Any young female that rocks vintage Organized Konfusion and MF Doom and has made incredibly vivid yet wholly understated videos for the likes of Abstract Rude and The Jigmastas – not to mention, somewhat single-handedly propelling Battle Axe Records’ foundation (Swollen Members and Moka Only) into Canadian super-stardom, has got some going on, got something definitely going on.
I was lucky enough to work on her first American shot music video this past August (“Don’t Get It Twisted” by The Jigmastas & Sadat X) in New York City, when she was just merely doing her freelance thing; it’s taken me almost 5 months since to get her on the phone just for this little ass interview. Lil’ X – ain’t got shit on her.
Peter: Where did you learn to make music videos?
Wendy: Where did I learn to make them (laughing)? I learnt making them while I was making them.
What’s your favorite Organized Konfusion album?
Stress: The Extinction Agenda
What does the medium of music videos mean to you?
I don’t like that question.
I don’t know, because it’s stupid.
It’s stupid! I’m going to print that. (thinking of new question). Where are you from?
I’m from Vancouver.
You’re from Edmonton right?
No I’m not. My parents are from Chile and they moved here (Canada) when my mom was pregnant with me, and then we lived in Edmonton, then we lived in Calgary, then we lived in Vancouver, then I lived in Montreal, now I live in Toronto and Vancouver.
All over. That’s dope.
So, do you think music videos killed the radio stars?
Um. No I don’t. Whatever. Radio’s still around.
I don’t see how people can claim that, if anything I think it just elevated the whole shit.
Why don’t you give me some history on the music videos you’ve done. When was the very first music video you did?
I think it was Fall of 2000.
Who was that (as in the video)?
It was Moka.
So then, Moka being the very first video you made, how did that come about?
When I first started in film, like as a PA (Production Assistant), I was really good. I was a really hard worker and everyone thought I was really smart and all that, you know. I was doing good. After it sort of, wasn’t interesting anymore, it was just daily grind shit. In reality I was no where near anything creative. I was just like doing people’s taxes and shit, it was lame. I was an assistant to two different producers who were both assholes and I really started hating my job and started getting really bad at my job too. Someone offered me this other job, working on this other show, so when I left the job no one was even that upset because I was totally being a fuck-up. In the meantime, I made friends with this guy, Bill Morrison, who was actually one of my lovers at one point.
Shut up. It was a long time ago, before I met you even. Anyway, I met this guy Bill Morrison, he was a director and he could see that I was sort of stuck in a weird place and he encouraged me to try directing. And I saw Moka and decided he would be the perfect candidate.
Exactly. And that’s how it goes. I was really shy, I walked up to Moka at 7 Alexander. You know where I’ve taken you a million times.
Little hip-hop spot there.
I was like, yo you want to make a video, and he was like O.K. I paid for half of it and Shane (Madchild) paid for half of it. I thought it was actually very nice, I was a complete stranger, I nothing to show in terms of work I had done and Shane handed $2500.00 right on the scene. I thought that was dope.
That being the very first you did a video, they (Battle Axe) had been around, but they definitely still on the underground-ish tip.
Yeah, this was all new. We look at the video now and we’re like, ‘ha ha’ funny. Even though it wasn’t that long ago but at the time we thought it was really cool. I even remember Madchild sitting down saying, ‘we might want to make a video at some point.
Talking about Swollen?
The funny thing too, they actually even pitched me this idea they had where they wanted to do a video in a Karaoke bar with all these other people singing their songs and shit. Totally different shit than what they’re doing right now, with their heads floating, weird shit. It would have been dope! But we applied for a video fact and didn’t get it.
So then the Moka Only video, somewhat seemed to propel you into another video with him. Right?
No. What happened was that I applied for a VideoFact with Moka but I didn’t think we were going to get it. So I decided to just go ahead with my plans to shot a DV video, and Bill shot it for me. And that’s really fucking sweet when I think in retrospect now. Because now I’m totally up for jobs that he was also up for, so he pretty much created competition for himself. He’s kinda tired ofthe video scene now. He made time to shot this video, in like a whole weekend, for this person he didn’t even know. This was before we were, more than friends, you know?
