Graham Wood is one of the co-founders of Tomato, and from 1993–2003, he directed the large majority of the Underworld music videos, as well as providing artwork and tour visuals. Graham left Tomato in 2005, and is currently the Creative Director at Studio Heiss.
In celebration of the 15th anniversary of Beaucoup Fish, Graham graciously answered some of our questions about his work on the music videos from that era in this exclusive interview.
Born Dirty: The “Push Upstairs” video shoot was notoriously difficult due to the weather. Can you tell us a little bit more about what happened?
Graham Wood: It wasn’t so much difficult (we shot fairly easily, aside from getting wet, actually) as unexpected. Originally, we intended to shoot in Scotland—we just wanted to do a live video in an epic location. This started to work out too expensive; however, Underworld were playing at the Big Day Out, and as I recall it was actually cheaper to shoot in Australia, as everyone would be there anyway (rather than shipping a whole crew up to the Highlands, specifically). Seeing as I was unsure as to how epic we could get in terms of locations in proximity to Sydney, I came up with the glass jumping thing (there’s a scene in The Man Who Fell To Earth where someone gets thrown out of a skyscraper window. That’s where that came from) so we at least had a bit of action to work around if necessary—that build and ‘rush’ in the music as he goes through the window was something I really liked and wanted to bring out.
Anyway, we traveled out to Sydney to join Underworld and get the shoot and edit done. I managed to get a proper flu which only just cleared up in time for the shoot day. We scouted for locations around Sydney for a day, and there was a spot in the Blue Mountains which was encompassed by a beautiful vista stretching for miles and miles: when we first visited it was a stunning clear immense sky.
So the thought was that the band could perform in this natural wonder, both for the video itself and also perhaps for a couple of other songs. Rick, Karl, and Darren were intending to play live in the environment and it seemed like we ought to try and make the most of this. We could afford a helicopter for some shots and we had a great crew, so everything was set for a big, epic performance video in a bright, sunny epic landscape.
We went out to the location the night before – it’s a couple of hours by road from Sydney – and it was fairly late when we got to the hotel we were staying at. It seemed misty but atmospheric and really only natural for the climate and the altitude we were at. We got up early to leave for the location and prep. Still misty. Really misty. And drizzling. As we drove, we realised the rain, while minimal, was constant and irritating. What was worse was that the mist seemed to draw in as we drove until it seemed we couldn’t see more than 50 feet ahead. We crawled out to the location overlooking what had been an awe inspiring landscape and now was a wall of grey graduating to lighter grey.
I remember standing at the edge staring out into the grey as the crew began to set up, still wondering whether we ought to shoot. The grey was so heavy it weighed on everything, leeching out colour from the brightest of tones so that everything seemed almost impossibly monochrome, primal. Once the initial disappointment had passed, and given that we had no choice (due to timing) but to go ahead, what we could see, and what effect the light had, was beautiful – something unimaginable, beyond planning. It was pretty amazing, actually. Except for the rain.
We had a quick look around for interesting vistas (the tree, the end part of the video overlooking the distant forest), and of course, Rick, Karl, and Darren (and their brilliant crew) were truly absolutely open and up for getting on and doing something. From that point we carried on as if all was as expected and the shoot went as well as it could: and as I’ve mentioned, the worst bit was the incessant drizzle.
The stunt, the jump through the sugar glass, was 3 takes I remember; we used everything that worked from all of the takes. I wish I’d either dressed Karl in the shirt and trousers or the stuntman in Karl’s parka.
We also did a helicopter shoot out in the Blue Mountains which, of course, provided some great shots to build around and really opened out the ambience of the video.
All of the post production – editing and effects – was also done in Sydney and this was equally as serendipitous as the video shoot itself. The bending, twisting of the image was a glitch in the effects which we kept in the video: it seemed to work with the rhythm. Although I liked the quality of the images, frankly it all seemed to be in bits, unrelated and somewhat underwhelming. I remember getting home to London and watching it on my VHS player, and it was only then that it even slightly seemed to have any character or atmosphere.
The Making of Push Upstairs
BD: Besides “Push Upstairs”, you also directed the music videos for the other Beaucoup Fish singles, “Jumbo” and “King of Snake”. The style of all these videos is certainly a departure from earlier Underworld videos, especially the dubnobasswithmyheadman videos. Was this a deliberate stylistic choice?
