A conversation with Malcolm Garrett and Garry Mouat, designers of the iconic colour bar and artwork.
Thu, 29 May 14
Blood of Eden is the most powerful love song on US. In the song Peter Gabriel uses biblical imagery to evoke the time when man and woman were together in one body and the desire in all of us for that ancient reunion. The themes of the relationship between men and women and and between us and the cosmos —the “cosmic egg”— were the basis of the piece created for ‘Blood of Eden’ by sculptor Zadok Ben-David. And the voice and presence of Sinéad O’Connor provides a pure emotional backdrop for the music.
All of these elements were deftly brought together by directors Nichola Bruce and Mike Coulson, for the ‘Blood of Eden’ video. The result is a remarkably sensitive film that slowly reveals the primitive instinct and emotional depth of the song. Nichola and Mike talked to us about the making of ‘Blood of Eden’:
“The first thing about the video is that it’s very long— nearly seven minutes, so it’s roughly twice the length of the average promo video. For the most part, it is being screened in full, but that was a bit of a problem in the States. Peter believes that you should always try to stretch people, that you shouldn’t just fill a slot. The song has its own integrity and so to tell the story it had to be that length. He considers the commercial aspects but he doesn’t allow that to direct the creation of a piece of work. So it was very interesting working on the video with Peter and with Zadok. We spent a great deal of pre-production time brain-storming ideas and talking about visual concepts —Peter always has a lot of visual ideas he wants to try— he is very fertile in that area.”
“Originally, it was hoped that all of the video directors would work together with the artists that created the artworks for each song— but that wasn’t possible with ‘Digging in the Dirt’ and ‘Steam’ because each director had their own personal vision for the song. For ‘Blood of Eden’ we tried to get back to the inspiration of Zadok Ben-David’s piece. Zadok is a great sculptor, he is a magician and he worked closely with us all the way through.”
“On set, Zadok suggested and guided ideas —film was a new medium to him— and he physically helped us by sawing and making things, he gave us his talent whole-heartedly. The entire set and the way we created ‘Eden’ in the film was based on his sculptures— the desert is where he was born. Zadok’s vision was a separate universe made up of men and women all linked together in the cosmic egg. The blue figure in the centre is the creator, the one who will shape the destiny of the figures whirling around him. Peter has a real affinity with blue so we tied the creator-figure in with Peter and the film ends on Zadok’s Blood of Eden image with Peter in the centre. And so the film became a pop promo, a theatrical production, and a way of bringing dreams onto film.”
“We also had the input of theatre director Robert Lepage, who spent a lot of time talking to us about how to create atmospheres in a very simple but powerful way. We chose to create an abstract emotional landscape using elements like the tree made out of logs and the models of people and animals, which we combined with real people so that the whole thing came to life. Cost was a major consideration— this wasn’t a major budget production. That meant that we had a lot of movie to make on a relatively small budget. So we used Real World to provide the locale— we used a lot of local talent and people that we had worked with on our independent productions— Annie Symons who did costumes and Lynne Whiteread who art directed the film, Alan Snow who did all the background animation. The sets were put together and we shot the film in the nissen hut on the Real World site.”
“You can make promo videos without tons of money if you’ve got good, strong simple ideas. The video for ‘Steam’ hits you right between the eyes, it’s like being on drugs; ‘Blood of Eden’ takes longer to have an effect. The most difficult thing that we are dealing with in the film is emotion— it’s a really powerful love song with two very powerful personalities, each trying to convey something that is special to both of them.”
“Everybody was kind of tense because we weren’t sure that Sinéad was definitely going to be able to take part in the video— it was extremely difficult to tie her schedule up with Peter’s. When she arrived we found out that she had been working all night, but when she came on set and started working with Peter there was a sort of electricity between them and there was something happening that we had hoped for but didn’t know if it was going to work or not.”
“Sinéad was uncomplicated and co-operative to work with, she wanted direction and she wanted to understand what we were asking her to do— she dealt with the problems intelligently, and I think that her contribution was a big success. She gave us a great interpretation of the Adam and Eve myth, which is a very powerful traditional story describing the fall of woman— I think that you need someone strong and honest to sort of parody the myth and she was able to do that.”
“We were always trying in the film to convey the ideas in the song with emotional images. We used drawings all the way through the film to help crystalise and define our thoughts and ideas. Prior to this we’d been doing some work on the theme of annunciation— the flowering of Joseph’s rod, beams of light penetrating walls, Mary holding a book during the visit of the angel, and the image of the dove, so it all fell perfectly into place. Some of our favourite images in the film are those of transformation: the morphing sequence between Peter and Sinéad’s faces, the lovers revolving in space, the scene where they are building the house out of sticks in the sand, and the book thrown into the air turning into a dove. Vision is the first function of the mind. So to draw these ideas, and then be able to see them turn into reality was wonderful.”
Peter Gabriel - US
US, which was released six years after the phenomenally successful So, was, at that time, arguably Peter’s most personal record yet as he stepped into the confessional to explore and dissect many of the relationship issues he was then experiencing. But US is far from just being bleakly introspective featuring several songs that have gone on to be amongst the most cherished in the Gabriel songbook. Read more about the album on Peter’s official website.
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