The Sunday Times 11 August 1996
In August 1996 Mo' Wax visited Scotland for several events around the 50th Edinburgh Film Festival, including screenings of films as described in the below article from August 11 1996's Sunday Times. These events also included a Dusted North club night featuring James Lavelle, Andrea Parker, Peshay, and DJ Shadow.
Tomato - a source of inspiration.
A graphics collective and a record company have given video a fresh image - Edinburgh Festival - Film.
By Thom Dibdin.
Chances are, you'll recognise the "sting" for the 50th Edinburgh Film Festival. The 15-second clip that precedes every film could come from only one place. It is in a distinctive style used in television advertising for products as diverse as radio stations, newspapers and sanitary towels.
It is a style advertisers are falling over themselves to use - and its use in adverts has those who know their techno falling over themselves in shock. Both the sting and the adverts are the work of tomato, a company popularly known for its connections with the chart-topping techno act Underworld and more closely associated with the graphic underground than corporate advertising.
In the highly structured business world, tomato is that rarest of creatures, a collective in which nobody is boss. The eight-strong team has held fast to its ideals and landed lucrative contracts as a result.
According to Simon Taylor, a collective member, most of the contracts did not result from specific commissions but from the advertiser choosing one of tomato's personal projects to put its name to. Which is where the Mirrorball event at the Edinburgh Film Festival comes in: besides supplying the sting, tomato is contributing a showreel of the original work that the business world went on to bend to its commercial demands.
"The best possible scenario is that they just want to put their logo on the bottom-right-hand corner," says Taylor, who was responsible for the Edinburgh sting. "Otherwise we rework it for them. Even before tomato, the things that I made were what ended up getting me the jobs, rather than the other way round."
Although tomato has created some strong narrative films - including a painfully shocking safe-driving advert - the company is noted for the strong typographical content of its videos. It originated a distinctive way of layering words over each other to create the video equivalent of a collage.
"We came from a graphic design background," explains Taylor. "Originally we were making images within a graphic design context. Now, we are still making images, but have ditched the context."
While tomato is a tightly knit collective with a distinctive style, the Mo Wax record label is completely free-form in its approach to videos. Founded by James Lavelle, a disc jockey, Mo Wax draws on dub, jazz and hip-hop to create an eclectic vision.
It is a label made hip by the street cultures of skateboarding and graffiti art, which juxtaposes samples from a variety of sources - from film soundtracks to out-there jazz - to create a hybrid. The videos Mo Wax is presenting at Mirrorball have come about by happy accident rather than by corporate design.
"The film-festival people called up and said they were looking for non-narrative videos," says Andy Holmes, the Mo Wax label manager. "We weren't aware that we had done any, but we knew we had been getting untold requests from people to use our music on skate videos, documentaries they were making and personal projects they were putting together."
Edinburgh will get the first chance to see fresh work from such new talent as Phil Frost, Nick Abrahams and Matt Paton as well as better-known artists like Mike Mills.
Paton is typical of the directors involved. As a student, he decided to do more than the bare minimum required to satisfy the examiners of his end-of-year project, and contacted Mo Wax and got permission to use the bullet-headed cartoon characters created by the artist Futura. Taking the cartoons as a point of reference, he has created animated loops and added regular film footage shot around the Mo Wax office with a soundtrack from label artistes The Psychonauts.
To emphasise the importance of the music in all the videos on show, Mo Wax has organised a club event featuring the DJs Peshay and Andrea Parker to follow the screening. Parker's music will also be present at the screening with a video for her new single, The Rocking Chair.
The Hollywood film industry may continue to spawn monolithic blockbusters that are written, filmed and directed by committee, but the work of both Mo Wax and tomato shows that in its centenary year, cinema still has a lot to learn and offer.
The Mo Wax screening is on Aug 19 and the tomato screening is on Aug 23. Both take place in Filmhouse 2, Lothian Road, at 10pm. Tel: 0131 228 2688. The Mo Wax club event is at the Honeycomb, Blair Street, Aug 19 from 11.30pm. An exhibition of Mo Wax-related artwork and videos is at Fopp record shop, Cockburn Street, Aug 12-25. Tel: 0131 220 0133
(c) Times Newspapers Ltd, 1996.