GW: Frankly, it was to do with the fact it was the first time we had any kind of budget, which meant we could achieve a different kind of approach: it was something we’d wanted to do for a while – it’s just that from a certain perspective, graphic work was easier to achieve with little/no budget!
Almost everything prior had been done with passion and heart and thought and above all collaboration from editors and post production (Jon Hollis, Julian Bryant, The Mill, Smoke & Mirrors): with the Beaucoup vids we were in more of a ‘traditional’ situation in that we had video production budgets (but still had the freedom to explore and play).
Of all of them, “Jumbo” is the closest to original intentions and was the simplest to make because of that. Paul McGann was nearly the ‘star’.
“King of Snake” was initially going to be the first video and because of that had the most development/ideas (one of the things with “Push” was that it was relatively unformed ideas-wise due to the track switching fairly late in the process). We were pretty much on to do a video with Ray Park (Darth Maul – The Phantom Menace was on the way and very much still seeming like a good thing . . .) as a mysterious samurai type doing the most beautiful forms of iaido kata, in a big white space with massive japanese screens, with dramatic eerie snakey shadow puppets and Rick, Karl, and Darren behind each screen . . .
BD: Rumor has it that there was also a music video made for “Kittens”. What happened to that video; why wasn’t it released? And can you tell us anything about its content?
GW: It’s true. However, it was a personal piece made in downtime with some abstract bits and bobs as a bit of preparation for live visuals: most of it appeared at live shows – some train and road tunnel footage, some bits of a buddha statue, the revolving perspex cube that Jason [Kedgley] shot. It was never intended for release, per se, and was probably pretty weak as a video. I don’t have a copy, and I don’t know where I’d find one, although I wouldn’t mind.
BD: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Graham. Here are the three music videos from Beaucoup Fish:
The single features remixes by remixes from Kasket (R&S Records) and Matthew Herbert (Accidental Records). The full tracklisting is:
You can hear a preview of the album track below:
You can hear a preview of the track at the YouTube link below.
Press Release follows:
Remix of seminal dance track coming February 12th on Om Records / Childʼs Play
Having been one of the original bass music practitioners, it makes a lot of sense for Bassnectar AKA Lorin Ashton to team up with dance music legends Underworld on their classic track “REZ”. On February 12th, OM Records imprint Child’s Play will release Bassnectar’s remix of the cut, first put out by the seminal EDM group 20 years ago. “REZ” has had a special place in Ashton’s heart for well over a decade as a memorable part of his early exposure to dance music. “By the time I first heard ʻREZʼ…it was already a classic. It was the third ‘rave’ I had ever been to,” says Ashton, “That was the only song I remembered from the entire night. And for years to come, whenever I hear any version or remix or even a slight fragment of that shimmering resonant arpeggiator I get flashbacks.”
The Bassnectar remix adds mounds of thunderous bass to the track while still retaining its delicate and distinctive arpeggiated melody. The single will be released on 180-gram vinyl with digital download, full color jacket sleeve and liner notes from Bassnectar.
High Contrast wrote a blog post about his involvement in the Olympic Opening Ceremony, and how a few months ago he was invited by Underworld to assist with the Parade of Athletes. This explains why there are so many High Contrast tracks and remixes in that segment of the Olympics. Head over to High Contrast’s blog to read more.
Here are a few reviews of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies where they review or mention the music and/or Underworld’s involvement.
Emma Warren: “Banned! Music and The Opening Ceremony”
Underworld, who masterminded the soundtrack to the ceremony, subverted everything music is supposed to do at a showcase event like the Olympics. Instead of broadcasting pop hits that were built with profit in mind, or that smooth out the rough edges of life into a lowest common denominator average, they took the music not underground, because these were predominantly pieces of music we all know and love, but back to the margins, where all the most interesting things begin.
The Guardian: “Olympic opening ceremony: the music, reviewed”
Underworld, in fact, had a bit of a triumph: the builds and fades they learned in the world of dance music lent the sometimes overwhelming visual spectacle a sense of structure.
Olympic ceremonies often play it safe. But Boyle, who brought in the electronic duo Underworld as musical directors, gave his show a cheeky edge. The Sex Pistols, once the outrageous face of punk, were included with their song “Pretty Vacant.” Boyle even slipped in a few bars of the Pistols’ snarling “God Save the Queen” (“the fascist regime”) early on.
