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Andreas Nilsson vs AG Rojas

Kicking back in LA with the world’s most exciting music-video makers

Taken from the December issue of Dazed & Confused:

Both Andreas Nilsson and AG Rojas are revered for making groundbreaking music videos, but these days the bespectacled visionaries lend more of their time to personal projects. Rojas has been immersed in shorts (such as the disturbingly dreamy “Crown”) and eye-opening documentaries, while Nilsson has continued to drift in and out of the art and theatre worlds. With  a shared propensity towards the bizarre and an emphasis on narrative, the pair excel at creating visually distinct worlds of their own. One bleary afternoon in Los Angeles, the city Rojas has lived for 18 years and where Nilsson now has a second home (his first is in Malmö), the duo pick up a conversation they left off at a party at Nilsson’s new pad the night before. 

AG Rojas: When was our first project – four years ago? I was like, 22.

Andreas Nilsson: The Nike commercial. The concept was funny – Kevin Durant, Mo Williams, a couple other big basketball players. We recorded a rap song with them, produced by DJ Quik.

AGR: Yeah, that was a pretty wild shoot. That was what I used to do back then, assist my friends who were all directors.

AN: I remember ‘Earl’ came out a month later. I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ And I feel like every video’s just been so good since.

AGR: Thank you. I don’t know if you’ve had the same experience but it was really important for me to be surrounded by artists I really respected. If I didn’t have that, I would be totally lost. I see other young directors and they don’t have any mentorship. It’s gotta be so hard if the only people you know are people who are struggling. It’s good to be around people who are better than you.

AN: That’s film, isn’t it? 
It’s about who you collaborate with. And making sure that everyone is better than you: hair, wardrobe.

AGR: I get nervous if I feel like 

I’m smarter than someone on set, because I’m not that smart! What have you been working on lately?

AN: I did a commercial in Madrid a few weeks ago with Jean-Claude Van Damme. It’s a super strange film. I don’t know what other format I’d be able to do that than in a commercial.

AGR: My generation of music-video makers are super influenced by ads. You’d watch a Jonathan Glazer Wrangler commercial from the 90s and it’d be a special piece of work that he was able to make.

“It’s hard to be cool when you’re on a little toy bike holding a cake with boobs on it”

AGR: When’s the last time you sat down to watch a music video?

AN: I watch any of your videos that come out! Have you recently?

AGR: All the time. I think there’s been a pretty bad trend towards narrative videos lately. I used to always say there needed to be more narrative, but then it was the same depressing story over and over again. I have a lot of friends that are getting back into performance videos, which is the most pure form of music-video filmmaking. If you can make a good performance video, you’ve won. 

AN: Which recent ones do you like?

AGR: I think "Bad Girls" (by M.I.A., directed by Romain Gavras) is the best recent video. And my friends did the music videos for Bat for Lashes’ last album – really beautiful performance videos. I think there aren’t many good performance videos because there’s not many charismatic artists right now.

AN: Except for David Guetta.

AGR: Ever since I started doing music videos, I’ve always wanted them to feel like part of the same world. Do you ever feel that way? For example, that David Guetta video (‘Play Hard’) was happening in Mexico and ‘Birthday Song’ (by 2 Chainz and Kanye West) was happening in Compton, but they could be in the same world. You know, creating a world where these people could know each other. 

AN: I don’t know. Stuff that I’ve done this year has been a lot about juxtaposition. I’m not particularly a fan of David Guetta but you take a part of pop culture and smash it together with something else, something unexpected, and funny things can come out of that. When it comes to tracks I really like I have a harder time coming up with ideas than with tracks I don’t really love.

AGR: But in the beginning all of them were your friends too, right?

AN: Yeah, I started out doing it for friends. But now the artist is like a colour on the palette, it’s like casting. You don’t necessarily need to cast for people you want to go on holiday with. It’s rather the opposite. You’re looking for the things that are unknown.