PRINT March 2009


Wyld File Theme Song, 2007.

WANTING TO VISUALIZE MUSIC is a natural inclination. I was first drawn to that experience through making animations on a camcorder and playing in bands; I loved the superflat images of cartoons, video-game graphics, and 1960s psychedelic illustrations. When I saw Flash animation in the late ’90s, in fact, I thought it was garbage—I preferred a more handmade feel. But then I discovered the artist Mumbleboy [Kinya Hanada], who used Flash to create an idiosyncratic, self-contained world. I began making music for his animations and then started creating my own videos. The ability to produce at home, share the work in progress, and immediately publish online led to new collaborations. I met the Paper Rad group and began working with them in 2005 as Wyld File, producing music videos for musicians from the Gossip to Islands.

I am less interested in creating a straight narrative slung behind a song than in rhythmically syncing the animation with the audio track, intuitively reacting to the music in order to create a near-synesthetic relationship. With animation, you can work frame by frame and react very closely to physical sound waves, but I also want a certain amount of spontaneity—so I usually avoid using more literal or mathematical translations to program the visuals. In recent years, I’ve also been incorporating recorded or found footage using other software. If I’m recording video, I want to shoot the band performing in order to create that same tightly related result.

In the process, I like to see how much you can overwhelm sensation by including more detail than you could possibly take in; this oversaturation also helps create the illusion of a stand-alone world—like a snapshot of something bigger, with an infinite amount of detail just out of reach, or the artificial world of a video game, seemingly open to endless exploration.

Working with Ben Jones to make the video for “Gameboy/Homeboy,” the 8-bit remix of Beck’s “Qué Onda Guero,” we wanted to push pixel-based techniques as far as possible by collaging them with linear animation. We had a long-standing appreciation for the pixel graphics used in archaic devices such as the Nintendo Game Boy, but we’re not aesthetic purists. So instead of staying true to the source, we drew designs in Photoshop or snagged bits from old video games and then vectorized these in Flash, in order to further alter and manipulate them in a high-definition universe. By running a simple language on a modern platform, you can take the limits of that language past anything it was intended to do.

Sometimes technology gets its revenge. We made the Gameboy/Homeboy video for Universal, which took our extremely detailed video and made a low-resolution version for promotional purposes. This was before the widespread use of YouTube, so they streamed the video online at an inch-and-a-half wide—paradoxically reducing it to a soup of pixel puree. We are now strangely accustomed to absorbing things in this kind of downgraded, glitchy format, which would never have been passable in the ’60s or the ’80s. Since this incident, I’ve inversely started downloading clips from video games on YouTube, blowing them up, and collaging the smeared fragments into animations for its own creepy effect.

Ratatat’s 2008 music video Mirando, 2008, animated by E*Vax.

No one wants to pay for music anymore; major labels are cutting budgets for videos, even though they’re cheaper to produce than ever. But this opens up possibilities for musicians who straddle different disciplines, as the visualization of sound migrates back into their hands. Earlier artists, like the Residents, were not making their own videos as a promotional tool; they were making them as a continuation of broader ideas. Now artists such as Ratatat, my brother’s electro-rock band, are producing videos for live shows; for the track “Mirando,” they cut up Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movie Predator, which comes from the same era as many of the animation techniques and electronic sounds we use, mishandle, and modify. We like to abuse the tools we have.

E*Rock (Eric Mast) is a video director and music producer based in Portland, OR.

Artforum invited E*Rock (Eric Mast) to select several videos to accompany the reproduction of his article online. Below are some of his choices.


Beck’s 2006 music video Bad Cartridge, animated by Wyld File.


The official music video for The Gossip’s “Standing in the Way of Control,” animated by Wyld File (2014).


An excerpt from ERock’s 8-bit animated recreation of the Big Bang.


Panther’s 2007 music video He Enjoys the Leg (E**Rock Remix), animated by E*Rock.