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Interview: Die Lamb

Interview: Die Lamb Die Lamb, aka Matt Lambert is an LA-born, Berlin-based filmmaker. His films are raw, sinister, abstract and haunting. Having recently released a film for Berlin high-fashion label Umasan, we caught up with the filmmaker to talk about the Drop Dead Festival, pornography as art and German Expressionism.

You recently premiered your new film Black Magick Vol II at the Drop Dead Festival in Berlin – inspired by old footage of wiccan/satanic rituals – where did the first idea for this film come from?
Brandon Rosenbluth (xorzyzt) and drummer of Reliq was one of the organizers behind Bl4CK M4G1CK, a showcase at the Drop Dead Fest. He was planning to make a film to promote his night at Drop Dead and asked if I wanted to collaborate. We tried to stay away from anything satanic and focus more on the personal liberation of pagan celebration. These kids were to shed the skin of their modernity and embrace their more primal side. We had a loose structure, but also worked together with our friend and performance artist Helga Wretman to enact this coming of age ritual, which used the body as an alchemical agent for spiritual transformation.

?You’re from LA, but your work has strong essences of Anselm Kiefer, Karl Freund and Fritz Lang – all renowned German Expressionists; does your location affect your art?
When I left LA in 2004, I made a conscious effort to move away from the brighter and stylistically maximal work around me. Finishing university in Germany, I was heavily influenced by Expressionist film, Bauhaus design and a few contemporary German photographers who were dealing with occult and Expressionist imagery.

With the over-saturation of glossy technique-based work, Expressionism has been a great vehicle for telling stories through restriction and implication. Not to mention these smaller project with little or no funding require me to find simple ways to convey larger narratives while still evoking strong visceral reactions. I feel this approach can work much better than if visuals are rendered in full realism. It’s ultimately about the people around me. Some of the most inspiring people in my life are friends in NY and London.

?Why Berlin?
After several years working in NYC and London, I needed to get back to place that tonally and stylistically responded to work I was doing and could support the lifestyle that came with doing much less commercial work. Berlin has so far proven to be exactly what I was looking for from being surrounded by amazing collaborators to smaller clients who are in sync with the types of projects I’m after. The city also requires way less to live, so I can focus on these smaller projects and self-initiated ones versus commercials.

Berlin band Reliq play the soundtrack for Black Magick Vol II – was this recorded specifically for the film?
Brandon is the drummer for Reliq, so they went into the studio for a night after we shot and recorded a ton of material for us. We then took our favorites from over an hour of audio to put to the edit.

?What caught your eye at the Drop Dead Festival?
Sadly I was out of town and only got to the last day. However, I was completely blown away by the Black Magick line up! I was especially impressed by the almost spiritual, raw presence of Modern Witch and Reliq.

?Many of your films contain dark undertones – but the underlying themes all vary considerably (pornography, Wicca, Dylan Thomas; for example). What is the process in creating a story for your films?
The films are definitely dark, but most of them tend to leave our main character with a sense of empowerment through transformation. It’s never easy to get there, but the message aims to be one of hope. Most of my films express very raw and simple ideas. They tend to begin with a feeling that I then expand and exhaust conceptually. The goal is then to distill all this cathartic chaos into once again simple and iconic imagery. Many of the ideas sit for years and then become in films within a very short period of time, allowing ideas to fester and then acting on them spontaneously.

The film Fuck Machines is a good example of a theme I’d been dealing with in print and photo-based work for years, but the film came about pretty quickly. Despite its simplicity, I hope it’s still consumed with some depth. The same goes with We Who Are Young Are Old. I’d been deconstructing this poem from Dylan Thomas for years, making it much more complex than it needed to be, until coming to a pretty automatic decision of how to visualize it.

How is the Bare Bones project going? How did the project come about?
Bare Bones was founded by friends in London; Harry Malt and Chris Bianchi. It began as, and still is, a quarterly zine. It’s self-published and financed, featuring the work of our core crew as well as friends and up-and-comers we discover. An exhibition came with each launch with soon gave birth to a video component which I’ve looked after. Most of our shows have been in London and one in NYC, but the films have been traveling petty well on the own as well. The project keeps pushing forward and growing more than we had expected while still staying true to our DIY, independent intent. We’ve been on a break for a couple months, but is gearing up for more action soon.

You can see the rest of the BARE BONES films here.

?What are you currently working on?
At the moment I’m working on a collaboration with DUST Magazine, working on an interactive installation for an exhibition in Amsterdam next month that generates structures in real-time based on pornographic image searches, planning visuals for the after-party for Planningtorock with CREEP, Olof (The Knife) and Mt. Sims as well as a few other stuff in development. I’m also trying to collaborate more with other directors/artists again and planning mini-projects with friends like Bruce LaBruce, Rob Chiu, xorzyzt, Gio Black Peter and a few others.

Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
There are so many people I’d love to collaborate with and this list seems to grow every day I spend in Berlin. Music-wise, off the top of my head I’d love to work with: G.G Allin (RIP), Slayer, Tom Waits, The Knife, Death Grips, Mikhail Karikis, These New Puritans, Animal Collective, Light Asylum, Soap and Skin, Tiger Lilies, Anika, Grace Jones, Gogol Bordello, Salem, Modern Witch, Cannibal Corpse, Warp, Ninja Tunes, XL, Anti…too many to think of.

Published September 21, 2011. Words by Rachel Preece.