• Stones Throw
  • Morgan Z

I've never been as nostalgic for the movies, music, and fashions of the 1980s as some of my friends. It may have something to do with age, but I think it has even more to do with circumstance and aesthetics.

Most people I know have especially fond feelings for the things they remember from high school, but most of my favorite films and records came out when I was in grade school, and my parents weren't big on censorship, so I got to experience all that stuff while it was happening. It was a decade in which mainstream culture was a little messier, a little more raw.

Consequently, I was more jaded than most when the '80s came along; my taste had already been formed. In small ways, it would grow and change, but the essential die had been cast. And so much of the popular phenomena—the extravagant action movies, the airbrushed dance-pop—seemed vacuous to a kid who'd grown up on the songs of Harry Nilsson and the films of Sidney Lumet. I wasn't a snob. I liked Prince, Blondie, and other Top 40 artists, but that's the point at which I discovered alternative culture, and never looked back.

As for the the fashions of the '80s: yuck. Not that the '70s weren't problematic in that regard, but I'd still rather return to the days of bell-bottoms and tight t-shirts than cowl necks and parachute pants (I used to work at Nordstrom, so I sold a lot of instant obsolescence to suburban suckers looking to emulate their MTV heroes).

That said, it was a fun time—culturally, I mean, not politically (I have no nostalgia for Reagan, with the possible exception of the Spitting Image puppet who appears in that Genesis video). If anything, I enjoy the '80s more now than I did then, and my Mom feels the same way about the '50s. She remembers the racism and the sexism more than the poodle skirts and the sock hops, so I guess I got it from her.

All of this is to say that I love the new video from Chrome Canyon, aka Morgan Z from Apes & Androids, who recreates that '80s synth-and-drum pad sound and those equally cheesy videos to an eerie degree. Think Berlin's "Take My Breath Away,"* Vangelis's soundtrack for Chariots of Fire, or Wang Chung's music for To Live and Die in L.A., a significant influence on Drive, which has helped to bring the synth score back in a big way (not to mention Tangerine Dream's work on Thief and Risky Business). Sartorially, think A Flock of Seagulls and Howard Jones.

*Rest in peace, Tony Scott, director of Top Gun, True Romance, and the great Domino.

Morgan describes his filmmaking process as follows:

The making of this video was a definitely b-movie affair. We shot it all at my music studio in Greenpoint—I had gone down to Leeds Radio in Williamsburg and gotten all this weird old gear which is what we used to build the "control room," and we completely rearranged the live room to accommodate the "circle of synths"—there’s 17 synths in total. I nearly lit my head of fire at the end because my hair was so full of hairspray and teased out—I was literally up on a ladder off to the side of camera lighting a sparkler yelling "ready! action!" then I’d swing the lit sparkler into the frame and hop in myself. I was stepping all over smoldering embers with my bare feet, and that room must have been 120 degrees with our little four-person crew, a giant hazer, the smoke from the fireworks, and all the windows and doors taped shut to block out light—it was not the most pleasant place to be. Noah was a good sport about it though, and the camera work he did was incredible.

Stone's Throw releases Elemental Themes on Oct 9. It remains to be seen whether a full album of this stuff—assuming it all sounds like this—won't get old fast, but I admire the attention to detail with which Morgan put it together.