A decade ago, young Boston-area directors Ian McFarland and Mike Pecci wrote a treatment for Meshuggah's "Bleed." The plot revolved around a man dying and then having to navigate 12 layers of hell before confronting the penultimate evil figure from the cover art of obZen. During the 12 days they spent making the video, the directors felt like they had entered their own circles of hell. From the start, their budget was severely slashed, forcing them into a mad scramble to change shoot locations and radically alter the plot line of the clip.
Relying on their creativity and instincts, McFarland and Pecci succeeded in shooting an unnerving, visually stunning video that resonated with the band and its fans, capturing the ugly, aggressive vibe of the Meshuggah's "Bleed" without relying on metal video tropes. To date, "Bleed" has garnered more than 20 million views on YouTube and generated almost 26,000 comments.
In addition to being a victory for Meshuggah, "Bleed" springboarded the careers of McFarland and Pecci, who, over the past 10 years, have shot videos for Fear Factory, Killswitch Engage and others. In addition, McFarland has filmed acclaimed documentaries, including The Godfathers of Hardcore, which chronicles the lives of Agnostic Front vocalist Roger Miret and guitarist Vinnie Stigma. And Pecci has worked on numerous horror films, including The Dead Can't be Distracted and the upcoming 12 Kilometers.
Revolver spoke with the two directors about the video that irrevocably changed their lives. Read on for the full story and to see insane exclusive behind-the-scenes photos from the shoot.
DID YOU KNOW THE MEMBERS OF MESHUGGAH WHEN YOU CAME UP WITH THE VIDEO IDEA FOR "BLEED."
IAN MCFARLAND I didn't. I got obZen in the mail one day and the CD cover blew me away. I couldn't stop looking at it. I called Mike up and said, 'Dude, you gotta see this cover." I showed it to him and we were both like, "We've gotta do a video for this band."
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
I called Nuclear Blast and said, "Who's doing the video for these guys?" They already had someone lined up, so I said, "Can we send you a treatment?" And they went, "Yeah, sure," which is a little untraditional. So we wrote up the treatment and sent it to them. Then we got a call back from the label saying, "The band really likes your idea."
THE ALBUM ART PLAYS A KEY ROLE IN THE VIDEO. THE THREE-ARMED OBZEN DEMON IS THE FOCAL POINT AND THERE'S ARE LOTS OF COMPLIMENTARY IMAGERY.
MIKE PECCI Our original idea was to create the 12 levels of hell and the demon on the album would be there at the end. But because our time and budget were so restrictive, we were only able to do three levels.
THE DOG PEOPLE THAT GUARD THE OBZEN DEMON MOVE IN A CREEPY WAY THAT'S REMINISCENT OF HELLRAISER.
PECCI It was more Jacob's Ladder.
MCFARLAND We were really obsessed with that movie for some reason and that was one of the many things that inspired us. The demon dogs were actually inspired by a live performance by Madonna. In one part, her onstage dancers moved around like animalistic demon dogs. I remember Mike going, "Wow, that would be crazy if we could take those movements and put them into the guardians of the obZen figure."
WHO PLAYED THE THREE-ARMED OBZEN DEMON?
PECCI That's my uncle. When we saw the obZen guy on the album, I said to Ian, "My uncle's perfect for this. He looks just like him!" I asked my uncle if he would do it and he said yes. Then I said, "OK, but the guy's not wearing much. We'll make you a little codpiece thing but you're mostly going to be nude in front of a whole room of people." And he went, "Well, am I gonna have my own makeup artist and are there gonna be ladies there?" I said, "Yup." And he went, "Well, then let's do it."
HOW'D YOU GIVE THE DEMON THREE ARMS?
MCFARLAND That was a last minute thing. After we finished the video the band went, "Yeah, the obZen figure doesn't have a third arm." I said, "Well, you don't have enough money for a third arm." Meshuggah are very persistent, and they convinced us that we needed a third arm. We agreed, then we went, "Shit, we don't have any money for this." So Mike and I literally spent a week stitching a third arm into this guy.
THE CLOSE-UP SHOTS OF COCKROACHES ARE GREAT. HOW DID YOU GET THE INSECTS TO STAY STILL WHILE YOU SHOT?
MCFARLAND We used Madagascar cockroaches, which are about three inches long. My buddy was raising them for a reptile feed. We figured out that if we turned out the lights and used an LED flashlight, the roaches would follow the light. So we were literally directing the bugs to do what we wanted them to do with the flashlight in the dark.
PECCI The roaches were actually an afterthought, and so were the chains. After we had all the main footage done, we were in the editing room going, "Oh man, we don't have enough imagery." So while Ian was editing, we brought in bags of sand and I was shooting these bugs on small piles of sand.
IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU WERE REALLY FLYING BY THE SEAT OF YOUR PANTS.
PECCI It was like being strapped to the front of a speeding train and you're screaming which direction you want the train to go in and waving people out of the way until it's finished.
MCFARLAND We shot the entire video in a 22 by 22-foot room in my buddy's loft. We moved in for two days and while we were shooting one scene in one direction, the next scene was being built in the opposite direction. When we were done with something, we'd turn the camera around and continue shooting. After we shot the video we moved into my editing bay and we didn't leave for five days. We just sat there and edited this thing and drank and edited and drank.
WHY DO YOU THINK "BLEED" HAD SUCH AN IMPACT ON PEOPLE?
PECCI We did it during a time period where metal videos were all the same. There was a green-lit swinging florescent light and handheld shaky camera shots in every scene. Ian and I were always fighting against these conventions. "Bleed" was weird and cool. So when you lined it up with all these other metal videos, it stood out. But some people have really gotten into it and analyzed it on every level.
MCFARLAND We've gotten emails saying things like, "You guys made this so you know what's really up, right?" It's almost like they're making us out to be part of a secret society. That's kind of weird, but looking back on it, it's really affected people and isn't that what art is supposed to do?