fashion insiders’ favourite music videos: julie verhoeven

In an ongoing series of regular interviews, i-D invites our music-loving fashion friends to select and dissect their ultimate inspirational pop videos.

by James Anderson
23 November 2016, 8:53am

Occupying a unique space, in which the worlds of art, fashion, performance and film all collide with thrilling aplomb, Julie Verhoeven is the multi-talented fashion illustrator and designer whose work, in more recent years, has also led to her becoming a provocative force within the art world. Her recent installation and performance, The Toilet Attendant... Now Wash Your Hands, presented at Frieze London, for example, deservedly made headlines around the world. Collaborations with designers Marc Jacobs and Peter Jensen, for Spring-Summer 2017, further demonstrate her super talents. Oh, and she has the best hairdo in London.

Julie's chosen video is the wilfully deadpan Sex Machine, released in 1984, by The Flying Lizards. 

Founded by the producer-composer-artist David Cunningham, The Flying Lizards first found fame with their ultra lo-fi debut single Money, which reached the Top Ten in the UK charts in 1979, having been recorded for a mere £20. By the time they released this cover version of James Brown's iconic raunch-fest in 1984, the band had not only perfected the art of post modern pop, but sussed out how to make an accompanying cheapo video which caused unease and giggles in equal measure. Here, Julie reveals to i-D why she is so drawn to it.

"My first exposure to The Flying Lizards was their performance on Top of the Pops, of their only hit single Money. I was about 10 years old, at home in Kent, with very little to say, but I was an avid Top of the Pops fan - excited by music, art, fashion and very little else. Nothing has changed. Their performance seemed to resonate and satisfy me on every level. I was perplexed by its oddity and allure.

The Flying Lizards were a real entity. A post punk, experimental band, but without the posturing. Their changing line-ups and guest musicians reads like an amazing list of originals and innovators. David Cunningham is the man behind them - an inspiration, a wild card, who should be showered with money.

I don't remember ever seeing the video for Sex Machine on television, at the time it was released, but I later stumbled across it on YouTube when I began my Tumblr blog in 2011 and was really beginning to really get into film and video. The initial impact of the video for Sex Machine was bemusement, amusement and respect at the sheer bull-shyness to cover such an iconic, testosterone-pumped song in such a deadpan manner. I loved their gaul to take on the swagger of James Brown with such style and disturbance.

I'm attracted to this video for its bizarre styling, stage direction, humour and the rippling comic violence and posture. It's demented and layered, in spite of its apparent simplicity. It feels like a really canny use of video and allure. The call and response delivery and co-ordinating video direction is visually mesmerising and absurd. Delivering the lyrics to a highly sexually-charged song, in a 'Sloane-rap' and sporting a Mr Whippy wig and debutante pleather dress is quite a cocky treat.

I don't really see it as a reaction to big budget pop videos of the time. I think The Flying Lizards just didn't care as to how they were perceived. I think of it as ironic, but it's weirdly more sincere and less self conscious than it may outwardly appear. There were punk in concept and attitude and this video just adds further intrigue.

I think the video is sexy. It's attractive and visually pleasing at every turn. How can it not tug a little at your loins? I also like the exaggerated animalistic groans and cries and violent pounding on the piano. Sex appeal, even if you shut your eyes.

I love the styling. It's kind of bizarrely timeless and outwardly conventional, but totally knocked off-kilter. I love the slightly out-of-synch mouth action and imperfections. It resonates with me and my disdain for and fatigue over photoshopping everything and righting every wrong. The grains of the face powder, the facial lines, the teeth - all living and breathing with grit - brings me lots of pleasure.

I reference this video as a reminder to keep things simple with regards to my own video work. I'm happy it's short and sharp. I wouldn't change anything about it. I often falter and want to cram every idea I ever had into my output and it just reeks of insecurity. I'm attracted to work with immediacy, an aesthetic otherworldliness that you can't easily decipher. And sexual overtones that remind you - you are alive."


Interview James Anderson

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