SMASH TV : EDITING THE CULTURAL APOCALYPSE
Music TV is dead. Bored of being a cultural innovator, the iconic leader of the genre now exclusively produces exploitative social porn. In this time of television trash and chin-low brows we can barely begin to give to a shit because we have the Internet. Deep in this virtual universe, everything that has past is present and the present produces more content than our faces can keep up with. Smash TV is a music television station for this age of everything. Using their sharp editing skills and the depths of the Internet, these guys bring an audio/visual mash up to melt your silly nostalgic head.
Smash TV’s breakthrough project, Skinemax (above) is a bombardment of clips from your favourite cult movies of the 80s and 90s, cut to some deep electronica. Their latest project, Memorex (below), takes the same formula but throws in a world of advertisements. This time Ronald McDonald is taking over the starring role from Kurt Russell and creeping us out like a finger-friendly uncle. Skinemax begins with a mash up of the Adams Family, Demolition Man and Transformers, if you need a taste of the Smash credentials. Brain-washed and bewildered by their content we got hold of Smash TV’s Brendan, a DJ and VJ from Brooklyn, to ask him how the new project came about.
‘I was listening to a lot of really warped sounding stuff in 2011 as I was working on Skinemax, stuff that sounded like an old tape that had been lost for years. I’ve always been a big fan of Boards Of Canada's aesthetic and I got into a lot of newer stuff on the Olde English Spelling Bee and Not Not Fun labels.’
‘We were also getting really fascinated with these old VHS clips we were posting on the blog in its early days. And then we found this vast treasure trove of VHS commercials on YouTube, the 80s Commercial Vault. So eventually this got narrowed down to this bizarre washed out sound combined with 80s VHS commercials.’
‘It's very nostalgic, harking back to a time when life seemed a lot simpler and happier. When you could turn on the TV and just be floored by something, there was kind of a sense of wonder about it. Looking dack, it's all bright colors and excess, but it's linked to a lot of happy childhood memories.’
Memorex’s focus on adverts provokes nostalgia but also rekindles forgotten desires. These ads are a sequence of wants, a wishlist from another time. It’s hard not to want all of the things on show, other than the plastic-looking fast food. There’s so much whacky creativity we get excited by the products as well as the entertainment.
‘I remember almost all of the toy commercials as I wanted everything sooo bad as a little kid.’
The soundtrack on Memorex, however, gives a sinister edge to the glossy packaged culture though most of the association is positive, as these early cultural experiences filled us with a sense of adventure. Adverts were fun and TV shows were filled with ridiculous, heroic narratives. Memorex shows us the things we missed, as well the things we remember. Post-viewing you’ll be Googling all kinds of weirdness and probably find yourself watching Mr.T’s animated series where he hangs out with gymnasts. Brendan has other favourites.
‘I was a huge He-Man fan as a kid. Ghostbusters and Ninja Turtles were also a big part of my childhood obviously.’
In this time of meerkats, GoCompare noise and relentless incitement to gamble, it’s hard to imagine anyone having a favourite ad these days yet everyone has a great memory from telly past. Brendan couldn’t put his finger on the best he’s seen.
‘Not sure if I have an all time favourite ad, but the Claymation "After These Messages" bumpers for ABC really take me back. Some of the reaction shots are really hilarious too, although I couldn't tell you what commercials most of them come from any more.’
The reaction shots in the food section of Memorex are truly brilliant. Bulging eyes and painted smiles welcome cold plastic food, but the thing is so colourful you almost want it anyway. I especially wanted the Mr. T cereal that popped up, despite knowing novelty cereals are usually horrible (I had a bad childhood experience with some Dennis The Menace Strawberry Jam flavoured corn shitballs). Brendan told us about the reactions he gets to the nostalgic bombardment.
‘I think it depends on the person. For some people, this is good for a laugh, they are in it for the silly stuff and that's totally great. But I think it connects with select people on a much deeper level, they are in for the whole rollercoaster ride of emotions that comes with reliving your childhood at lightning speed. So I'm just happy if it elicits a response at all. It has been really great hearing from people who were somehow touched by Memorex in a meaningful way.’
It’ll have you feeling dazed, but also shouting at your screen.
‘I HAVE to see that!’
‘Where do they find this shit?’
And where do they find this shit?
‘We plundered YouTube for this one; we would like to give full credit to the 80s Commercial Vault and Vintage CG YouTube channels for doing a wonderful job archiving our childhood.’
‘I think the 80s ads are so special to me because they are so vague and fuzzy in my mind, stirring up a lot of awesome memories of the wonder of being a kid in a special time. The 90s I remember pretty well, and both the ads and my attitude seemed to grow more cynical. There's certainly some hilarious stuff in that era, but I associate it more with awkward middle school and teenage years.’
The end product is something that is both celebratory and slightly melancholic. Strange glimpses into the idyllic, synthetic worlds in which adverts exist; a parallel universe of beautiful smiles untouched by destructive soft drinks. The affect of these images is bewildering and hypnotic, like being furiously stoned and unable to cope with competing thoughts. One digression feeds into the next and you quickly forget what you were previously thinking about. Tom Selleck. Roxanne. Roseanne. Ronald the paedo-burger-clown. Jeff Goldblum.
As the digressions power on, Brendan’s beats carry the pictures, making annoying adverts worth listening to.
‘It's pleasing to our brains when something lines up nicely, a well synced A/V piece is really going to resonate with a lot more people than the audio alone.’
The marriage of a twisted soundscape and visual insanity is hugely entertaining and rewarding. The tangential movement of both Memorex and Skinemax is like a dream; changes of direction and theme are exciting and unpredictable. Dancing, fighting, driving animal madness. What turn will this A/V madness take next?
‘Ben (the other half of Smash TV) is doing the video for our next project "Gunslinger" and it is a much different affair, set in the old west and featuring music themed around the whole gunslinger/anti-hero/western universe. Definitely an interesting challenge. I have several more audio only mixes in the works as Sparkle Motion, which I'm pretty excited about. Some cool themes I haven't really heard many tackle before.’
This sounds like the kind of thing that’ll be welcomed by all at Brain Wash. It’s admirable that people take the time to plunder the internet and vintage vaults to find footage to stitch together into a distracting tapestry of colour and sound. Maybe these guys aren’t just trying to entertain, maybe they’re like all other artists, just in it for the women and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.
‘Yes, we all know how much the ladies fawn over tight editing. In college I threw a TV off a three-story roof. It was every bit as awesome as that sounds.’
Smash TV by name, Smash TV by nature. We await the next project with open eyes.
Special thanks to Smash TV's Brendan for hanging out with us on the interweb.