Toronto electro-goth-rock band The Birthday Massacre, whose new album Pins and Needles comes out September 14 through Metropolis Records, will be premiering their latest video “In the Dark” at the Festival of Fear. It was co-directed by the band’s guitarist/songwriter Mike Falcore and Rodrigo Gudiño, the founder of Rue Morgue, in a hot studio in the east end of Toronto over the course of an early July weekend.
I sat down with the two of them over a snifter of fine scotch (thank you, Mike) in the bowels of the Rue Morgue House of Horror to discuss the horror influences of the “In the Dark” video, why Falcore recruited Gudiño as his co-director, and the freedom the band feels after being ignored by the mainstream but championed by the underground.
Mike, why did you want to direct?
Mike: I’ve wanted to do it for awhile. It’s always been an ambition of mine to direct something, and I’ve always approached it in a very roundabout way. I started out editing, and I did camera for a couple of years; basically pre-visualizing in my head how I would go about doing it when the time finally came.
For the band stuff, because I’m in the band and being photographed in front of the camera, I wasn’t sure how I’d approach directing; how do you be in two places at once basically? And I know actors do it all the time, but I wasn’t sure exactly how I would do it until now. And that’s where Rodrigo came in.
Mike: He was the first person that I thought of, mainly because of the magazine and the movies that he had made. At the After Dark Film Festival was the first time that I had seen his work; I saw The Eyes of Edward James. And I didn’t know Rodrigo at that point, but I was really impressed by it because it was a low-budget short film, but it didn’t matter because the concept was so great. So I knew that he had vision. It was kind of a no-brainer actually.
Tell me about the concept of the video.
Mike: The song “In the Dark” is about relationships and feeling isolated around somebody that you’re supposed to be close to. So the images sort of came out of that; just a process of me listening to the song over and over again.
And the idea of childhood corrupted.
Yeah. Because you don’t realize as a child, especially for females, how much of an effect it has, because an adult is making these toys, it’s almost like a mould. This is the aesthetic for how you’re supposed to look when you grow up, and it’s only when you do grow up you realize how it’s unrealistic.
Rodrigo mentioned A Nightmare on Elm Street and Legend being influences on this video. Talk about the influence of films and media on this video.
Mike: It was sort of a homage, really, and it’s a music video so you’ve got to have fun with it. If it’s not fun, why bother? It’s a good excuse to have fun with all the films you saw when you were younger and just get to play with them.
Rodrigo, how does collaborating with Mike compare to your other filmic collaboration with Vincent Marcone on your short film The Facts In the Case of Johnny Hollow?
Rodrigo: When Mike first approached me with this particular project, I wasn’t sure what role I was going to play in it and to what degree. I listened to The Birthday Massacre early on, I had that very first album Nothing and Nowhere (2002). I remember listening to it, seeing them live, and I liked what they were about, what they have. It’s very difficult to be something unique as a band, I think. I liked the music, I liked the band, and I liked the concept of the video. Mike talked very much in terms of horror film homage in terms of different scenes were Legend, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser.
So in terms of this particular project, though, really I saw myself as helping Mike so I deferred to him. It’s his project, it’s his concept, it’s his band. I was looking at it like ‘let’s help this transition, have him get a feel for directing and being behind the camera.’ And I like it, and I’ve never done a music video before so I would handle the stuff where he was in front of the camera.
So I was more involved with the project with Vince. It was more like he was helping me out; it was more of a straight-on collaboration. It was really more about challenging Mike’s ideas about his band and his image and try to push them a little bit.
Mike: Which is really helpful, by the way.
Rodrigo: It was really interesting for me. It was a learning experience for me to see him and how he did things. He’s very natural in directing and very clear in his ideas and clear with what he wants and very clear with the actors and the crew. That’s 90% of it, right?
Mike, how did you enjoy directing and how did it compare to what you thought it was going to be?
Mike: I loved it. I thought it would be a lot more difficult actually. It was really just answering questions. Everybody wants to know what you’re thinking. There are times when there are three people asking me a question at the same time. It really is communicating with people. I think that’s the bulk of it.
And then the rest of it is logistical stuff, what shots you need. Because sometimes it feels like a jumbled-up puzzle in your head, especially when you’re on the spot; sometimes you can lose sight of what you need to get, and that’s where Rodrigo was a big help with that. It was really good having him there to just bounce things off: ‘Okay, what do we need?’ Because we had a really ambitious shooting schedule, and we managed to pull it off, and I think part of that was because of Rodrigo.
Birthday Massacre videos generally don’t play on MuchMusic. Did being shunned by mass media give you a greater sense of creative freedom?
Mike: We definitely have a lot of creative freedom. I think part of that comes from just being not shunned by the mainstream, kind of ignored. And we are bitter about it actually [laughs], but I think we use it as a fuel. It fuels us to just do our own thing, and it’s okay to be different. Because there has been pressure in our past to conform, to play it safe, and with this video I wanted to fuck all that and just make a Birthday Massacre video.
So will this be the definitive Birthday Massacre video then?
Mike: This will be the first definitive Birthday Massacre video because our other videos were more of a collaboration with another artist who had a strong sense of the visual he wanted and was very personal for him, and it ended up being a cool thing but it didn’t necessarily feel completely Birthday Massacre to us.
But because I’m in the band and we’ve all been in this together for so long… and I listen to the other band members. Before I even wrote the treatment I sat down and just talked about imagery and the kind of stuff that we’d like to see. And so I took all those and just ran them through my filter and just spewed forth what you’re going to see.
The Birthday Massacre video for “In the Dark” premieres this Saturday, August 28, at 5 pm in Room 206A at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (255 Front Street East) as part of Rue Morgue’s Festival of Fear.