We’ve played with video for a while, and all along we hoped to make Poe videos for each of the songs on The Conqueror Worm.
Since most people find our music typically find it through YouTube, and YouTube is a video platform, why not make the most of it? The original guidelines for the Poe videos were simple, shoot it on a phone or iPad, and use iMovie to edit. I wanted these videos to be something any band could do, and to find out what the limits of the technology, and our creativity would be.
Towards the end I moved to editing with Adobe Premier, but otherwise we stuck to the rules.
After doing a few previous Poe videos I realized having repeating characters made the acting easier, and held the songs together. It makes acting easier because as is well known, when you put on a mask you can stop being yourself. In my case it’s makeup, and it’s not that I stop being myself, but rather I find ways of expressing what I feel wordlessly.
It helps that these songs convey misery, and filming in a house without air conditioning with a heat index of nearly a hundred degrees, makes having your face painted utterly miserable. I didn’t have to act.
Poe’s poetry is filled with pain and loss. I’ve had a lot of experience with that of late, so it was particularly cathartic to let some of that shit go. Poe didn’t keep his loss bottled up behind a stiff upper lip and staid exterior. He let it out, publicly falling apart around New York City, privately going to pieces at home and pouring his pain out on paper. I’m at a point in my life where holding it together is important. But I could still pour out my pain into my art.
After looking over a few of the videos I’d done, I came to realize where my influences lie. I’d love to say it was all intentional, but it was unconscious. It all can be traced back to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which I’d seen quite some time ago. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari is one of the prime examples of German Expressionist cinema. I was an art major in college and ditched school before I got to the Expressionists in art history, but I knew enough to understand what they were up to.
Expressionism found its flower in Berlin of the twenties, a period which has long inspired artists such as Bowie, Lou Reed and lately Marilyn Manson. As such, it fit with some of the music quite well, particularly To One in Paradise and Spirits of the Dead.
The idea behind Expressionism was a rejection of realism. It’s a purposeful distortion of reality to express underlying emotions, how a moment felt from the inside rather than how things appear on the surface. It’s an idea I quite like. After all, isn’t that the idea behind poetry?
The last piece to be filmed was The Raven. It’s the story of a man coming to grips with the loss of his love, realizing that the loss is permanent and his descent into madness. As luck would have it, I filmed my parts the day I realized the love of my life wasn’t coming back, and so it became autobiographical.
As with all these videos, there were no scripts or storyboards. It was all made up on the spot, improvised, the opposite of how the music was recorded, and the reverse of how most bands do these kind of things.
But this is a new era and perhaps it’s time to turn the status quo upside down.
Notes on The Conqueror Worm sixty minute version of the Poe videos
I always wanted to stitch the Poe videos together into a one long film. The earliest ones had a somewhat silent film vibe, and I began to think of the project as a silent musical.
It takes a certain kind of person to sit through an hour of this. Drugs help, alcohol likely does as well. Perhaps having an affinity for pain and loss could make the whole experience cathartic, but I’m not daft enough to think that viewing this is particularly a pleasant experience.
Poe videos are typically in the realm of horror, and these are no exception. Even though the subject matter veers from the macabre nature of his tales, the horror is just as real and perhaps more so. It’s my guess Poe saw his poetry as an expression of himself, and as his art as opposed to being merely craft, a way of making a living.
While the craftsmanship might not up to Poe’s standards, I think he’d approve of how it turned out. Those feelings of loss, alienation and the hopelessness of it all have only grown over the past couple hundred years, and each new generation finds new acolytes of the poet. We’re all just links in the rattling chain.