13th May 2016
Have Ruffmercy
Title of film: J Dilla, The Sickness ft Nas, produced by Madlib
Director: Ruffmercy
Production Company: My Accomplice
The animator director Ruffmercy's signature scrawl shrieks, hollers, graces and electrifies music videos. We talk with him about his latest piece, The Sickness, for Nas and the late J Dilla

How would you describe your style?

Sloppy, Chaotic, Too much, not enough, perfectly imperfect

Please describe your creative process – do ideas flow as you’re working or is everything pretty much planned before you begin?

The turn-around for this video was very quick so there wasn’t much time for development. Before starting the video I had a quick chat with Peter Bittenbender from Mass Appeal who along with PAY JAY records were putting out the video. We talked about what videos I had previously made and what this one could look like based on those.

We both agreed that a collage-based video combined with hand drawn cell animation would be a good direction. I have worked with Peter before and he’s used to me experimenting and developing videos as I make them and for this one the only thing certain at the beginning was that we could film Nas and have him as part of the video.

We got lucky getting hold of footage of J Dilla, which wasn’t a definite till half the video had been completed. I think the nature of this job lent itself to my style of making it up as I went along.

We looooove The Sickness. Please tell us how the video came about, what the initial conversations were and how those ideas developed into the film. 

Thank you.. ah, should have read the questions first. I think I have kinda answered this above. An extra note would be that the video was pretty much a last minute idea the label had. Originally they wanted me to make a short animated film to detail the making of the album and then a week before the album launch the label decided that it might be nice to have a video and bring it out on the day of the album release. I got a call Tuesday from them saying they could film Nas Thursday and would I be able to make the video in a week? It was a chance to work with three legends who have inspired me a ton so I just said yes without thinking twice.

What was the most challenging aspect of creating the video and how did you resolve that. 

Well we knew we could shoot Nas but there had been no-time to work out what to do with Dilla’s section. I built the video backwards doing the Nas section first and pretty much for a few days ignoring the fact I had no idea what to do with the Dilla opening section. For some reason I knew it would work out and then there was talk of acquiring some rare Dilla footage to work with. We had to put the video on hold for a week missing the album release deadline which sucked.

When the footage turned up though I was initially bummed out because I forgot that the video would be from around 2004 meaning it would be tiny dimensions wise.. 720 x 480. Also there wasn’t much of it either but in the end I realised that the quality of the footage didn’t matter so much and that it was just a blessing to have some footage of him in the video.

Where do you work best?

It used to be at home until my twin boys came along and kicked any ideas of working at home to the curb. Now I have a pretty quiet studio a 10 min walk away with a variety of good coffee shops around.

Please give us a potted history of what led you to animation and working with VFX. 

I studied illustration / animation at Leeds then went to work at MTV as a producer around ’95 and left there in ’98 around the time that Apple started making the first iMacs and suddenly I found I had access to all the software I needed to make my own stuff. Previously it had been a case of spending large amounts of cash in post houses or begging favours off them.

Are there any particular bands you’d love to do a film for?

I keep messing up this opportunity due to schedules > KAYTRANADA.

I think I could make a pretty good PUSHA T video.. a new Nas video would be great. I’m open to anything with soul really. I should have a couple of curve balls coming out soon, maybe that will open up new doors.


My Accomplice