While we get the appeal of skateboarding dogs and Mentos, the exploding freshmaker–if you’re easily amused, that is–self-titled thinks the following video is actually worth a million views. The product of a long-shelved idea by British director Simon Owens, LCD Soundsystem‘s unofficial “New York I Love You” video fuses two of our favorite things: hand puppets and hating on New York’s glossy post-Giuliani-isms. We caught up with Owens via E-mail to talk about the making of “The Muppets Take Manhattan, Part Deux.”
One note: be sure to watch the entire clip, as it features a mind-fuck ending that’d make M. Night Shyamalan proud.
self-titled: When was this filmed exactly? And in what parts of town?
It was shot in late October. I had to miss a flight back (to the UK) in order to nail it. I wanted quite a postcard backdrop, so we shot Times Square (until we got moved on by the police), a New York skyline with lots of pathos (by the Williamsburg bridge), a spot just off 5th Avenue around 28th (there’s a gap to see the Empire State building), a fake Statue of Liberty along 5th Avenue, and Bedford Avenue for a little nod to the song’s lyrics.
Was this a spur of the moment idea while you were visiting NYC?
No, I actually tried to approach James and LCD in early 2007 through E-mailing his manager but got no response. And then before I knew it, a year had passed and the idea was still burned into my head. So I started making a Kermit with my friends Andy Hillman and Clare Jago. We also made a giant Kermit for a kid to wear, but I ran out of time with that.
I was in New York to shoot another video for the band WhoMadeWho, and was staying with a friend of a friend, James Friedman. By complete chance on my second night in New York, James takes me to a party and introduces me to James Murphy. I didn’t know whether to tell him the idea or not. Once I told him he freaked out!
Did you dig The Muppets Take Manhattan as a kid, hence Kermit’s starring role?
I actually didn’t like Kermit as a kid, but I love puppets–I’m completely fascinated by them.
Actually, the idea came straight away, on my first listen to the [Sound of Silver] album way back in Christmas 2006 while in a friend’s car. The funny thing was the friend actually said what I was thinking so I knew it was one of those ideas I just had to do.
Because you’re using such a recognizable, err, puppet, you can’t release this video commercially right?
I’ve had a crazy amount of requests in the past 24 hours. I think it’s highly unlikely, though. I’m just pleased we eventually made it.
How many takes did you have to do to sync the music up perfectly with James’ puppet moves? Or was that a post-production piece of magic?
The shots around Times Square and Bedford took a lot of editing. James only needed two takes, though! He nailed it each time and was so excited afterward, but we really didn’t have much time. He’d been in London, bizarrely enough, and missed his flight back, and then contacted me at about 3:30 in the afternoon when I was due to leave Manhattan at 7:30 p.m. that day to catch my flight back to London. I then [hustled] over to Williamsburg and back to shoot him. It was pretty hectic–I lost my phone and all sorts of things, but it was well worth it.
Has New York brought you down the more you come here over the years? I mean, have you noticed a change in the overall vibe of the place?
No, I wouldn’t say it’s brought me down. There’s issues and some of them are not about New York. Getting into the country if you’re visiting New York is one, but I haven’t been there enough to really comment. I still love it, and some great music has been pouring out from there, so props for all that.
Anything else you can share about the making of this video?
In Times Square, we got asked to sign two books, can you believe that?
And we can find more of your videos where?
At the moment, www.youtube.com/simonowens, but if you’re patient and can wait a week, www.simonowens.com will launch next Wednesday, December 10. I should have a new video up then also!