Last week David Bowie melted minds by teasing a 30-second sample of his video for ★ (previously referred to as “Blackstar”). Today the entire extended epic has been unleashed on the world, and it’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. It’s 10 minutes of etherial imagery, pure imagination, and sensual mood music that must be experienced by every music fan. But then again, we expect no less from Mr. Bowie.
“Blackstar” is not only the first single off of Bowie’s upcoming ★ album (due out January 8th), but it also serves as the theme song for the Sky Atlantic miniseries The Last Panthers. Johan Renck, director of the stellar series, is also the man behind the camera for this new video. Watch the piece in all its glory, and read on for thoughts from the Renck himself!
VH1: How did you first get begin working with David Bowie?
Johan Renck: We contacted him to write the music for the title sequence of a limited series called The Last Panthers that I directed. The song “Blackstar” was conceived for this.
What was your first conversation with him like?
Pretty astonishing. I have worshipped him for 40 years. And then it turns out everything i wanted to believe about him was true.
How does it feel listening to a song by this music icon, directly inspired by your directorial work?
Mindboggling and discombobulating.
How did you decide to do an epic extended music video?
After working on the title sequence for The Last Panthers, we continued talking. One thing led to another…
How did you originally conceive of the narrative?
It was a very organic process in which David and I would share thoughts, images, drawings (from his side), slowly forming a universe that felt meaningful as well as fun.
How much input did Bowie have on the video?
A lot on the actual conception of ideas and concepts. The man is brilliant.
You hadn’t done a video for a few years now—was it strange starting that journey again?
Not really. It is filmmaking; but in a different shape. We had fun; I remembered that it actually could be.
You are a musician yourself—does that influence your work on music videos in any way?
Undoubtedly. Not sure if it does any good, but it is definitely influencing stuff.
From a production standpoint, what was the shoot like for this? It looks incredibly complicated—was there a lot of CGI?
It was a big and complicated shoot. We shot in NYC as well as Bucharest, Romania. Dense and messy – just like in the old days!
What were some of the most challenging aspects of shooting?
Same as always – not enough of anything! Too little time, too little resources (related to what you want)…
The video is simply unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. How do you want people to feel after watching the piece?
Well, everything is to be left in the eye of the beholder. Do with it what you want!
What were some of your visual cues and inspirations?
Just mileage in life, deep conversations with Bowie, and the song germinating in my mind.
What was the emotional intent of his blindfold with eyes that he wears for a major portion of the video?
You will have to ask Mr. Bowie about that!