The Toronto garage-rockers ’gory new video has been banned by MuchMusic. But at least the nation’s music station was nice enough to pay for it.
In the dimly lit Dundas West bar The Garrison, The Mark Inside’s Chris Levoir and Reade Ollivier are aglow with pre-performance jitters. We’re at the release party for the Toronto garage-rockers’ new album, Nothing to Admit, and, despite the six-year gap between this record and their previous full-length, the band have picked up right where they left off thanks to copious college-radio airplay, a busy tour schedule and mounting international acclaim.
But if The Mark Inside are on a roll, they’ve also hit a little speed bump: A suddenly deflated Levoir tells me that the band recently found out that their new music video won’t be aired on any of MuchMusic’s TV or online platforms—even though the station’s auxiliary organization, MuchFACT, gave the band a $20,000 grant to make it.
“They thought it was too violent,” Levoir says blankly.
Levoir admits that their video for “Shots from a Broken Bottle” does ooze with a fair amount of bloodshed, but the singer/guitarist wanted creative license to take ultimate precedent. “Shots from a Broken Bottle” sets Levoir’s tortured screams and the band’s bluesy grind to graphic footage shot in Memphis’ Earnestine & Hazel’s Bar and Grill, a former brothel that inspired the lyrics to The Rolling Stones classic “Brown Sugar.” The main character is seen reading letters from an ex, before he goes on a killing spree with the kind of precision you’d see on an episode of Dexter.
“I was put in touch with five directors that do well for MuchMusic,” Levoir says. “I knew what we wanted—no edits, nothing. I told them I wanted it to be dark, almost like a bad acid trip.”
It’s not suprising the video was red-flagged for its depictions of violence towards women, but its troubled protagonist is more complicated than he appears to be on the surface.
“The killer in the video is trying to get back his lost love—he’s killing people that are triggering his OCD and superstitions.”
“[Director] Michael [Maxxis] added in the homicidal mania, and we just let it roll,” says Ollivier. “We wanted a video that had a sort of Memento-type shadowiness, integrated with an obsessive-compulsive maniac who is trapped in a love from the past. [The violence is] not [there] because we view women as being inferior and easy targets. If you look deep enough, it just so happens that these first victims were women who disrupted this guy’s obsessive-compulsive patterns. As the video plays out, you’ll notice that the victims are no longer shown, but the intentions are there. It could be a man or woman being murdered.”
But if The Mark Inside’s video treatment indicated the end result would be ultra-violent, why did MuchFACT dole out thousands of dollars for production in the first place? As station Vice President Neil Staite explains, just because MuchMusic adminsters MuchFACT—a grant system that facilitates domestic video production—does not guarantee the funded videos will get airplay on the network.
“I would say, that 20, 30, 40, videos [that get grants] don’t run,” says Staite. “[MuchFACT beneficiaries] aren’t supposed to automatically assume they’ll get airplay.” However, even without the benefit of being broadcast, “bands get a larger awareness regardless with the web, press kits, bookers, distributors, on top of the exposure they may or may not get on MuchMusic.”
Staite has worked at MuchMusic for some 20 years; he started as a unit assistant, or as he describes it, being “a coffee-runner.” He has watched MuchMusic morph from an eccentric music-video channel into a slick, teen-targeted lifestyle hub. And this, he explains, is a by-product of the online/social-media frenzy that defines this era. When there is so much room on the web for music and videos of every style, it’s more advantageous for a national network like MuchMusic to focus on mainstream-oriented programming that will attract the coveted youth audience and advertising revenue—especially when programs like MuchFACT can simultaneously provide support to under-the-radar bands like The Mark Inside. (Since 1984, MuchFACT has allocated over $60 million to music-video production, and $3.4 million in 2010 alone.)
As for videos that are deemed to be too much for Much, Staite says that, while there have always been defined limits on what can kind of content can be aired (based on rules put in place by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council), MuchMusic is actually far more liberal-minded than they used to be. (For example, Staite recalls how, in 1991, MuchMusic viewers were outraged when they first saw Michael Jackson’s crotch-grabbing, window-smashing video for “Black or White”—“Viewers were up in arms,” Staite says, laughing.)
Still, even with looser morals at play, director Micheal Maxxis wasn’t the least bit surprised that his “Shots From a Broken Bottle” video was banned.
“MuchMusic plays a certain type of video, a certain type of song,” Maxxis says. “Our song is six-minutes long and doesn’t have a dance beat. Maybe if David Guetta was in the video, or Pitbull [it would get played]. But this video is over their heads; being banned by them doesn’t mean anything.”
Fortunately, the “Shots from a Broken Bottle” video is currently reaching audiences through Daily Motion, YouTube and other online streaming sites. And the blacklisting puts The Mark Inside in good company—lest we forget, earlier this year, Broken Social Scene’s equally violent “Sweetest Kill” video was also rejected by MuchMusic, even though it too was funded by MUCHFact. Evidently, being banned by Much—on their own dime, no less—is where it’s at.