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Apocalyptic Soundscapes for an Apocalyptic World: GUILTLESS Video Premiere + Interview

For many different reasons, I have not been able to see life in color because of all of the darkness in the world! One record that sounds like the way I have been feeling lately is the new album from GUILTLESS entitled Thorns which is out now via Neurot Recordings. Today we are premiering their new visual for the song “Dead Eye” which was created by Josh Graham of GUILTLESS. Y’all can also check out the rad interview we conducted with him below!

What was your state of mind while creating this visual, Josh?

Cronenberg – a touch of Kubrick – a dash of Skynet, maybe some Exorcist, Evil Dead, a heavy dose of George Miller and some Altered States. 

What emotions do you want to evoke in people who watch it?

Thematically it’s an apocalyptic fairytale without a lot of seriousness, so I would say a mix of WTF, horror and even some laughter at the sheer insanity of it all, would all be logical emotions.  Responses so far have been – “that’s a lot to take in,” “so wild,” “fucking sick,” “that’s a crazy ass video,” “this video fucks,” “if you weren’t on the FBI list before this, you will be now.”  Good times all around. 

How did the political and environmental state of the world impact your creative vision?

The focus here is not political or environmental. The focus is about AI and the creative use of it. 

I have been a video director by trade, and have directed videos for Neurosis, Soundgarden, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Enslaved, Eyehategod, Saves The Day etc. A lot of people view AI as a serious threat across multiple levels, which it is to a large degree; however, it’s not going anywhere. Its use will continue to grow and it will become indistinguishable from movie special effects, from real or imagined events and beyond.   It’s going to be surreal and it’s something everyone alive today is going to have to deal with to varying degrees.   

My day job as a print and motion designer also presents AI as a very real employment threat.  It’s a concern that I have, as do many of my colleagues.  Logically, there’s a lot of pushback against the creative use of AI, but in all seriousness, it’s important for creatives to embrace the technology and learn how to use it as a tool, the same way we use 3D programs, Cinema 4D, Unreal Engine etc. 

To make this video, I generated about 4000 images over 6 months (with pages of saved text prompts) realistically even before I knew I was going to be able to animate them in any capacity. Using Runway AI I generated about 500 image-to-video clips from the original 4K images, and the video itself has about 240 shots. There would be absolutely no way to create this video without the use of AI, unless you’re getting into multimillion dollar budgets, or if you spent a few years in 3D. 

In the amount of time it took to creative-direct the AI, and generate the abstract narrative for this, I could have 100% done a 3D video, or we could have shot a live action video. Our challenge was budget vs time, and creating something fun and abstract felt like a good use of our current resources. With any luck we’ll be able to shoot our next video with our great friend and DP Brian Sowell. 

One comical note about the process was the way in which some of these images were actually animated in the image-to-video program. The program did not initially see the human blob mashups as people – and some of the images were seen as nude people –  with some trial and error,  two phrases finally worked for these images – “wellness medical massage in leotards,” and “wellness interpretative dance…in leotards.” A vast number of the other images required hand painting in various parts of the imagery and telling the AI what the image was and which direction a specific part should move – very similar in a way to traditional animation.   

Was it your intention to show levels of destruction that could be compared to what is happening to Gaza and the people of Palestine?

Absolutely not. The repetition of humans and war create these ruined environments time and time again. History repeats itself to a disgusting degree. Small-minded politicians and violent men pursue their own tiny interests and bulldoze anything and anyone in their way. The human fascination about the end of times, or various dystopian scenarios is obvious in film today – this video is just an exploration of those stories. There’s even a giant weirdo version of the Michelin Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters in this, so you can’t take it too seriously.  

How important is it to you to create art that reflects the world in which we live?

I am not entirely sure that much of my art reflects our real world. My focus is on the abstract or what might be imagined, the impossible vs the possible, and what those ideas might look like represented in different ways. 

If present-day Josh could talk to your 16-year-old self about the state of the world, what would you tell your younger self?

I would say – dude – in 30 years you’ll be able to take that flyer you just put together with paper and glue, and feed it into a computer program that will animate it!  You’ll also be able to record an entire album with 4 people spread across 4 different states and never once be in the same room.  You’ll play music in South America, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and all over the US and Europe. Keep creating!  Soak in all of the creativity you can – create with your hands, create on the computer, in music, on the page.  You can’t imagine what kind of creative advances will be made in one lifetime.  It will blow your mind wide open. 

