It feels like a rich time for animation and music at the moment, both in music videos and live visuals – one only has to look at what a vital part of Arca’s stage show Jesse Kanda’s visuals play to see the impact that they can make. Up-and-coming animators like Nic Hamilton, Daniel Swan and Natalia Stuyk are quickly becoming in-demand and influential, and Night Slugs’ Bok Bok (who’s worked with Hamilton on several projects now) has talked about how the visuals of a release can quite literally inspire how it sounds – these are often two-way dialogues we’re dealing with, rather than simple video commissions.
FACT TV’s Luis Muñoz spoke to four of the best animators of the moment to find out their stories.
Lee Gamble’s ‘Mimas Skank’ video was created by London based animator and graphic designer Dave Gaskarth. Gaskarth – who was part of Gamble’s CYRK camp back in day, along with Tom James and XL producer Rodaidh McDonald – has essentially been creating a visual landscape for Lee’s work, often collaborating with him on live events in London. He’s also worked on designs for Black Sabbath, Pan, Hacienda and Gamble’s new label UIQ.
“I’ve had synesthesia for as long as I can remember,” says Gaskarth. “One of the reasons I stopped trying to make music was because I’d end up just staring at a kick drum or hi hat, [I] couldn’t really get past the visual aspect. The shapes I see aren’t really that interesting in themselves, but I definitely try to visually explain what I’m seeing when I listen to a track. Other references come more from experimental film and painting, rather than VJing. I’ve never been a writer, but the dynamics and deconstruction of graff is still in there too.”
Nic Hamilton has been raising the bar in motion graphics and animation of late. His videos for Bok Bok, Future Brown, Actress and Lukid feature idiosyncratic, hypnotising environments that suck you in and make you feel like you’re right there. Nic taught himself animation in his early 20s and didn’t start making videos until three years ago, doing a lot of commercial architectural work and going out in between.
“There was no goal to begin with,” he tells us. “I was just making videos that had the music I liked in them. I’m careful about who I work with and like to work with artists and labels who have their own thing going on.
“Often labels will come to me with a set of their ideas they want made in two weeks for 200 quid, like it’s some kind of special treat for me to produce ‘content’ for them. It’s not really about money it’s about making something that attempts to be unique and has an inherent synchronicity with the music, outside the bounds of what other people are doing. I don’t think anyone is biting me but there certainly is a massive contingent of people out there that make totally derivative work based on other people’s efforts. Daniel Swan and Jesse Kanda get ripped off a lot. These people need to get off their fancy laptops and get jobs in my opinion.”
The aforementioned Daniel Swan is originally from Blackpool, but currently lives in Brixton, South London. He started making rough collage videos with bits of shot video, accompanied with hand-drawn elements and found footage. Before attending Camberwell Art College working alongside producers wasn’t something he had in mind – but that changed when he met Night Slugs’ Jam City, an early collaborator from the year below him. His high impact visuals for PC Music’s Dux Content, RL Grime, George Fitzgerald and more reference everything from internet culture to futuristic landscapes with glossy, pop aesthetics.
“I think I was trying to make videos that made people feel weird or bad,” he explains. “I started off doing gig posters then started meeting people who made music, at Camberwell and around. Jam City was in the year below me and we worked on a few different things before I made a music video for him. I’m into using the ultra-slow gradually changing static shot as a narrative device, hardly a music video but more like an evolving image that is displayed alongside the song.
“I don’t know if people are trying to copy me, I’m just trying to pursue my own thing and evolve that. I think it’s cool if people do though.”
London’s Rachel Noble has quickly made a name for herself over the last year. She works closely with Just Jam, creating live visuals “with little resources but for high impact” for their regular shows and VJing their 2014 Barbican event. She was also behind the cover art for Yamaneko’s Pixel Wave Embrace album and Visionist’s I’m Fine Pt. 2, expanding both sleeves into animated versions for Boiler Room and Pitchfork, and has made full music videos for My Panda Shall Fly, Proxima and Adidas.
“It was really my involvement with music that gave me the enthusiasm to learn animation, particularly with Just Jam where I learned a lot about creating visuals quickly with little resources but for high impact,” she tells us. “Animation made sense for what I was wanting to make. To film the equivalent would be much harder or even impossible, and it allows for so much experimentation too.
“Nature is something extremely inspiring, but I feel like this is just ingrained, you know? Like being inspired by nature is almost unavoidable as an artist. Along with the internet and digital technologies. The work I produce has grown out of years of my own studio practise, I wasn’t so aware of what was going on visually in the music scene until I found myself right in it.I’m not such a know-it-all nerd with music, although sometimes I wish I was just a little bit more – I just can’t retain all the information in my head like that. I just have a very strong feel for what I like and what moves me.”
Check out more of our favourite animated music videos in the playlist below: