Early in my career I avoided music videos like the plague, they just seemed like commercials for music. Fortunately – this led me to one of my favorite collaborations on Happiness in Slavery – since Trent Reznor was looking for filmmakers who had never done a music video before. He didn’t want anyone polluted by the process. (I understood this years later after I became polluted by the process and then quit doing music videos). He found me through Film Threat Magazine who had been fans of my shorts and my documentaries of Survival Research Laboratories. Trent wanted to do a video that didn’t have any limits, he had a new deal (with Interscope) that gave him full creative control. His guidelines were “consensual S&M” and “gears grinding flesh”.
We discussed the video in the back house of the former Sharon Tate estate (where we shot another video together for the song “Gave Up”). I proposed loosely basing the video on the French decadent writer Octave Mirabeux’s The Torture Garden in which wealthy people visit Chinese prisons to witness gruesome tortures. But what struck me and what I borrowed for the video was the symbiotic relationship between the torture and the lush plants that were fertilized by its awful results. Inspired by my work with SRL, I decided to update the story making the ritualized relationship between a man and a machine. I also made this tortuous relationship purely voluntary – so that the men were giving themselves to this process, ritual, transcendence. Continue reading →