‘Thought-provoking Venezuelan visuals leave a long-lasting impression.’
Disclaimer: Please note that the video for ‘When It All Runs Out’, and this review feature, contains references to distressing scenes and firearms.
Like many art forms, music can be used in multiple ways. To entertain, to evoke emotion, to deliver a message, or present an opportunity for thought to occur. And at times, those aforementioned points will transfer into the visuals for a music release too. In any case it can be a hard task to successfully achieve all four, let alone when the artistic direction you choose to go may be met with strong and conflicting opinions. However, when you watch the Venezuelan visuals for Danny G & The Major 7ths new single ‘When It All Runs Out’, you are left with only one opinion: That music videos really could be a force for social and political change.
Opening with a mix of aerial shots that show off the beauty of Venezuela’s landscape, and close ups of the vibrant wildlife that can be found there, the initial moments are as eye catching as can be. You’re dazzled by what you are seeing, and especially at time like we are currently experiencing it makes you yearn for travel. Yet you are shook too, and realising that a visual story – one as contrasting and as striking as the track itself will unfold – you know it isn’t to all be about the beauty. As Danny explains though, while these cultural contrasts weren’t what initially drew him to Venezuela, the uniqueness of what he was to experience struck him immediately.
“I first visited Venezuela in 2013 when my wife Rosa and I were visiting her family. It was such an adventure but a huge culture shock. The first things I noticed were the aggressive searches by the military at the airport, which were followed by an intimidating wait while teenagers in uniforms with massive guns searched our bags. This feeling of control was always in the background, and even when we headed to the beach my passport was almost confiscated just for being foreign. It’s common to pay off patrols so that they leave you alone, but once they let us go, what a beautiful country: Exotic rivers, jungles and picturesque beaches with warm, clear waters. Not to mention a mass of native fruits and vegetables.”
“Seeing the faces of people makes what’s happening in Venezuela real on a human level.”
Knowing Danny has first hand experience of the elements we see really does bring an extra dimension to the visuals. One that others who may be aware of the situation, but choose not to immerse themselves, or acknowledge is occurring could. However, while it’s clear how influenced Danny was by what he saw – including the “Queuing for basic goods, power cuts, unsafe streets, and inflation being out of hand” – the way in which these sights are put across is much different to what was planned when writing the track.
“I originally ‘When It All Runs Out’ when observing the tug of war between the Venezuelan government and the U.S. who wanted oil contracts, and were ideologically opposed to the Socialist government. In fact it was originally called ‘When the Oil Runs Out’. I thought about compiling old newsreels of war imagery throughout history, and wanted to show the futility of going to war over a natural resource that would be gone in 30 years anyway. I had natural disasters in mind too: climate change, fossil fuels, and their effects on the environment. But 5 minutes of this would have been too literal, so I zoomed back into where the inspiration first came from: Venezuela.” This, with video now complete and out there for all to see, very much proves to have been the right decision.
As you move through it, you are met with a continual ebb and flow of hard-hitting imagery and moments to breathe. It highlights that it’s not all about one nor the other, but rather the impacts of one on the other. Take a couple of minutes in as a perfect example. Scenic shots allow you to casual admire the landscape, and then a few seconds later, you’re witnessing riots and police throwing tear gas! Neither are shied away from, and to be honest, why should either be. However, while Danny himself has now been back there twice, and seen how “the economy and political situation is worse each time”, the footage we see isn’t from these experiences.
online and had a draft ready to go, but felt it was quite one-dimensional, and didn’t represent the music or the meaning behind the song properly. Rosa [my wife] persuaded me to go down a different route so I started to look at public documentaries online that had footage of the amazing landscape. This was also what she wanted to focus on in the spoken intro where she name checks all of the various picturesque sights. With her being from Venezuela, it was also another way to add something authentic to the song that as an Irish person I couldn’t provide.” So just how did this impact what we now see?
“Deciding which clips to use became easier after that as it was showing a side you don’t get with news reports. I was also very lucky to have an Irish friend who also spent time in Venezuela and could put me in touch with a photographer called Ruben Sevilla. Some of the best clips – such as the two men jumping in the lake, images of opposition leader Guaido, the masked protestors, the angry woman protesting at the end and many more are from him. It was the extra personal touch needed to bring the video to life.”
