From Die Antwoord’s “Enter the Ninja” to Aphex Twin’s “Come to Daddy”, great music videos are bursts of sound and vision that leave an indelible impression. Director’s Cut is a Pitchfork News feature in which we chat with music video directors about their creations. The men and women behind the camera are often overlooked in today’s YouTube era, but this feature aims to highlight their hard work while showcasing the best videos currently linking around the internet. A little behind-the-scenes dirt couldn’t hurt, too.
This time, we spoke with British comedy actor and writer Peter Serafinowicz, who helmed the ridiculously bizarre boy-band parody video for Hot Chip‘s “I Feel Better”. The clip stars a fake Backstreet Boys-style act, an alien-like creature who spouts lasers, and a floating head with a temper. It’s insane, but it makes slightly more sense once you realize Serafinowicz has been making and starring in absurd UK television shows and films for more than a decade. (Fun facts: He voiced Darth Maul in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and is due to voice Paul McCartney in the upcoming 3D remake of Yellow Submarine.) “I Feel Better” is his first music video, and he’s keen to do more. In the following interview, we talked about the power of Twitter, Mr. Burns, and Die Antwoord. Read it and watch the clip after the jump:
Hot Chip: “I Feel Better” [Director: Peter Serafinowicz]
Pitchfork: This is your first music video. How did it come about?
Peter Serafinowicz: It happened purely via Twitter. I’m heavily into it and Hot Chip were following me and they just asked, “Do you want to direct our next video?” I said, “Yes.” And that was it. [laughs] It was only two weeks from the time they asked me to the time we shot it. Twitter has removed a lot of gatekeepers when it comes to some of the creative things I’ve done in the last year.
I came up with the idea after I got off a plane, so I was a bit woozy. I thought the song itself had a Eurobeat thing to it, and I just thought how Hot Chip are like the least boy-band band, ever. But if a boy band released that song, you’d be like “Huh!” but you wouldn’t be like ” Huh?!“ [laughs] I like the idea of taking something we’re all used to seeing– like a boy band music video– and totally destroying it. So I wrote this proposal and included reference images I found on Google– to illustrate the bald guy in the video played by Ross Lee, I used pictures of Mr. Burns from the “X-Files” episode of “The Simpsons”.
Pitchfork: Did you get a stylist and a choreographer that had done real boy band videos before?
PS: Yeah, everyone had done tons of pop videos. I learned there is a boy band tradition– or possibly an actual physical manual– that says you have to have the tough guy, the cute one, the suave one, the one who takes his top off. I like the idea of a couple of 12-year-old girls watching the video and being like, “Wow, who’s this Hot Chip? They are sexy dudes!” and then being freaked out. [laughs]
Pitchfork: How did your background in comedy play a part in making this video?
PS: Well, if you’re making a comedy sketch, you have to end on a big laugh. And it’s the same with great music videos. Just think of “Thriller”, when it ends on his cat eyes and his teeth– that’s an amazing ending. I think David Mamet said the ending of a scene should be surprising but inevitable. I try to apply that to every little chunk of what I do.
Pitchfork: Why did you have lasers coming out the bald guy’s mouth as opposed to, you know, his eyes?
PS: That was my original idea but it’s kind of like route one when it comes to lasers coming out of someone’s body [laughs]. I hadn’t seen them coming out of the mouth before. Music videos have to have something unusual about them nowadays so people e-mail the link to their friends. You can’t just have a band playing. What I love about that South African group Die Antwoord is how they’re totally bypassing MTV. You could never play their songs on MTV ’cause they’re so filthy. I haven’t stopped listening to their album for two months. I’d love to direct a video for them.