We caught up with Weirdcore, who made those Aphex Twin face-mapping visuals at the LED festival in London. He's kindly provided us with an exclusive cut of the visuals from that set, including the face-mapping and Die Antwoord performing dressed in Pokémon suits, so check it out above. He's been working with Aphex Twin for the last two years, providing messed-up tour visuals that push the boundaries of taste and decency. He's also provided tour visuals and graphics for Simian Mobile Disco, Annie Mac, M.I.A., Cassette Playa, TV On the Radio, and directed videos for the Horrors and Agaskodo Teliverek. But, whatever you do, don't call him a VJ.
The Creators Project: How would you describe what you do, are you a visual artist? You do tour visuals as well as direct videos.
Weirdcore: I wouldn't call myself a visual artist. I'd say I'm an arty designer, that's the best way to describe myself. I don't do that much any more but I used to do commercial stuff as well. I've done a lot of stuff for Pokémon, movie titles and all that. It strangely fits with my style. It's bold, in-your-face colours. A few days of that allows me to work in the music industry. The music industry doesn't pay that much compared to the hours I put in, but it's more rewarding and you can be more experimental.
At the recent LED Festival, you projected Richard D. James's crazed face onto the crowd in real time. How'd you do that?
We used something that detects faces in the crowd. Wherever it detected a face, we’d just slam those faces with Richards. It fits in with the Aphex Twin videos, like the “Windowlicker” one where his face was pasted on the girls in bikinis, and “Come to Daddy” where his face was on the little girls, and the same with “Donkey Rhubarb”, but that time it was big furry teddy bears. So it works with the whole Richard James ethos. I've provided his tour visuals this year and last year. We work together on coming up with ideas, we've got similar tastes. He understands my more out-there ideas.
You’ve worked with a few of our creators, like Mira Calix and Joshua Third's band the Horrors. How did that come about?
That was through their record label. I've worked with M.I.A. who's on the same label. And a lot of the stuff I've done for M.I.A. was directed by Cassette Playa. They're good friends, they went to college together. But for the Horrors, they knew I'd worked with Aphex Twin and they're fans of his, especially Joshua. The whole thing was made in less than a week for a single off their second album "Mirror Image" (above). The main brief for that was they were big fans of The Future Sound of London's "Papua New Guinea" music video, so I did my own version of that. I like getting a direction like that, so I can riff on it. Helps me explore my own artistic capabilities. And Mira Calix I’ve worked on some visuals for some events she used to put on. And I actually did her website, a long time ago. I’m not sure if it’s changed or not. I used to do a lot of web design, but I haven't done any in years.
Is that how you started out?
No, I started in graphic design in college, then a friend of mine who worked for a 3D computer company got me involved in working with 3D Studio Max even before it was actually called that, this was back in 1996/7. So I started doing 3D graphics and then print/marketing stuff. Then I moved to London and was doing layout using Quark, and then web design using Flash, then I worked on DVD menus when I was doing post-production design. Then, using the skills I'd learned, I gradually moved into what I'm doing now.
What hardware and software do you use?
I use MaxMsp/Jitter, which is visual programming software used a lot for art installations. It basically gives you a blank canvas and you build your own modules. For the live visuals I collaborate with another guy who teaches it at university, so he's pretty hardcore. But I also use another thing called Quartz Composer, it comes free with a Mac, I use it to do interactive visuals. Other stuff I use includes: analogue equipment to create white noise and play with the interference, like on TV On the Radio and Mr Hudson which was a kind of analogue vs. digital thing. A lot of my visuals used to be a visual representation of noise. Most of my friends are musicians, so I found how I made my visuals is much more like how they make sounds. I'd jam with them, they'd make noise, some kind of racket, and I'd visualise that.
Your style is quite bold and colourful. it has similarities to both M.I.A. and Cassette Playa, both of whom you've worked with. How would you describe your aesthetic?
When it comes to M.I.A. and Cassette Playa a lot of people say they can see how my style fits in with theirs but I think we've come from different directions. Especially with M.I.A., her general influences are different to mine. She doesn't like anything too regimented, she doesn't like spirals, whereas I like structure. I like noise but structure as well. I like 60s psychedelia and Op Art, which, along with M.C. Escher, is my main influence. My favourite artist is Victor Vasarely, you can see his influence in the visuals I made for Simian Mobile Disco (above). I get influenced by print works and make an animated version of them. I don't tend to get directly influenced by things within the same genre as me, other VJs. I get more influenced by paintings, architecture. If I do like a visual artist, I like to find out what influenced them.
Is there anyone at the moment who you like, any contemporary artist or director?
I really like the videos of Eric Wareheim, he's an American comedian who's directed videos for Major Lazer, MGMT, and Depeche Mode. I really like his stuff, surreal, tongue-in-cheek. It looks kind of wrong, in the sense that there's something upsetting about it, distorted, he nails it very well. I used to really like Semiconductor as well, they do architectural stuff like warped visuals, they're very good.
What have you got in the pipeline at the moment?
More Aphex Twin, next stop is Ibiza. Should be good fun. With Aphex it's a different sort of thing altogether. I can pretty much do whatever I want, really push the boundaries of taste. Richard can play an unconventional, challenging set. So I thought, well I can do the same. I can play the most full on verging-on-the-offensive material. For instance last year—because with Aphex you never know what he's going to play and everything is done live—it started mellow and ended up hectic. But the ending would always end up really frantic so for that I'd start off with some of his more grotesque faces and move into images from abattoirs, embalmings from the ghettos in Columbia, then more gruesome stuff flashing up on screen. I find if you strobe really offensive images it balances it out, it kind of mutes the effect somehow. So if you juxtapose two gruesome images, strobing them together softens the blow. And then from that I’d go into even more disgusting stuff, like people’s bodily functions. And I'd datamosh the images, I find datamoshed vomit works really well, better than bodies which is what people typically datamosh for tour visuals. And people will look and it causes them to double-take, because it’s so quick.
Yeah, I couldn't get away with that with any other artist. But that was last year. Datamoshed vomit is so last year (laughs). This year Richard decided we're just filming crowds and mashing it up. And it's the first time I've seen a crowd cheer visuals. A lot of the stuff we do is sound reactive and we don't know what he's going to play so it can be a challenge. We're reacting to him. Because it's all live, we don't use video at all. So we just have a picture, and from one still we make all these sparks. I control all this custom software, which I've made with these midi controllers. We have an image bank, but what you see is completely different. Maybe we’ll just use a few lines from one image mixed up with other crazy stuff to create something weird.
So who else are you going to be working with?
Coming up I'll be working with Oneohtrix Point Never, I'll be doing the visuals for his next tour. Maybe some projection mapping for the Vortex, something like a horror film, like projecting bodies behind glass. And I'll be directing a video for Does It Offend You, Yeah?. I can’t say much about that other than I’m going to make sure it lives up to the band's name.