As Danny explains though, while it may have been tricky to compile the clips, more than a few judgement calls had to be made when piecing it together. “It took several months to edit the final cut and as I’m working from home, and have two kids in the house, I worked on it at night. The issue I had was with resolution. A lot of the videos weren’t in HD, especially the shots of mass emigration which were particularly striking. However, in the end I felt the right imagery was more important than the quality of it.”
For me, and I’m sure for many of you too, this approach of sticking with the quality that was available – rather than doing some form of upscaling – actually makes for greater visual storytelling. Equally, with the track itself carrying such a strong and important message, the placement of source material had to be just right to keep the sense of authenticity, rather than forced creation. Now, if you’ve watched the video already, you’ll know just how incredibly well this was achieved, and when you discover how important Danny felt it was to get this exactly right, it’s no surprise it looks how it does.
“I generally paired the musically bright elements with life in Venezuela – the people, street murals, and landscapes, but with some of the political tension bubbling under the surface. Then for the darker instrumental sections, where there are horn solos and the vocals project ‘we’ve got a problem’, I linked it with clips where protestors are clashing with the military. The visual chaos of tossing grenades and opening gunfire matches the musical chaos, particularly the second time around with the frantic sax solo. I’m glad we managed to show these contrasts as the futility of conflict is more obvious when you show the beauty that’s being ignored, or could be destroyed.”
“I want people to come away from watching the video with a desire to help our environment.”
As hinted at earlier with the mention of quick changes from scenic to documentary style shots, the visuals really do strike the right balance. Too much of one either way, and the message could easily be misinterpreted. There is no doubting though, that there is a directive being delivering within the lyricism of the track, especially with Danny stating, “although I zoomed in on Venezuela for the video, the song is directed at all political leaders.” Expanding on this further though, it becomes clear that the level of thought and intention was equal in all areas.
“When writing the words, I was thinking about protest songs such as Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ and ‘Where Are We Going?’. There’s also a reference to The Who’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’. Lines such as “you don’t care about right or wrong” and “you don’t fool us anymore” relate most notably here, and while I wouldn’t compare the track to those classic songs, they did inspire the direction. I’m also influenced by The Venus Project, and Peter Joseph’s book The New Human Rights Movement as well as artists such as D’Angelo. I love Gina Figueroa’s spoken introduction of his song ‘Really Love’, and the angry preachers calling for revolution in ‘1000 Deaths’, and this is one of the reasons for using Rosa’s spoken words at the opening of the track.”
For some of you, Danny expressing such a strong ethos behind his tracks may come as no surprise, but for those of you new to this approach it may. Likewise, while it is true that the message here in ‘When It All Runs Out’ is likely to create discussion around both topic and artistry, that is kind of the whole point. “I feel music is so influential because it has an emotional power that words alone do not” says Danny, “however, I don’t think this will influence anyone in power. They are usually so entrenched in a system that benefits them that they are blind to any alternative ways of living or thinking. That said, I’m hoping the track will influence everyday music listeners and make them question things like military funding and the destruction of our planet.”
So with Danny having now delivered a second visual of hard hitting, thought provoking proportions, with the first being for ‘Say When’ which focussed on the fight for bodily autonomy in Ireland, can we expect any others? Well as you’d imagine, in Danny highlighting just how well he knows what works best for his tracks, he says “with other songs from ‘The Lookout’ being more about relationships, I’d like to move away from this style and do something abstract, with a real actor, for one of the less-heralded album tracks.” Which of the tracks that will be for currently remains a mystery, but hopefully sooner than we imagine right now we will find out.
Thanks Danny G for chatting with Listen to Discover
Find out more about Danny G & The Major 7ths at:
Track Review: Danny G & The Major 7ths: Time The Healer
Behind the Music: Interview with Danny G & The Major 7ths
Disclaimer: Please note that the video for ‘When It All Runs Out’ contains distressing scenes and firearms.