With a brave and artistically unique approach to releasing music, Melbourne based multi-instrumentalist Jimmy Cass has today dropped a monumental audiovisual album.
It’s thirty minutes long, which to some might seem slightly in excess, however as much as it is a film CHAPTERS presents itself as a musical accomplishment. The feature is very much about the soundtrack, the multi-dimensional grooves ultimately fitting together to tell a sweeping story.
CHAPTERS, the audiovisual album from Jimmy Cass, is wonderfully uncomfortable and definitely something I would recommend for any late night watching session.
The film itself is deeply moody with dreamlike qualities, and Cass’s instrumental skill really stands out. The editing is also on point, with subtle inclusions of tiny dancing girls and consistently haunting lighting setting a tone that’s both powerful and slightly uneasy.
We managed to catch up with the artist to get his take on the latest production and where he feels his sound is moving. Watch CHAPTERS below, and read on to hear Cass’s take on his half hour tripfest.
HAPPY: What’s the director’s elevator pitch for CHAPTERS?
JIMMY CASS: A transcendental exploration designed to communicate a myriad of thoughts and emotions during the work’s tenure. Akin to the stages of grief and intended to heighten one’s senses and take the observer on a psychological pilgrimage that evades time and space. In laymen’s terms, just a cool film to watch whilst listening to an interesting if not slightly absurd album.
HAPPY: The text that accompanies the piece, the poems between chapters, are quite powerful. Did you write these, and what kind of themes were you exploring?
JIMMY CASS: Yeah I wrote a few of them, a couple we’re edited down from passages from Herman Hesse as I was reading his book Reflections at the time. “Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others” is Jonathan Swift and that just felt like a really fitting way to open the film.
I guess the most famous one is Dali’s – “Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision”. Conveying a succinct message or sentiment using only a few words is something that I crave day to day but that’s the beauty of art I suppose. Sometimes being able to take time and give considered thought into what you wanted to project.
HAPPY: They seem to all pertain to an important journey of yours. Are they based on personal experience?
JIMMY CASS: Well I was making another record and fell into the classic trap that many often do. Where I had over listened, over played, over thought and basically exhausted all avenues of ever finishing it. That’s not a good place to be when you’re still a relatively new and unknown artist without loads out there. So I figured the best thing to do was to start something different from scratch and fall back in love with the process of creating. Which is exactly what happened.
Pretty much everything in the film was shot during that period. A lot was done before the film/album was fully conceived and in some cases the ‘actors’ didn’t really know I was filming them the way I was. It wasn’t until recently when I watched the whole thing back at a public screening and thought ‘Fuck, this is essentially a just surreal and warped documentary’.
HAPPY: Directing an album movie seems to be going the way of the dodo these days. What are some of your favourite album films of all time, or which most influenced CHAPTERS?
JIMMY CASS: Yeah I’ll pay that, I mean I’ve seen a few album movie type things but I can honestly say that nothing directly inspired CHAPTERS in that way, it’s not like I was looking to make my own version of ‘insert name here’. I literally just found out that Billy Corgan of all people released an album like a week after
me with a similar concept. His is 40 minutes long though, so if you want to save yourself five, just watch mine instead.
In terms of films in general my first introduction to something that wasn’t Jaws or whatever was through watching stuff by Herzog, Jodorowsky, Svankmajer, all the way to Larry Clarke, Vincent Gallo and Harmony Korine. I mean there are many many more, but it was through a lot of those classics that my mind was expanded to the possibilities of what constituted a film. It’s also worth noting that I’m a musician experimenting with film, not the other way around.
HAPPY: Parts of the film are quite uncomfortable. Is this something you want your audience to feel? Why?
JIMMY CASS: Yes absolutely. Well, it’s an obvious cliché to point out the shortcomings of the mainstream in general so I won’t bother with that but what I will say is; we’re now living in a time where a 35 minute film is considered to be too long by some, especially for what is essentially my debut outing.
I can accept this but would counter that some of the more uncomfortable moments like Chapter Three for example, merely serve as a yard-stick by which to measure one’s own virtue. Again it links back to the stages of grief with anger through acceptance. If you don’t wish to grieve a little then you can simply switch off and focus on more aesthetically pleasing elements that life has to offer.
HAPPY: Are there any plans to debut this live? Even onstage?
JIMMY CASS: In short, yes I would love to, we already had a screening in a conventional cinema setting and that was a really fun thing to do. It’s definitely something I would like to translate live at some point, but now that CHAPTERS is out unto the world I think I’ll return to what I do best and just concentrate on the album I can’t finish, a few other records I’m working on and go back to scoring other people’s films!
CHAPTERS is out now.