Video Chats: Chris Marrs Piliero on “The Baddest Man Alive” by The Black Keys and RZA

Posted by Doug Klinger on November 6, 2012 in Interviews

Staff Post

Chris Marrs Piliero

RZA’s directorial film debut “The Man with the Iron Fist” is almost guaranteed to be awesome. It features martial arts, is co-written by Eli Roth, and stars Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, and RZA himself. The soundtrack seems just as awesome, with tracks from Wu-Tang ClanKanye West, and Pusha T. When RZA wanted a video made for the lead single off the soundtrack, a song that he made with The Black Keys called “The Baddest Man Alive,” he turned to Chris Marrs Piliero to direct it. We talked to Chris about working with RZA, directing a music video that promotes a film, and fish slappin’.

Doug: This song is off of the soundtrack for "Man With the Iron Fists," which RZA wrote, directed, and starred in, and this music video is a major promotional piece for the film. How did you get initially involved with the project?

Chris: The soundtrack for the film is actually being released through Soul Temple Records, which is RZA’s record label. It wasn’t done through one of the major labels, it really was just him and the people who work for his label. So I got hit up.

Doug: Was RZA especially involved with the music video process, more than any other artist would be involved in their video?

Chris: He was definitely involved, but he wasn’t overly involved. Even given the fact that he is a super cool director now himself. He definitely knew what he was talking about on set but let me do my thing.

Doug: You guys weren’t trying to match the film stylistically or anything like that?

Chris: No, not at all. The movie has a lot of very cool martial arts in it, so when we discussed the idea for the video on the phone, one of his objectives was to specifically not attempt that. The movie itself is very well choreographed, but with the video he wanted it to be a lot more loose and fun, and not try to compare itself to what the film offers. 

Doug: I saw a tweet from RZA where he really seems to embrace the humor in this video. Was it the plan all along to make this a funny, over the top style of video?

Chris: Yeah. He definitely wanted it to be comedic, so we had fun with it. Dan and Patrick are also great with humor, so it was good times. 

RZA Tweet

Doug: Were there any particular references points that you guys were trying to hit when conceptualizing this video? 

Chris: I would say it was more just going nuts and having fun with it, there were not particular references for anything. I wanted a very unnecessary ripping off a dudes arm off. And you'll see in the video that a dude definitely gets his arm ripped off and it is indeed very unnecessary. RZA said he wanted to slap one of the guys with a fish… and a fish awaited him on set to slap the fuck out of Dan with.

Doug: Often times when a song is part of a soundtrack, the video will use clips from the movie, which this one does as well. Do you find that something like that is exclusively used to help promote the movie, or can that be used to set some sort of mood or accomplish something stylistically? 

Chris: This video has very little of that. We did it just enough to clue you in that it’s for the movie's soundtrack without having it be overbearing. That TV set is actually in that restaurant, so it’s not ridiculous to be having a TV playing in the background. The consensus was to keep it natural. If a shot had the TV set in the background then we'd see some movie footage on the screen. I think I threw in two isolated shots of the TV, but other than that we didn’t want to just be cutting to random footage. Especially since we were doing a narrative. When you’ve got a performance-based video to promote a movie, it’s easy-peasy to just cut from the performance to movie footage. But with our video, it would have been strange to cut from our narrative to the movie's narrative. And in the end, everyone was on the same page to just keep it minimal. 

Doug: You’ve done other big, cinematic style videos with The Black Keys, and RZA has a history of acting in major roles, even before making "Man With the Iron Fists.” Are you able to open up your videos to some bigger ideas when you know you have some more seasoned on screen performers? 

Chris: Since I’ve worked with The Keys in the past, I know what they’re comfortable with and I know what I can get out of them. As far as RZA goes, he’s actually never done any videos that have really shown this side of his personality so it was rad to have him goofing around on camera and having fun. For me, if an artist is eager and open to doing something, I know we can get where we need to go. It's all about the vibe and the energy. He was down for it all, though, so he made my job easy. But at the end of the day, it was the RZA we're talking about here. If he didn't wanna do something, I wouldn't have forced it cuz Wu Tang Clan ain't nothin ta fuck wit… 

chris marrs piliero, rza, the baddest man alive, the black keys, video chats

Doug Klinger is the co-founder/content director of IMVDb and watches more music videos than anyone on earth. You can find him on twitter at @doug_klinger.

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