Them Damn Kings are a damn good band that you should ensure you get to know. The group is really starting to find its stride as of late, thanks in part to the release of their debut single “Throw It Away,” self-directed and produced by the ever-talented Jef Rhodes who doubles as the band’s frontman. The single will be found on Them Damn Kings’ upcoming debut album Rise Up, an impressive new release that will remind listeners of the great days of the early 1990s when grunge, hard rock, and heavy metal reigned supreme.
While the majority of Rise Up was written, recorded, and produced by Rhodes, he did collaborate with former Lacuna Coil drummer Ryan Blake Folden who helped through the recording process. Outside of Them Damn Kings, Rhodes is also a renowned studio engineer, and has over 20 years of touring experience, hitting the roads with artists such as Opeth, Cradle of Filth, Highly Suspect, the aforementioned Lacuna Coil, and Watain.
Along with the release of “Throw It Away,” Them Damn Kings also released its accompanying music video at the end of October. For the new edition of our Behind The Video interview series, we spoke with Rhodes at length about the filming process behind the video, its concepts, and what his point of view is on the current relevance of music videos.
Any mishaps on set?
Jef Rhodes: “To date all videos for Them Damn Kings have been self produced from start to finish so for us, there are always mishaps, especially trying to shoot the last video for ‘Throw It Away.’ Trying to shoot a video in a pandemic when we can’t be together and actually try to make it look like we are all together posed its own set of challenges. Most of the mishaps were trying to get everyone’s footage to look the same.
The biggest mishap though, I was attempting to shoot a scene (which sadly got scrapped) I had to pretend I was stumbling into bed, I had a few 1k Fresnel lights set up in the bedroom and as I went to fall into the bed I tripped over one of the cable which knocked all the lights down, which shattered the lamps and caused a small fire… so remember… always gaff your cables down!”
Any concepts where you started and, midway through, thought what the fuck are we doing?
“Yes the whole entire video (laughs). We started with this whole concept where it was going to be this whole dream thing, like the starving musician just gets back from a crappy gig half drunk stumbles into bed falls asleep and has this whole dream about throwing everything away. In the dream the poor musician meets this guy that we were calling Mr. Minky, who was rich and successful. He wore a mink coat, cool John Lennon sunglasses, and this hat. In the end, the starving musician with dreams wakes up revealing it was all a dream and the camera pans over to the nightstand showing the hat and glasses… great idea in concept however when you are filming everything yourself and have no camera operator it can get extremely difficult to not make it look cheesy.
Even though most of the footage came out pretty cool, when it came time to edit and put it all together it just wasn’t working at all. So here we are with all this footage that just wasn’t going to work not to mention we are on a deadline… in a bout of frustration and stress I accidentally messed up a part in editing which gave it this 1970s acid rock trip look. And thus in the last 72 hours before the deadline the version you see of ‘Throw It Away’ is what came out.”
If money was no issue what would be in your perfect video?
“I loved all those early ‘90s big budget videos. My two favourites to this day are still Guns N’ Roses ‘Don’t Cry’ and ‘November Rain.’ I still really really want to blow a car up!”
If you could have any guest appear in your video who would you have?
“Traci Lords, I’ve always been a fan of hers (and not just talking the early years) and well if she won’t be my future ex-wife in reality at least if she was in the video she could be my pretend future ex-wife… and that’s good enough for me.”
Do you prefer writing a video around the theme of a song or just going on a warehouse and banging out a live performance?
“You know, I’ve never had anything ever go according to plan no matter how much planning has been done. I think though that I really enjoy the idea of filmmaking and I like to try to translate what I see in my head to the screen, so yes I believe I prefer to write a video around the theme of the song or at least the idea, it always morphs into something else while we’re going along.
I think I’d like to be more structured in the next video, have an actual storyboard for it really plan it out. It’s always a challenge though when you are doing everything yourself and when you bring other people into the mix, their ideas with your ideas start to subtly flow into something else that wasn’t thought of.”
Tell us about any good, bad or crazy director or film crew-related incidents.
“Haven’t had any of that yet… however we had the idea to scan the colleges here to find some film students to operate the camera, needless to say that didn’t pan out. One kid showed up blitzed out of his mind, the other one didn’t understand rock n’ roll at all and kept trying to change everything to this Justin Bieber kind of thing. Not very eventful but nonetheless, I learned you really have to have the right people with you who believe in what you want to do. If you don’t have those people around you it’s just all going to fall apart.”
How does the music inform the video in terms of visuals matching sound?
“I think we got a really good representation in our latest video, I’ve never been one to really tell an ‘as a matter of fact’ story in either video or music. I like to let the listeners mind wander and make their own connection. In this case though, the song itself is just one of those songs you can get in your hot rod crank it up and just drive ya know. I think the video marries the song very well in those terms.”
What is your favourite childhood music video and have you any secret nods to it in your catalogue?
“I’d say ‘Don’t Cry’ by Guns N’ Roses is still on the very top of my list. There hasn’t been any nods yet but there will be… there is already a plan for one of the videos that will have a few of those nods. I’ve always like it when movies or TV shows have a little something that references another movie or a person, but I like it when it’s obvious, like in Coming To America where Eddie Murphy gives Randolph and Mort that money obviously referencing Trading Places or even something like Carol Burnett pulling her ear at the end of every show for her grandmother. I like all those little subtle things. It adds a really cool meaning… I just hope Guns N’ Roses doesn’t sue us when we make the video.”
