Directed by Mark Romanek in 1994, the video for Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" is more of a bizarre, lurid short film than a music video, a thematic parallel to the song, it is all things I aspire to be. It's also a beautiful piece of art in it's own right, and it does something that so few music videos do - the song benefits so comprehensively from the video and vice versa. Both are great taken on their own merits but together become something very powerful.
The imagery of the video inspired me to do this piece of illustration, a mostly sexless inhuman creature in high-heel boots holding a Cape buffalo skull. No where near as lurid as the video but I would hope it does it's influence some justice.
I don’t really analyse my own work (apart from all of the following stuff, go figure) so whatever you take from it may as well be true, probably is anyway.
I had been closely working with Swallow Song Records since mid-2016 as the label established itself, they needed branding so I created it - my friends knew I had a decent eye and that my design philisophy exists as a product of a lot of the same influences, culturally, artistically and musically.
The band wanted a logo - we ended up choosing one that was purely text but had a strong mark. Initally just looking at type-based solutions, nothing particularly stood out until I started sketching and creating something from scratch - Dane (Bass VI) took an active role in helping me find the right direction for the logo and we arrived at what you see now - pretty neat.
Swallow Song and tethers were born at the same time and the founders were 2/3rds of the band itself, I was there from the ground floor so I was the de facto choice to create the art for the EP when the time came.
I heard the songs take shape and the EP started to materialise - we talked about what influenced the songs, the band itself and what they wished to communicate visually, the band were influenced by sci-fi, post-humanism, trans-humanism and wanted the art itself to tell a story about nature and the mechanical. I set off sketching and creating pieces - for now on the cutting-room floor.
Zach (guitar/vocals) came across the piece I was talking about before (there was a reason to talk about that, not just because) and was quite taken with it - we talked about what it would come to mean as part of the EP. The title came shortly after, the name for the creature we had created - skin walker - came from Navajo folklore of shape-shifting witches.
Further meaning emerged as we discussed the name, the sci-fi influence on the music and ourselves. Manipulation of the body, sex, post-humanism, an artificially enhanced being - a Skinwalker. We created the story of what exactly the Skinwalker was, to us at least. I wouldn't want to go too in depth because, as with all art, it's about what you see - not what I tell you to see.
We worked at the art, deciding on a reddish tone, almost appears biological in nature - also because I really like reddish pinks, as some of my other work probably shows. The reflection of the Skinwalker on itself further added to this sense of dissociation from humanity. As work on the EP went on I made a mockup so we could get an idea of the physical presence of the EP, and so I could convince the band that I knew what I was doing. It isn’t perfect, but it was an important step in the creation of the final product.
The art went on the backburner while recording was ongoing. I was in a privileged position to see five individual pieces of music come into full view, hearing the songs initially live as I sat like a voyeur in on some practice sessions, as demos under various working titles, then the mixes and masters towards the end of 2017 leading into 2018.
“Television Dreams Of Human Beings” (working title “Hit”) was chosen to be the lead single. Listening to the song about a dozen times I started to visualise what could be done with it, the construction of the song and visuals that would compliment it.
I first presented a version of the visuals used after the bridge (TV in a TV in a TV...) and we kept going from there.
I love the physical presence of analog media, so “Television Dreams…” has those fingerprints. Versions were presented and rejected, ideas whittled down and we arrived at this, aiming to be something more than a straight out lyric video, to be a piece that exists in it’s own reality.
The video for "SKINWALKER" (many, many working titles) is a bit more of an out-and-out lyric video, the creation process for which was much faster than the previous video - probably just under a week all told. I'd had the concept in my head for quite some time as a potential EP teaser and it now feels as if it was always meant to go with SKINWALKER as a song. the track has a thumping percussiveness throughout which accompanied the lyrics flashing on screen so well. The natural imagery ties back to the folklore inspiration for the title, and contrasts with the almost industrial, heavier sound.
I'm not fully sure when we made the decision to "destroy" the first video but it just always fit with the song and makes for a neat visual, which is enough sometimes.
Now over the past month or so we’ve been working on the final EP. CDs sent off to be duplicated with some time to spare before today, the release show - if you’re in Belfast and reading this now check it out, if not the EP is up in all it's glory on Spotify and Bandcamp. I'm incredibly proud of my pals and the work they managed to get out of me.
Skinwalker has been a case of proper serendipity, the first piece was entirely divorced from the EP by more than a year, but now they're bonded to one another.
I hope in some way I can approach doing what the "Closer" video did, creating something that is far better for the music associated with it, and that the music benefits from.