Amelia’s Magazine | R. D. Franks – R.I.P?

Our Broken Garden Golden Sea
Ashley Dean by Russty Brazil
Ashley Dean, thumb as depicted by Russty Brazil.

I recently reviewed the superb second album from Our Broken Garden, page so when Ashley Dean got in touch to tell me he was making their latest video Garden Grow I couldn’t resist taking a peek… it’s a delightful lo-fi Fraggle Rock inspired few minutes that should tickle even the coldest of hearts, and here’s the story of how it was made…

What inspired the treatment for the video? 
The starting point for this video was a suggestion by Simon Raymonde of Bella Union. He said he’d love to see Anna of Our Broken Garden performing in a Muppet Show style set. It was this video that inspired him, so we started off from there… I love the Muppet Show, but my favourite Jim Henson creations are Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. They were big inspirations for the look of this video and it was a challenge to do justice to these great fantasy works, but lots of fun at the same time.

The little beasties are great… where did you get the idea from them from?
The three main puppets (the Spider, the Bird and the Tree Beast) were based on the Guitarist, Bassist and Drummer from Our Broken Garden; Søren, Moogie and Poul. My collaborator, Kevin Roper did some great concept sketches of the guys as animals and we ended up making the models pretty close to those original drawings. The little white things in the mines (we called them ‘Pale Moles’) were inspired by the Doozers from Fraggle Rock. I wanted to create a rich and detailed world for Anna to perform in; these creatures were a another layer of the eco-system, and an excuse for me to do some animating..!

The video for Garden Grow by Our Broken Garden.

Who made the little knitted spider monsters?
The jumper that the Spider wore was knitted by my Mum over 20 years ago! I thought it would look great on Søren so Kev cut it up and re-made it with 8 sleeves. I sculpted Søren’s face in clay and cast it in latex, then we used all kinds of techniques to bring the puppets to life. I like to use recycled materials in my work; Moogie is a big bundle of old clothes coated with feathers from a discarded pillow. 

How did you make the video, and where was the studio set? 
We worked in a old flax mill in Leeds called Temple Works. It is an amazing, vast place and they have big plans for the future of it. 
It took myself, Kevin and my parents a week to construct the set. The trees took a long time, with Kev spending several days coating the skeletons I made with wall paper paste and brown paper. We bought out the entire stock of gaffer tape at the local Maplin, I think we got close to consuming a mile of the stuff! On the last day of the set build, Graham Pilling from Army of Cats came to the set and painted the background scenes then my wife, Lydia helped me finish everything off on a final, exhausting Saturday. There were so many details that had to be designed and manufactured on site, I was amazed when we were finally ready to light and shoot the video! I brought in Danny North to be Director of Photography (a long time collaborator with Amelia’s Magazine:Ed) and Tim Blackwell was my assistant director and puppeteered Søren. My parents were in charge of the catering. There was a great community feel during the whole process.

What was it like to work with Anna?
Anna Bronsted came over from Denmark to star in the video. She was a pleasure to work with and was willing to try out any of the shots and effects we had planned. We she feints amongst the apples, she is leaning against a step ladder that I gradually let fall backwards… That required a lot of trust from Anna and there are a lot of out-takes where I was a bit too enthusiastic with the simulated fall. 

Any funny stories from the shoot that you can tell us about?
Although Kev didn’t find it at all funny, it was a very peculiar atmosphere on set when everyone was operating their puppets. My Dad was making Moogie bounce around on his branch, Tim was hidden behind a tree, straining to put his hand up the back of Søren, and Kev was dressed in the Poul Costume, crouched behind another tree in a horribly painful position. When all the puppets came to life, it was a magical sight and we shot dozens of takes of the ‘band’ all playing together. Eventually we took a break so that everyone could relax, but as we were getting a coffee, an anguished groan came from the set. I had totally forgotten Kev was still in his costume and he had almost passed out from the pain he was in and couldn’t move (or take his mask off, which was tied on to his head). His legs didn’t work properly for days afterwards and he cursed the day he offered to go in the Poul suit. He didn’t like it when I became Poul for a scene in his absence though, so I get the impression he was at least quite proud of his exertions…

Garden Grow Group shot
The whole ‘Garden Grow’ crew on set with Anna Bronsted of Our Broken Garden.

Do you have any plans to work with Our Broken Garden again?
I would love to. It will depend on both our schedules, but the rest of the album is great and Anna is a fantastic creative force to work with. She did mention that she wanted to make some more trees and characters to take with her on tour, but they will have to be a lot less fragile than the ones we made for the shoot!

