What was your inspiration for the video?
When I first heard the album, I was immediately drawn to ‘Apex’, I felt like it had an incredible narrative arc and stood as the emotional highlight on the record. I pictured a “brave new world” emerging out from the music – of interior and exterior spaces, lush green vistas and industrial constructions, turbines, pipes and the overall feeling of a familiar yet futuristic citadel shining in the morning sun.
The main inspiration was the architect Luc Schuiten who created the incredible cover art “La Ville Creuse” for the album, and I guess I wanted to dive into the painting and explore this world in depth. Luc’s wonderful architectural concepts intertwine biomimicry and a sense of futuristic optimism – something we rarely explore this side of the millennium. I really wanted to capture this “Solar Punk” feeling of optimism and wonder.
I also love Michel Gondry – specifically his video for The Chemical Brothers’ ‘Star Guitar’ where the landscape becomes a huge visualiser. It’s less structured in this, but there are so many moments of synchronicity in ‘Apex’ where something has been placed just to reference the sound – it’s impossible to ignore the influence.
Why is the video about a robotic bee?
In ‘Black Mirror’, Charlie Brooker made a future filled with robotic bees look quite scary. I wanted to go the other way and put them into a positive light and felt like a good example of a positive future where technology steps in to maintain harmony.
On a practical level, bees are small and move really fast, so I could create a sense of speed that the music shares, ducking and diving past things, going into small tight gaps, emerging into huge spaces – but it would allow me to present a whole world, following this tiny robot going from point A to point B, Allowing me to design a landscape at bee level – and have objects placed to visualise the music, allowing these big musical moments to emerge – and feel like you are observing this world, but without getting too involved.
How did you do it?
At first, I didn’t really know how I was going to pull it off, as the music is quite dynamic and energetic and I wanted the video to really take you by the hand and dive into this world.I also wanted to attempt to nod to Luc’s amazing worlds. I’m normally a live action director – but I wanted to really challenge myself. I’d learned a bit of Unreal Engine in lockdown, and I love the workflow as it means I can work in realtime and make use of the incredible lighting and animation tools it has. That being said, I do find the software on the far side of brain meltingly complicated – but exploring camera craft in realtime is an amazing pleasure for any director as it’s like being on set with every tool at your disposal.
Initially I set out to make a simple visualiser style video using this framework, but the video became probably the most ambitious thing I’ve ever made – as soon as I started with a sketch, I had to keep fleshing it out and making it more and more detailed. When I watch it back at the end, I have to remind myself that the music came first, as some sounds synchronise so well with the visuals that it feels like I’ve cheated and added things in.
In the end, working solo, it took me several months to get it finished, through a process of learning, exploring, lots of trial and error. At this point I’m absolutely done with mechanical bees, yet I can’t help but wish I could keep working on it.