Chapel Allerton, Leeds, June 2005
After the release of BTCC Part i, Tug went into retirement and spent most of his time sitting in our living room with a bottle of beer in his hand. It was to our great surprise then, to find one day a mini-tug sat by him on the settee! We did not want to question where he came from, but given Papa Tug’s inability to move independently we assume it must have been some kind of immaculate conception. This discovery and various budgetary issues led to the decision that PARTii should be entirely stop-motion animated. (Although it finished with several live action parts being skillfully fulfilled by the rest of iLiKETRAiNS, plus a cameo appearance by the band Milk as the ravenous Paparazzi.)
For the basis of the story, I concentrated on the time inbetween the happenings that the lyrics of the two songs describe. More precisely, I asked myself where “I discharged myself” from “today”, and why would our protagonist do such a thing? I love the atmosphere of scenes set within mental asylums (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ringu 2, Come on my Selector) and was keen to use elements. I had seen to create a claustrophobic, malicious psychologist character to terrorise the song’s narrator. I wanted his tests to send the protagonist into a fitful rage which would unleash the wiry shadow alter ego (played again by Tug) that had inflicted so much terror in BTCC Part i. I had researched Rorschach ink blot tests when I was designing the artwork for the BEFORETHECURTAiNSCLOSE single and knew I wanted to use this imagery again. (Although not the actual Rorschach images I discovered, as it is supposed to be a closely guarded secret as to how they look because some psychologists (amazingly) still use the test.)
All this imagery worked really well together in my head, but when incorporating it into the lyrics of the song and the time constraints of the music, I found that my back story had to be squeezed into a 5 second segment in the middle of the song. At least I got to play the malicious psychologist.
I had no plans on how I was going to build the set, I just pottered around our cellar for a month with a big pile of carpet, lots of cardboard boxes and several feet of gaffer tape. I used wire, perspex, wood stain, tracing paper, drinking straws, dirt, fairy lights, gloss paint, chopsticks, a blackout sheet, some decently wired lighting (courtesy of Dan Skevington) and some (highly flammable as I found out later) brown cloth to make the interior / exterior set that I was to film around. The asylum on the hill is actually a health spa that was in Ilkley about 100 years ago.
I was dismayed to find that mini-Tug was just as much a pain in the arse to animate as his father. Despite the fact that his feet are made from drawing pins and the floor of the set is a drawing board, he still insisted on keeling over at the most inopportune moments. Quick re-writes in the script meant that he did a lot more sitting and leaning than was originally intended. The rest of the fortnight of animating (interspersed with a fancy dress party, a gig in Manchester and some really vivid dreams), went ok. Apart from cutting a chunk out of my thumb trying to make the stars bigger and filling our house with smoke as I razed the set for the final shot.
I intended to burn the set all along (I seem to script the destruction of most of my models) but when it came to the last day of shooting I couldn’t anything to catch fire. I covered mini-Tug in all manner of household products that claimed to be highly flammable, but nothing seemed to kindle. Then, out of desperation I introduced my lighter to the curtains and they roared into life. I stood transfixed as the flames lapped around the cardboard and paper set I had been toiling over for weeks. The release from the tense frustration of the animation process was glorious. I let combustion do the work and at a rate of 25 frames per second; my average rate was more like 2 frames per minute. But as I was drawn into this beautiful destruction I lost sight of the true terror of fire. The flames had got hold of the underside of the roof and the fire to set ratio had become significantly unbalanced. Around me I noticed that smoke had begun to cling to the sides of the room, my head was now in a cloud of hazy fumes. The walls of the set were about to implode and I may have been in danger of choking so quickly I reached for the jug of water I had ready and doused the flames. The whole house was filled with a clingy grey mist and quite an uneasy charcoal smell, but it spelled the end of a grueling mental feat.
Broken Pixel, 2006.