road tripping out with yak’s new video
Take an exclusive look at Yak's high speed JG Ballard-inspired visuals for Use Somebody and head behind the scenes as we go in conversation with frontman Oli and director Douglas Hart of The Jesus and Mary Chain.
Yak are real rock n roll. With their Steve Mackay-produced debut album Alas Salvation released last month, they've just set off on a tour that will take them across Europe and right through to November, including dates at Glastonbury, Isle of Wight festival and Alexandra Palace. It's a bloody good job they like driving.
Having met a while back, handsome Oli Burslem called on music pal Douglas Hart of The Jesus and Mary Chain to direct the visuals for Use Somebody. With a thing for coloured lights and the perfect level of mutual admiration, Oli bought a hearse and together they began a warped mission around the Barbican's underground carpark. Stick it on, go for the late night drive of your nightmares, and read on as we discuss Eastern European car crash videos and time travel.
When were you first aware of each other and what were your first impressions?
O: I first met Douglas with Steve Mackey as they invited us to play in a garage for their online performance thing that can only be seen once. I'm a massive fan of the JAMC and made sure the feedback was kept to a maximum. We'd turned up straight from a gig up in Liverpool and I was wearing a battered old off-white suit I'd had to drive in. Douglas told me about the singer from Dr Feelgood who wore the same suit for every gig until it was completely trashed...then took a pic of it for a tour or maybe album. I thought that was a good idea.
D: We met when Yak came to perform for CAll THIS NUMBER, an analogue online streaming show I make with Steve Mackey (who would eventually record some of the Yak LP) . We were blown away. They had driven over night from a show in Liverpool with no sleep, but that didn't prevent them from pulling out all the stops. Everything a good rock n roll band should be... loud, dynamic and dirty.
How did you come to collaborate?
O: We got on from our first meeting and ended up doing our video for No together. This time round, I knew that I wanted to buy a hearse, mainly for a laugh and secondly to make a video with it in. We met up to discuss and chat about heaps of stuff then a plan was forged.
What's the story behind the track?
O: We had been playing around with the riff for a couple of weeks but thought in its original state that it was too straight down the middle so we shelved it. Then one day I was hanging around watching the box and started jotting down ideas from the news. I sat for a whole day watching the plane crash reports and that started me off.
When we went to record it with Steve Mackey it was just one part of three tunes on the album that run together - Use Somebody, Interlude I and Roll Another. We had a loose recording of it from the Call This Number thing and that became the blueprint. We're big Stooges fans of course so really wanted to nail that vibe and then push towards a wall of drones - a nod to Spirtualized - and incorporate everything we are into those three songs.
How did that translate to film?
O: When we got the first mix back from the studio I was driving in my van and it immediately made me want to drive like a fool. So I thought, 'Wow, a music video with a car is a completely unoriginal idea, lets do that!'
D: The car came first. A black beast of a car. Very JG Ballard in its fetishist funereal lines and curves. The song is full on, full throttle. Full throttle to where?! Not to a day out in the country, that's for sure. Full throttle towards a cacophonous collision of glass and steel.
What references did you have?
O: Brutalist architecture in London (my girlfriend was reading Concrete Island by J G Ballard), The Normal's Warm Leatherette, Spiritualized's Medication video, PoV YouTube car crash footage from Russia as they have a lot due to their insurance system, one PM's Jaguar, The Specials' Ghost Town video.
There is actually a video documentary in the 70s by the BBC of JG Ballard driving around with the backdrop of 70s brutalist concrete which I love. When I showed it to Douglas, of course he'd seen it and knew everything about it. Even a great strange little fact that the model in it is Nick Drake's sister! Douglas seems to have a visual encyclopedia in his mind.
D: Eastern European car crash videos.
Where are you driving?
O: Barbican tunnel, Barbican car park, Rotherhithe tunnel. It was pretty fun just us cruising around with Douglas hidden at the back of the limo in the middle of the night in London chatting away.
D: On an endless loop around an underground car park.
It's all quite Back To The Future... if you were time travelling, what date would you aim for?
D: To the summer of 1979 just before Margret Thatcher became prime minister. Without going into to much gory detail, suffice to say that my actions in that past would ensure us very different present, and people could actually be able to afford to rent a decent place to live.
What's the best drive you've been on?
O: I'm currently driving through the south of France, which is pretty plush. Although I've missed a far bit so far due to typing on my phone. I love driving. Traffic jams, perfect!
D: On an endless loop around an underground car park.
When did you last use somebody? What for?
O: Emotionally I would hate to think ever but I got the lady at the hotel this morning to make me a brew. It was a textbook two-way transition between merchant and customer. I added the sugar.
D: A true gentleman never reveals names or details of such encounters.
Which is your favourite The Jesus and Mary Chain video and why?
O: Well, there is an interview that I would say I watch six times a year where they are talking about their guitars being out of tune and Douglas having a two string bass, which is insanely good. Music video wise I like You Trip Me Up. I remember seeing it and it propelled me to hop on the train to Birmingham and try to get some leather trousers. To this day I still haven't managed to pull the leather trousers off. I think the Mary Chain are the only people in history bar Elvis who could do it. Not even the Beatles could really.
D: You Trip Me Up - good memories of the four of us at the beach... dressed in leather.
Which Back To The Future is the best Back To The Future?
O: Never watched it fully. Makes me feel car sick. On that note I think I'm gonna be sick typing this. Enjoy the video or not :-)
D: Never seen any of them, nor Star Wars either. Not on purpose. I just haven't ever caught them at the movies or on TV. Those films came out when I was touring with the Jesus and Mary Chain. If we had a night off on tour we'd go see movies that were, at that time, banned in the UK, like A Clockwork Orange or Salo.