Weaving together behind the scenes production footage and VHS distorted performances, Josh Yates’ music video for Premeir Jones’ Run takes us on a glitch infected ride into delusive fever dreams. Josh tells DN how he drew on his experimental and documentary background for Run’s discontinuity structure and why production accidents – such as your artist fully stacking it on a BMX – should be whole-heartedly embraced.
How did your collaboration with Premeir Jones and subsequently the film’s concept develop?
Preme reached out to me following the release of his 2016 Roses EP. This song stood out because of its unique structure showcasing Preme’s vocal range and ability to seamlessly transition between flows. It was my first time hearing Tange Lomax. She’s dope.
There was a lot of trust throughout the creative process. I hear too many horror stories from rising artists who work with non-communicative directors that take their money, don’t share clips during the editing process, and deliver lackluster videos. Hip-hop is the only avant-garde form that has ever resonated with me, so I tried to approach this music video with the same sort of attentiveness and dedication that I would with any other moving image media.
Our goal was to craft a hallucinatory ebb and flow while prioritizing musical form over narrative form.
We made this without any real budget. It only exists because a small group of people came together and contributed their time and resources to support a vision they could get behind. Our goal was to craft a hallucinatory ebb and flow while prioritizing musical form over narrative form. Ideally, the image/sound relations function as a connective tissue allowing for a sort of multi-temporality. Right now we live in a world in which sensible narratives fail to render, so I don’t have much interest in creating work that resolves its own conflicts.
Run occupies a mixed documentary/music video space, what informed that hybrid structure?
Outside of music video, my work drifts between documentary and experimental non-fiction. I think it’s important to document the behind-the-scenes production process because we need records of how we spent our time. We all die. There’s a keepsake value. Sometimes you capture things that reconfigure the creative approach and filter into the final product, which in this case was Preme eating shit on the BMX bike. That visual was so disorienting. Structurally it was used to contextualize the delirium present throughout the video’s midsection — and again at the end to snap out of it. We were all thankful he wasn’t seriously injured.
Documentary is often described as the creative treatment of actuality and I think music video provides an apparatus to explore musical irreality. The potential ways in which the two modes can intersect are exciting, especially in the age of pervading screen culture and digital democratization. Some people need non-fiction context to effectively engage with and appreciate hip-hop music, so I think this convergence is necessary.
What kit did you use to light and shoot the various locations?
Derek Donovan oversaw cinematography duties on this project. Amir Naeem operated the drone and Deon Seng documented the shoot. Jeff Simpson and Carl Lechner captured unusual tracking shots by using a skateboard. The only time we used lights was during Tange’s section in the tunnel. Red LED strips were placed in her lap. For the Snorricam sequence we shot RAW on the Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera and pulled down the sky in post. Everything else was shot on the Sony a7S II using natural light. The goal was to place bodies-in-motion within locations that featured distinct lighting and architecture.
What additional steps were needed in post to realise the tone and aesthetic of RUN?
We wanted to explore an accelerated audiovisual aesthetic and emphasize the color red.
The tone of the track weaves fluid and staccato rhythms, which we wanted to visualize through a constellation of imagery in which moments are dislocated and perpetually in flux. Critical feedback from Ricardo and the rest of the team was crucial throughout the post-production process. I broke the Morph Cut transition in Adobe Premiere Pro to create a majority of the glitch sequences.
My friend O.K. Keyes recently introduced me to tape-based distortion techniques, which I also explored heavily in this edit. It’s a hands-on approach, kinda like an RCA wrestling match. Occasionally I will beat my VCR with a rubber mallet. There seems to be an increasingly popular but often poorly executed analog aesthetic in contemporary music video culture, so moving forward I’m particularly interested in collaborating with artists who are interested in exploring VHS in non-gimmicky ways.
What do you have coming up next?
I’m currently developing a new music video with an artist based in Chicago. I’ve also been finalizing the edits on my first narrative short The Dying of the Deads. It’s an adaptation of a short story written by Jeff Jackson and can be read here.