Even if you’re a sharp study, though, you may not have heard so much about Adam Harding, or his open-door band collab Dumb Numbers (but you will have heard of the friends he plays with: folks like Dale Crover from the Melvins, David Yow of Jesus Lizard, Lou Barlow and Murph from Dinosaur Jr, Jenny Lee Lindberg from Warpaint, Bobb Bruno from Best Coast and others).
It’s a shame you don’t know more about Adam, so I’m here to change that. Harding, an Aussie transplant to L.A., is like a rocktopus, with many hands in many delicious pies. Dumb Numbers now have two heavy and beautifully satisfying albums out on the righteous Joyful Noise label, a self-titled one and one called II. They’ve also toured with a few wee legends you may have heard of called the Lemonheads and My Bloody Valentine. And Harding himself has made more than a dozen music videos and films for a ton of bands. The latest one even happens to be the brand-new video for Lou Barlow’s song “The Breeze” off Barlow’s new EP, Apocalypse Fetish:
But it’s high time you knew more about Adam Harding, and the work he’s been doing tirelessly for years. He’s got some stories to tell, so gather round, let’s hear a few (or 11) . Here’s Adam Harding’s Top 11 Favourite Videos.
1. Magic Dirt – White Boy
Magic Dirt were a local band from my hometown of Geelong in Australia, who totally blew my mind when I first saw them live in late ‘92 or early ‘93. They were the fucking coolest. Total fuzz/wah perfection. Noisy and scuzzy, but also super melodic and hooky. They were very approachable and became heroes to me. I loved their music and loved them as people, and they were always very supportive and encouraging towards younger musicians and artists.
Some years later, their bass player Dean Turner started producing younger bands, and I approached him to help me finish up some songs I’d recorded with Magic Dirt’s drummer and original guitarist. Dean saw my DJ Shadow video and asked if I would make a video for the album they were about to record, as well as document the band in the studio and on the road. I thought it would be cool to film the video in our hometown, and the Old Geelong Jail was the perfect location.
The prison is notorious for being haunted, and some of the more violent and sadistic prisoners who died there were buried on the prison grounds standing up on so they would never be at peace, and buried just a few feet away from the outside perimeter wall so they would be taunted with freedom for eternity. One notable prisoner was Mark “Chopper” Read, who said the Geelong Jail was the one jail he never wanted to go back to. It was closed as a prison in 1991 and is now open to the public for tours, including ghost tours. I rented out the entire jail for the night for $200 and was given the keys to the whole place. It was a very spooky experience for everyone involved, but the footage turned out so great. I filmed it in night-vision mode so everyone’s eyes glowed in the dark and it looked super creepy.
2. The Red Sun Band – Ghosts
Another band that Dean was producing was The Red Sun Band, and I instantly fell in love with Sarah Kelly’s beautiful voice and her sublime songwriting. I flew up to Sydney and made two videos with Sarah and her lovely sister Lizzie. “Ghosts” was a b-side but I convinced Sarah that the song deserved more and we should make a video for it. We shot this video in Sarah’s bedroom at her dad’s house with just the bedside lamp illuminating her face. It’s a very simple video but I love it so much. I shot the murky trees and streetlights moving by in the background from the Magic Dirt tour van while we were driving back to Melbourne after a show in Ballarat in rural Victoria (which was the show where we filmed the live footage that appears in “White Boy”).
3. Adalita – Hot Air
Dean had been encouraging his Magic Dirt bandmate to record a solo album. I ended up making 4 or 5 videos with Adalita for her first solo album, and I really enjoyed working closely with her to find the right images to marry with her beautiful songs. We made the first video for Hot Air in 2009 before a record label was involved. We drove down to Breamlea, a small coastal beach town near Geelong where Dean and Adalita had started Magic Dirt 17 years earlier. Dean had been quietly battling a rare form of soft-tissue cancer for some time, and was in the hospital when we were making the video. Dean was no stranger to hospital visits, and we all expected that he would pull through and return back home to his family and continue to work on his many projects and inspire everyone around him. Tragically Dean didn’t make it back home this time. Adalita took a DVD of the video for him to watch in hospital but I’m not sure he ever saw it. But this video is for Dean. Scratch that, everything is for Dean. I credit my creative path to Dean, along with Lou Barlow and David Lynch, for giving me the encouragement I needed at the time I needed to hear it.
