MEMO SALAZAR: PUSHIN’ THE BUSH

After several months of sitting on the shelf due to legal concerns, Memo Salazar’s music video for Public Enemy’s “Son of a Bush” is finally being made available to the public. Check out our previous report>>>

We spoke with Memo about his music video.

Are you a fan of PE? How quick were you to say yes about doing the project?
I’ve been a fan of PE for a long time, so it didn’t take me long to say “yes”, despite the stipulations (no money, band unavailable, etc.). There were enough things that appealed to me way too much: the creative freedom I was given; the fact that the song lyrics themselves remained somewhat vague about G.W.’s accomplishments allowed me to do visuals that complimented rather than copied the song. Chuck D makes references to things in the song that are more lyrical than literal, so I thought I’d take the opposite approach and be really in-your-face with the facts, something I always enjoy doing. I also like to try new things with each project I do, and this allowed me to play with a lot of programs, namely flash (for the animation), that I hadn’t used in such a way.

Was there ever an option to use the band in the video?
No. They were reportedly in Europe at the time. This “assignment” came out last year, sometime after Bush gave Saddam his deadline. The idea was to get it out before war broke out, but that left, if I remember correctly, a little over a month, and with no money at all, it was all done on our free time. I think their original idea was for someone to just get some stock footage and cut it together, like those really bad posthumously made videos produced for a just-died-last-month-artist’s new hit single, but I just couldn’t leave it at that. They certainly weren’t expecting what we gave them.

How did you do the animation and where did you get all of your footage from?
The footage is a combination of public domain archival footage, original animation, text, and some video footage we shot. I just saw The Corporation and noticed they plundered the same free archive we did, so I guess the secret’s out. The huge anti-war march in NYC happened right at that time, so we just went down with a video camera and shot a bunch of stuff, which makes up a short segment of the video. I did all the animation myself by rotoscoping over live footage in flash. I didn’t have much time, so I did a quick-n-dirty style, not many frames per second, which seems to work, although sometimes I wish I could go back and smooth it out a little. I showed the exec. producer a test bit of animation that I had done based on a live PE performance, and he liked it so much he gave me 15 minutes worth of footage he had shot for another PE music video he had done previously. Then I just found bits of movement that worked, and drew my own versions from that. The whole thing was done literally in a month’s time, from scratch, so I just did the best I could with the time I had. It was very organically made; things just led to other things until the whole video came together… which could never happen with a big budget, where you need to provide treatments and breakdowns before the first frame of film is shot. The film was very much sculpted, bit by bit.

So what happened to the video upon its completion? Were you ever given a reason why it was never released?
I’m still not sure what the full story is. Since I was not contacted directly by the PE camp, but instead through this small production company, by the time information trickled down to me, who knows what else was going on. As far as I know, PE loved the video, but the legal folks were very wary of releasing it. I’m not sure if it was because we used Bush’s images (though there are certainly precedents legal covering that) or if they just thought it went too far with its accusations (though you’d think a band like PE would thrive on that sort of thing, not to mention all the facts are documented,) but I was led to believe it was something along those lines. What I do know is a DVD-single was released without that video, and then I was given the ok to send it out to festivals and so on, which I did. I’ve been, unfortunately, too busy to pursue this as much as I wanted to. When I finally got around to updating FoolFactory (my site), having made a page for that video, it hit me that Film Threat is just too cool a site to not send this video to (no ass kissing intended.)

Beyond this online presence will people have the chance to see your video for “Son of a Bush”?
It’s strange; I wrote to you guys on a lark, having assumed this video wasn’t going anywhere. But I was just contacted by the executive producer, and they apparently want to include it in an upcoming PE documentary DVD they’re making. I don’t know any details, only that the legality question came up again and so we have to go back and account for all the footage used again. It’d be nice if it got a wider release, hopefully BEFORE the election, but I’m not going to assume anything until it happens. I just don’t have the time or energy to market my stuff, so hopefully word-of-mouth will carry news of this video, which still has an awful lot of good information about Bush, and we really researched the facts and notated our sources. I hope people copy it and share it and copy it and share it, as should happen with all “art”. With Mr. Moore’s new documentary out covering similar territory, perhaps the video isn’t as eye-opening as it was last year, but it still seems to have an impact whenever it’s screened around town or at festivals. The country is so divided right now that there’s a big chance you’re just “preaching to the choir”, but one of the things I really like about this video is that it’s not just some liberal running around with a Bush mask setting things on fire. In four minutes you are given fact after fact with some very direct claims about the guy who’s been in charge; you can disagree with it, but you can’t claim ignorance after watching that. I know there are Bush supporters out there with somewhat open minds that have probably dismissed anti-Bush work as mere lefty propaganda that might, at least, be persuaded to look into some of these allegations if they’re presented in a more intelligent form. Maybe the loud “rap music” might scare them away, but here’s hoping. It’s tough to make something that’s politically charged yet still creatively satisfying. I think this video would still be interesting even if Bush were a fictitious character, just because of the format… but I’m a little biased.

What’s up next for you, Memo?
I’m just always hungry for more creative challenges. I’m currently drawing some new comics in preparation of this year’s MoCCA festival, a comics and cartooning fest that happens every June in New York City. I’ll be peddling my stuff amongst some big names, so I want to at least have some new work out there. My biggest problem is that I have so many interests, I never focus on one thing, much to the detriment of my “career”. The other big thing I’m involved in is with an established NYC comic who’s been involved in lots of interesting projects, from the TV show “Dr. Katz” to a Willy Wonka Rock Opera which ran here last fall. He’s written a very funny unauthorized biography on The Cars, which we’re about to start filming next week. The Cars are such a weird band to focus on, particularly because their story is so un-rockstarish (no wild drug-enduced-rampages, etc.) that it actually makes for a really funny film, or so we’re hoping. He’s lined up a bunch of cool people to make cameos in the film, so we’ll see what happens. I usually film my own work, so it’s a challenge for me to collaborate with someone, as well as a good kick in the ass to get myself back into feature filmmaking mode. I also like the idea of making more music videos, especially since 99% of the ones out there are just horribly boring and unoriginal, and there’s so much untapped potential there. Devo and the Talking Heads made videos that are still way beyond most of the crap that’s out there. This was over 20 years ago, people! So if any bands out there are looking to do something truly different, rather than just making a boring, fast-cutting commercial for their latest hit, give me a call. I got some ideas.

Check out “Son of a Bush” at the Fool Factory website.




Posted on October 27, 2004 in Interviews by
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