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Behind the making of Richard Russell’s Close But Not Quite video

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As owner of record label XL Recordings and producer of albums for Gil Scott-Heron, Bobby Womack, Ibeyi and Damon Albarn, Richard Russell is a force of nature, and highly respected across the music industry. His solo project Everything Is Recorded released its first track Close But Not Quite back in May, featuring a “duet” between Sampha and Curtis Mayfield, and today the video is released. We spoke to its creator, Scott Wright, about how it mirrors the collaborative creation of the song itself, and what it depicts.

How did the project come about?

I’ve been lucky enough to work with Richard at XL for six years and it’s incredible fun. You have to have a very open mind at XL and expecting the unexpected is kind of a default setting. Sometimes you might be asked to make a music video, even though it’s not something you’ve ever done before, as was the case here. 

Everything Is Recorded is a project borne out of collective creativity so I wanted to mirror that with the video. I didn’t want to make something that felt like a music video in any traditional sense, so I found brilliant, interesting people to work with. I’d been speaking to Black Mountain Workshop in Amsterdam for a while and thought they’d be perfect. So the video is a team effort between me, Carsten Goertz, Kevin Bray, Mark Prendergast, and Phillip Schuette. 

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Scott Wright: Close But Not Quite video (still) for Richard Russell

Tell us more about the studio and why it felt important to depict in the video?

I love studios – recording studios, artists’ studios, film studios – there’s something really special about places where creative work happens. Studios can have an energy and we were interested in exploring that.

While he was making this album, Richard would organise these sprawling recording sessions with ten, twenty musicians popping in and out for days. It was incredible to see it all unfold and, as you’d expect, everything was recorded: stills, videos, there’s a huge archive of stuff.

As this is the first Everything Is Recorded music video we wanted to tell an origin story. Richard’s studio, the Copper House, is a crucial part of the project. We wanted to give a glimpse of what went down there: the long crazy sessions, the huge cast of characters. 

At the heart of the song are beautiful vocal performances from Sampha and Curtis Mayfield. In a studio you can collapse time and bring together artists from different eras and we wanted to explore that visually. 

How was the video made?

It was a complicated process. We used photogrammetry to create a fully textured 3D reconstruction of the studio. We then took it apart and rebuilt it using images and video of the recording sessions, like they were memories that had become part of the building’s foundations. We filmed Richard in the studio, captured a wonderful performance from Sampha, and tracked down the only footage of Curtis singing The Makings Of You. Then we pieced it all together. 

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Scott Wright: Close But Not Quite video (still) for Richard Russell

How do you feel the video fits the music?

Close But Not Quite is a wonderful song about how love can render you inarticulate. I don’t think I could have made a video beautiful enough to do it justice so instead this is about ideas. It’s about how a song that great arrives into the world. Everything Is Recorded is a brilliant, singular project and hopefully this video serves as an intriguing introduction.

Were there any other artists/filmmakers that inspired your approach?

Lars Von Trier’s Dogville, which replaces traditional cinema set design with a sparse soundstage in order to lay bare the story that unfolds. Do-ho Suh’s dreamlike recreations of his old studios and apartments made from colourful mesh fabric. It’s like they’re stitched together from his memories. Also Michel Gondry’s video for The White Stripes’ Dead Leaves On The Dirty Ground, which uses projections in the rooms of a house to simultaneously tell the story of a party and its aftermath. 

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Scott Wright: Close But Not Quite video (still) for Richard Russell

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Scott Wright: Close But Not Quite video (still) for Richard Russell

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Scott Wright: Close But Not Quite video (still) for Richard Russell

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Scott Wright: Close But Not Quite video (making of) for Richard Russell

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Scott Wright: Close But Not Quite video (making of) for Richard Russell

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Close But Not Quite album cover