“…There’s always somebody reaching for something that’s out of their reach or out of their control and they’re trying to fix it.”
When you first look at Jeff VASH, you see a walking thundercloud of awesome visuals, ill techniques and supreme vision. But when you actually speak with Jeff VASH, you are met with a tranquil eye of a diligent storm.
For those of you who are saying, “Who the fuck is this guy?”, here’s a briefing: A couple of weeks ago we featured a video titled “About You”. The video is a slow motion trill ride — yes, trill ride — that features music from XXYYXX but is accompanied by the visual genius of Jeff VASH, a 22 year-old filmmaker based in Texas.
Pretty dope, no? After seeing and featuring this video, we combined our overall awe and our reader’s positive feedback and used it as incentive to actually track this artist down and find out exactly what makes him tick. The process wasn’t easy but when it was over, we emerged triumphant.
First we had to undergo the process of actually locating VASH. His Vimeo account didn’t offer much help and contacting him through twitter seemed a little vapid for our taste so we tried the next best thing, Facebook. This decision would prove to be a bad one for we accidentally contacted the wrong Jeff VASH. (Apologies to Jeffrey Vash of Ohio)
Then, once we had our hands on the true Jeff VASH, we attempted to conduct a video via Google+ but the burden of shitty equipment and a bad connection broke that camel’s back and we had to settle for a phone interview.
Nonetheless, VASH was a good sport. Despite numerous attempts and failures to make sure that all systems were go, VASH simply endured the debacle with a chuckle. After joking about how “ugly” the whole process was, we got right into talking about his work, his artistic beliefs and his inspiration.
Born in Queens, VASH and his family moved to Jersey around the age of two. After spending some time in Jersey, they then relocated to Texas when he was in the 8th grade. Now a Fine Art Design major at the University of Texas, VASH easily describes New York City as his second home.
“My parents decided to moved us to Jersey when I was really young but I was in the city like almost every weekend. I’d just take the train and my mom worked downtown in Manhattan, two blocks away from the World Trade Center was so the city is very much my second home.”
Although VASH is originally a graphic designer by trade, he always seemed to have a foot in film. He and his cousins used to make home movies when they were young and as a result he currently has several cousins working in the film industry today. One can almost say that it is in VASH’s blood to be a filmmaker. He tried being a business major but decided that he’d be better off taking a more creative route and doing something that he loved; at the time, graphic designing was that love.
“I like to apply my design philosophies and techniques and ways of designing into my creative process when I create a video […] simple, well shot, creative, and abstract. That is what my work has been described as, and that’s pretty much what I’m all about.”
Still, we wanted know if the transition from graphic designer to filmmaker was a smooth one. It may seem natural in VASH’s case but he revealed that the process did have it quirks.
“It was really interesting how similar of plane it is to work in… if you’re an artist, working within in a 2D plane — whether it’s digitally or physically, if you’re painting or designing — it’s kind of… I mean, it was pretty smooth but yet awkward. [Laughs]”
Sounds contradicting but he then goes on to reveal that a stint in animation fairly aided the transition into film — and once that transition was complete, VASH hit the ground running.
Tell us about “Mystery Meat Wrestler”…
“[Laughs] Yeah, that was one of my earlier videos it was for a self portrait project… So, I mean, I’m not one to step in front of the camera but it had to be done…[Laughs]… that was inspired by the music video for “Stressed” by Justice… Yeah, it was a lot of fun shooting that video… I wanted it to seem like you didn’t know what was real and what wasn’t.
It’s that kind of vibe for the entire video… and if you watch the end, it’s the end scene where I wake up and the camera falls. It’s a simple narrative that will bring you through.”
“My favorite shot was going to the Grandé Mart… It’s a block down the street so I’d see the dude who owns it every single day and he’s really like a super nice Indian dude… I was like, ‘Hey, man, I’m a film student at the university. Do you mind if I shoot a video here?’
