BY JORDAN MAINZER
A true Renaissance man, music video director Hiro Murai has worked with the likes of St. Vincent, Earl Sweatshirt, and David Guetta (yes, David Guetta, making his FP debut). I recently spoke with Murai over the phone about his creative process, his inspirations, and why he has a case of musician envy. (This interview originally appeared on my art and design blog, DRA.)
Frontier Psychiatrist: Describe your process. To what extent does the artist collaborate with you or have a vision for the video?
Hiro Murai: It’s piece by piece. Some artists are more vocal than others. Most of the time, they’re wide open. They’ll give me a budget and a range of shooting dates based on availability. They might give me very abstract tones or Tumblrs with random photos to clue me in on what they are currently into. Also, the label will have specific requirements about performance. For me, it’s a pretty straightforward process, besides listening to the song like 4,000 times [laughs]. Sometimes, it’s more narrative-based, so a story will pop up first. Sometimes, it’s more visual and tonal, with a bunch of disparate images that come to me and I have to try to figure out how to not make it seem random.
FP: You’ve worked with a wide range of artists–in terms of popularity, too–from David Guetta to Annie Clark. Did you notice any sort of difference in process correlated with popularity?
HM: I don’t own a David Guetta record, but I definitely own a St. Vincent record. The music that I enjoy listening to tends to yield more personal videos. But the process is the same for me. I just try to make the best video I can. The only difference might be how much the label is part of the process. And the budget. The smaller the budget, the less responsibility for us to cater to the label.
FP: Let’s talk about the video for “Cheerleader” [by St. Vincent]. I first came across your work when reading your interview with Pitchfork. We were struck by how you took influence from sculptor Ron Mueck. Is that the only video you’ve done where a single artist has influenced both the aesthetic elements and the narrative?
HM: Yeah, it is. In general, all ideas have to come from somewhere. Sometimes, it’s an image that has stuck in my head, one from a film, paintings, or graphic design.
FP: In general, what aspects of the song inform the video’s visuals?
FP: In the David Guetta video [for “She Wolf”], you actually coordinated the shaking of the camera with the sound waves. That’s really visceral compared to lyrics or mood, which can be abstract.
HM: The David Guetta song was very bizarre to me. It was pseudo-operatic vocals combined with large-sounding chord sections. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I naturally built a video around the difference of those two sounds. The chorus contrasts the natural environment of the chord sections.
HM: I’m just finishing Haruki Mirakami’s Kafka On The Shore. I don’t know why I’m so drawn to the book, but a lot of its surreal animal imagery has made it into my videos. I’m mostly watching a lot of Oscar movies right now [laughs].
FP: How has your passion for music played into your work over the course of your life?