Let it be known from this day forth, the Olympic movement has seen the creation of the first ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ Games, and London 2012 will be remembered for all time as the venue of its birth
The Telegraph: ”London 2012 Opening Ceremony, first review”
But this ceremony was also about Boyle the award-winning, popular filmmaker and it was steeped in his signature moves: break-neck speed montages, widescreen angles, fast zooms. More than anything it was a love letter to British film, TV and music, from Mary Poppins to Harry Potter, Lionel Bart to Soul 2 Soul. With his musical partners Underworld it paid homage to some of the greatest British hits of the last fifty years spliced together with the anarchic energy of the rave culture Boyle was the first director to really understand.
The XXX Olympic Games Opening Ceremonies just concluded, and the combination of Danny Boyle and Underworld was tremendous! As promised, the soundtrack album, Isles of Wonder: Music For the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, is available for purchase NOW on iTunes and Amazon MP3, with a physical double-CD release coming next week.
There was plenty of Underworld music to be heard during the ceremonies. Two new brand new Underworld pieces were composed: ”And I Will Kiss” and “Caliban’s Dream” totaling over 24 minutes!
Additionally, there were a lot of new remixes of classic Underworld songs by High Contrast and Darren Price featured during the Parade of Athletes. The full tracklisting of Underworld songs on the album is:
Universal Music has announced that Isles of Wonder – Music for the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games will be released digitally within hours of the conclusion of the opening ceremonies on Saturday, July 28th. In addition to the digital release, it will also be released as a 2-disc CD album on Aug. 6. You can pre-order both releases now:
The tracklisting is currently intentionally vague, in order to “save the surprise.” However, you can expect there to be a lot of new, original Underworld music on there.
The Isles of Wonder will not only feature newly-composed music by Underworld, but also choirs, orchestras, vocalists and musicians alongside the chimes of a specially-commissioned 23-ton bell. The largest harmonically tuned bell in the world, it will be rung at 9.00pm on 27th July to mark the formal start of the Opening Ceremony.
The debut issue of Electronic magazine is released tomorrow, July 26, and Underworld is featured in the cover story interview. In the interview, Karl and Rick talk about everything from Dubnobasswithmyheadman to the Olympics.
Described as ”the ultimate electronic music magazine’, issue one includes an interview with Gary Numan about the Machine Music DVD, a fantastic review of his Forum show.
The new mag for electronic music fans. No gear reviews, no walk throughs, just up close and personal with the artists you love. Don’t miss it!
Includes a FREE 14 track CD compiled by Mark Jones
In the debut issue:
Exclusive new interview
Karl and Rick look back over their career – and forward to the biggest gig in the world…
The making of Dare
Inside a synth pop masterpiece
25 YEARS OF DETROIT TECHNO
Derrick May, Carl Craig, Ritchie Hawtin, Juan Atkins
Celebrate their quarter century
John Fox; Twin Shadow, Kraftwerk; Minimal Wave; Gary Numan; A Guy Called Gerald; Back to the Phuture; Midge Ure; Silver Apples; Vangelis; Heaven 17; Adamski; Fad Gadget; Matthew Herbert; and many more!
Karl Hyde’s solo art exhibition, “What’s Going on in Your Head When You’re Dancing?“, previously exhibited in Tokyo, is now coming to London. It is running from July 17 through August 10 at the Bernard Jacobson Gallery in London. The gallery is free to enter, and is open Mon – Fri from 10am to 6pm, and Sat 11am to 1pm.
Hyde’s large-scale paintings, diptych and triptychs, are entirely abstract gestural works, which have an affinity to both abstract expressionism and Japanese calligraphy. Painted on paper or packing cardboard with very large soft brushes and drawn into with charcoal and pastel, in some works one single gesture runs the length of the surface, in others marks combine into something more rhythmically complex. Hyde will often sit in front of the blank support, rehearsing the action he is about to take in his head before he begins the work itself, in much the same way as he rehearses the movements he will make across the stage during a performance. In the exhibition these paintings will be accompanied by more intimate pencil drawings and scroll like works in pencil and gouache on Japanese fold-out books, which describe driving through the chaotic urban environment of cities such as Tokyo and Miami.
I recently finished a time-lapse video of the webcam footage broadcast during Karl’s painting performance at the exhibition in Japan. You can see it via YouTube: