James Franco has his thumb in a lot of pies, as they say, and these days most of them are stuffed with gooey fillings of the artistic variety. So we were more thrilled than surprised when a freshly baked golden-brown Franco treat was pulled straight from the oven and dropped into our gullets. Specifically, we were lucky enough to be offered the premiere of Daddy’s new video for the song “Love in the Old Days (Kolour Kult Remix)” off The PVD Remixes EP, which you can download for free right here.
If, by chance (and understandably), you’re not up to speed on the dozens of art, writing, acting, and video projects the hardest working man in show business has in the works, Daddy is Franco’s musical project that he formed last year with his Providence-based art school BFF Tim O’Keefe. We spoke with both of them about this vampy remix video of theirs, the recontextualizing of culture into an amorphous blob of awesome, and why so many weirdos come from Providence.
VICE: What made you decide to record the remix EP and direct the remix video? Are you guys remix crazy? Was it all pre-planned when you released the initial Motorcity EP and the initial “Love in the Old Days” video?
James Franco: I mean, no. It wasn’t pre-planned in the sense that we thought, “We know what we wanna do for the first one, and for the second one we’ll use this footage,” and that kind of thing. The way the band started was through conversations with my friend from RISD [Rhode Island School of Design], Tim O’Keefe, and he comes from this electronic music world. A lot of this is new to me—at least working in this area is new to me. But I think we both just assumed the music would take on many different forms including visual forms and remixes. And I do a lot of different kinds of projects, I have a lot of different kinds of video shoots and photo shoots and film shoots that I do for different purposes—some commercial purposes, fashion campaigns, some just for purely art context. So I liked this idea of using some of that material, or just like a song is remixed, I liked this idea of taking other things, like movies or fashion videos or whatever and remixing them for other purposes.
In other interviews about the Daddy project you mention that a lot of it hinges on juxtaposition. It seems that you are very much exploring juxtaposition and contrast with other work you’ve been doing as well, such as Spring Breakers.
Yeah, I think so. And I think that for a couple reasons. I started my professional life in narrative film and television and TV shows. Commercial movies are generally structured along narrative lines, and they tell a story, and there are characters, and the object for a lot of this project is to pull the audience into this imaginary world so that you’re not thinking so much about the structure or the apparatus or the making of the thing, and all that stuff should disappear so you’re focused on the story and the drama before you. With the music, that for me as opposed to what I just described, it allows me to string images in a different way, along the line of music. It opens up new ways of storytelling and new ways of using the video images and film images and material I’ve used in my other sphere of work to organize them in a new way. So I think what you’re talking about is inherent to what we’re doing.
The idea of remixing a movie has always been interesting to me. I guess the closest example I can give to what I’m talking about is The Rules of Attraction, and then Roger Avery did the movie and then Gliteratti was excised from that, even though I don’t think it was ever publically released. There’s something interesting about telling the same story from a different point of view, or rearranging scenes to tell a different story. Have you ever had thoughts about that with your filmmaking or acting or working with other filmmakers?
Yeah, I’ve tried to do exactly that. In a project that I feel is sort of related to what we’re doing and is in other ways different, I did a new version of Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho. And sometimes you’ll get a re-release or a new version of a movie like Apocalypse Now: Redux, where they’ve put back in scenes that weren’t in the original release so you’ll get more of the Playboy bunnies and this dinner scene with these French people that was cut out. This project that I did with Gus is completely different. He had kept all the dailies from My Own Private Idaho. And he had cut it in ’91 so he did it using an analog process. What he had were all the actual editors’ reels, and what had been used in his version that came out had been physically cut out of these reels. Meaning what was left was literally all the stuff that wasn’t used. So even if there are takes of shots that were used in Gus’s version, the takes that were left behind were unseen. So all the material I had had never been seen by anyone but Gus and the editor. And so I got that digitized and made a new version of the movie. To me it is a remix of a movie, or it’s almost sculptural, where the raw material of Gus’s film becomes my material for a new kind of structure, a new kind of project that is both connected to the material but is also its own thing and is not like a director’s cut or the extended cut in any way.
