Dub Asylum “What the Funk”

2003-dub-asylum-what-the-funkMuch of the “What the Funk” video was filmed at the Aotearoa Hip Hop Summit. This was an annual event that took place in the late ’90s and early ’00s, a festival/symposium/general fun time that brought together New Zealand’s hip hop community.

An feature of the event was the graffiti jam, where top graffiti artists from New Zealand and internationally did their best to walls of plywood. And that’s what director (and the man behind Dub Asylum) Peter McLennan has captured on Super 8.

It’s shot in an urgent style, with the camera rushing around the area, capturing the artists at work, adding final touches with cans or even brushes. It captures New Zealand’s graffiti art scene from the early ’90s, back when it was slowly becoming more mainstream.

The crowds are there too, busily checking out the works in progress. But the best spotting in the crowd is bFM’s ‘b’ mascot, who has been thoroughly tagged.

The song’s singer, Sandy Mill, is shown at a different location – performing in front of the old garage doors around the back of St Kevin’s Arcade. The building is covered with plenty of graffiti, so it fits right in with the rest of the video, though it’s less slick than the stuff on display down the hill at the summit.

Sandy is sometimes joined by a girl (her daughter, I assume) and the who have a happy hug-dance. And in a way that’s more compelling than all the top graffiti artists.

Best bit: the little kid who runs around a tarpaulin laid on on the ground, just because.

Director: Peter McLennan

Next… a harbour cruise.

Dub Asylum “R U Ready”

2000-dub-asylum-r-u-ready“R U Ready” is filmed Japan, shot by Mr Dub Asylum himself, Peter McLennan, on Super 8 film. This isn’t the first low budget video shot in Japan that we’ve seen. Indeed, previous NZOA-funded videos shot in the land of the rising sun have been “Milestone” by the Malchicks and “Kuru” by Cinema, but each of these videos does it differently.

“R U Ready” embraces the hustle and bustle of urban Japan. The camera observes the busy Tokyo streets from a distance, but also gets right among it. It’s as if some moments of orientation and reflection are needed before we can dive into the crowd.

From the streets, we go into the metro, through the busy train station and onto a train as it speeds through the urban landscape. The sun sets and it’s time to explore the city, all lit up with giant advertising signs. Even an ad for an appliance retailer feels sexy and exotic when it’s a flashing neon sign, seen at night in a beautiful and mysterious foreign city.

The song, with its deep beats and Bobbylon’s playful vocals, seems nicely matched to the ever changing cityscapes of Japan. By the end of the video, the footage starts to get layered and chopped up and it’s as if the city is taking over, forcing as much of itself into the video as it can manage.

Best bit: the little kid scrambling up the temple steps.

Director: Peter McLennan

Next… the androids return to their cells.

Trip to the Moon “I Can Change”

1998-a-trip-to-the-moon-i-can-changeThe first track from the Tom Ludvigson and Trevor Reekie collaboration, with Bobbylon of the Hallelujah Picassos on vocals. The video starts with Bobbylon meandering along K Road at night. It’s a different K Road, where the Pascoes building had a Pascoes jewellery store in it, not a tattoo parlour.

Bobbylon comes across as a man who’s lead a troublesome life, just as the lyrics reckon. He turns off the street and heads into a building. We next see him performing the song with the rest of the group (including Peter Scott, father of Home Brew’s Tom Scott, on bass) in a dark studio.

The video spends a whole in this black space, as if Bobbylon is having to go through a period of decompression, adjusting to his new plans. By the time the second chorus comes along, we get flashes of Bobbylon singing in a different location. This time he’s outside, shirt off, basking in the morning sun, before he finally returns to K Road, this time in the morning. Things feel different.

Sometimes when Karangahape Road is used in a music video, it’s a lazily chosen cool, urban location. But in this video, it’s used sparingly and thoughtfully. The contrast of the gritty K Road at night with the daytime version is a perfect match for the theme of the song.

Best bit: the old ’90s-era phone box, back when a) people used phone boxes and b) people used phone cards.

Director: Peter McLennan

Next… space 1999.

The Weather “That’s the Main Thing”

1994-the-weather-thats-the-main-thingI’d been looking for a Dribbling Darts song from around 1994 called “Do What U Like”. It turns out I should have been looking for a Weather song from 1997 called “That’s the Main Thing”. The Weather is kind of a rejig of the Dribbling Darts, a Matthew Bannister project. The song is all about personal liberty (how American!) but done in a very groovy, laidback way – so laid back it took three years and a new band to get around to making the video?

