Interview w/ Calum Macdiarmid

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How would you compose a video for a song whose lyrics predominantly centre around wanting a lifetime membership to the legendary 27 club, that exclusive club inhabited by prematurely deceased celebrities? A man covered in dirt sitting at a dinner table, ants crawling everywhere and a hand coming out of someones soup are not necessarily images that spring to mind. Yet completely and utterly work.

This is exactly what artist turned film-maker Calum Macdiarmid created. His black and white 40’s style montage of haunting imagery blends seamlessly with the dramatic mood of the song. We got deep with Callum and found out what Chloe was like on set of her first ever music video, where he gets his inspiration from and what death means to him.

Word Is Cheap: Did you always know this project had to be black and white?

Calum Mcdiarmid: Yes it was in the brief from Chloe and Sony, and was one of the reasons I was particularly drawn to it. I had done a fair bit of B/W work before and have often been criticised/complimented for the dark nature of my films. When the brief came to our reps, I like to think there was a big arrow floating above my head.

With music videos I find myself finally able to express myself in a similarly free way as when I was painting.

What was Chloe like on set, did she match your expectations with this being her first music video?

Chloe was awesome, its always hard for whoever’s in front of the camera to have faith in the artistic vision of the director when they havn’t worked with them before… even more so when the concept is quite an abstract aesthetic. But she went with it and followed me all the way into the madness.

The imagery in the video is very strong and at times pretty creepy where did the inspiration for this come from?

Dreams were a big part of the inspiration, I was looking for those haunting images that you only find in your sleep.

The song makes clear references to death and the forever 27 club. A lot of your work explores philosophical concepts, what kind of message if any is the video illustrating about death?

Death is something that is at the core of most of my work. So much so that when I recently began looking for a car to buy, I started looking at hearses as I felt they were more appropriate to me (and you can fit a decent bit of furniture in them).

This film looks at death quite romantically, and in doing so attempts to pull away from the inevitable sadness and find a moment of beauty with it or in the life that once was… it says death is just another part of the great dance.

There is an air of French New Wave cinema throughout, what techniques did you employ to achieve such an aesthetic?

A shrewd eye and a killer DOP! Ian Murray (DOP) suggested some old lenses he was keen to try out that gave a convincing 40s style look. The image was very washed out and a little scary at first, but combined with an Alexa and his dramatic lighting created just the mood we were after.

We played with grain and in the end removed it as thought it was too much, but instead nodded towards the aesthetic in much more subtle ways like having the tiniest of weave on the title cards and the odd bit of sparkle.

Do you feel your background as an artist doing both illustration and animation influences your work in music video?

Yes I think it affects all my film work, but its in music videos that my imagination really comes into play. With music videos I find myself finally able to express myself in a similarly free way as when I was painting.

Emily Harrison

Amateur filmmaker and photographer. Anthropology graduate and firm believer that where words fail music speaks. -
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