The internet’s a weird fucking place and that’s mostly because it’s not really a “place.” It’s absurd as shit and almost equally as fascinating when, one day, you simply realize that it’s the primary source for all of your information about what people are doing in the “real” world. The computer is one of the first items that people head toward after they’ve done anything, just so that they can report to the virtual world that it’s just occurred and get validated, as if any meaning will evaporate otherwise. That is, of course, if they don’t already have a smart phone, which allows them to report from it immediately, or even while these mundane events are still occurring. It’s amazing how technology has managed to make a phone call even less personal and indirect than they were before. [Remember the AT&T ads where the marketing angle was exactly the reverse.] People have invested endless portions of their lives towards traveling this superhighway like Neil Cassady and becoming proficient survivalists in this world like some sort of Bear Grylls / Kevin Flynn hybrid. Their fingers are on the electronic pulse and seem to know the moment that anything with any level of longstanding importance is generated, along with every fetal meme and the moment that each African green monkey cyber sneezes out a new strain of viral sensation. These people are called “nerds” and, fortunately or otherwise, all of us have slowly grown closer and closer to epitomizing that term over the last 2 decades. Most people seem to catch the hype during it’s peak, or even on it’s way out, like walking holographic corpses with the progeriatric life-spans of the digital age. Those of us who fall somewhere in-between, either become aware of the new media by having it sent to us like a package or stumble across it like a pothole, possibly even getting nicked in the side of the head by it like low-hovering space-junk. One such anomaly that’s really gained prominence over the last couple of years is the online crowdfunding website Kickstarter.com and, while I’ve often been unsure of what to make of it, the latest project by Seattle-based rock outfit, Helms Alee, has managed to officially validate it’s entire existence for me.
I can’t remember what the first project that I came across on Kickstarter was, but I think that my first impression of it fell somewhere between, “This is a great idea!” and, “Wait a minute! Is this shit for real? Is this even legit?” For those of you who aren’t well versed on the subject, “crowdfunding” sites such as this generally feature someone(s) proposing an idea -whether it’s for an artistic endeavor, a social program, a new invention, etc.- for which they plead their case as to why others should donate to fund it’s production or advancement. Part of the incentive involves rewards or thank yous which vary depending on the level of contribution. It’s kind of like a PBS telethon or public radio pledge drives, except for the giveaways are a lot more comparable to what’s actually being donated. For example, instead of donating $250 to PBS for a Red Dwarf DVD and a T-shirt, throwing that type of loot towards a film project on Kickstarter might get you an early copy of the film and a thank you in the credits, or even as much as a cameo and/or a producer credit, depending on the project. A selected time period is chosen wherein a selected minimum of funds needs to be yielded – the estimated amount that should be required to pull off whatever the proposed endeavor is. If more than the minimum is collected, then it’s no problem and you get to keep it all -minus the take by Kickstarter and the money transferer, of course. However, if you fail to take in enough to hit that minimum target mark, then you don’ t get any of the donations at all and the campaign is dead in the water.
The real questions is, “Is it worth it?” I mean, what comes from these campaigns anyway? Is it just a bunch of self-indulgent bullshit created by delusional over-dramatic, misguided aspiring “filmmakers” and for corny sub-par Etsy projects like organic kitten sweaters? Well, for those of you that have wondered similar things or, more specifically, questioned why you or anyone else should ever be the ones to invest in some band’s dream to make some shitty music video in a post-MTV society, Helms Alee‘s new video for their song “8/16” might snap your cynical asses out of negativeland and into thinking right.
First off, I want to show you what their Kickstarter campaign looked like, beginning with their proposal video and statement of intention:
About this project
A music video for the song “8/16” by Helms Alee, from their new album ‘Weatherhead’ (Hydra Head Records). It will incorporate Beavis and Butthead-style, hand-drawn animation of the band watching live-action, 90s-style music videos of themselves referencing classic videos by the likes of Metallica, Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, Michael Jackson, Red Hot Chili Peppers, MC Hammer, and more. Animation has already begun, and we are planning to shoot the live action video parts in Seattle in August.
Directed by Andrew James Cox, who was also responsible for the Torche – “U.F.O.” music video.
Some of the incentives that were offered at various donation tiers included test pressings of the album vinyl, autographed merchandise, and original animation drawings. So, for a $15 donation, you could have received a CD that was easily worth $15 to begin with. The thing that I like the most about this is that they weren’t really asking anyone to blindly fund their own aimless project. Instead, they had what was clearly a really great, well-outlined concept and were able to very directly demonstrate to everyone how purchasing a bands merchandise honestly funds their ability to continue creating. In an age where we’re each about 3 clicks away from digitally swiping anything that we could ever want, a well thought out Kickstarter campaign can really create something that works to everyone’s benefit. Even at the $2,500 level, the perks would have included a signed double LP, original animation, an appearance in the video, CDs, a shirt, a book, MP3s, and a top-of-the-line, super high-end Verrellen “Meatsmoke” Amp Head (made by Helms member, Ben Verrellen) that, alone, would have retailed for that entire donation price.