Director Peter McLennan gives some background into the video:

i directed the video for Dribbling Darts – Do what you like. They made it about two years after they got funding.

the band had the concept for the vid – them dressed in diff eras of pop, incl Matthew Bannister as Diana Ross w Supremes, beatles

The video goes through different styles of pop video, starting with a black and white 1960s folk trio, a heavily made-up 1980s synthpop group with hexagonal electronic drums and eyeliner, an elegant diva accompanied by a violinist and cellist, an energetic new age hippy trio, and an urban hip hop crew. The Red Hot Chili Peppers did a bigger budget version of this idea in 2006 with “Dani California”.

It’s all very fun. The trio enter every scenario with great enthusiasm and a lack of self-consciousness. Mr Bannister in particular carries out his lead singer role with great enthusiasm, no matter how much make-up he’s wearing or how glamorously he’s dressed.

And as much fun as the video is, it still ties in with the central theme of the song – “do just what you like, that’s the main thing”. Now I feel free to get in touch with my inner homegirl.

Best bit: the thought of a parallel universe where The Weather are a notorious hip hop crew.

Director: Peter McLennan
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… alternative fuel.

Trip to the Moon “Catch My Fall”

1998-trip-to-the-moon-catch-my-fallTrip to the Moon was a jazz project by Trevor Reekie and Tom Ludvigson. Bobbylon of the Hallelujah Picassos featured on their earlier song “I Can Change” and he returns for this track.

“Catch My Fall” is about relaxing and the video directed by Peter McLennan shows it well. In the middle of a shady dell, Bobbylon plonks down his favourite chair and sits himself down. A lone trumpeter wanders about in the background. Yep, it’s pretty chill.

But wait. This video can’t just be Bobbylon sitting in a chair, can it? Well, it can when the chair moves. Suddenly Bobbylon is out of the dell but still sitting on his chair as it hoons through the Auckland Domain (on the back of a truck, I assume).

We also see Bobbylon sitting in front of models of city buildings, and they’re all recognisable Auckland structures, including the brand new Sky Tower. The buildings are stacked in place by the other members of Trip to the Moon, and the act seems to be a way of reclaiming the city so it’s not the big, bad stressful city any more. With the city rebooted, Bobbylon then hoons around the streets on his chair of relaxation.

Things hot a little during the turntable break in the middle, with some sparks adding extra thrills. But the pace soon chills back down and Bobbylon enjoys a night-time chair ride around the streets of Auckland.

Usually when inner-city Auckland at night is shown in a music video, it represents bad things on mean streets, but this video shows Auckland at night as a sophisticated city, conducive to the art of relaxation.

Best bit: Bobbylon’s friendly wave to the couple strolling through the Domain.

Director: Peter McLennan
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… an appropriate use of uke.

Hallelujah Picassos “Rewind”

A song about relaxing and taking it easy, which seems to be the national genre of New Zealand. The “Rewind” video is a cruisy collection of a lively studio performance and scenes from New Zealand.

It’s a fun video that nicely captures the spirit of the song, with green screen used quite thoughtfully. The background images, scenes of both rural and urban New Zealand, are contrasted with the laid-back band.

The video also features the nice bright, highly saturated colour palette that was cool in the ’90s, and I think this kind of colour use has come back around. Now all we need is for chunky green screen to become cool again.

Best bit: the green-screened turntable.

Directors: Clinton Phillips, Peter McLennan
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Bonus: Peter McLennan of the Hallelujah Picassos has again been kind enough to share his experience of the video:

We worked with Stratford Productions on this video, as we did for the previous video Lovers Plus. The latter video was directed by Bruce Sheridan, and for this one we worked with Clinton Phillips. I co-directed the video with Clinton, which was very generous of him, as he did a lot of the work, really. We shot Rewind at the Powerstation, using the stage for the band footage, and shooting from the balcony for the verses, looking down on Bobbylon, singing. We bounced round the stage Roland and myself wearing turntables strapped on like guitars, and Johnnie playing his korg synth, nicknamed the Hog.

The black and white footage in the verses was shot on super 8 film by me, while we were on tour. I gave it to Clinton to send off for telecine transfer over in Sydney and never saw it again, which was a bit sad. There’s also footage shot on video of us clowning round on the roof of Civic House, next to DKD, which also makes a brief appearance in the video. The only green screen is on the record on the turntable, which also serves up my fave shot in the video, at 2.09 – Roland doing his best Michael Jackson tippy-toes dance move.

This song will be included on the forthcoming collection of Hallelujah Picassos tunes, remastered for CD/digital. Out before the end of the year.

Next… do the wildebeast