Take us back to your childhood—what music did you hear around your home, booming out of the cars in your hood, or your headphones? What four albums have had a major impact on y’all’s creative spirit?

I think there is a great difference from what we were listening to as youngsters than what actually influenced the EP.  When Dan and I were in our first band at 15/16, we were listening to Ministry – A Mind Is A Terrible Thing to Taste, Christian Death – Only Theater of Pain, Joy Division – Closer, Discharge – Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing, The Cure, Rudimentary Peni, Coil, etc.   Into our 20’s and beyond we went darker, Swans, Kiss it Goodbye, Godflesh, Neurosis, Melvins. As a band now, we are all over the place – some examples that come to mind are Wovenhand, Converge, Morne, Tim Hecker, Baptists, Nick Cave, Meshuggah, Great Falls, KEN mode, Barn Owl, on and on and on. 

Give us the science behind the title and artwork of your new EP, “Thorns”?

The artwork is based on the concept of nuclear semiotics, where scientists are trying to figure out how to communicate the danger of nuclear waste stockpiles to future civilizations (10,000 years plus).   Because human languages are fluid and will not be understood over time,  a lot of the thought process includes building large and menacing architecture to signal that something is wrong with a certain place without the use of language.  We chose Thorns as a title because it represents the band’s icon, and it has a simplified message while still referencing nuclear semiotics. 

“A 1993 report from Sandia National Laboratories aimed to communicate a series of messages non-linguistically to any future visitors to a waste site. It gave the following wording as an example of what those messages should evoke:[1]

This place is a message… and part of a system of messages… pay attention to it!

Sending this message was important to us. We considered ourselves to be a powerful culture.

This place is not a place of honor… no highly esteemed deed is commemorated here… nothing valued is here.

What is here was dangerous and repulsive to us. This message is a warning about danger.

The danger is in a particular location… it increases towards a center… the center of danger is here… of a particular size and shape, and below us.

The danger is still present, in your time, as it was in ours.

The danger is to the body, and it can kill.

The form of the danger is an emanation of energy.

The danger is unleashed only if you substantially disturb this place physically. This place is best shunned and left uninhabited.”

If you could put two of your songs from your discography in a time capsule to be opened in 2062, what songs would you put in there, and why? 

Maybe “Dead-Eye” and “In Radiant Glow,” but damn, that’s  only 40 years from now, so it’ll either sound like a two-for-Tuesday classic double-doom rock block, or maybe it will sound like snoozy elevator music, because by then you’ll be able to feel music in your bloodstream. 

Describe Guiltless’s EP “Thorns”  as a weapon of mass change or a superpower—what impact do you want to see it have on culture or our society?

Hopefully it’s more of a good time to scream along with and get some angst out of your system. 

What two historic events or political movements have made an impact on your band?

Since the band is so new, there’s not really much political history here. We’re just about creating music together.  

Outside of the state-run “education” system, what books did you read to help shape your mental state?

Newer reads include lots of non-fiction – The World Without Us, Of Wolves and Men, The Bird Way, Salt – which is an amazing story in itself. Fiction includes Hollow Kingdom, Feral Creatures, Borne.  As a kid – Orwell, Clockwork Orange, Clarke, etc. 

What are y’all’s earliest memories when it comes to knowing about the power of frequencies and how has this knowledge impacted the way y’all create?

Hmmm, I think I am still learning those! 

Talk to us about these two songs “Dead-Eye” & “In Radiant Glow” — what was the creative process like and what emotions provoked you to create these songs?

“Dead-Eye” is about the most minimal song I have been a part of.  It has heft and weight, but also some cool dynamic changes. “In Radiant Glow” is our favorite off of the EP and will be a big signal for us on the full length album we are working on now.  Lyrically “In Radiant Glow” is, in hindsight, inspired by Hollow Kingdom and Borne from above. 

Any shoutouts?

Big thanks to Neurot Recordings, to you and Cvlt Nation for the video premiere and interview, and to everyone who has been listening to the music so far! We are looking forward to playing this stuff live. 

Written By

Sentient 51423

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