Asian She is one of a handful of new bands local to us here in LA that we’ve been excited about, featuring Thomas Froggatt of She Wants Revenge and Noah Lebenzon, associated with the likes of VAST and 12 Rounds. Released last year, their debut album Milk The Fire impressed us with a unique personality that doesn’t easily fit into any simple category or ‘X crossed with Y’ description.
When Thomas reached out asking us if we’d be interested in premiering their new video for 6-17, he started with a disclaimer. It’s pretty gory. Might be too much. To that, of course, I laughed with glee. With no advertisers or employers to stop us, we’re always down for some unsupervised, ill-advised anarchy.
Then I saw the video, and I was surprised to find that it actually managed to make me a little uncomfortable. Which is a rare achievement, that only deepened my appreciation for it. I felt the need to get some additional context for the premiere, though.
The video was co-directed masterfully by Dan Cleary, a guy with a creative dark mind, who has teched for Marilyn Manson and Jane’s Addiction, who you may know from Dave Navarro’s Dark Matter radio show.
So while I strongly recommend you watch the video before reading further, and experience it as I did, we caught up with Dan and co-director & DP Thad Bridwell, and Thomas Froggatt recently, to get more insight into the video. While Thomas explained his inspiration as songwriter was a simple idea of “everyone on earth dying; the human race getting wiped out,” Dan and Thad were given free rein to run with their own vision. Here’s our conversation:
What inspired the story told in the video?
Dan Cleary: 80s horror. I was raised on it. I have always loved slashers! The idea of an unavoidable, unstoppable force coming after you is always entertaining to me.
Part of the video was inspired by a real life snuff film I saw in 2009. I’ve always had a morbid sense of curiosity since I was a kid, so if it’s out there… I wanna see it. The video is called 3 Guys 1 Hammer and it shows a murder of an elderly man by 3 teenagers in broad daylight in the woods of the Ukraine. This poor man is beaten to death with a hammer while these 3 boys laugh and have the time of their life. It was just 1 of 27 murders they committed to celebrate graduating high school, all of which were recorded. A truly sickening story that changed me from the moment I saw it. These kids killed 27 people, all with blunt objects like hammers, bats & shovels. They only attacked people that couldn’t defend themselves, women, children, elderly, and sleeping homeless people. So to me, a hammer is so cold, and terrifying. It’s a tool that is in everyone’s home, and to have it become a brutal murder weapon just gives me the creeps.
Thad Bridwell: For a while now we’ve wanted to make a slasher themed music video. A friend of Dan’s sent him this amazingly creepy mask and we did some test shots with it around his neighborhood and really liked the results. When we met with Thomas to discuss video ideas he said we could do whatever we wanted. He gave us the album and had us pick a song. As soon as we heard 6-17, we knew it would work perfectly for a dark horror themed music video and went with it.
Were you consciously interpreting any of the lyrics of the song?
Dan: Not necessarily, except for the obvious “6:17” on the cell phone screen. The end shot of the villain standing over our girl while “the devil… the devil…” plays out was somewhat planned just because those words and the image go so perfectly together. Not that the villain is indeed the devil, but at the moment of our girl’s death he may as well have been. He’s at least her Grim Reaper.
Who were the actors in the video?
Dan: The main girl is a talented actress named Dana Buchanan who we met through mutual friends. We saw her in a great short film she was in and thought she was perfect. A pretty, relatable, intelligent looking young woman that anyone could see being a normal best friend. We hope to use her again in the future. The preparation & thought she put into this was such a breath of fresh air & it pushed us as directors to make sure we didn’t waste her time. Her dedication was a game changer for this project.
The villain (who we jokingly call Brian) is a close friend of ours named Adam Grimes. He’s been in some films, and you’ve seen him in dozens of commercials. He is quite possibly the nicest person I’ve ever known, and he looks like the all American boy next door. We knew he was a great actor but he exceeded our hopes of portraying a killer tenfold with how he brought this villain to life in 6-17.
The girl with the bloody bag on her head is my Wife, Maegen. She is a great sport and helps me with everything I do. She helped us plan this shoot as well.
The man in the car who gets murdered with the hammer is yours truly. We needed someone to do it, we didn’t have anyone, so I took the hit… literally. Plus, no shame in a Hitchcock-esque cameo right?
How / when was this shoot done? Did any concerned neighbors interrupt the hammer chase?
Thad: We did a very guerrilla style shoot over the course of a weekend with virtually no crew outside of the actors. So we were able to keep it pretty quiet when doing any of the outdoor scenes. A few cars passed by and Adam was always quick to turn around so nobody would become alarmed by the mask or hammer. It’s Los Angeles. Nobody seemed to care what we were doing. They just kept moving along.
Do you think the video would be perceived differently if the victims were limited to helpless women? Does including the murder of a helpless man make it somehow less appalling?
Dan: It probably would be perceived differently, but we’d be lying if we told you that’s why we had a man killed as well. That was purely out of necessity for the story & timing. And hey, murder is appalling whether it’s three women, two men, a child, a transgendered person or whoever. But trying to be PC with a fictional video about a slasher seems somewhat counterproductive.
What are your thoughts on happy endings?
Dan: I love happy endings, when they’re right for the story. I’m a guy that cries at rom-coms all day long if they’re done right. I’m a pretty sentimental guy so if there’s a movie/video/song where someone reconnects with a parent, or finds their child, or gets the girl I’ll totally weep. But… I am a huge fan of a story that isn’t afraid to be a bit more realistic. Sometimes the bad guys win, the guy doesn’t get the girl, or the puppy doesn’t live forever. That’s why I think the movie Se7en is the best ending in film history. It’s easy to send people home happy, but it’s fun to send them home disturbed!
Thad: When it comes to videos we’ve made, I don’t think we really focus on happy endings. We usually end up going darker and making something weird or violent. I personally enjoy that, as does Dan, but I’m not opposed to stories with a happy ending. It really all depends on the story you’re telling. But for now I think we’re going to stick to videos that make people feel uneasy.
Spoiler alert, folks. Did you purposely avoid the moment a lot of viewers are bound to expect, where the girl gains the upper hand somehow, fights back, or escapes?
Dan: Yes. 100%. Like I mentioned before, we like endings that don’t go the hero’s way. Thad & I have always agreed that we need to push people’s buttons when the situation calls for it. If one hammer hit to the face is upsetting, let’s see what two will do. We’re always open to input from the artists, but we make content that we like first, and hopefully the artists & their fans enjoy it as well.
Thad: Yes, we tried to avoid that as much as possible. We thought of one or two twists we were going to film but none of them involved the girl getting the upper hand. There wasn’t really any time to put the twist in there anyhow. We actually had to cut out a lot of shots in order to get the story done by the time the song ends. The one twist ending we discussed involved the killer taking off the mask and revealing he is Flat Ronnie.