such ideas would support the album’s various cultural themes. Because the tracks use samples from Bollywood, Japanese Films, and many others, that led me to obvious visuals representations. As a result, there are a lot of Bollywood and Japanese film “visual samples” in what I created.
“For the grime tracks, Blackdown provided a lot of source material of some of the underground grime MCs performing, and I mashed, mixed and stylized to achieve a level of energy that was needed.
“Beyond that, it was up to me to propose other visual interpretations of the music/tracks. much of that riffed off London themes… the tube map, post-codes, and the amazing photography of Nico Hogg. Eventually we arrived at the array of approaches and I started to execute them.
“One of the biggest challenges with VJ visuals is to walk a fine line between the images being compelling and interesting, and not being too compelling and show-stealing. They have to support the music, not upstage it. I think we struck that balance quite well.”
Some of your visual ideas begin with the Margins Music CD art and take it on further, where did you try and take it to?
“The fringes of London in twilight is a look that D&B love personally, and yes, my role with the show visuals was to take that express is in motion/video.
“The photography of Nico Hogg was invaluable in this regard… I attempted to make his photography appear to be live video.”
Tell me about the thinking and inspiration behind the ‘Drumz of Nagano’ video?
“’Drums of Nagano’ is one of my favourites. It started with research into vintage Japanese samurai films… I must have had about 15 films sitting in my studio which I scanned or fully screen with an eye to sampling… Once I’d arrived at the clips I wanted to use, I then explored ways to stylize them, and take them beyond just the source material. The circle came about, the spinning came after that, the reflected effects… to be honest, it was all a bit stream of consciousness and experimental rather than it being a solution to prescribed intentions.
“With that sort of creative process, fortuitous accidents sometimes happen, or exploring combinations of ‘techniques’ that I may not have tried combining before may lead to surprises… ‘Drums of Nagano’ is an example of that sort of process.”
What other visual projects have you been working on in the last year or so, and what are your plans for 2011?
“At any given time, I’m working on lots of quite varied projects. I’m doing some VFX for a short horror film, that involves tentacles coming out of a toilet, I’m pitching to do a teaser video for a new video game, I’m working on visuals for a Bach Music Festival, and am working on my first feature documentary film Driven, so lots on the go.”