follow gareth mcconnell’s lens and lose yourself in the hallucinations of it’s a fine line
As we exclusively premiere the visuals for Ivan Smagghe and Tim Paris’ latest release, explore the warped world of IAFL as we join the pair in conversation with their latest collaborator.
What was the catalyst for this creative collaboration?
Ivan: I bought Gareth's book, Close Your Eyes, from Donlon Books on Broadway Market. Conor (Donlon) recommended it to me. It's A Fine Line was at the end of the recording process and Gareth's images were like a revelation for us.
Gareth: This is a great example of why real world shops are so important. Donlon Books is a creative hub and meeting place (besides being the best art book shop in London) and Conor is a great and active matchmaker. When is the last time you got an email from Amazon suggesting a hook up for a project? Shop local. So yes, Ivan and I met up, fell in love and the rest is history…
Ivan: We clicked. Gareth needed to be part of "the band".
Gareth: That's a lovely thing to hear. As this been quite a protracted on / off affair I really had the opportunity to immerse myself in the music of IAFL before we actually got round to starting the work. I listened to everything I could get my hands on.
Tim: It's really something pretty difficult to describe but in many ways Gareth's work resembles our music. Very rarely shall one encounter some images with that level of psychedelics, beauty and attitude.
You were kindred spirits...
IS: Meeting Gareth was a distorted mirror, a lot of stories and things in common from totally different backgrounds: he's a London Irish Art Punk, I'm a French electronic DJ. But there are key lines in our non-common history: flirting with success, downfalls, interest in psychedelia, attraction to colour, not much respect for genres and, yes, a "hard work pays off" ethos that people may not spot first time. I mean our music does not fit anywhere, Gareth's art does not fit anywhere. But they fit together perfectly.
GM: I see Ivan as a 'immoral moralist' in almost a Burroughs way… a renegade figure unaccountable to accepted codes. Someone who in no way adheres to ideas of nicety or respectability but who beyond that cultivates an authority that is hard to argue with… like a kind of Billy Childish and Diogenes love child, who though fierce to the point of scariness at times is essentially a generous truth sayer and seeker of beauty and artistic greatness that pays no heed to fashion or commerce… HA! Seriously though. I know that sounds kinda wordy in a blow smoke up the arse way but it's a mode of operation I aspire to myself so I think that plays a part in the connection. Ivan and Tim just aren't interested in 'OK' and neither am I.
What was the biggest attraction to collaborate?
IS: Aesthetics would be the normal answer but it's nice to find a new friend. And an interesting one at that. A lot of rambling, coffee, anecdotes, exchange and cigarettes were consumed during the whole thing.
GM: I had been waiting a long time for something like this to come around so when it did I was willing to go to any lengths to make sure it happened. You could say I couldn't really believe my luck so it really was a case of beg borrow or steal. It was certainly never about money.
Could you talk us through the creative dynamic that bubbled away and drove this project forward?
IS: CLOSE YOUR EYES was the starting point. The Reference. Gareth will explain it better than me. He has an incredible archive and a true force of vision and work. All in all, it was a very intuitive and natural collaboration. There was never any conflict. We knew, he knew. I suppose making a video (his first) was a major step outside Gareth's comfort zone but it panned out incredibly well. He had to call in favours for the love of art I suppose, but it always works like this. I love the unity of it all: stills, press shots, artwork and video. So did Alex Kapranos from Franz Ferdinand, who sings on the track.
TP: Originally, Gareth was supposed to take care of the record's imagery only and the question of the video came after. Luckily for us Gareth was really into the track and wanted to shot this video. We didn't know at all what to expect but I was absolutely blown away when I saw the video for the first time, it's such a piece of art, we couldn't have dreamt for anything better.
Gareth: Well first off the track is crazy good, and obviously I had no part in that, but what a place to begin, lyrically and musically, I love it. But yes, visually Close Your Eyes was definitely the starting point.
For the benefit of readers unfamiliar with Close Your Eyes, could you describe it in your own words? How did it influence this project?
