At the end of ’92 the lease on Michael Cook’s Dudley Avenue digs was up and we took to the streets to find a new studio. Luckily we didn’t have to look far…one of the coolest lofts in Venice was available. The street-front unit of the Frank Gehry designed “Arnoldi Triplex” on Indiana Avenue later became part of the Dennis Hopper compound, but at that time was up for lease, so we quickly plunked down the deposit and installed our Atari and samplers.
One of the first projects to come along after the move was this darkly funny Tarsem spot, warning of the dangers of uninsuredness. Whether this Dutch company actually offered “tattoo regret” insurance I have no idea. It was certainly a hot topic back then, with the GenX predilection for body ink giving rise to a new tattoo parlor on every block.
While we wait patiently for the release of Arnold Turboust, allow me to transport you back to April of 1992. Thanks to the good folks at Redondo Custom Video my 20-year-old digital betamax reels have been converted and the tale can now be continued.
I’ll never forget seeing the columns of black smoke spacing the eastern horizon of Los Angeles, rising vertically into the breezeless air, and thinking about the homes and livelihoods that were being destroyed. I’d been in LA for a year and was having trouble finding work, and the riots were a dispiriting development.
Then Michael Cook called. An expat from Manchester, Michael was making a big name for himself as one of the leading DJs playing the LA rave scene of the time. He needed help with some demos he was working on.
So we set up my Juno 106 and Akai s1000 in Michael’s apartment on Dudley Avenue in Venice, a block from the beach. The demos were going well when something happened which caused the demos never to be completed.
Michael had recently been employed as an intern at Lol Creme’s studio in the Valley, he of course being a former member of Hotlegs and singer of all-time Rico fave Neanderthal Man, as well as a couple of other hits with his Stockport pals. There Michael had honed his sound design skills with a talented film student named Tarsem Singh. Here are a couple of their early collaborations: Il Douche and Shorts Story.
After Tarsem directed the award-winning Losing My Religion video for REM his career took off and he was able to concentrate on his first love: TV commercials. Tarsem is the Leonardo of commercials. His TV spots are like boxes of jewels, rendering the product impossibly desirable, be it an Audi sedan or a bottle of pop. He loved Michael’s sound work and wanted to use it as much as possible. My job was to weave music into the sound effects tapestry. And so a company, M62 Sound Design, was born. The name came from the highway which links our ancestral homes of Lancashire and Yorkshire in the UK.
Tarsem didn’t direct our first collaboration but I think he was the one who got us the job. Produced by the highly talented Wieden & Kennedy ad agency based in Portland and featuring rising tennis star André Agassi, this completely music and sound effects driven spot was a great way to start.
Now that Book One of this story is done (although there will be addenda) I thought I’d give you a preview of Book Two, before putting things on hold for a while.
In 1992, against the billowing smoky backdrop of the LA riots, I met a mad mancunian genius called Michael Cook, and we started a company specializing in sound design for TV commercials. We did very well for a while, were award-winning even.
This part of my life has been preserved in the form of several boxes filled with digital betamax tapes (and one broken award), which must be dubbed and organized, and I’m going to get right on that as soon as I return from Europe, honest. In the meantime here’s a taster, courtesy of YouTube.
This spot is typical of the output of Portland ad agency Wieden and Kennedy in 1992, on behalf of their main client Nike. It does a clever job of sending up the overly philosophical waxings of some sports commentators, while at the same time operating in a cool universe of its own making. This clip was directed by none other than David Fincher.
OK readers, I’m off to revolutionize French Pop once again…see you on the other side mes braves!