Was there a clear brief from the commissioner for this in terms of a starting concept or idea to play with or did you have relatively free reign to let your imagination go wild on this one?
The genesis of the project was an outline of the album’s narrative created by Ashnikko and their creative director Vasso. The story they developed revolves around the Weedkiller and a bleak future where angelic white robots have taken over, leaving all organic life in hiding. Additionally, I was provided with a variety of images, including anime fairies, mecha robots, and medieval depictions of devilish creatures. As I delved deeper into this world, I was reminded of Pieter Bruegel’s painting “The Fall of the Rebel Angels,” which portrays an epic battle between angels and demons. The overwhelming mass of bodies, demons, beasts, angels and spirits colliding in this painting became my conceptual and aesthetic inspiration for the project. My goal was to create an expansive world filled with a multitude of creatures and robots that would mirror the vastness of the story’s universe.
Additionally, Ash really wanted to ride a monster truck in the video, which in a way fit perfectly!
Behind the scenes
How did you go about building out the boards for this one and planning the production?
I had some key visuals in mind in the beginning. One was the aforementioned painting by Pieter Brueggel as a reference for the battle scenes. I also had the idea pretty early, which was about revealing the faux-claymation CG world and the monster truck with a long pull-out from the live action cockpit, thereby linking the two worlds directly in one shot. Based on a few shot ideas like this I started to build out a visual and narrative structure that would fill in the gaps between the key moments.
Considering the short runtime of the video, it was a real challenge to fit in everything that I wanted to do. The key seemed to be to find as many links between CG and live action as possible without making it feel forced but rather organic. For example, Ashnikko pulling the lever and then directly afterwards we see the horn on the truck honking. Same for the battle scenes, we see Ash perform a fight move and then get the move mirrored by the robot.
Since we also discussed to have some classic performance moments by Ash in the video, I had the idea of placing them inside the hellmouth that we see dangling from the windshield at the beginning of the video. That way the first shot, shows the viewer a world, reveals it’s actually a part of the set of another world and then later we find out it is actually a scene we would return to later. That way the performance scenes would be anchored in the same reality as the rest of the video while allowing to introduce a separate space.
How do you go about building creative teams around your projects?
For the CG part I asked the same animators I already assembled for my guest directing work on “Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared” last year. Barney Abrahams, Harry Bhalerao, Dominic Lutz and Nate Die. They are amazing to work with and I feel like by now we really understand each other very well. Harry even was my intern some years ago and Barney was the only animator on my video for the band Squid. Domo and Nate’s work I found on Instagram. I love what all of them do and through our collaborators they know what I am looking for and what kind of animation style I prefer. Each of their strength have kind of their own role that fits into my projects pretty well by now.
Apart from those four, I had my amazing producers for both live action and CG animation, Jake River Parker and Molly Turner. They assembled an amazing crew for me, I could’ve never done it without them. They were so good at finding the exact people that I needed based on our discussions. All the team leads were such great collaborators. The DOP Hunter Daly, the set designer Laura Little, the VFX supervisor John Malcom Moore, all are total gems. Same with Ashnikko’s team, the stylist Holly Wood for example absolutely killed it.
Can you talk us through some of the key elements / stages of development from the production?
Sure! In the beginning there is always the pitch deck. For me this is such a fundamental part of the production, because this is where I formulate my ideas. I really enjoy this process. It gives me the ability to develop the entire project in front of my eyes, before we even need to make it. The interplay of images, text and layout is a beautiful way to create an atmosphere and narrative. I discuss my pitch and idea with BlinkInk and we try to sand it down to its core. I tend to get a bit too wordy and dreamy in my first drafts.
After the project is awarded we go into storyboarding. I love storyboarding myself, but since my boards are very, very rough and scrappy, sometimes we get them cleaned up by another storyboarder to make them more easily readable for the client. On this project it was the amazing Mysie Pereira who refined my storyboards. Next is the animatic. The storyboards get timed to the music to figure out a rough timeline. On this project I had the pleasure to work with Isabel Gomez on this.
My next step afterwards is design. Especially characters are crucial to me. I need to figure them out first before I can understand the rest of the world and the cinematography. Once the designs are finished animators/riggers prep the characters for animation. Simultaneously I start blocking in the scenes in 3D, which includes both set design and camera blocking as well as the overall layout. This is where the core of the shots get put together. In there I place the character animations and start lighting and set dressing the scene to make it all look pretty. On this project this stage also interlocked with the VFX process as I incorporated the keyed footage of Ashnikko directly into the blender shots and/or used the motion tracked cameras from the shoot to set the scene up.
Afterwards there’s additional composting, sound design, colour grading and making the credits look nice so people keep watching at the end 🙂
Were there any elements that were particularly challenging – the sheer range of character models you must have had to develop for example!
For me personally it was sometimes really hard to manage these large scenes. In terms of composition and lighting, making the mess look nice without losing this overwhelming cluster type energy I loved so much in the Brueggel painting. Additionally, also just the actual file size! When the scenes get so massive it becomes really hard to work inside of the 3D scene at times.
The amount of design work was actually quite fun, I just enjoy making up characters. There are even more that never made it into the video. I really wanted this world to feel abundant and huge, not like it was just designed for the music video but rather stretches way beyond the boundaries of these 2:40 minutes.
