If you think [artist id=”1230523″]Kanye West’s[/artist] sleek, stylized video for “Love Lockdown” is great, you should see the other version of the clip. It’s even better.
That’s according to director Simon Henwood, who created the “Lockdown” video — which is up for three awards at this Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards, including Video of the Year — with West last year in Los Angeles. Seems they shot so much footage, they had enough for a second clip — only Kanye didn’t want to use it, for reasons apparent to only him.
“We actually shot an incredible amount of performance with him — he looked amazing in it, I thought, absolutely stunning — but he didn’t want any of it in the video. There’s almost another whole video we could’ve got,” Henwood told MTV News. “But we just went for that very sparse performance element, which was right in the end. But from the point of view of editing it and all the other options, it was quite a shame we didn’t get to use some of the other stuff. It was him performing the song with the tribal dancers, and the girls … it was so compelling — some of the best footage of him I’ve ever seen — but it didn’t make the cut.”
Instead, West opted to keep things simple, drawing inspiration from the terrifying minimalism of Patrick Bateman’s apartment in the 2000 film “American Psycho.” And Henwood — who had spent much of the previous year working with West as the designer on his Glow in the Dark tour — knew better than to ask why. Instead, he set to work on making Kanye’s vision a reality.
“He just referenced [’American Psycho’] as a style for the apartment in the video and so, over three days, we started building the set. In a lot of ways, it seemed natural, because I had been to both of his houses, I kind of knew what his personal style was like,” Henwood said. “He’s very stylish … both the places are very beautiful, so I wanted to create a set that mimicked that. It had to be a place, an environment, where he felt comfortable in, so he could be in that contemplative mood.”
Henwood then interspersed the scenes of West in his apartment with vibrant, visceral dance sequences he shot with a cast of tribal dancers. The visuals sync perfectly with the song’s pounding, primal drum line, but, as it turned out, they were actually based on an idea the two had shared more than a year earlier, when West was still promoting his 2007 Graduation album.
“When we first talked about working together, we played around with a lot of ideas for lots of different videos on Graduation, including this particular tribal idea, which was originally supposed to be used in a video for ’Champion,’ ” Henwood explained. “But it kind of naturally evolved between us. And he’s very … he micromanages things, he’s very inspiring to work with. He’s always focused on the idea, even it it’s constantly changing.”
And that state of flux is something Henwood as grown to know pretty well. And not just from working with West on the Glow in the Dark tour, either. Seems that, while the director and his crew were busy editing the “Lockdown” video, West was still busy recording it … or, more specifically, re-recording it, a move that led to some pretty tense moments in the edit bay.
“When I was editing, I knew he was still working on the mix of the song, and we had about three or four days to finish it. And on the final day, Kanye was in the studio. I knew one of the people who was working on the album, and he told me that the video was on the screen in the recording studio. So when we were sending over versions of the edit, he was still working on the song, using the visuals almost as an inspiration for the song,” Henwood explained. “But it got to the point where we had about an hour until the video had to go to the post house, so it could meet all the deadlines. And at that point, Kanye gave me a quick call and said, ’I’ve just got a new version of the vocals that I want to send over.’ So we were just like, ’What are we going to do?’ So we just dropped the new track onto the edit and it synced up better. He’d obviously been looking at the video, and he re-recorded his vocals and synced them better. And that’s why he’s a genius.”
The 2009 MTV Video Music Awards air live this Sunday, September 13, at 9 p.m. ET, but New York is celebrating the VMAs all week long! Stay tuned for party coverage, concert reports, behind-the-scenes updates and more.