You used to be in iliketrains, which I love (and were featured in the printed version of Amelia’s Magazine many a moon ago). Why did you leave the group?
It was the band’s decision. Our label Beggars Banquet had recently dissolved and they wanted a new start, and I think they thought it was a bit of a luxury to have a projectionist as a full time member of the group. I was quite relieved when we had the final conversation; I would have never had the heart to leave, but my film making ambitions were starting to clash with the schedule of the band and in the end, it was the best option for us all. I still have a good relationship with the guys, and I’m pleased to see how well their recent Pledge campaign (to raise money for the new album) went. I’ll just be sorely jealous when they play Glastonbury or shoot a video in the Bahamas…

Are you still making your own music?
My cornet is gathering dust under a table, just like it did in the years between school and joining the Trains… But I do have a couple of (barely) musical projects on the back burner. One involves making my own instruments and singing in Japanese. Me and Guy from iLT recorded 3 songs together years ago and I would love to bring the idea back to life one day…

What other stuff are you working on with your company Broken Pixel?
My next project is with Napoleon IIIrd. We are going to make some crazy, mashed-up projections using all kinds of old technology. I’ll be trying to bring my Super8 projectors back to life and we’ve got some old OHPs to play with. It should be a fun day out. I’ve got a couple of long term film projects in production and I’m always interested to work with new bands. I recently got a part time job as a chocolate taster (seriously!) and I’m about to launch a range of miniature sets, built into the back of canvases and inscribed with a fragmented, intertwined narrative.

My brain doesn’t sleep.
Our Broken Garden Golden Sea

Our Broken Garden is fronted by vocalist Anna Bronsted, troche sometime keyboardist with Efterklang, this web the Danish group fabled for the same lush orchestrations that sweep throughout her second album Golden Sea. It was recorded in the countryside with friends Søren Bigum on guitar/keyboards, Moogie Johnson on bass and assorted other musicians when needed.

The ebb and flow of the ocean has influenced not just the name of Golden Sea but the entire rhythmical feel of the album, over which Anna’s luscious vocals float like the call of a modern day siren. It opens with the undulating notes of The Departure, a gentle wash of sound like the sleek undertow of waves, then moves into a more grandiose classical feel in the rich production of The Fiery and Loud, where choppy strings set the tone to create a dramatic backdrop for the staccato vocal. It’s as if the swell of the sea has picked up. “I’m all on fire… burns and blood…” Anna’s lyrics do not always make conventional sense, but the fluidity of English as a second language is poetically evocative.

In Garden Grow the beats have become more tribal. “Rip out my heart, if you have to…” Behind the angelically sweet notes there’s the dramatic threat of lurking doom but by Nightsong all is calm again as Anna channels the ethereal lyrics of Bat For Lashes, sighing of moons and tears… Share hypnotises with an intensely beating heart and The Darkred Roses ends with the lyrics “and the black waters arising…” before the eery sounds of a church organ emerge gently as if from the sea mists.

A totally hypnotic album to soundtrack those long winter nights. Golden Sea by Our Broken Garden comes out today on Bella Union.

Listen to it streamed on Sound Cloud here, or check out their myspace. They have just announced their biggest UK headline show at St. Giles-In-The-Fields, the parish church in the heart of London’s West End, on Wednesday 17th November. Tickets can be bought here.

The Departure by Our Broken Garden:
YouTube Preview Image

Illustration by Paul Shinn

R. D. Franks has, sale since 1877, visit this site been a hub for fashion students and journalists alike. The store, which recently relocated to Winsley Street, stocked everything a fashion fan could desire: every international edition of Vogue, rare trend magazines, the latest coffee table books and a whole load of reference literature for budding fashion designers.

So it came as a bit of shock a few days ago when R. D. Franks curiously sent Twitter users into a frenzy, tweeting ‘R. D. Franks is now closed until further notice. Kindest regards to all our lovely customers.’ Are they closed for refurbishment? Are they closed for good? Maybe they’re just swishing up their opening hours, which were bizarre enough anyway – closed on Saturdays? Ridiculous!

I’m currently putting together a feature of the best places to buy fashion literature in London, and R. D. Franks was to be top of the list. It was a big supporter of Amelia’s Magazine when we were in print, flogging many copies despite being difficult to deal with (Amelia’s words, not mine!) It was the one-stop-shop for research and bagging those hard-to-find copies of books and magazines that you couldn’t source anywhere else. I’d asked our fantastic contributor Paul to illustrate the stores I’d selected and R. D. Franks was the first one he produced, so this is somewhat of a sneaky opportunity to also showcase his brilliant drawing.

If they are closed for good, it’s a real shame, but not the world’s greatest surprise. Their stocklist had declined slightly in previous months and the few times I’d been in recently there was never much of an atmosphere. Add to the mix difficult opening hours and your business isn’t going to flourish.

So, R. D. Franks – if this is the end, thanks for being there and we’re sorry to see you go. You will be missed! (If it isn’t, what the hell is going on?)

If you know any more, do let us know!

Categories ,books, ,fashion, ,literature, ,Magazines, ,Paul Shinn, ,RD Franks, ,RIP, ,students, ,twitter, ,vogue, ,Winsley Street

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