It's big mash up of my accumulated archive of about the last 15 years, from pictures I had amassed of young party goers in Ibiza to screenshots of moments in recent British history… from the Battle of the Beanfield to the London Riots of 2011, through the Iraq War march and Wimpey housing ads. It's intended as a personal political reflection on rave culture and its societal impact, it's highly subjective, most definitely not a celebration or a love letter. It's very much DIY / low fi in nature... just using whatever is immediately to hand in my studio and, recycling, cropping, copying, cutting up, degrading, bleaching out, overlaying. So these were all aspects that I was determined to bring to the video and it feels like I managed to stay true… so aside from the actual shoot on the day which we shot on some fancy camera I can't remember the name of and the other artworks I made throughout to use as overlays and sequences it's all just me and my editor / first director Ruairi Dunne sat in front of my computer trying things. There are no bells and whistles, it's all bodges, hacks and shortcuts. I should say that clearly here that there is no way the video would look like it does without the commitment and input he (Ruairi Dunne) brought to the project.
Both from a visual/lyric point of view and in regard to the finished piece as a whole, could you describe this project in your own words?
IS: We along with Alex Kapranos, love the fact that a model sings his male vocal. It strangely fits the lyrics too. "It's not in the words but in the delivery" though the image creates a parallel universe to the actual meaning of the song (about meeting a toff with a long-line of blood on his hands).
TP: It's A Fine Line between reference and cliché, it's a fine line between rough and cheap, it's a fine line between obscure and abstruse, it's a fine line between passion and obsession, it's a fine line between ambiguity and confusion, it's a fine line between style and genre, it's a fine line between repetitive and repetition, it's a fine line between principles and rules, it's a fine line between simple and easy, it's a fine line between ideas and ideals, it's a fine line between nu and new it's a fine line between disco and disco, it's a fine line between us… And that's why we're walking it.
GM: I think Tim and Ivan say it all there. We made a pop video but I also think we made a piece of art. Somehow it all fits… on all the levels Ivan and Tim have mentioned. Along with maybe 3 or 4 other projects I have been involved with in my career it feels fully resolved and complete. By that I mean I don't look at and think 'if we had only done this or that'. It's such a rare thing and all the more pleased for it.
How does it make you feel?
GM: Lucky, potent, optimistic… maybe a bit Tory! You know if you just work hard enough, if you just get off your arse and on your bike, put the hours in, nose to the grindstone… That's a total joke by the way! It's the complete opposite in fact - it makes me feel that with enough co-operation, with enough dedication and love of the process and creativity and art for its own ends (as opposed to financial recompense) much is possible! Collaboration is the way forward.
What's next? What excites you about tomorrow?
IS: I'd love people to see the whole thing in one bit: the stills, the pre-work, the press-shots, the left-overs, the hit-and-misses. This video is only step one. You need to see what Gareth has done for the album, which will be released early September. It's like a piece of a puzzle. And yeah, ideally, we'd love to find a way to make this move in one way or another, either for a live performance or reversing the process, us making music for Gareth's images.
TP: We are trying to figure out a way to include Gareth's imagery in our stage performance, when we DJ. Adding video and photos to the show is the next step.
GM: Yeah I concur. This has really turned into something in its own right. I haven't really had an art show for years (aside from the odd group) as I just haven't made anything or been involved in making anything that felt like it warranted that kind of presentation… Close Your Eyes' for instance is a book and it works that way, it doesn't need to be a show. This on the other hand feels like it has a lot of possibilities as it can work on different levels that I by myself am unable to achieve. The chance to further collaborate with the guys would be great and the possibility of doing something live would be great… so in many ways this does feel more like a beginning than an end.
It's A Fine Line feat. Alex Kapronos The Delivery
Director and photography Gareth McConnell
Music Tim Paris and Ivan Smagghe
Lyrics Alex Kapronos
Film Editor Ruairi Dunne
Camera Operator Alex Daniels
Gaffer Guillaume Blondiau
Hair Raphael Salley
Make-up Danielle Kahlani
Film and processing Labyrith
Model Hayett McCarthy
Gareth McConnell would like to thank Zoe Aisha Cox, Richard Greer, Benjamin Kirchhoff, Sorcha McConnell, Bianca Redgrave, Marco Santucci and Sophie Walsh.