4. Warpaint – Stars
God, I love these girls so much and have nothing but great memories of this time. I was introduced to the Warpaint girls in LA by our mutual friend Burke Roberts. Burke and I co-directed this video and it was so much fun and the ideas flowed easily. I had filmed some fireworks at the 100th anniversary of the Santa Monica Pier on 9/9/09 at 9 PM and I had the idea of projecting the reversed footage onto the girls. Then Burke had the idea of shooting it in the recently burned and still-smoldering Angeles National Forest. That sparked the mental image of the girls with backwards sparklers, and it went back and forth like this. The girls were really into the ideas and Theresa, Emily and Jenny Lee all made their own white costumes to be projected onto. Stella joined the band shortly after this video was made, and I’ve been working on some songs with Stella and Jenny Lee which will form the next Dumb Numbers full-length album.
5. Lou Barlow – Don’t Apologize
In 2009 I was living with Lou and his family in Los Angeles and it was a very creative and productive time. We made 5 or 6 videos for the Goodnight Unknown album, and just like the videos I made with Adalita for her solo record, there’s something very satisfying about creating a series of videos that are all related to the same album. We also ended up with a 30-minute documentary to go along with the music videos, and the documentation was part of our daily lives, living and working in close proximity, and Lou’s daughter Hannelore was very involved in all of this.
Hanny was really into Calico Critters at the time, and that was the inspiration for this video, with “Lightning Joe” laying in his bed at night, while Lou, Imaad Wasif and Dale Crover play the song inside his head. Poor Joe had one of his ears chewed off by Lou’s parents’ dog, so this gave me the idea of being able to take a peek inside his head, with a green light emanating from inside. The idea for the praying mantis came from a painting by Imaad of a mantis with a human baby that was hanging in the practice space.I had the idea for the praying mantis to arrive in a vegetable steamer basket while I was doing the dishes. We bought a bunch of itty-bitty baby mantids with the hopes of growing them for the video, but the girls ate all the boys and after weeks of feeding them, they were still too small to work with the scale of the Calico Critters house. It was getting to be a worry as we needed to have the video done, so I thought “who is the one person I know in LA who could get a full-grown adult mantis delivered in a matter of hours? I know, David Lynch!” so I called David and he gave me his bug man’s number.
This video was featured on Justin Timberlake’s website under the title of “staggeringly cool stop motion music videos”, but there’s actually no stop motion in this video. The praying mantis featured in the video was very much alive, and very much pregnant. She moved really slow so I had to speed the footage up 1000% which gives it that weird stop-motion look.
6. Emperor X – Compressor Repair
I met my buddy Chad Matheny from Emperor X in 2009 at Lou’s house for an orphan’s Thanksgiving. Chad’s enthusiasm is infectious and he inspired me to start playing live again, which I hadn’t done in 10 years. He joined me in Australia for some shows in 2010 and we had a blast. I don’t get to see Chad too often these days as he lives in Berlin now, but it’s always so great to see him. We shot this video in 2012 one afternoon in Echo Park, Los Angeles and Lou’s daughter Hannelore and Dale Crover’s daughter Scarlett and their friend Harlow squirt Chad with water pistols and then kick the crap out of him, then I play the hipster who comes along and steals his air conditioning unit. Some days are like that.
7. Useless Children – Walk Away
I was asked to make a video for my friends in Useless Children from Melbourne. They were such an amazing band, especially live, and I was super excited to make a video for them. I wasn’t able to film them in Australia so I had the idea of using their first music video for a song called “Sky Is Falling”, which was shot on VHS by Jensen Tjhung from Deaf Wish, and incorporated that into the video so they could still be in it.
I then asked David Yow to play the character of Jimmy, a janitor based on a real janitor named Jimmy who used to clean the printing factory I used to work at when I lived in Australia. Jimmy was a really lovable and simple fella, and we really bonded over music. I used to play cassettes on the boombox while I worked and Jimmy would have very physical reactions to the music. He was a man of few words, but he’d shake his butt and dance with his broom to the first Folk Implosion record, Take A Look Inside, and he’d headbang to Sepultura’s Chaos A.D.
