Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Speak Up: Director Moh Azima on "From the Devil Himself"

We did this interview for our friends over at Videology, the hippest music video community out there, and they have graciously let us post it here as well.

Viva Voce "From the Devil Himself"

dir. by Moh Azima

With the video for Viva Voce’s "From the Devil Himself," director Moh Azima combines the 60’s/70’s folk feel of the band’s music with the imagery and themes of the lyrics – all while keeping a dark sense of humor. The video plays on the songs mood of corruption in the music business rather blatantly, with the appearance of ‘the devil himself,’ but it’s Azima’s ability to accurately recreate a historic musical vibe that makes this a memorable project.

: "With this particular band there where a lot of things that led to the video concept. First off they’re a couple - husband and wife - and then there is the song being about the evils of the record industry. It just really felt like a protest song to me.”

In assembling the realism of the chaotic hotel room scene, Azima enlisted the help of Viva Voce’s fans and friends to pose as reporters and groupies (most of whom perform adequately). But he also looked at classic documentary films like Don’t Look Back to create an authentic feel for the video.

Azima: “I definitely did some research for this video and I’m a fan of all those music documentaries. I looked at original footage from John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s bed-in, and some of the stuff in the hotel room is directly referencing that.”

Much of the success of the video comes from the open collaboration between Azima and the band, which gives the video a natural feel and made shooting the project much easier.

Azima: “It was a real low-budget production so they got some of their friends to be in the video and hooked us up with different people and things that we could use for cheap.”

Low-budgets and limited time frames are part of the grand appeal of music videos for the up-and-coming director. It’s in the difficulty of doing something compelling while under these limitations that Azima finds creative inspiration.

Azima: “It’s a challenge to come up with something people haven’t seen before. I try to capture what makes a band special, and put that into visuals that also capture the meaning of the song. Whether it’s because it’s funny, or whether it’s something poignant.”

Director Bio:

“I try to develop visuals from which people can derive their own interpretations. I like things that work on a lot of different levels and certainly avoid clich├ęs.”

For the past six years Moh Azima has been doing exactly that with his music videos. From his breakout success with Calla’s "Televised" back in 2003, to directing the acclaimed “Chips Ahoy!” for the Hold Steady in 2006, each new Azima video has been steadily unique.

“I think if you look at my work as a whole it’s very eclectic,” the director said. “Lately I’ve been in a better position to get the kind of things i want produced. once you start to build some credibility – and therefore have the luxury to chose your projects more carefully - i find that music videos are a great form.”

In 1998 Azima began working at a creative boutique in New York after graduating from the University of North Texas’ film school. But the job was unfulfilling and he soon put together a short film for Sundance in 2002 which rocketed his career forward.

His first video - for Calla - was shot a year later for only 1.000 dollars but garnered the attention of the music industry. “I try to stay as far away from my ideas as a director,” Azima said. “At the end of the day people just want to see a great idea, and my job is to simply work in service of the ideas.”

February 2007 - Interview by Imran Siddiquee - ©Videology 2007

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