Adam Smith – a director responsible for some of the UK’s most forward-thinking music videos (remember that hilarious, Bob Hoskins-starred Jamie T promo, anyone?) – will next month release his first full-length feature. Smith’s ambitious project, Don’t Think, continues his 18 year-long visual collaboration with the Chemical Brothers, and saw strategically posted cameras at a recent festival capture the live experience in luminous panorama. Expect lots in the way of insanity – Smith went about manipulating the edit as he would with one of his experimental shorts; splicing magic, colours and visual trickery with intimate, fly-on-the-wall access to the band’s onstage wire lab.
Take me through Don’t Think. You’ve worked with the pair for the best part of 20 years – was making the visuals into a full length piece always an ambition of yours?
Yeah, we always talked about doing something. Ed [Simons] was always against it because he felt it would spoil the live experience and that it should kept as something you can only access at shows. How could you capture it on film, we thought? I’ve secretly always wanted to film it – to have a record of it and to try and recreate the feeling of what it’s like to go to a Chemical Brothers gig. There’s been talk of it for the last few years because the band had been promoting a particular album [last year’s Further]. I think it’s the best musical set that it’s ever been. Someone said it’s the best it’s ever looked, too – so we had to capture it properly.
Did you feel that you wanted to get the visuals you created out to a larger audience?
Yeah, it’s really lovely that audiences will see it on the big screen. It was a great challenge for me to try and capture what it really feels like to be at one of their gigs.
The band have responded pretty positively to the film haven’t they?
Yeah, they’re really delighted with it.
Ed said that watching it was closest he came to being at his own gig – I guess that’s Don’t Think’s core aim. How did the band go about contributing to the project, creatively? What ideas did they bring to the table?
The best thing about working with the pair is that creatively, you’re as free as you want to be. They’ve always just trusted me to come up with stuff, and have always been pleased with the results. There were a few minor suggestions and notes from them, but nothing major or specific. We had conversations about it and all agreed that we liked the idea of using YouTube footage, and how much more exciting and exhilarating shooting the audience is than far off camera shots are.
What will hardcore Chemical Brothers fans – themselves familiar with the band’s live shows – take from it?
No-one’s really seen them onstage before, not closely anyway – so we wanted to shoot it from either perspective. We wanted to offer intimate glimpses of what they get up to onstage and capture the fun they have doing it. I wanted to do close-ups of hands on the mixing desk and compare it to the effect the movements have on the crowd – that sort of thing.
Don’t Think will be previewed on 20 screens in 20 cities worldwide – including at London’s BFI – on 26th January. It’s set for commercial release on the 3rd February.
Words: Jack Mills