Phase 1: The song
Originally called Acid Rain, I wrote this song while I was going through a sort of internal metamorphosis at the age of 27. So much of what I had valued until that point was undeniably based on lies and behind-closed-doors affairs, which allowed me to have a nice, meaningful life while others toiled away unrecognised. Furthermore, the privileges I enjoyed could only have arisen thanks to the development of the world economy, driven largely by burning fossil fuels to create energy, which has brought catastrophic climate change upon us. My knowledge and beliefs about the world were getting upturned while at the same time a new perspective was becoming clearer to me.
We are all implicated in this crisis, so we all need to make changes, both big and small. This monumental shift in how we live is one of the biggest metamorphoses human civilisation will ever undergo, and lifting the veil on all of this was the key to my own personal transformation.
Phase 2: The soundscape
Something that started out as a tune I made up on ukulele whilst in China, gradually evolved into the unique, multi-layered soundscape that exists today. Enter Pablo: A die-hard Steven Wilson fan who wanted to create something that did justice to the betrayal and fury of the lyrics in a way that just isn’t possible with a uke and one voice. So, after recording the core instruments in our tiny apartment in Barcelona, using flat cardboard boxes and blankets to create the ‘studio’, Pablo got to work. Over the course of several months, in his snippets of free time in the evenings and on weekends, he carved away at it and the result is what you hear now.
At a later stage, we had the song mixed & mastered by Jason Boshoff, who had previously worked on albums by the likes of Rufus Wainwright. Jason invited two excellent musicians – Joseph Harris and Toni Mateos – to play bass and drums on the track as well. These factors combined have brought the quality of the song up to a professional-sounding level, despite the fact that the original audio was recorded amongst cardboard boxes and blankets.
Phase 3: The music video
Pablo and I already had lots of ideas for the music video, but we wanted the shots to be as impactful as possible by showing the burnt scrub of bushfire affected land – a direct result of human-induced climate change. Finally, when we were back in Australia in January 2020, we got together with Louis & Dan from Motion of Video and planned out the shoot.
Day one was at the beach, which we shot near Fairhaven, Victoria. We were praying for warm weather that day but unfortunately it was about 18 degrees, windy, and the water was even colder. Getting in there for the struggling-out-of-the-ropes shots was a challenge, and it was hard to stop shivering for the last footage once out of the water. But it was worth it. Forcing myself through a very uncomfortable experience made the emotion all the more raw, and I think that comes across in the video. Besides, we had ex-lifeguard Wael with us as the runner, too, so I knew I was in safe hands!
Day two was in an area of Victoria that had recently been burned, which brought new challenges. Namely, the air was so smoky that we all had to wear masks (I took mine off just for the camera – this was pre-Covid era!). I also had to run barefoot through the burnt scrub, which gave me plenty of scratches and sore feet by the end of the day. But again, it was a great experience to film using a drone, and to count on Louis and Dan’s expertise as filmmakers. At the end of day two, once it was pitch black, we set up the projector in Dan’s shed to get the last footage of ‘Neutral Mel’. Finally, at around 2am, a hilarious car trip home and some ginger beer later, we were in bed, utterly exhausted. It was done! Well, we had the footage at least…
For the edit, Pablo had to put up with Premiere bugging and crashing for a year while he painstakingly edited & coloured the video. But the final result is truly breath-taking – visually interesting, engaging and ever-evolving, and is a testament to his never-faltering determination.
So there you have it. A project more than 3 years in the making has finally seen the light! It is a huge relief to have it finished, and a thrill to put something of such high quality out into the world. I could not be prouder of what we have achieved, but I think the cornerstone of this project is really Pablo. No one has worked as hard on it as he has. So I’d like to thank him for all his tireless hard work and relentless dedication to this project, and hope he gets the recognition he truly deserves. You can watch the video here!