Riffs and reels and Purple feels

Posted 2nd May 2024

What happens when you are given the privilege of delivering a video for one of the most iconic songs ever written? Luke McDonnell and Dan Gibling, directors of Stony Stratford-based Chiba Film, told Pulse’s Sammy Jones.

Some songs are simply so big that they outgrow the genre in which they are seated. Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water is one of those songs.
The opening riff is instantly recognisable, and the track has a chorus to match.

It’s a rock belter considered one of the best tracks of all time – hardly surprising then that it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2017.

More than 50 years since its release and the band has just issued its first video for Smoke on the Water. Chiba Film were tasked with delivering a visual treat to match the sounds.

“As custodians of the visuals for one of the greatest rock songs of all time, we had to get it right, both for the new and older fans,” Dan told Pulse, “The weight of the task wasn’t something we took lightly.

“Attention to detail was key – every depiction of the band, every historical reference, and every easter egg for the fans had to be perfect.
“Luke and I worked on it full time for four months, and the animators and rest of the team for about two months. It was quite an endeavour, but it has paid off well in terms of people’s reactions,” Dan explained.

“The modern style of illustration and animation really helped give us an aesthetic that we felt a younger audience would latch on to, so we tried to utilise this form to allow for as much of the fantastical, trippy and fun as we could – without eroding from the initial cool of a song from an era where music videos did not even exist,” he added.

“It was a fine line to say the least, and one that caused a great deal of re-draws and discussion,” explained Luke, “The song is itself a story, which meant we had no shortage of inspiration for the scenes that accompany the music.

“Our idea for the video is centred around the fact that the band were under pressure to make this record on time after the events that unfolded at the casino. We wished to depict all these events and band members respectfully, but also elevate the music video into an exciting action packed chase that sees the band pursued by the stylus as they ride along the deep grooves of the record.

“On their journey we visit the places and heroes mentioned in the song, as well as encounters with fire, water, smoke, police and even dragons as they strive to take control of the record stylus and cut their track into the vinyl…we hope we have created an accompanying adventure that existing and new fans will feel honours the gravitas of this song.”

Chiba had already delivered two well-received videos for Deep Purple. Smoke on the Water, unsurprisingly, is set to eclipse those earlier successes.

“The last video clocked up a million views in six months, and the Smoke video has already been viewed more than one and a half million times, and the comments have been amazing,” Dan smiled, “It blows my mind to think how many people have engaged and watched our work, and seemingly how much pleasure it has given to people. It is so nice to be involved in a project where the feedback and love for the work matches the effort put in.”

Directing this video might have been all consuming, but it was the ultimate labour of love for its creators: “It was a dream job!” Dan says, quick as a flash, “Most of our team are musicians and play in bands, and we all grew up on rock music.

“This song is huge and to have the opportunity to make the music video for it has been incredible.

“I listened to Smoke about 100 times whilst coming up with the idea for this video. I don’t see how you can get inside a song fully and manifest visuals to it unless you can understand every single musical nuance, crescendo, groove and accent.
“We pushed ourselves hard for this, but then it is arguably the greatest rock n roll track in the world…”

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