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24 February 2015

Director David M Helman on 'Black Mambo'.

by Alice May


Glass Animals are not unfamiliar to David Reviews; we've reviewed four promos of theirs in the past two years already. Ironically, this latest is for a song that preceded the debut album Zaba – but which fitted so well it was included in the tracklist.

It's hard to define the band's sound succinctly. The best way we can think of to describe it as is like stepping into a subtropical woodland where the undergrowth is lush and humid, full of poisonous, deliquescing plantlife and unspeakable things that lurk and wait in the shadows.

Apparently frontman Dave Bayley got the idea for Black Mambo when he was watching Breaking Bad. In an interview with online magazine The Quietus, he says: "I don't know what it was in the episode that sparked the idea but I had to pause it, and two hours later I had most of this track. It was quite annoying actually… I really wanted to finish the episode. So… it was originally called 'Crystal Meth'. But then someone showed me the Louis Theroux documentary on crystal meth and - well - that's some awful shit! So we changed the name after that."

This, then, is where director David M Helman (Pulse Films) came in. We caught up with him over Skype – he's based in LA – and asked him how the promo he created for them came to be.

How did you come to be involved in the project – did Glass Animals approach you? I had actually pitched to do a video for them a while back which didn't get made but they were into the treatment I wrote so they asked me to submit something for this track. It was an open brief and they just told me to run with it...

What was the treatment you put forward? The seed of the idea started with the theme of deception. After listening to the track repeatedly, I started to get the sense that the playfulness of the track was masking a darker narrative.

I latched onto this idea of a character trapped within his own hallucination and discovering that something that seems as natural as a jungle is in fact something fabricated.

How long did it take to film? We shot two days. One 24 hour marathon in Mexico and then I flew to London to shoot the performance. It was hectic but the crew in Mexico was incredible. We only had three days to fly in, scout, cast and prep which is not ideal but everybody there understood that it was ambitious and made the whole thing possible.

Is there anything you'd have done differently if you'd had the option? Nothing massive.. like usual, we ran out of daylight and our practical glass wall cracked so I lost some shots there. But considering all the things that could have gone wrong, I'm grateful it went as smoothly as it did.

What's next for you? Well, last January I shot a short film titled 'Waves' starring Keith Stanfield and Ben York Jones which I'll be releasing online in a couple months. I hope to do more documentary work this year.

Great stuff - can we have a preview? Yes, there's a trailer you can see...

Thanks very much. Let us know when it's out! I definitely will. Thanks!

David Reviews is hand-crafted by Lovely Lenzie Ltd, 7 Seven Sisters, Lenzie, Glasgow, G66 3AW. Editor: Jason Stone. Phone: 0141 776 7766. E-mail: jason@davidreviews.com.