Woof Wan-Bau has directed music videos for Mogwai, Fourtet, and The Duke Spirit amonst others. The London- based creative discusses his film-making process, being inspired by difficulty and kabuki music…
What were your reasons for becoming a music video director?
After I graduated from art college I wanted to learn how to make films and animations. I thought maybe I could learn by working in the industry and picking it up as I went along, and making music videos was one of the more interesting ways to do this. I started making music videos for very selfish reasons, in that I just wanted to mess around and learn the crafts – I didn’t really see it as a career. I didn’t know what would become of this period of messing around, so I thought I’d adopt a moniker and call myself a silly name. My idea was that I would treat the work I did as Woof Wan-Bau as a separate project, a playground that would inform in one way or another what I wanted to do in my own film work, and I still maintain this structure..
Would you say you have a particular style, or signature which you apply to your work?
I probably have some sort of approach that runs through the Woof Wan-Bau stuff, but stylistically I’ve always tried to play around as much as people would allow me to. I’ve always seen each project as an opportunity to try things, rather than something to create my own signature. I guess it’s different with my short films where it’s a bit more nuanced.
Above: still from Duke Spirit ‘Cut Across the Land’ music video, directed by Woof Wan-Bau
What has been your favourite project to work on so far, and why:
In terms of the music videos, I would say the Four tet video ‘Sleep Eat Food Have Visions’. When I used to watch MTV, I always liked the otherworldly stuff they played late at night, and in my mind that video came closest to the kind of videos that I wanted to see on MTV… although it’s not the most popular video I’ve done. With my short films, ‘From Nose to Mouth’. I had no idea at the time what I was doing technically, but it was exhilarating to try and make a film like that.
What is your favourite type of music?
The kind that makes everything seem like Kabuki.
Much of your work takes the viewer on a little journey. Is that a reference to any travelling you’re done yourself?
Well, however abstract, film is always some kind of journey.
Colour is a strong point- what are your favourite palettes?
I would describe my use of colour as ‘classical’ fighting with ‘garish and baroque’ and losing quite badly.
Do you collect props, objects or furniture that could inspire your work?
I collect penguins, but I’m not sure they inspire me.
Do you have any future projects planned outside of the commercial/ music world?
I’ve just finished writing a new script for a film. The Woof Wan-Bau work I do basically subsidizes my film work, and this allows me not to be pressured into making the films financially sustainable. This is very important to me. I mean I would love it to be sustainable, but I would hate to tailor my films into money generating projects. Right now I’ve been developing a new film, and I’ve also been working on a graphic novel which I’ve been chipping away at for some time now.
Does being based in London help you creatively?
Yes. In both positive and negative ways. I don’t mean it in any romantic sense, but sometimes things being difficult in London can be helpful.
What are the most inspiring places to be in London?
Just as I was getting bored, I recently discovered the Cinema Museum in south London. It’s a wonderfully eccentric private collection of cinema equipment and memorabilia. I love how these hidden gems pop up every now and then.
Above: still from Mogwai ‘Friend of the Night’ music video