So we went with the plans to shoot the DV video and then we got the VideoFact which was fucking crazy, I couldn’t believe it. Because most people try so many times and never get it. So I did the DV one first and the other one a couple months later.
When did you do the Riff Randels one?
I did it after the 2nd Moka video, it was the 3rd video I’d done. I cut that one by myself.
The first one you ever cut?
The only one I ever cut.
You cut the Lexicon (“Nikehead”) video, silly.
True, true. No, I mean of my own.
The Riff Randels was also a VideoFact right?
Naw, it cost like $200.
Did you just approach them the same way you approached Moka?
Yeah, I just wanted a punk band.
You just signed a contract right?
With a production company? No. Actually, I’ve had a really hard time doing that. I came to Toronto, all excited to sign to a company, but I’m just not finding it all that cool. It’s a lot of bullshit you know? They just don’t know how to stretch money. I’m working with a company called Oz but I don’t have any plans on signing a contract with them. Till I feel they can really step to the plate.
Can you do that?
Not sign? It’s my choice. Imagine if a big, wicked company in the states wanted to sign me, I’d be into that. I might sign eventually and they’ve tried to get to sign twice .
But you’re doing videos for them right?
Yeah, I am. But I’m just not contractually obliged to them yet.
Would you say that that’s similar to the record industry?
It’s different though, like, you want to get signed and a record company won’t put out you’re album until you’re signed. Whereas in my case, I’m bringing them work, whether I’m signed or not. Until I start to suck and they’re like ‘yo, get out of here.’ In the meantime, I have the upper hand.
But if you were to sign to them, then you’d be excusively bound to them for everything you do.
Yeah, and it would mean that, if I decided I didn’t want to work with them I’d have to give them two months notice and all that bullshit.
It’s kinda like Moka and Swollen with Network (their management’s company).
Moka and those guys are all on their own label, but Network is just their management company.
But they still dictate their releases right?
I don’t think so. Maybe for Moka and Swollen but I don’t think for others that are just on Battle Axe like Mr. Brady and the rest. They do dictate to a certain degree, but from what I see at Battle Axe, it’s Madchild making the call. He’s not letting anyone tell them what to do. I’m proud of those guys.
Yeah. Talk about your relationship with Battle Axe and how it’s grown and developed.
It’s good. At first, it was a bit hard. I did the 2 Moka videos that were good, but not that great. There was this other guy, Trevor Cornish, and oddly enough we used to work together, right around the time Swollen was blowing up, he approached them at the same time. They then decided to go with him and was actually pretty hurt. But Mad was like, ‘he’ll make a video and you’ll make a video and (we’ll see) which one’s better’ type of thing. They made “Lady Venom”, which was good I guess. It did really well for them. I actually want to apply with the song “Deep End”, after “Lady Venom”, they gave the song to Trevor.
Did they do a video for that?
No they didn’t. I really wanted to do Deep End, but then they gave it to him, but ended up never getting the money for it. Then I just applied again with them for the song “Take It Back” and we got that, and to this day, that is one of the best videos I’ve ever made.
Would you say that’s your favorite video you’ve ever done?
Kinda! Just because it was like the first really good video I ever did, we made it for no money and so many people came through and just helped out and it turned out so good. And that’s the video that got people in Toronto noticing me and it got lots of airplay, it sort of got my career going, ya know?
Now you made one video with an American artist, talk about that experience?
Yeah, that was dope! Well I met this cat named Peter and I think I wooed him over the phone or something, ha ha!
How did you meet him?
What were the circumstances?
They were interesting! We just started talking and he was also interested in videos. He was saying that he might be able to hook up a video with a group called The Jigmastas on a song with Sadat X, and that was really exciting to me because I was I already a fan of The Jigmastas. It worked out and then we went down to the New York and shot this video totally on the fly and it worked out really well, we had a really good time.
Would you say that it was a success over all?
Totally, for sure.
Are you proud of that video?
Now, why would you say a video like that can’t get played on television?
