[The following diary was written for the exclusive premiere of the "Darkness Within" video on Monday.]
The first time I visited Prague was on the Burn My Eyes tour cycle in 1994 as support to Slayer. I'll never forget the city. I was blown away, I'd never seen anything like it before or since. The baroque and gothic architecture, the religious symbolism everywhere, the Charles Bridge, St. Vitus's cathedral, but also the Eastern Block feel it still carried, it was one of the most unique and beautiful cities I'd ever seen and still is.
And yet, it had a dark underbelly to it that ran through her streets. Heroin use was open and rampant back then, and having dabbled in that, and having had friends who did more than dabble, I was all too aware of it. But there was something about that that charmed me. That there could be that dark side within such a beautiful, religious place. I said right there and then, "I want to do a video here someday".
When our label Roadrunner Records approached us about shooting a video for “Darkness Within”, I already had a lofty concept. It tied in perfectly with the fact that we were hitting Prague opening for Metallica, so I wrote a pretty fucked up treatment for the video, and then refined it over the next two days, sent it to the band, and they loved it.
I got sent a bunch of video by other bands to look at directors, and honestly, I fuckin’ HATE most videos nowadays, especially metal bands’ videos. They’re boring, thoughtless and pointless. Dudes in a warehouse playing. But there have been two bands in particular who have always impressed me with their videos. Rammstein and Behemoth. Rammstein, with their insanely creative, movie-like, performance-less videos. They've been pushing the video concept for years, from the bizarro-world of "Sonne" http://tinyurl.com/3qbudcm, to the stark sadness of "Ohne Dich” http://tinyurl.com/cuurhtx, or the flat-out controversial awesomeness of "Pussy" https://vimeo.com/44136469. These dudes know how to make people care about a video. It's art.
And Behemoth too, they continue to make videos that blow me away. “At Left Hand Ov God”, https://vimeo.com/14792460 was huge, but "Lucifer", man, “LUCIFER” https://vimeo.com/29993555, it was a game changer. I remember seeing "Lucifer" for the first time, we were just about done editing the "Locust" video (which we were very happy with, check it here http://tinyurl.com/cendq2n), we had one scene left to shoot, fly in and it was done. I took a break and stumbled on "Lucifer", loaded it up and watched it with my video director Mike Sloat, it blew my head off. I looked at Mike and said, "That is the future of videos, in one fell swoop, Nergal just changed why bands make videos". It was dark and beautiful, weird and cool, erotic and evil, and totally fucked.
It was inspiring, not in the sense that I wanted to make a video that looked like “Lucifer”, I didn't, but in the way that it became so crystal clear that the former restrictions and guidelines that bands used to have placed on them from MTV no longer applied. There is no reason for a metal band to make a video for MTV anymore. They don't play videos, and if they do, it won't be metal. Headbangers Ball is on MTV2.com!? I love Jose, and the interviews are great, but who goes there to watch their video playlist when you can go to YouTube and watch exactly what you want in an instant? Music videos are for the internet, Vimeo, and YouTube… or in the case of Rammstein's "Pussy", YouPorn! You're free to go as crazy, or artful, or weird, or provocative as you want. There is NO REASON for a band to stand in a warehouse and play their instruments. Those days are gone. They're not coming back.
So with that mindset, at 3AM on a jet-lagged, sleepless morning, I had a burst of inspiration and I wrote a treatment that made a crazy, warped, poetic, epic, dark story that’s partially attached to the lyrics, but also adds a visual meant more to evoke images, to disturb, to arouse vague, uncomfortable feelings, primal feelings. We shot it over 6 days in Prague with a great company called Meija Productions, I co-directed it along with Milan Basel and Jorge Nunez. It was shot in 3 locations: downtown Prague, a small village called Krashov (which means "fadeless"), an awesome rock bar in Prague run by a great dude named Jakob called Mighty Bar, and briefly at the infamous Bone Church in Korta Huna.
The scenes in front of and inside St. Vitus cathedral were shot on location; we actually snuck into St Vitus at 6:30 AM to shoot the scenes and got kicked out by a very angry, eerily calm priest, who walked up to us with unblinking eyes locked, and said four words that chilled me to the bone: "You must leave now." My director of photography protested, and in the same intensely calm voice, the priest stared into our souls and repeated, "You must leave now."
I was fuckin' outta there!
The rest was shot in a small village about 5 hours outside of Prague where myself and our man-of-many-hats Pando stayed with me in what we called "the Russian bunker", a hotel (really a converted farm house) that was straight out of post-World War II Russia; no heater, woodburning stove, but it was homey with a friendly non-English-speaking staff. The church we filmed in had been abandoned for about 100 years, but still had German plaques from when the Germans still controlled that part of the Czech Republic. It was fucking cold!! 3 days in a row we shot 20-hour days, getting 3 hours of sleep, wake up and repeat. I talked some locals (an all-girl horse breeding team) into hiring their horses to us, and they rode them nearly 4 miles to where we were, and they were bad-ass horses, much like the ladies who rented them.
The rest of the guys came in a few days later, and did a great job, Dave nearly got thrown from his horse, and then later it tried to kick him! Adam in particular rode really well. Their crew was great, and we all became quite fond of the make-up artist. The rest of the cast were hired by the directors and they froze along with us and they did a fantastic job, though none of them spoke a single word of English. It was strange, fun and vastly huge undertaking, and I am certain the Head Cases of the world will love it! SO proud of the end result.