If you’ve been paying attention to the musical ether in Brighton over the last year, you know his work. Chris Wade is the face, brains and biscuits behind Dogbrain Videos, a freelance film company that specialises in music videos. Twisted, deranged, whimsical and colourful, his disturbed visions have been put to film for the likes of GANG, FUOCO and Broken Hands. With many more projects in the pipeline, we met up in a pub in Hove to discuss the past, present and future of Dogbrain.
I guess a good place to start with the story of Dogbrain is to find out the whens and whys of how you first started making videos..
Well, it all kicked off when my dad got the classic V8 tape camera and it had a night vision setting on it. So I just used to wander around in the dark with night vision on, thinking that it was really sick. Me and my mates invented ‘Hide and Seek in the Dark’, where all my mates would come round, we’d turn the lights off and they’d hide… It was a bit of a stupid concept actually because I had the night vision camera, they would hide in the dark and I would really easily be able to just see them. It was fun because it was really scary for everyone else that was hiding. But the night vision was cheating, it made no sense! But that was pretty much the start, I remember me and my friend from school used to make films with toys. We did something called ‘Toy Town’ and it was really horrible. I had this Tony Hawk Pro Skater toy, I think it was Rodney Mullen, and he used to go around selling knives to Lara Croft and stuff like that.
It sounds like you’d use any kinds of special effects possible, whether it’d be toy puppets or night vision?
Yeah, like one of my earliest films ever; I used Tenchu Stealth Assassins, from the PlayStation 1, to make it. I wanted to create a ninja video in my garden so I set up my camera up on our wheelie bin so that the first shot would be a wide shot of me running along like a ninja [strikes Naruto-esque pose] and the camera cut to me aiming at the top of my house to fire a grappling hook which cut to a bit of Tenchu [in-game] that I filmed of a grappling hook securing onto the top of this Chinese house and then it cut back to me, like, zooming up to my roof. Once I got to the roof the dialogue was like: “Now I can free the Emperor’s daughter…” or something like that. But it was just fun using the PlayStation for special effects.
But yeah, those were the first short films I used to make and from then it was GCSE Media, A-Level Film and the studying Film at uni. Then whilst I was at uni I did nightclub videos, they became my Saturday nights out [laughs].
So you had to film all the punters?
Yeah, filming everyone getting trashed. Then I’d pick a Katy Perry song or something to put over the clips. But that was sort of like training for how to cut film to music, to the beat and stuff. So I guess in a way, they were my earliest music videos.
And how did that transform into filming bands?
Well, my mates at the time, who I’m still mainly friends with now, were all in bands. Like, me and the boys in Broken Hands all went to school together and they’d do a few nights in Canterbury and I’d always come along and film them and any other bands that were there. Then, towards the end of uni, I was taking on music video jobs. The weird thing was that most of them were pop artists from London so I have no idea how they found out about me. From there, I set up a business called FreeLens Music Videos. The problem was that where I was attracting these London bands I couldn’t really do anything creative with them as the genre was pop so all the videos had to play it safe.
They all wanted pretty clean cut stuff? See, what I find interesting about your work, in the same way that you have the juxtaposition of toys selling knives. There’s always a dark element to a Dogbrain video. That’s what I’m really enjoying about the bands that I’m working with at the moment. Because it’s all so low key and local, you can do whatever you want creatively. But that’s why I work on my own as well, because there’s nobody else to call the shots.
Nobody to be the censor?
Yeah, I like being able to work with people who are going to totally trust what I do. People used to come to me for really clean videos, and was like “I can do that, but why are you asking me? It’s not my thing.” So that was kind of the cause for me to reboot to Dogbrain Videos about a year ago. I wanted to have a brand, not just Chris Wade Videos. I didn’t want to sound clean and sharp like, I don’t know; ‘Cool Team Plus A11 Productions’.
That sounds like an Xbox Live tag.
So have the bands always come to you?
No, not at all. When I first started, it was me going to other people. I came to Brighton a couple of years ago, I moved here with GANG and we all lived in a house together. It was them trying to break into the music scene and me just trying to work with more creative people. And so creating the brand meant that contacting bands became a lot easier and I had more confidence working as a brand.
So yeah, I set up the page and got my mate Jordan Gray to do a logo. Do you know Jordan?
I’ve met him but I can’t say I know him personally, but I was going to ask about him because not only has he done your logo but I believe he did the cover artwork for GANG’s ‘Animalia’ as well?
Yeah, it’s like me, Jordan and GANG have all been a part of this little, artistic, Kentish collective. Which was why it was really easy for me to go to Jay [Jordan] and ask for a logo. Then using that to set up my site and using GANG as a catalyst to help more bands by making videos. I moved to Brighton to make a serious go of it, and now it’s been about a year and I’ve got a lot more attention than I started with. I’m mega busy at the moment, It’s why I was late to this interview. Soon I’ll be wearing an earpiece.
Looking like an estate agent?
I used to be an estate agent as well.
I was part-time videographer, part-time estate agent. It’s weird. I’ve definitely been on a journey.
Diverging slightly here, I wanted to ask you about the ‘Animalia’ video.
There’s a funny story behind the ‘Animalia’ video…
As far as I could find out, it was rumoured to be a video for Broken Hands?
It was about two or three years ago, and I filmed our mates running around. It was Jordan again and another friend called Casper, who stars in a lot of Broken Hands’ stuff. This was before Jordan had done ever done any of the artwork for GANG, it might’ve been the first time I met him. But we just went to the woods with a gun and it made it all up on the spot. It was for their track ‘Curves’ and the video did really well at the time but eventually got taken down after the initial EP release that ‘Curves’ got featured on.
