Primal Scream – Goodbye Johnny

Director Alister Mackie gives the inside track on the video and its sparkling drag queens

Stylist and AnOther Man creative director Alister Mackie first met Bobby Gillespie in 1989, when he was a student in Glasgow. Since then, he’s hand-stitched the Primal Scream frontman’s satin shirts, scrubbed him up for the cover of Dazed  and now, in his directorial debut, made the video for the band’s latest single "Goodbye Johnny", taken from this year's album More Light. Touting a low budget but a high concept, the video was shot on iPhone in the fittingly seedy confines of The Backstreet club in Mile End, London’s original gay S&M club. Gathering together a host of Bobby Gillespie lookalikes, a classic oil wheel projector, two impossibly glamourous drag queens – Jeanette and Dazed favourite Dinah Lux – and a stack of slinky shirts, Alister went about crafting a nostalgic, Warhol-esque world that’s as sleazy as it is stylish. We asked Alister about the process behind his very first promo.

Dazed Digital: When did you pitch the idea for the video to Bobby?

Alister Mackie: We were at Glastonbury watching the Rolling Stones and that’s when we had the conversation. I said to him I had an idea for a video and he mulled it over for a while and then came back to me and said, ‘did you mean it? I really want you to do one’. It was a bit of a risk for the band, because obviously I’ve never done a video before.

DD: What was that idea?

Alister Mackie: My initial idea was really, really basic. I said I wanted guys that look like you to lip sync and it’ll be like Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests, which are really powerful because they’re so simple. I thought, let’s do something that costs nothing, that kids themselves could make. We used an app called 8mm on the iPhone – I felt that gave us the Super 8 spirit of The Rolling Stones or Warhol, that kind of fragmented thing which is always very magical, I think. It was very lo-fi – it was like doing a shoot for Dazed & Confused back in the day. The final touch was we projected the "Loaded" video on top of the boys – which was really fun.

"It’s an homage to the Madonna video ‘Erotica’, where she’s hitchhiking naked at the end"

DD: It was shot in a notorious sex club?

Alister Mackie: Yeah, the venue was The Backstreet bar. It's one of London’s oldest original sex clubs. It’s sort of like a Kenneth Anger set, it’s incredible, its got barrels and cages and boots hanging from the ceiling. Jeanette hosted a party for Rick Owens there and I’d seen her wearing this beautiful white crown. I thought that’s an amazing image, because it suited the song as it had this 1920s Weimar cabaret attitude to it.

DD: Where did you cast all the fake Bobbys from?

Alister Mackie: I worked with Eddie Martin, who I’ve worked with for many years and I gave him a brief and he came up with them. There were a couple of guys that I knew, who were Primal Scream fans, that I wanted, I knew they would be great. They’re all models.

DD: Where did you source the clothes from?

Alister Mackie: There’s a mix, some of them are wearing Bobby’s own clothes, some of them are wearing mine and some of them are wearing vintage things. It’s basically about a slinky, satin shirt, which is what Bob was championing back then. I went to Bobby’s house to get some – I just had a little dig around and got some good things from there. The trannies, Jeanette and Dinah, are wearing stuff from Mairead Lewin who’s an amazing vintage lady in West London – that’s where we got those glamorous items for them.

DD: How long was the shoot?

Alister Mackie: Just one day, we started early at The Backstreet – it’s quite an unusual thing to be somewhere like that at that time at the morning! The last shot of the video is us arriving at the club, where the girls are hitchhiking. It was a bright, breezy beautiful day. It was 8am and they’re in their full finery and the traffic was stopping! It’s an homage to the Madonna video "Erotica", where she’s hitchhiking naked at the end.