How important do you think music videos are in terms of increased exposure?
“I’m an MTV era guy, before the game shows, I don’t really know how valuable in today’s era having a music video is in terms of increased exposure. I think every little bit helps of course, however with the way the internet and social media is flooded with artists and videos unless you’re the Metallicas of the world I don’t really see too much how beneficial it is.
Again though I’ve personally always liked seeing a music video for the song I like. I like unwrapping my record, smelling that vinyl, seeing the visuals on the covers and inserts. So for me I will continue to make videos for my songs regardless of increased exposure or not, it’s how I grew up and it was my generation, and I want to keep that time alive as much as I can.”
How important of a role do you think social media play for sharing videos and increasing exposure?
“Sadly it is the only way for sharing videos and increasing exposure. It’s hard for me to get with the program though, I’m an analog player in a digital world, but I’m trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel here.”
How much more effective or beneficial is creating a music video now compared to 20/30 years ago?
“It’s really hard for me to answer that question, again, I’m an MTV era person so I grew up having to watch the same videos over and over again however for me personally it was fun you had Headbanger’s Ball you even had Beavis and Butthead making fun of videos. It was just a different time and I don’t know how it is now.
Thinking back 20/30 years ago I can remember every video that I liked and every moment that defined me. I don’t think that’s the way it is now. Everything moves so fast on the Internet, one day it’s this social media app, the next day it’s another social media app and with every change comes different algorithms. I’m not sure if this generation makes the same lasting connection when it comes to music or videos.”
Are the benefits worth the costs and effort involved?
“For me, yes I think it is. We’ve done three videos now and as far as financial costs every video that we have done to date has cost us zero dollars. It’s a huge challenge but I think because of that, the benefits outweigh it all. It’s pretty cool to sit back and say we did this against all odds.”
For a heavier/more extreme band who won’t even get their video on a ‘rock’ music TV channel like Kerrang TV or Scuzz, is YouTube (or ‘online-only’ platforms) a good enough platform by itself to justify creating a music video?
“Nowadays it seems to be all about content. I think overall YouTube has a greater capacity than say Kerrang TV in terms of how much exposure you can get. But everything’s a steppingstone, right, you can’t just start at the top. So I would say to any band just get out there and do it and do it the best you can because if you love what you’re doing and you’re doing what you love… isn’t that really making it?”
Is a well-made DIY video just as good or beneficial as a professionally-made/directed video?
“We haven’t gotten there yet (laughs). But yes I believe 100 percent that a DIY video is just as beneficial as a professionally made one. Referencing Guns N’ Roses again, ‘November Rain’ and ‘Don’t Cry’ obviously had huge budgets or I’d like to believe that but they did a video for ‘Garden of Eden,’ one camera one playthrough, I’d say you could put that on the DIY video list and it’s an awesome video. I think as long as you have a good idea and it’s creative it doesn’t matter.”
Does the “Throw It Away” video have a concept and, if so, can you elaborate on it?
“It did have a concept, I had shot all this footage to kind of tell a story, in the end I think we ended up with an even better video. It gives this real 1970s kind of acid trip rock n’ roll thing, it’s pretty straightforward now and not very elaborate but I think it gives the listener/viewer many different ways to interpret. I think it ended up being just a simple rock n’ roll video.”
Did you work with a crew in making the video?
“It’s interesting, we didn’t have a crew, we were all separate in making this video so technically we are the crew and that posed a bunch of different challenges. We had to take meetings over phone text and email send shots back-and-forth. The big challenge was trying to have everyone shoot their own scenes and make the film look the same so in the end we shot everything on our iPhones. We also filmed this in a pandemic and the even bigger challenge was how do we make this look like we’re together when were 3,000 miles apart from each other. Though we weren’t together, I think in the end we managed to get a video that doesn’t look like we’re isolated and apart from each other.”
Did your newest video have a budget and where you able to stick with it?
“(laughs) Yeah the budget was like zero dollars and we were actually able to do it for that.
Don’t get me wrong I’d love to have some sort of budget but I’ve always found in life that you have to do the best you can with what you’ve got. It forces us to be creative and really think outside the box. Sure a big budget would make things simpler like here’s 50,000 dollars, go by a car and blow it up, or hey I’ve got a model of a car how can we force perspective this, use some gas and firecrackers to achieve the same effect and do it for under ten bucks.”
How much of your new video was self-made?
“The entire video was self-produced and self-made. It was a huge challenge making it happen in the end the entire video completely did a 180 from the original concept. It cost us zero dollars to make, we shot everything on our iPhones, used whatever lighting we had laying around our homes, and the entire thing was edited in iMovie, which I will never recommend (laughs).
For the next edit I think we’re going to put our hats out and play the street corners so we can get final cut or Adobe Premier. Shooting the video was super fun I like that part of it but editing in iMovie, I swear I almost smashed the computer with a sledgehammer multiple times, it is insanely frustrating to edit that way. However, in the end I think we got a pretty cool video and though the editing process made me want to pull my hair out, it’s really rewarding to say in the end we did it with an iPhone and iMovie.”