The Weeknd, celebrating over a decade in the industry, undertook a major collaboration with Hajime Sorayama. One of the highlights of the collaboration is the music video for “Echoes of Silence,” which was creatively directed by Sorayama, directed by Kurando Furuya, with CG by Khaki. The song was released in 2011 as the title track from The Weeknd’s third mixtape, and the film depicts the story of the robotized The Weeknd and Sorayama’s sexy robot in full CG, set in a devastated near future. This article is a reconstruction of the behind-the-scenes video “Echoes of Silence (Behind The Scene Documentary)” that was released in conjunction with the music video, including outtakes from the interview with Sorayama.
Having completed The Weeknd’s music video “Echoes of Silence,”—2 years in the making—How do you feel about the finished product?
There is a brief scene (around 02:39) where the rain falls on the robot, but I think it was very difficult to pull off. It would be nice if it glowed a little more like cast aluminum, but when the robot moves, the light can’t be picked up, and there is no software that can reproduce it perfectly. It’s the best I can do at this level. But I think we did a great job given the time and money. It could be a milestone in music videos, even in my career. A milestone.
The Weeknd has been in contact with you for some time, having purchased some of your works in the past, and you’ve painted portraits of him as well. Do you feel that the two of you share some commonality?
Perhaps. The one thing he and I definitely have in common is that we didn’t go through academia. We were self-taught and had no teacher. It takes a lot of energy to surpass a teacher. Even if you are not an artist, for example, when you are a boy, you eventually surpass your father, but it is very difficult to acknowledge that. In that sense, not having a predecessor makes it easier. I think the Renaissance or whatever it was, it sucked. Even da Vinci’s drawings are crazy. Of course, you can respect the good works, but if you are not brainwashed by academia, you can look at the work in a very pure way. I don’t think you need to trust academia so much.
Through today’s (video) interview, we were able to learn a little bit about how you spend your days. Frankly speaking, I got the impression that you lead a surprisingly humble life considering how well-known you are.
I lead a very staid and normal life, nothing unusual. I get up in the morning, wash my face, pee, clean up the cat’s poop, eat dinner, go to that studio or that studio, tinker with the most interesting painting at the time, and when I am done, I go home and eat dinner. Of course Covid had its effects, but I’ve finally begun to receive invitations to various events again, and I still find it most interesting to talk with other people, in person, as there is a lot of stimulation. That is why I like interpersonal relationships the most. That is how I live my humble life.
I think you have to put yourself in the shoes of the receiver. In most cases, “self-dissemination” is a misunderstanding. If you don’t communicate through your work, you may become a one-hit wonder, but you will never become a sustainable artist. My basic approach is “straightforward,” but today’s contemporary art is all about change. All you have are galleries, art circles, collectors, and other people who want to make a hit, all of whom are motivated by external rewards.
External rewards are things like money, social status, and prestige. The opposite is internal rewards, things you would do even if you had to struggle. It is the kind of thing that says, “even if I go to jail, even if I am almost killed, I will do this for the rest of my life.” There are very few artists like that. I’ve never been to Art Basel because I don’t like crowds, but I would like to question everyone there. “Are you really gonna stick with this for the rest of your life? Can you really go on?”
To not be swayed by others’ evaluations, but work humbly and diligently…
(interrupting) No, I’ve never tried. When I do what I love, it lasts. If you keep doing what you love, you can distinguish yourself. I feel most at home in my studio. Painting calms me down, it’s peaceful, happy, ecstatic. “It’s hard to come to the studio all year long, isn’t it? Are you really working?” people say. I reply, “Yes, I’m working. I’m sick.”but really I’m doing something that I love to do, something that I can’t help but love to do. I have never thought of it as a job.
I think The Weeknd was insanely happy (with the completion of the album) because he was doing it for internal rewards, and I’m proud of him for casting me in such a big project. He made my dream come true. I think we can do more interesting things based on this project. People often ask me, “What is your dream?” A Dream is a Dream Because it’s not Meant to be Achieved. But I have a plan. I would be happy to get help behind-the-scenes to make that a reality.
Famously, The Weeknd dropped out of high school at the age of 17 and at one point lived a life of homelessness. Looking over his career, I am reminded that it is still important to have an attitude resillience, no matter the circumstances.
That’s the only way to be. Those who can’t bring that energy may be better off disappearing. If you do one thing endlessly for the rest of your life, you will be recognized. When you’re young, if you’re just throwing a direct pitch, the art can come off as too obvious, and people are like “you enjoy doing something this banal?” But if you can throw a straight ball, for example, 180 kilometers, it becomes something unique. It takes a lot of energy to get there, but if you love it, you can do it. If you don’t like it, you will quit halfway through the effort. I hate people who make fun of those who are trying to be direct. Do what you love until you die. That’s all you need to do.
Since this article will be translated, do you have any message for The Weeknd on his 10th anniversary?
I can’t say anything because he is at the top, but if you’ve been at the top for over 10 years, it’s time to head into space. If you set your sights on doing something so crazy that aliens would be shocked, I think you can make it to the next level. I over the past 10 years. If we hold on to that, we will never be able to do anything interesting. If we start marketing and saying, “this is what sold before, so let’s go in this direction,” we are finished.