He he was totally cool about it. There was a bunch of customers trying to get all their alcohol and we’re like ‘who are all these dudes all filming with like their Super Soakers trying to hold up the place…” we busted in, we shouted really fast that we were shooting a video… and everyone was just staring at the camera like really blankly… We were basically in and out of there in 15 mins.”
VASH may come off as an impromptu chaos junkie but he’s far from it. In fact, he’s a brilliant hybrid. He sites artists like Usugrow, Basquiat, and Ed Ruscha as his influences while acknowledging his beneficial affinity for architecture, modern design and fine art. As a result, VASH draws from a well of raw simplicity and hopscotches between the notion of frayed and sleek; skillfully wedding them both.
Aside from his aforementioned influences, VASH’s main influence is music. He is a visual artist through and through but is on the verge of becoming one of the next great music video directors of our time. His ability to translate what is heard into visual excellence is too astute to ignore. Also too good to ignore is his most prized creation to date, “About You”.
We are not afraid to admit that “About You” may be the solitary reason why we sought Jeff VASH. When we saw this video, we thought, “Either this kid is a genius or we smoke way too much reefer.”
The latter may be true but it takes nothing away from the validity of the former. Jeff VASH doesn’t just listen to music. He swims in it, drys off and then accurately describes its temperature to a tee.
Tell us “About You”…
“It was our final project of the semester so I wanted to like make everyone’s jaw drop in my class basically… My friend was experimenting with slow-mo plugins… Eventually over like a period of about a week I just sat down everyday and practiced… like these different techniques and experiments with different visual effects, what lighting and camera settings achieved the best effects.
So the assignment was to incorporate 3D effects in the project… I had an idea of what I wanted to do… the smoke and ‘the mask is like this alternate personality’ type thing. When you listen to this song… whenever she puts on the vinyl… this song is what evokes all these different visual cues. I thought, ‘what’s a way to present a visual “trip” other than a song that gets you lifted”
And I couldn’t decide on a song… for a good two weeks I was stuck, [I had] nothing and then my friend who’s a music producer out in San Antonio, we were kind of brainstorming and he’s sending me all these songs… Then that thing happened where you’re on YouTube and you click three different related videos that you don’t know… and then you land on something special. And that’s what happen with this.
XXYYXX is this producer from Orlando who is just super talented and no one’s ever really heard of him… My mind was just blown the moment I heard the song — I immediately bought the album, loaded it up into my iPod and that’s the only song I listened to for a solid two weeks.
I’d walk to the bus stop, and in between my classes… [it was] so inspiring. When I was completely finished with the production, I made the decision to cut out any sort of superfluous visual effects, even though that is what my professor called for. Sometimes you just have to say FUCK YOU to everybody else and do what you think is the best.”
On the Success of “About You”….
“Since I dropped “About You”, a lot of these young artists have been sending me really great music. There is a lot of talent out there. I’m interested in working with the best.
Making a video is a lot of production. There’s a bunch of stuff behind the scenes that goes on. I have a really really new respect for filmmakers out there.
XXYYXX really liked it. [Laughs] I was happy about that.”
On being seen as a music video director…
“Shit, I don’t mind. I embrace it. Music is an important aspect of everyone’s life.”
The scariest thing about VASH is the fact that he’s still learning. The young Filipino-American artist has only been practicing film for about a year but like we said before, it looks to be in his genes.
On what’s next…
“Can’t really say too much right now… but, expect big things in the future.
Hopefully I can work with some talented musicians and filmmakers. I’m also extending my interests into the fashion world as well.
Fuck Hype Williams. ”
Running the risk of pontificating, we are comfortable saying that we truly believe that Jeff VASH will be the next big thing to come out of Texas. His appetite for innovation and taste for structure fuels his talents. His love for detail and respect for those who came before him strengthens the foundation of his craft.
As New Yorkers, we will always count him as one of our own but the native son has risen on a new horizon and is shining a light that will soon have other directors running for the shade.