Well, it can get played in Canada, I’m actually about to put it in (submit it to Much Music), I don’t know why its took so long!
I think it will play in Canada. The States don’t really, besides cable shows like The Hip-Hop Show (thehiphopshow.com) just doesn’t really have much support for low budget videos. Like MTV doesn’t play them and BET doesn’t really play them.
Although, if this was 8 years ago, I think that video would be I heavy rotation.
You think? What do you think changed?
I think the whole entertainment industry changed and with people like Lil’ X and Hype Williams indulged themselves in this visual overload to the point that they just pushed the bar so far that traditionally set music videos we longer deemed acceptable by the mass. Which is truly unfortunate because there are so many music videos that are so much, to say they’re better might be wrong, but that are grossly overlooked for really no apparent reason except for the fact that they don’t look like a Britany Spears video.
But now it’s like you’ve come full circle and you’re making Britany Spears type-videos.
No dude! The truth is I want to make more videos like The Jigmastas video, I just need more support, I just need the OK from the actual artists that that’s what they want. As opposed to the Britany Spears shit. But at the same time, I don’t mind a certain amount of gloss, you know? I’m not against it at all, I think it has its time and its place.
For the second Swollen Members video (“Fuel Injected”) it was quite glossy in itself, probably very glossy I would say. Granted, the first Swollen video (first directed by Morgan, “Take It Back”) had its moments of gloss, although it was pretty rugged in itself, how do you think that change of style (from rugged to glossy) has changed the artists themselves as well as your sensibilities as a music video director?
Yeah. Well, it depends. That video (“Fuel Injected”), I visually based it on old-school portrait paintings of kings and shit like that, with their dog at their side. It just worked out.
Obviously, that type of visualization of Swollen Members, who’ve always been known as standard underground hip-hop cats (that’s not a bad thing), that kind of video turned them into super-human superstars before our eyes. What are the repercussions of that, whether good or bad?
Well, for them. They were really excited about. They fucking love that video. It’s the only video I’ve done for them and they loved it from the start. The funny thing with the Swollen Members, a lot of this showy shit. It’s weird. Madchild has this weird, trucker, glam-thing about him and when you get to know him, that video is actually a pretty OK representation of them, because that’s kind of how they see themselves. Not to say they’ve got big heads but that’s sort of their ideal image of themselves. They don’t care to be pandered to the hip-hop, ‘gotta stay underground’ shit, they don’t give a shit about that.
Wasn’t that video like No. 1 for like Seven months or something?
No! It was No. 1 for like 2 weeks.
How did that feel?
It felt good!
Did you feel like, Queen?
No. Honestly, I think a lot of number One shit is very political. I think that Much Music decided that, now Swollen Members have put out this glossy video and we’re going to support them. There’s a lot of that shit going on.
Explain the latest Swollen Members video to me.
Essentially, Madchild said that he wanted fire. So there’s a lot of fire. He also said that he wanted Bikers, so there’s a lot of Bikers. Originally, I wanted to shoot it in a car scrap metal yard but in the end we shot it in this metal refinery. It’s just a very visual, it’s not my favorite video at all. It’s a new song. They’re re-releasing the album (Bad Dreams) with a new songs, it’s called “Bring It Home”, featuring Moka Only!
That’s incredible Wendy.
I feel like this is boring.
No! There is a wealth of information here.
Ok, so now I’m going to ask your choose between artists. Ok? So MF DOOM or DJ Spinna?
That’s hard! To be honest, artistically, MF Doom. But because I know Spinna and he’s like a teddy bear, so like one to one on a personal level, maybe DJ Spinna. But on a musical level maybe MF doom.
Iight. Sadat X or Grand Puba?
Moka Only or Swollen Members?
That’s rough. You can’t do that!
Mr. Brady or Buc Fifty?
Female Fun or Battle Axe?
You can’t do that either!
Female Fun or Def Jam?
Female Fun. Gimme some good ones!
You interview me and see how it feels! Interview me for a little bit that way I can re-generate questions back to you.
Brown or Green?
Leather or Suede?
Leather jacket, suede shoes.
Girls or Boys?
Blow job or Sex?