Prior to making big-budget music videos for Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears and U2, award-winning director Jonas Åkerlund cut his teeth in heavy metal.
He started his career as a drummer in the seminal proto-black metal band Bathory, so it makes perfect sense that his latest feature, “Lords of Chaos” (partly based on the book of the same name), dramatizes the Norwegian black metal history tabloid.
“I guess the Norwegian black metal scene hasn’t had this for a while, but for me metal has always been very sexy and fun,” Åkerlund told me during a long conversation for a recent episode of Talk and destroy, my podcast on all things Metallica.
“My first American work was” Ray of Light “by Madonna [and] I had a bit of the same attitude, “he explained.” Let’s have fun with it. It was really a playful attitude towards this whole era. All the creativity was very spontaneous but at the same time intelligent.
The Swedish-born filmmaker, who spent some time in England in his youth soaking up the New Wave of British heavy metal, has joined Talk and destroy to talk about his three music videos for Metallica. He started his journey with the band with the movie clip for “Turn the Page”, followed by the uproar of the house party of “Whiskey in the Jar”, the two songs from Metallica’s 2-record cover set. , Garage Inc.
Åkerlund himself is the connective tissue between otherwise disparate figures in high-level pop and extreme underground music. His first music video was for his fellow Swedes in doom metal dealers Candlemass. The wonderfully lo-fi music video for “Bewitched” features moshing in the snow and an appearance by the late Per Yngve Ohlin, aka Grabuge singer Dead, one of the central characters of Lords of Chaos.
Prodigy’s controversial “Smack My Bitch Up” music video introduced Åkerlund to the industry at large. “Smack My Bitch Up” led to “Ray of Light,” which won a Grammy and a record seven MTV Video Music Awards for Madonna in 1998.
Huge MTV hits followed, including music videos for U2 (“Beautiful Day”, “Walk On”), Christina Aguilera (“Beautiful”), Britney Spears (“Hold it Against Me”), Lady Gaga (“Paparazzi “,” Telephone “), Maroon 5, Beyoncé, Coldplay, Taylor Swift and more.
“When I came to America with ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ everyone was so interested in talking about it. Everyone asked me, “Who do you want to work with? So I flirted with the media a bit with them – I kept saying “Metallica, Metallica” in every interview. I thought it would get to them eventually. “
Åkerlund’s first Hollywood feature film came with spun, a dark comedy-drama about methamphetamine users starring Brittany Murphy and Mickey Rourke, with cameos by musicians Deborah Harry (Blondie) and Rob Halford (Judas Priest). This year saw the release of the neo-noir action film based on a graphic novel “Polar” (starring Mads Mikkelsen and Vanessa Hudgens) on Netflix, followed by “Lords of Chaos” this month.
Like many metal fans, the filmmaker was fascinated by the cultural currents that converged to create Norwegian black metal and the controversies that surrounded it, from burning historic churches to suicide and even murder.
“I saw the church fires on the news, on CNN, here in America,” Kerlund recalls. “I started to think about it, not a movie maybe, but something else. Something special happened here. He stayed with me. I couldn’t get rid of him.
He periodically worked on a screenplay over the years, even as other Hollywood attempts to dramatize the story came and went. “Five or six years ago I decided to really go. I’m going to do it my way, with my integrity, and that will be my point of view with this film. It all took forever because of the darkness of the material. It was one of those projects where everyone you introduced it to loved it, but no one was putting money into it.
Despite what he described as an “uphill battle” to secure funding, retain creative control over his vision, and avoid censorship, “Lords of Chaos” resonated with audiences as he traveled to more. of 30 film festivals around the world. The film mixes dark humor and teenage revelry scenes with grimly realistic depictions of self-harm, arson and murder, all with the director’s signature visuals.
“People who know the scene, people who [were] even there, log in and understand why the movie is the way it is. People who have never heard of it log on to it too, because it’s kind of a universal story. We saw it with children in Brazil. We saw it in the suburbs of England with ‘This is England’. The list goes on with these kinds of films. It’s a story that many people can relate to in a number of ways.
‘Lords of Chaos’ ended up bringing Jonas back to Metallica. The music video for “ManUNkind”, by Wired… to self-destruct!, was actually filmed on set and features the cast as Mayhem performing the song.
“I had a few years where I was unlucky. They would send me music [but] I couldn’t do it, and we couldn’t understand working together [again]. I’ve always been a fan and have always kept in touch with Lars, so I was a bit disappointed with that, ”he said.
Metallica reached out again as Åkerlund shot “Lords Of Chaos”. Most of the film was shot in Oslo, Norway, while club Mayhem’s performance was shot in Budapest.
“When I was filming in Hungary they called me and said they were going to do a lot of videos for this new album.“ You can pick one and do whatever you want. the idea for this album, a million directors doing whatever they want.
“That same afternoon I went to our rehearsal studio where I asked my actors with instruments to rehearse for the film. I asked the actors: ‘You have 12 songs to learn. Why don’t you learn one more while you’re at it? Jack Kilmer, who played Dead in the film, is a huge fan of Metallica. He was thrilled.
Find out more from Jonas on the process of making “Lords Of Chaos” as well as Metallica-centric interviews with Mr. Shadows (Avenged Sevenfold), Robb Flynn (Machine Head), Lzzy Hale (Halestorm), Gary Holt (Exodus / Slayer), David Ellefson (Megadeth) and many more, check out the Speak N ‘Destroy podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and elsewhere.
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