Epic music, grandiose effects, Agyness Deyn and other supermodels in battlegear — Woodkid’s IRON music video seems at once surprising and classic in the way it mixes imagery and music. That’s probably because Woodkid is none other than Yoann Lemoine, a twentysomething, multi-awarded illustrator-turned-director.
He’s already worked with the likes of Richie Havens, Yelle, Katy Perry, Moby and Taylor Swift, done short films for kids, and been rewarded for a film about a dick graffiti… And now he’s releasing his first EP, IRON.
IRON EP cover, illustration by Stephan Balleux.
ANTOINE ASSERAF: The music video for IRON – is it strange to make a music video for yourself ?
YOANN LEMOINE aka WOODKID: Not that strange, because as soon as I started the WOODKID project, I knew I wanted to make images, so it made sense with the video, and it was the first time I could make a movie and control all the parameters, with a budget and without at the same time being told what I could and couldn’t do. Being both the client and the director was a crazy opportunity, so I’m super happy with the result.
To direct and to make music is a bit similar, emotionally you are touching the same sensible points, it’s just a different medium of expression.
You have a material theme going on – you are the WOOD kid, the single is IRON, the tentative album name wood and CRYSTAL…
The project is always evolving, but I really like attention to textures, I made a film once on the texture of rocks, in IRON there is a lot of marble, black smoke. I love looking at textures and the emotions they create. The color, the complexity, what they evoke, mystical and dark things.
So did the song or the visual come first ?
I’ve had an image in my head for this project for a long time, I wanted to make a statement about heroic fantasy, not in a kitschy, elf and trolls way, but to explore what Tolkien, Final Fantasy, and Matthew Barney did. How you create a world with social codes, in a documentary sort of way, with specific imagery, dogmas, political parties, currency, dresscodes, ethnic groups, races, geography… How you recreate these codes in a parallel world. And how to do this in a way that is less cheesy than we are used to seeing in heroic fantasy, more intellectual…
IRON music video, directed and sung by Yoann Lemoine.
You once said on Facebook (laughs) that you were afraid that one day you would have to make a choice between music and directing, do you still believe in that ?
If I have to choose, it will be a matter of scheduling.
So a temporary choice ?
Temporary but… you never know how things evolve.
I come from illustration, and a series of circumstances led me to move to directing without ever deciding “I’m quitting illustration”, but I never came back to it… I just never had the occasion to do it again, a road built itself in another direction.
How did you make the transition between illustration and film direction ?
First it was animation films for kids, because I come from 3D, then I felt the need to make live films, with actor direction, a quality of photography, so I bought myself a camera and started making my own films. Then it turned into commissions, and I transmitted into real shooting my desire to compose images and artistically direct scenes….
At first jobs were appealing to your 3D and special fx know-how, but now on the Taylor Swift video you had no post-production special effects…
It’s all experimenting. What I’m trying to do in my career and in my artistic development is to reconcile a beautiful image, detailed and in good taste, with fashion references, in the air of the times, that people want to see, with a type of narration usually seen in Hollywood films. Postproduction effects, a bit WOW, symbolic narratives with visual trips… It’s part of my identity.
But I’m no Gondry either.
Yoann Lemoine in Erotokritos FW 2011. Photo by René Habermacher.