M.I.A.’s Bad Girls. Directed by Romain Gavras
M.I.A.: Now, can you tell me why the video cost what it did? Why is it that video directors charge so much for a video?
GAVRAS: Jesus Christ, I haven’t touched a penny of it. I am doing commercials just to live. You know I have a family to support. And in that video you have fucking explosions and an army of extras, and a crazy three-and-a-half-day shoot. Do you know that it cost, like, one-tenth of the Lady Gaga video—which is horrible—so I don’t understand what you’re complaining about.
M.I.A.: My god, how could you compare mine to Lady Gaga’s video? Of course mine’s going to cost one-tenth. That’s the whole philosophy—it’s supposed to. But it’s still more expensive than my usual videos, which cost about 10 pounds. And don’t give me that shit about your family. Everyone’s got a family.
GAVRAS: [laughs] Maybe there is a reason that your other videos cost 10 pounds, I don’t know.
M.I.A.: Oh, man …
GAVRAS: No, you have good videos. But there is one when you walk through a rainforest that’s weird.
M.I.A.: That’s my favorite video [“Sunshowers”]! That’s the one I love the most. I didn’t direct it, but I wrote it. And it was also my first video.
GAVRAS: Was the idea, like, “We’re gonna do a shampoo commercial”?
M.I.A.: Ha! No. The director was a rain specialist. Although I didn’t know that when I booked him on the Internet.
GAVRAS: And what am I a specialist of?
M.I.A.: Creating an environment full of chaotic things and then leaving the rest up to chance. Or maybe you’re more precise, but your videos look like that. They look more random.
GAVRAS: Because I don’t know what I’m doing.
M.I.A.: It’s more that you can’t tell if it’s real or fake. Your work signifies that dilemma in society between what is real and what is fake, what’s shocking and what’s not. You’re questioning those realities.
GAVRAS: You say I work on chaos and chance, but do you leave things up to chance in making your music?
M.I.A.: This is the only album I’ve done where I thought, I’m just going to put all the ingredients in one room and leave everything up to chance. Music tends to be like that anyway, but this time I didn’t have any ideas or preconceptions about how it would turn out. There was no concept or anything. [laughs] I can see you behind the lamppost. So do you think that music videos have become more of an art form now? Are people going to get into them again and want to make inspired, interesting videos?
GAVRAS: Unfortunately, I think music videos are a dying breed because there is no money in them.
M.I.A.: Except if you make a long one that’s like an infomercial and people pay you to advertise products. Then there would be money.
GAVRAS: But that’s a very different thing. It’s not art; it’s a commercial. If you have a cell phone in your video like that, then it’s a commercial. The other thing is that it’s hard for new directors to find good tracks because we don’t usually get to choose good music by good artists like yourself. I honestly think music videos will slowly die out. There will always be a few directors who do cool things. But look how many great videos there were in the ’90s, and then look at the 2000s. It’s depressing.
M.I.A.: What do you think about the transition of music video directors into movies? It’s an accepted transition, I guess because there really is no other way to have that kind of budget.
GAVRAS: But some directors are only visual. They don’t care about telling stories. It just depends on the director. I have a question for you. The sound on your album is very violent—everything about it is violent. Why are you doing it this way? Why don’t you just release a big, easy pop song?
M.I.A.: In my head I actually think my songs are pop songs. I think, Damn, that’s a pop song! I can practice in front of the mirror with my hairbrush for as long as I want to. But when it finally comes out, it sounds avant-garde to people. Right up until then, though, I think, “Of course everybody feels this way. This song’s the same as the Greek national anthem.”
GAVRAS: The Greek national anthem is actually quite good.
M.I.A.: Yeah, I know. That’s really what the song was inspired by in the beginning. The reason that I brought you to this particular place is that it’s a very multicultural part of London. There’s an Arab shop, a Greek place… . I miss this about London.
GAVRAS: The Greek place looks nice. We should go. The Greeks invented everything.
M.I.A.: No. Before the Greeks were the Tamils. The Tamils are one of the oldest civilizations that’s still surviving. A lot of shit came from the Tamils, which is why it’s a shame that they’re getting killed off.
GAVRAS: Did the Tamils invent cabs?
M.I.A.: No. But leather jackets, maybe. I guess they invented leather.
GAVRAS: While the Tamils were inventing cabs and leather jackets, we Greeks were busy inventing philosophy. But I guess everybody needs cabs and leather jackets.
M.I.A.: Yeah, they do. Take your video for Justice [“Stress”]. Where would that video be without leather jackets?
GAVRAS: And without cabs! One last question: Why are you a rapper?
M.I.A.: I don’t know! I studied film in school. I was supposed to be doing what you’re doing. I guess someone has to give you the jobs, though, so that’s what I’m doing here. (via)