Helms Alee and Hydra Head only asked for a reasonable $2,500 total to begin with, but were able to pull $3,025 by the time that their Kickstarter window closed. The reason that I feel all of this background information is so relevant is because the end result truly shows what they were able to accomplish through crowdfunding and through the utilization of the funds that they acquired. I remember hearing about this campaign when it began and, although it’s not like a ridiculous amount of time had past, it was just long enough for me to forget about the project altogether. When the video finally premiered yesterday morning, it was a surprise and great to know that they didn’t have to abandon the project or settle for anything less than their original concept and intentions. It’s nice to watch someone follow through and to witness a vision being realized, just like it was laid out from the beginning.
Here’s the end result:
Helms Alee – “8/16”
Shot on location in the band’s Northwest homelands of Seattle and Tacoma, ‘8/16’ represents months of preparation, production and now successful completion thanks to die-hard Helms Alee fans who supported the entire process via the project’s Kickstarter campaign. Masterminded and executed by animator/director Andrew James Cox (whose previous credits include Torche’s ‘UFO’ clip http://bit.ly/qm8G2u), the video is in homage to the cult 90s MTV series Beavis and Butthead, and the videos that they parodied at the time. All video spoofs feature the three members of Helms Alee (caricatured as Beavis and Butthead) recreating classic clips from artists such as..well, actually..we’ll let you figure it out. Can…
As for the throwback video references, the ones that I caught were (in chronological order):
Alice in Chains – “Would?“,
Temple of the Dog – “Hunger Strike“,
N.W.A. – “Straight Outta Compton“,
Metallica – “One“,
Michael Jackson – “Black or White“,
Red Hot Chilli Peppers – “Under the Bridge“,
G’N’R – “November Rain“,
Gerardo – “Rico Suave“,
Motley Crue – “Kickstart My Heart“,
Pearl Jam – “Even Flo“,
Ozzy Osbourne feat. Lita Ford – “If I Close My Eyes Forever“.
I’d like to believe that the reason that it was so easy to pick them all out so instantly isn’t as much about the amount of worthless information taking up space in my head as it is a testament to their ability to recreate the clips so convincingly, but it’s probably a combination of both factors. I didn’t catch any MC Hammer references, even though the proposal video stated that there was an original intention to include one. I’m guessing that they simply realized that they couldn’t include everything, that it wasn’t gonna work to try and fit that one in, and bagged that whole scene from jump street. However, if that’s not the case and there does happen to be some “Pumps And A Bump” footage lying around which wound up on the cutting room floor, I can only hope that it will resurface at some point in the future. With or without the banana hammock and a bunch of poolside honeys, the “8/16” video still deserves to be spreading like aids-fire right now and we don’t doubt that it will be. It doesn’t hurt the cause that the return of Beavis and Butthead to the airwaves was actually announced and launched while the video project was right in the middle of production, either. The timing couldn’t be better.
As for Kickstarter as a whole, it sure sounds like a great way to fund a project without soliciting/involving corporate interests, but the one huge variable is that there’s no true way to regulate if anyone is legit or not. For all anyone knows, once that money is collected, it could all be immediately invested into studio apartment rent, colored sand, inflatable palm trees, a directors chair, rolls of aluminum Reynolds Wrap, boxes of Arm & Hammer, a pack of white BiC ball-points (sans everything but the plastic shaft), BiC lighters, and a fat ounce of powdery face drugs with “rocks and lumps as big as marbles“. All of your donations might be getting smoked up in a makeshift urban oasis in Bakersfield and what’s to stop that from happening? Answer: nothing. On their FAQ-style “Help” page, Kickstarter partially addresses the questions of “How do I know a project creator is who they claim they are?” by suggesting, “At the end of the day, use your internet street smarts.” This is something that I always wondered about in regards to that site and had been interested in looking into further. But the truth is that tons of great shit has come through Kickstarter and plenty more will continue to. 3 amazing projects that have recently reached their funding include a documentary on Bill Callahan‘s “Apocalypse” tour (the Seattle stop alone was amazing), a sci-fi short about cryogenically frozen heads starring Will Oldham (w/art by Jeremy Fish, Mel Kadel, + more), and a mission to salvage deteriorating film stock from the classic graffiti documentary Style Wars.
Hopefully, successes like these and the one demonstrated by Helms Alee above will encourage others to look further into what Kickstarter has to offer and explore what it’s capable of. I’m personally gonna try to make an effort to start regularly endorsing one select campaign at a time, via a widget in our sidebar to the right. If you have a campaign in mind that you’d like us to help promote/endorse, just reach out and propose it to us at MonsterFresh@gmail.com.
Add Helms Alee on Facebook HERE.