Video Chats: Daniel Garcia on 'Reagan' by Killer Mike
Posted by Doug Klinger on March 22, 2013 in Interviews
If you like your music political, you might want to check out Killer Mike's track "Reagan," off his 2012 album R.A.P. Music. If you like your music videos political (and by political we mean Ronald Reagan's naked body, suspending in a fluid tube that is part of a robotic killing machine), then you might also want to check out the video for the song. Reagan by Killer Mike, directed by Daniel Garcia and Harry Teitelman, is an animated music video that meets its accompanying track beat for beat with surreal political visuals. We talked to Daniel about making a political video, his collaboration with co-director Harry Teitelman, and ketchup references.
Doug: How did you get involved with this project?
Daniel: "Reagan" was commissioned through Williams Street Records, which put out the new Killer Mike album. Basically, theyre a new record label and theyre the music component to Adult Swim. Theyre doing a lot of interesting projects. I got a call there from a friend. There was an unofficial "Reagan" video out getting a bunch of hits and they wanted to do an official the video, so thats where the project commission came from.
Doug: Obviously being from Williams Street, was part of the brief that came along with it that it was going to be animated video?
Daniel: No. They said, well, you know we have this deadline. You could do something thats animated or you could do something live-action. Personally I like to shoot live-action videos a lot more than holing up and animating, but I love the track, I mean its really powerful. The whole album really hits you hard right from the get-go. I hadnt heard anything like that in hip-hop since the 90s. Because of the content of the track what were we going to do live-action? Have a bunch of people running around in Reagan masks? We wanted to do something that would complement the track but not beat the message into people. It would just be too much because its a pretty heavy track so we decided to do something that was animated and that had a little bit humor in it and some secondary meanings.
Doug: So when you say we," thats you and Harry, right? You werent working directly with Killer Mike on any of this, were you?
Daniel: No. It was just Harry and myself. Basically, I was the director/producer on it and Harry was the director/animator. Ive got 10 years on Harry, so I lived through the Reagan era and so I brought in some references like, "Oh, we got to get ketchup in there." His animation style is amazing, and he put a lot of blood and sweat into it. He has a very distinct animation style, which you can see in the video.
Doug: What is your role that as director, since hes also a director and hes actually animating the video. Are you like over his shoulder or is it more of a notes thing?
Daniel: No, I dont do the over the shoulder thing. Basically we come up with a storyline together. We go back and forth. He takes it away for a little while and then I get it back and I say, "we should try this, or this maybe doesnt work," that kind of thing. Its collaborative. He did the animation and then I got it back for the final composite.
Doug: If there wasnt much collaboration with Killer Mike at all, was there much direction at all for you guys? Or did you have pretty much creative freedom with what you wanted to do?
Daniel: We had pretty much full creative freedom. Usually the label comes to us, we give them a concept, the concept gets approved, we go away, we make it, and then we show it back to them and then its either "OK" or "No, it sucks, do it over."
Doug: What about the kind of subject matter of the song? Do you as a director, since its under your name, are you concerned it may represent what your feelings may be or is that something youre not concerned with?
Daniel: Its not. Its under my name but for a lot of music videos the director is secondary. It all goes under the artist, it's basically what the artist thinks. You just have to be attached to it. Quite frankly I really dont care anyway. You know, I like what he said. I agree with it. Thats why I really wanted to do this.
Doug: Yeah, Im sure if you were like a dyed-in-the-wool Republican you probably would have turned down the project.
Daniel: He just basically blasts everyone. It doesnt matter. That's why I think the track has gained as much traction as it has, because of the gridlock in Washington. No ones happy with the political situation in this country right now and this track has real hit a nerve.
Doug: I wondered if we could move a little bit to SXSW a little bit. What does this mean to you to have a video screen there?
Daniel: You know, I didnt really think of it. Im very happy that they chose it and very thankful to Claudette and the whole judging panel. It was great to sit with other directors, to meet other directors. Personally, as soon as I finish a project I never think about it again, so its cool that I had this opportunity to go down there - but if it was or wasnt, it wouldnt really affect what Im doing in the future.
Doug: Do you feel like seeing the video on a big screen added to it at all?
Daniel: Yeah, you cant fast forward through it. You cant get distracted, so definitely. You see it as a whole body of work from the beginning to the end.
Doug: Going back a bit, you mentioned that the song and video have struck a nerve, have you kept track of any of the responses to the video or anything? You mention moving on pretty quickly to the next project.
Daniel: Right, like I said, once its out in the world I kind of forget about it. I know in the beginning when it first started getting attention, because we released it like a week before the election or the primaries, something like that. It was right at a point when the whole election was at a fever pitch, so I did look at the comments going up on YouTube which is great because you see the tide go both ways. Since then, I havent really looked at it. It was fun to see how people reacted.
daniel garcia, killer mike, reagan, sxsw, 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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