Probably from an interview for some Spanish magazine called Condimento or something.
I have to ask this before we talk about anything else: what was it like working with NWA as a teenager? How’d that come about?
Sounds unreal, right? Just to clear things up, I didn’t work with them so much as hang out with them. But I did get a shout-out on the back of the Straight Outta Compton LP.
Eric was a cool dude. I met him at Roadium Records when
he signed my copies of Dopeman and then later met DJ Speed,
who always invited us to go to shows or video and photo shoots.
Or when I would drive to Compton to visit speed, I would always drive by Eric’s mom’s house on Muriel on the way to Speed’s place on Thorson. And more often than not, he would be hanging out outside, and I would stop and hang out.
Trivia: the cover of Eazy-Duz-It was shot under a bridge in the Arts District.
What’s your drink?
Lately wines from Brendan Tracey or Alice Bouvot or glass of Viteadovest Bianco or a cold pint of Peroni or something with mezcal and lime. And Topo Chico is always a good idea.
And before i forget, the J Dilla Donuts cover?
That story is well-documented.
What are you listening to these days?
I just got a copy of Henri Texier’s Varech on vinyl. Loving that. Also Laila Sakini’s mixes on Soundcloud never cease to inspire. The first Ryuichi Sakamoto solo record. Labi Siffre this morning.
I got a tube amp recently, something I’d really wanted for a long time, and so I’ve been visiting private vinyl (and cassette) dealers when I can.
I think from hanging out with so many record collectors and DJs and producers, I’ve been around vinyl culture enough to know a fair amount about music. And one of my greatest pleasures is discovering something new to me that maybe isn’t well-known.
The term ‘unplayed shop copy’ gets my heart rate up.
Describe your USUAL outfit.
Who’s writing these questions? Today I’m in a pair of really baggy
orSlow chinos, an equally baggy Nudie T-shirt, and some Dries suede loafers.
Anywhere you really like to eat?
Anywhere I don’t really like to eat?
Some recent favorites:
Tacos Orinoco (CDMX)
Summer Rolls (Temple City)
Ruen Pair (Thai Town)
Elf (Echo Park)
All Time (Los Feliz)
Is Silver Lake cool any more?
Am I cool enough to comment?
Once I dreamt that my dad was one of the Beatles. I was actually pretty disappointed to wake up and realize that this wasn’t true.
Favorite film format / stock?
6x7 medium format. And Fuji NHG II 800, long gone.
I don’t own one any more, but the Pentax 67 is pretty awesome. Only camera that people take to other countries and then only shoot 3 frames because it’s so big you never really want to carry it around. But those three frames…amazing.
I like the Fujifilm GA645 a lot too. I’ve owned a few and they’re easy to carry, always start a conversation, and you generally get the shot you were looking for.
Is mf doom real?
Very real indeed. I told that story to Frank 151, but here’s a little more:
Stones Throw wanted me to do a video for Rhinestone Cowboy and I couldn’t understand why. The song lacked everything that other songs on Madvillainy had.
Doom didn’t want to perform, so we ran all over LA shooting a loose storyline. A wonderful day that ended with me + Doom hanging out at my apartment, eating pizza and drinking. Not really a whole video though.
So maybe a year later, after shooting a performance for Rhinestone, I asked Doom if he would be down to do a quick take of Accordion. Outside in the hallway. And we did, and mostly it felt great. I think we got three takes total. Pure Doom. He was in the zone.
And then I sat on that for years as well. I couldn’t see it as a video. I think my expectations were too high. But I needed something new for a gallery screening, and so I put it together. I think it was 2007 now.
Screened it for an audience, gave it to Stones Throw, and now, over a decade later, Accordion has over 8M views and Rhinestone less than half that.
I think the message is that as creatives, we need to trust our instinctive visions and push for a little bit more. If I hadn’t asked Doom to shoot that clip, and I’d have just listened to the label, it wouldn’t have existed.
And to me now, it’s an artifact of an amazing time in music. So hard to know the value of where you are at any given moment until much, much later.
Next time, let’s talk about the Nas video I shot on 16mm film…
Memories from working at grand royal records?
I showed up for my interview, and couldn’t find the
entrance. Wandered around back, and saw the infamous metal staircase seen in so many Beastie Boys videos. Wandered up them, and right into G-Son studios, where a recording session was underway.
Weed was in the air, and the collage from Check Your Head was hanging on the wall. I was in extreme Beastie Boys fan heaven.
I told this story to Mario Caldato years later, and he asked me to walk upstairs at his new studio…there was the same collage!
what was it like being on partizan’s roster?
Pretty awesome. I used to dub copies of whatever Michel Gondry work I could find, and when I found out they had an office in LA, I made a reel and sent it in. To my surprise, I got asked in for a meeting, which ended with me signing to the roster.
It was so inspiring to be among such wildly creative — and also very cool and approachable — directors. A few that stand out: Alma Har’el, Phil Andelman, Ace Norton, and Cat Solen.
We’d have company screenings for Michel Gondry’s movies when they were released and the crowd was always an amazing assortment of creative souls.
I felt really lucky to be there, and during that time my work changed from being these $9k videos shot on 2000 feet of 16mm to huge location and stage productions, shutting down streets in DTLA for Snoop and Kelly Rowland, DPs with hard-to-pronounce Scandinavian names and actually learning how to shoot more coverage.
what’s your favorite color?
Really into greens lately. Kind of reliving my 90s earth tone phase. Rust keeps coming up a lot as well.
Eyes: Dim the lights, light some candles, and string out some lights outside.
Ears: Pull a stack of vinyl. Scratchy is fine, this isn’t a listening party.
Mouth: Lots of wine, steaks on the grill, a big kale and avocado salad, and cast-iron caramelized peaches finished with amaretto or bourbon and served with good vanilla ice cream.
(I may be a little Mark Bittman in the streets, but I’m pretty Francis Mallmann in the sheets.)
your work with saul williams spans over 20 years. how’d that all come about?
I met Saul in the late 90s, before his debut studio record (Amethyst Rock Star, prod. Rick Rubin) was released, through Carlos Niño. It started with performance visuals, and then soon afterwards I filmed him recording Purple Pigeons in the studio with Divine Styler and Wood Harris (!).
Since then, we’ve collaborated on photographs, album covers, short films, and music videos. Once I spent a few weeks with him in Paris shooting art films and hanging out.
He’s a big inspiration to me on so many levels, a great friend and mentor, and I feel like the creative collaboration is pretty limitless — we both love taking creative leaps of faith and working intuitively.
Maybe we’ll do a narrative film one day!
what keeps you going?
I feel like I’m still growing as a filmmaker, still finding things I want to explore and ideas I want to express. Still meeting people I am driven to collaborate with.
Two word questions?
I have a feature documentary that I’m really excited about in the works. And I started making a photo book from the personal shots I’ve taken over the years. Coming back to rolls of film that I didn’t really realize had important moments on them. And finding a path through twenty years of usually having a camera in my hand and being in different places in the world.
Find that work in progress here.