In our video, Jimmy works at a secret government warehouse facility that houses an inventory of subversive material. He finds an unlocked door to one of the inventory rooms and removes the VHS tape of Useless Children’s “Sky Is Falling” video. The video triggers some kind of paranoia in Jimmy while watching the video and he runs away, chased by invisible assailants. David and I had so much fun making this video, and it really cemented out friendship. David has become my best friend, and there’s nothing I love more than hanging out and drinking beer and working on projects with him.
8. Sebadoh – All Kinds
I was so psyched to make a video for Sebadoh. It was important to me that this video be a group effort between Lou, Jason and Bob. I asked everyone to submit footage they had taken themselves, during both the recording of the Secret EP from which this song is taken, and also random things they had filmed at home and on tour. So we have some random acts of randomness including ladybugs, Hurricane Irene, Bob’s dog Buddy, Jake vaping it up in an airplane bathroom, and Lou tossing a sofa while J Mascis and Kevin Shields watch on in the background. Most of the footage I got from the guys was in the old-school television 4×3 aspect ratio, so to widen the image for 16×9 I had the idea to re-film the footage projected onto grubby, reflective surfaces, like David Yow’s metal trash bin.
9. Swervedriver – I Wonder?
We were originally working on a completely different song and Adam and Jimmy from the band kept asking me to speed up the driving footage. I sped it up 200%, then 300%, then finally 500% which would have made the driving speed about 250 miles an hour, and it still wasn’t fast enough for them! Adam ended up playing my video edit for the other song over this song instead, and it just felt right. I filmed the band at their rehearsal in Los Angeles and also at their show at the Roxy in Hollywood. I shot all the effects for this video in camera, using kids’ toys such as a Japanese kaleidoscope and a magic eye prism. I also removed the lens from the camera body and held the lens in front to get some weird focus-shifting action, a trick I had learned from my photographer buddy Ben Butcher from Melbourne.
10. Best Coast – California Nights
I’d actually met Bethany a long time before she started performing as Best Coast. We went to Coachella back in 2004 to see The Cure, Pixies and Radiohead, and we got super high on pot brownies! I also witnessed her first ever live performance in the back of a clothing store in Ventura. I met Bobb a few years later when he was playing with Imaad Wasif. I love Bethany and Bobb’s music and was really stoked when they asked me to make a video for this song. I filmed Bobb, Bethany and her cat Snacks at Bethany’s house, and then I left Los Angeles at 3 a.m. and drove out to Joshua Tree to find a good spot to catch the sunrise. I ate a pot cookie and wandered off into the desert and it was so incredible to watch the sun come up and slowly make its way across the landscape until it was too bright to film anymore. I didn’t realize how far I’d gone walkabout into the desert and had some trouble finding the car. I took a nap and stuck around to capture the sunset before I drove back to L.A. My only regret is that I wish I had more time to work on it, but I’m proud of what we accomplished in a week.
11. Dumb Numbers – Unbury The Hatchet
Jimmy returns! Ever since we filmed the Useless Children video back in 2012, David [Yow] and I have talked about returning to the Jimmy character. David would often make Jimmy faces or do something Jimmy-like which would crack us up. I wanted to play Jimmy’s mum and David said I should dye my hair bright pink, so I did! I had the idea of Jimmy catching the bus to go to work but never getting there. Then I had the idea of a veterinary clinic waiting room, with my buddy Bobb from Best Coast in his “bunnytuff” costume, and my buddy Matt Cronk from Qui in a gorilla costume, and I was really excited to see my friend Kimmy Robertson from Twin Peaks back behind a receptionist window! Then my friend Kevin Rutmanis made a brief cameo as the guy carrying the red pipe, which was my little nod to David Lynch and Jacques Tati. We could only film on weekends so it took about 3 months to film, but David and I had so much fun making it, I kinda didn’t want it to end.
I couldn’t be happier with how the video turned out, and we really got lucky during the bowling alley shoot for the dream sequence. We just happened to be the only ones there, and it wouldn’t have been nearly as dreamy if there were other people bowling. Just like the bus scene, this was a total gorilla shoot, so we couldn’t afford to book the whole place out as we only had a $200 budget to make the video. I’m hoping to make two more videos with David for the most recent Dumb Numbers album, playing different characters in each. I’m really excited to see David getting some leading roles lately. He’s a really amazing actor, and he really loves acting. And I really love seeing him doing what he loves to do.
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