UCLA alum and director Richard Ma teams up again with producer and artist Sebas for a nostalgic tech-trippy beat-happy music video for Sebas' "Heat Death" engaging its listener (and viewer) with the ideas of fate, life's mundanity in the workplace, and the digital versus physical realm. We delve deeper with Sebas to find out how "Heat Death," a song he wrote two years ago finally came to surface and what a single afternoon in Los Angeles inherently produced.
BEHIND THE MUSIC:
"I wrote “Heat Death” two years ago. I had a demo together by the time of the SUSPEND ISSUE 05 release, when Richard and I were promoting a Sebas EP called The End of Everything. That project never came to light, but much of the music from it ended up on my first release, Analogies.
With The End of Everything, I wanted to paint a metaphor between theories of cosmology and aspects of life history that are familiar to everyone: “Heat Death” shares its name with a proposed ultimate fate of the universe, in which energy no longer exists in a useful state. Material things remain, but nothing ever happens because there is no energy left to be converted into action. The song is about the individual’s heat death: a point at which a person finds that they no longer have the ability to change the course of their life. They exist as an inert mass and resign themselves to the will of fate, society, whatever.
I tried to embody this concept within the composition itself. The time signature presents a rhythm which appears to cycle too quickly, causing the anchoring percussion to constantly fall behind and shift between on-beats and off-beats. The next verse (or the next day) comes too soon for the listener to keep up or do anything about it."
BEHIND THE LYRICS:
as if my words won't get through to you
we say we want to go for a ride
going nowhere but to feel ourselves move
The first verse specifies actions which should affect one’s external environment or move them through it and describes those actions as futile. It’s easy to feel inert when half of your day is small talk and commute. It’s all doing things without really accomplishing anything.
losing days I've left to use
coincidence, have me change
I'm just wasted space
The bridge describes a delusional expectation for a bright future to fall into one’s lap. I think a lot of us believe that if we keep on keeping on, the universe will eventually recognize our efforts and deliver us from our ordinary lives. I think that hope is important. But I also think that hope is dangerous.
is this all I will ever do?
unknown to addresses a million bytes away
I'm just wasted space
Here, some jargon from computer programming worked its way into the lyrics. “Memory Leak” was the working title for the early demo of “Heat Death”. Memory leak occurs when a computer allocates space in its memory for a file or process, but then loses track of where that space is. The memory is wasted because the computer has forgotten how to access or delete the information stored there.
if not to me, I will point to you
The most optimistic lyric of the song is this statement. In computer programming, a “pointer” is an object which specifies a space in memory. When memory leak occurs, the pointer no longer points to the correct space. The information held in that space of memory is forgotten. I’m saying that I’m willing to live as a forgotten person if it provides someone else the opportunity to experience life more thoroughly.
BEHIND THE VIDEO:
"Richard and I spent a lot of time on our last video (“Sleep Paralysis”) working to construct a coherent narrative upon which viewers could impose their own symbolisms. We wanted to do the complete opposite of what we had done for “Sleep Paralysis”: our ideas were completely non-narrative and were directed at describing a very explicit concept. We put a low priority on planning out the sequence of shots and invested more time in choosing props and visual devices that communicated the idea of “Heat Death”.
Whereas “Sleep Paralysis” took several weeks to film, we spent two days on planning “Heat Death” and managed all of the filming in a single afternoon. Given the pace of the process, we were really surprised how well the final product represented our vision. The end result was something that neither of us could have predicted, but that turned out exactly as we wanted.
Some of our choices were unambiguous. The laptop, printer, coat and tie: these objects made the workplace setting completely transparent. We wanted to incorporate a projector as to make the digital explicit. Digitality can be difficult to express when you are communicating through a digital medium. It allowed us to play with perspective, placing the character and the content of the character’s computer screen in the shot at once. The low light also supplied a sort of saturated dreariness, which served to compliment the sense of resignation inherent to the theme.
The printer came to be an essential object because of its unique relationship to both the physical and digital. The printer is a mechanism we tend to exploit in feeding our own sense of action: we print memorandums and task lists and unused drafts as though the fact of printing alone brings us closer to completing the work before us. The same can be said of the memorandums and task lists and unused drafts sorted away on our phones: it’s all just moving words around, until we do something with it.
The nature shots at the end represent the salvation from mundanity that we each hope for. Here, salvation is only a projection and remains hypothetical. The character dances, believing in the certitude of their bright future. But that world still exists beyond their reach, though they are bathed in images of it."
More from Sebas here