Written by: Paul Gleason
SEM’s Paul Gleason got a chance to sit down with Grog, the mono-named singer of Die So Fluid, for a chat about her band’s new video for “Black Blizzard.” Taken from Die So Fluid’s upcoming epic new album The Opposites Of Light, “Black Blizzard” is a rousing blast of dark energy, replete with strings and stirring vocals.
Asked if she had to learn any acting skills for the concept-heavy cinematic clip, Grog tells SEM, “Mainly how to keep your cloak out of puddles and not laugh when you get caught on a stick…”
SEM: Tell us about director David Kenny and why you decided to go with him for the video for “Black Blizzard.”
G: We developed a good working relationship with David during the filming of two previous videos, “Mercury” and “What A Heart Is For.” These were both fairly performance-based and we wanted the chance to do something a bit different and special, involving more storyline and acting this time. David was in complete agreement and immediately knew where he wanted to shoot it and we started exchanging ideas about the narrative. One important element really didn’t happen ’til the day before the shoot and that was David’s decision to get the Sony FS700 camera that shot all the super slomo footage. Icing on the cake.
SEM: How about the art director and costume designer?
G: Samm Agnew is an amazing makeup and special effects artist, extremely resourceful and driven. David brought her to meet the band and discuss the concept, costumes and style. It was a collaborative process, and Samm made incredible costumes for the band and child actors, transforming us into these otherworldly characters.
SEM: Who provided the orchestral arrangement?
G: The arrangement was written by (guitarist) Drew Richards and the violins were played by Samy Bishai, our amazing friend who is a world class British Egyptian violinist. The cellos were played by Ivan Hussey who is more a man of mystery that Samy recommended.
SEM: Why did you choose to use strings on this song?
G: Well, actually the main string line was the first part written because Drew was drawing inspiration from different instruments other than the usual guitars and bass. After the string part we tried variations on the guitar riff until we settled on the riff you hear now. I wrote a vocal part that worked with it. We have used strings on tracks before so it wasn’t a huge decision to do it again and we knew Samy would take it up a notch with the eastern inflections he adds.
SEM: What do the strings add to the heavy guitars?
G: The guitar riff is at the centre and is doubled by the bass but it doesn’t dictate the key or the mode of the music. That comes from the string melodies and harmonies. The effect is really big but not just because there is a lot playing all at the same time. It’s the arrangement of all the parts that makes the width of the record.
SEM: Is the video shot on location?
G: It was shot on a very cold couple of days in Deal, Kent, in the South of England.
SEM: Why did you choose that location?
G: David recommended it–we needed access to a beach, woods, and cellar location, and we all stayed together in a scout hut on a camp site that pretty much had all of that, plus bunkbeds water and heat. There was such a great team spirit and it was fun despite the minus degree temperatures. We actually baked potatoes in the fire you see in the video…
SEM: A point of view question: You sing, “Your God…” Who’s the narrator?
G: The song was originally inspired by the Black Blizzard Dust Bowl disaster that took place throughout the whole of the 1930s accross the Great Plains of America. It’s one of the most shocking and tragic examples of a man-made disaster caused ultimately by greed, that, incredibly, so many people remain unaware of, and it could happen again. It’s referred to as the biggest natural disaster in hundreds of years but it was caused by incorrect farming methods and the over selling of the land which resulted in severe dust storms that blackened the sky. So the narrator is a spokesperson, a bystander surveying the situation. I think he’s a time traveller, maybe Woody Guthrie meets Doctor Who…I was also struck by the mass exodus to L.A. of devastated families looking for work, dreaming of it being a place that would solve their problems, and the comparison of that to the way people dream of it now–a glamorous place where you can become rich and famous, or end up destitute.
SEM: Whose God are you referencing?
G: Everyone has a different god, so it’s a multiple reference because the faith of the innocent was tested to breaking point, and the bankers, the government, and the “suitcase farmers,” whose god was money–well, the plans collapsed and their god deserted them, too.