What were your references for this one? There’s a sort of Ray Harryhausen meets Mad Max vibe to the intro and then it morphs through an Avengers Infinity War style battle clash into a final scene that’s a sort of mix of Eldin Ring and Japanese Anime x Gundam. Awesome range of styles and cultural touchpoints!
Haha :). Nice! I like this reading, some of them definitely line up with the references I had in mind.
I often create moodboards that are quite extensive, consisting of various influences. On this project these include paintings by Pieter Bruegel, Hieronymus Bosch, Caravaggio, and Goya, as well as medieval etchings depicting beasts and demons. I also included a lot of 80s and 90s mecha-anime influences such as Neon Genesis Evangelion as well as 80s Kaiju movies, alongside Alexander McQueen, Jim Henson, Magritte Humeau, Mad Max, Tank Girl, and Björk.
I like to find ways to let my influences shine through without losing my own voice. It’s exciting to me to see these very different worlds collide and create something new.
Anything else you’d like to share about the project?
Just that I am grateful to get to direct these kinds of projects. To me it’s so precious, getting to partake in the making of pop culture. Being invited by an artist like Ash, who’s work I hardcore admire, being considered as an equal in this process meant a lot, a lot a lot. I appreciate everyone that was involved in this project, the ones that I mentioned here and everyone else. I would like to encourage everyone to watch the credits of the video, I included some cool monster animations in there, so you’ll even get some extra visuals alongside the names of some stellar people. The team on this project was amazing.
Director : Raman Djafari // @Ramandjafari
Executive Producer : Josef Byrne
Head Of Production: Alex Halley
Production Company: Blinkink @Blink_ink
Producer : Jake River Parker // @Jakeriverparkerfilms
Animation Producer : Molly Turner // @Molly___turner
Production Manager : Rowan Mackintosh King // @Rowanmackintosh
Production Assistant : Maddy Williams // @Melodramaddy
Commissioner: Sam Seager // @Seagez
Creative Director : Vasso Vu @Vassovu
Manager : George Shepherd // @Shepherdgeorge
Day To Day Manager : Hannah Browne // @Hannahbr0wne
Storyboards : Raman Djafari
Storyboards : Mysie Pereira // @Mysiepereira
Animatic Editor : Isabel Gomez
Concept Artist : Camille Perrin
Cg Character Design : Raman Djafari
Cg Background Design : Raman Djafari
Cg Lighting, Camera & Layout : Raman Djafari
Cg Character Animation & Rigging : Dominic Lutz // @Domolutz
Cg Character Animation & Rigging : Harry Bhalerao // @Harrybhal
Cg Character Animation & Rigging : Barney Abrahams // @_yenrab
Cg Character Animation & Rigging : Nate Die // @Spish.Tv
Cg Artist : Sandrine Gimenez // @Sandrine_gimenez
Cg Artist : Klaas Harm Deboer
Cg Artist : Michael Marczewski
Additional Lighting : Balasz Simon // @Notbalasz
Vfx Lead : John Malcolm Moore // @Johnmalcolmmoore
Compositor : Andrew Khosravani // @Andrew_khosravani
Compositor : Vladislav Enshin
Compositor : Caroline Terrago
1st Ad : Julia Pavliuk // @Ula__la
Dop : Hunter Daly // @Hunterdalydp
1st Ac : Rupert Hornstein // @Ruperthornstein1966
2nd Ac : Nicola Braid
Ac (Prep Day) : Joe Mcdonald
Cam Operator : Tanmoye Khan // @Tanmoyekhan_dop
Dit : Rosie Taylor // @Rosie_taylor_
Gaffer : Laurent Arnaud // @Sparkswars
Spark : Johnjoe Besagni // @Jayjaybuzz
Spark : Kieran Brown // @K_brown_gaffer
Desk Op : Hudson Daly // @Hudson_daly
Led Tech : Pavel Stici
Vfx Supervisor : John Malcolm Moore // @Johnmalcolmmoore
Production Runner : Leda Contopanagos // @Leda.Echo
Production Runner : Krishita Desai // @Krishitadesai
Production Runner : Tom Gonzalez // @Mr_tamborine_man_
Production Runner : Tom Willows // @Tomwillows_mash
Art Director : Laura Little // @Laulit
Art Assistant : Jaclyn Pappalardo // @Jaclynpappalardo
Art Assistant : Chris Dent
Art Assistant (Prep Day) : Jack Boston Oswald // @Jackbostonoswald
Art Assistant (Prep Day) : Joshua Douglas: Warne
Art Assistant (Prep Day) : Alexander King
Art Assistant (Prep Day) : Thabet Kimili
Stylist : Holly Wood // @Hollyblowslightly
Stylist Assistant : Izzy Frost // @Iz_designz_
Hair Designer Claire Moore @Clmorhair
Hair Stylist Mee Kyung Kim Porter // @Mee.Hair.Makeup
Mua : Georgia Olive // @Georgiaolive
Mua Assistant : Carly Roberts // @Carlyroberts_
Nails : Imarni // @Imarninails
Bts Content : Eve Mahoney // @Evebelieve
Edit : Rich Woolway
Edit Assist : Chris Hutchings
Edit Producer : Maggie Mcdermott
Grade : Coffee & Tvt
Colourist : George Neave
Colour Producer : Kathryn Tallis
Sound Design : Absolute Post
Sound Designer : Rich Martin
Additional Sound Design : Daniel Panayi
Additional Sound Design : Paminos Kyriazis
Sound Design Producer : Peter Winslett
A Special Thanks To Will Hooper