It’s almost like video installation, but you’re distributing it through the channels of a traditional music video, which is subversive. But I have to ask the obvious question: Why the name Daddy? Where did it come from?
Well the way you were talking about different levels of significance or the way the remix video is so different than the original video. And I think Daddy has that multi-layered kind of thing. It could mean a lot of things.
Here’s the trailer for
Harmony Korine’s new movie Spring Breakers comes out in late March, and as I mentioned before, I feel like it is crossing genres and sort of mashing all of these different types of culture up into this thing that’s bigger than the sum of its parts. Also, you used a shot of the girls from the movie as the cover of Daddy’s Motorcity EP. Am I just inferring too much here?
No, I totally agree, and I think maybe to sum up what I think you’re talking about, and what I agree with in regards to the Spring Breakers movie. You mentioned that it’s Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, and these actresses from Disney shows and ABC shows in this kind of movie is a mash-up in a sense. I think they’re all incredible in the movie and they give great performances, isolated from anything else they bring to the movie. But in addition to that, they do bring history, and so it gives the movie another level of significance because of who they are outside the movie. Also, in addition to the way the subject is a mash-up, the way the movie’s constructed is also sort of a mash-up. It’s sort of in a way similar to the things we’ve been talking about where the whole movie feels like it’s influenced by trance music—that is using the techniques of remix in the way that it brings back images and images are juxtaposed and oftentimes regurgitated or even the way that the narrative is delivered, where it’s not a linear kind of presentation. It’s much more musical in its structure.
VICE: You and James met at art school in Providence. Do you ever find yourself wanting to change that story in the same way that people who met on OkCupid, or some other dating site, would prefer to be able to say they met their GF or BF at a bar?
Tim O’Keefe: Well, is a bar any better than OkCupid? Both could have the stigma of being quite unromantic. Of course referencing back to the art school thing, James and I were both getting an MFA in Digital+Media, which means I don’t attach stigmas to new digital forms of meeting like OkCupid. I suppose if James and I met in the casual encounters section of Craigslist, I’d ask him to pretend we met in art school.
A lot of talented artsy weirdos seem to come from Providence. Why do you think that is?
I’m not sure exactly which Providence-based weirdos you’re referring to, but you did inspire a little contemplation on my part. I’m getting the sense you may have an ex from Providence that you no longer talk to. Besides all the weirdos, I also think Providence has some hidden off-the-grid talent, which is part of the inspiration for our PVD Remixes EP.
Have you ever been to the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast? It’s not far outside of Providence. It would be a great setting for a video. It’s haunted as shit.
I actually haven’t, but maybe Daddy should film a séance there. If you plan a trip, let me know and I’ll join you. I think we could invite those weirdos from that “reality” show Ghost Hunters, some of them are from Providence.
Daddy has been described as an exploration of the relationship between images and music. If you had to pick one as being the MOST important (music, or images), which would you pick, and why?
Obviously I think they’re both very crucial, and I think with each new thing we do, the importance of the individual elements may vary depending on the material we’re working with. I personally focus on a lot of the music components for Daddy at this point, so it takes a particular prominence with me. At the same time, sound and music have always been very visual to me, so the two don’t seem like completely separate elements coming together, but elements that are suppose to be together, like the people meeting on OkCupid, or my other favorite dating website, ChristianMingle. Just like god intended.
Electronic music is such a seemingly cold and mathematic thing, in terms of production. Is it ever hard for you to work with, or musically navigate, the more visual and fleshy prompts that James throws your way?
Well, I disagree with your premise that electronic music is cold. That has always seemed like a very “American” attitude about electronic music to me. I think electronic music is very diverse, and Kraftwerk has always given me that warm fuzzy feeling inside. I mean, they predicted the existence of OkCupid with their song “Computer Love”! I don’t find it difficult to work off of any visual prompts James throws at me, and I find any of the challenges that emerge from that to be exciting. With Daddy, there are usually different starting points, which include the visual, the sonic, and also the written, so James and I are often prompting each other with different parts we come up with.