SEM: In my opinion, the desert imagery in the lyrics contrasts with the choppy waves and the ocean backdrop. Was this contrast intentional?
G: We didn’t want to make a video that was too literal…the song has a broader meaning. The shots of the sea demonstrate nature with all of its wild untamable strength, and my character arrives like a harbinger of doom. In a way I am the storm personified come to prevail.
SEM: Did you consider the current popularity of vampires when writing your lyrics?
G:Vampires have always been popular with me whether or not there’s a current trend in their favour. There’s a vampire reference in the song because I feel when the wealthy feed off the poor it feeds down the chain until everyone gets used to the taste of blood. When, in the end it comes down to survival, it becomes harder and harder for the few to protect their ethics and uphold their principals. There is one girl who survives, you will notice at the end of the video.
SEM: What’s the connection between vampires and, I suppose, the people who lost their souls in the Dust Bowl?
G: These people were bled dry in the frenzied rush of government and landowners to sell farmland, mechanize farming, produce more crops. In the name of their own satisfaction they turned a blind eye to the fact that there had already been severe drought in the region some years before, and that they had torn up all the native grass that trapped the soil and kept it moist. When the drought came and the dust storms started there were also a series of wierd biblical style events, such as a plague of jack rabbits and then grasshoppers because of the agricultral disturbance to the land. It is said over 70,00 people died and over 2 million lost homes or migrated. It is like being sucked dry, tossed aside, and left starving.
SEM: Is the “black blizzard” a metaphor for the Dust Bowl?
G: Yes and also the catastrophic results that can ensue when you disrespect nature.
SEM: Tell us about the costumes on the beach scenes. Are your bandmates the two hooded gentlemen? Why are their faces covered?
G: Yes, it’s them…we did it to make a distinction between us as a band and us as fantastical characters. Covering their faces made them more creepy and ominous. I think they were both glad, ‘cos those high winds could give anyone a bad hair day.
SEM: Why did you go with extreme close-ups during the performance shots?
G: That was David’s artistic choice but I know he wanted the band shots to contrast the story parts and feel more claustrophobic.
SEM: Why don’t we ever see the band performing together?
G: The cellar wasn’t big enough is the simple answer to that. It had several cool tight spaces and the owner told us it was haunted. The ghost smashed a light bulb behind us at one point which was unsettling. But again the shot choice for the performance part was close up so that wouldn’t work unless it was one at a time.
SEM: How long did it take to have your makeup done for the shots of you long eyelashes and glittery lipstick?
G: About an hour, tops.
SEM: Are you making an allusion to a queen when you’re made up in this way? I thought about Cleopatra…
G: Yeah, brooding in my lair.
SEM: How do the editing and cinematography correspond to the lyrical imagery? I’m thinking of the shot of the flock of birds (seagulls?) and the masked figures on the cliff.
G: The birds were David’s idea–he wanted that effect of animals sensing danger and fleeing, and sometimes that danger is a natural phenomenon, like an earthquake or a storm. My character is both storm and predator to the masked children. They are innocents, a scavenger tribe living in the woods.
SEM: What’s up with the pig? Is this a reference to Lord of the Flies?
G: It is if you want it to be…And maybe The Shining. I got hold of a few different kinds of masks which Sammm cut up and customised, the idea was that these kids had been deserted and left to their own ends like the confused survivors of an ill fated society. They dressed themselves up in random stuff they found. I wanted some of it to be modern and some old to make it timeless. We definitely were chaneling a ’70s horror film vibe in atmosphere.
SEM: Why is this song and video the best way to launch Die So Fluid’s forthcoming LP, The Opposites of Light?
G: Because it’s so cool and provocative. It’s rooted in fantasy and realism all at once. It has something of a Game Of Thrones quality to it. Dark intrigue…it’s just the thing to whet your musical appetite. Personally, it was very satisfying that the song, recording and video all came out exactly as I had hoped, even stronger, so we didn’t spend any time considering other candidates.