It was always just so funny to see Casper running around naked on that film. So I hung onto it. But one day I decided to play ‘Animalia’ over it, not even cut it or anything, and it just worked really well. Everything was in time so I re-colour graded it and flipped the image. What’s funny is that it makes a bit more sense for GANG to have that video, since Jordan did the artwork for the sleeve and we’re all really good mates now, compared to when we filmed it I didn’t know them that well. It’s a bit of a blast from the past but I’m glad it’s back out there… It’s not censored is it? His dick is in it?
Yeah, on your channel it’s the uncensored version.
We did a censored version where the Dogbrain logo covered his dick because we weren’t sure if he’d want it out there nowadays, but Casper was just as game for it. He was like “Yeah, I want it out there!”
Speaking of the new logo, which looks great by the way, have you seen less influx of those London pop bands that you mentioned earlier?
Well, I didn’t know what Jordan was going to do when I asked him for a logo. I thought it would be a brain with a dog inside it or something. But he came back with the one as it is now, which is a dog shagging a brain, and I instantly fell in love with it. But it mirrors what I do with my artwork, it’s dark. I do have less of the clean bands asking for work now, which is good. Not that everything I have to do has to be dark or disturbed, I just don’t want anything boring to have my name on it.
I’ve noticed as well that every video you do, just seems to get higher and higher in terms of quality and clarity of vision. Like, from ‘Yearglass’ to ‘My Girl’ seems like a massive leap.
Well, the first camera I got was a Canon 5D MkII because my friend who I worked with at those club nights had one. It’s an amazing camera. After that I got a wide angle lens, because I love framing things so that they seems cinematic. Nobody that shoots with a DSLR is using a wide angle lens, every time I see a low budget music video the camera is always really zoomed in and the background is always really blurry. Whereas, when you watch a film, the shots are wide and everything is in focus. Tarantino does that a lot. So I started filming like that and it looked better, the video for ‘Who Sent You’ was shot like that. Then I got a DSLR to go with my Canon to do slow-mo with, which I did a lot in FUOCO’s new one. Everything is looking a lot more crisp these days, which is what I want because I want it to look cinematic.
Does that go for your other mediums too? Like, my favourite video of yours is GANG’s ‘Silverback’ because the animation is incredible. When you watch it for the first time it just seems to be random imagery but by the time you’ve seen it for the fourth time you really can see a narrative in there. The Brain has a dad and a mum! I only figured it all out the other day.
I’m glad you got it. I was so afraid that nobody would understand that one at all. I like the re-watchability of stuff. There are certain things in that video that you just don’t notice the first time round, like pieces of text. There was a bit where the green screen didn’t work and in really small text it just says ‘Green Screen Fail LOL’, but nobody’s caught me out on it yet.
That’s the only 100% animated video of yours I believe. Do you think you’ll do more?
That’s a tricky one because I did that and ‘Yearglass’ when we first moved to Brighton and I had no work so I had loads of time. ‘Silverback’ took about 7 months to make. So I don’t know if it’s something that I could do with any kind of efficiency. Saying that, I’ve got better at animation so it would more be a question of what I was animating. I reckon I could get it down to 4 or 5 months.
Another thing that gets me as that you have the videos that are ultra-surreal, like ‘Silverback’, where do you get the ideas?
My ideas come from all sorts of places but the most come during the night, I’ve got a list of ideas on my phone that have all come to me at three in the morning. They’re all really badly spelt as well because I’m so tired.
Do you want to read any of them? Obviously, if any of them are or are going to be in the work you don’t have to…
Sure, I’ve got loads. Got one here; “Music video idea; Injury Lawyers 4 U commercial spoof.” I remember that one. We’d be going round really blue collar grade environments with people in suits suing random people. Here’s another one; “Splitscreen video, spot the difference. Band member sitting in a scene side by side with himself. In each shot there are slight differences that need to be spotted. Interactive video. Competition? Maybe?”
That’s gold. I think writing things down in the middle of the night is a bit of an artist’s trait, I know songwriters who have written entire songs in-between dreams.
Yeah, I think we all get it. My mate Jo [of GANG], he has it when he has a bath. So he’ll be in the bath and he’ll cry and forgive himself and console himself and then he’ll come out of the bathroom a new man! And I’m like that when I go to sleep.
So, with all the ideas in your head and your phone, what’s next for Dogbrain Videos?
My rates have gone up so i’m looking to start taking on more serious projects with better equipment and more room for crazy ideas. But, my ultimate goal is to one day direct Spiderman. When the tenth person is playing Spiderman, I’ll be directing it. Toby Maguire might be playing Uncle Ben by then. I am actually in the pre-production stages of my own short film at the moment that I’m making with my friend Amy, so that’s something to be working towards.
Lastly, what music are you listening to at the moment?
The music that I give the most time to is always the stuff that my peers are making. There’s new stuff from Puppy that I’ve heard and it’s awesome and the same goes for GANG. On a wider scale, Ty Segall’s new album was incredible. But to be fair, I’m watching a lot more than I am listening at the moment, like I went back and watched all the old Power Rangers again.
From my time with Chris, I can say with confidence that he, as an artist, is living the good life. He’s busy, he’s creative and he’s selective. With rumours of working with all sorts of new and exciting talents, including the very talented House Points who are supporting Quilt down here in Brighton and appearing on the lineups of many of the festivals this summer, Dogbrain Videos is soon to be a staple in the mind of every music fan in Brighton. Toby Maguire beware.
Words by Harvey Dent
Categories: Brighton’s Music Features