Watch Listen Tell is the brainchild of Dave Tree, a director with a real passion for live music. He and partner Ben Axtell created a project takes artists out of their comfort zones and onto the streets, armed with nothing but their talent. The results are resonantly honest and arresting, making it clear that Dave knows what live music should be about.
Pictured is a session with Speech Debelle, who was last night crowned with the Mercury Music Prize for the best UK or Ireland based album of the year. Click through for lots of beautiful stills and links to other great sessions.
Hi Dave, could you give us a brief description of what Watch Listen Tell is?
It originally was a pilot for a music show I wanted to get commissioned. However, I got sidetracked making a film last year and WLT started to just take up a life of it’s own. I got bored of the way live music was being presented and packaged, I wanted WLT to be something different. Simply put, it’s a unique music channel, featuring new artists playing live music.
For those who don’t know – what’s your background? Have you filmed music before?
I started in film but through a love for music ended up becoming a live music director. I’ve been directing live music for over 10 years now. I’ve been heavily involved in the technological developments of music video content, being created for the internet. The first video streamed through Apple’s Itunes, was a music session I created with The Cure.
How do you choose who to film for WLT?
It’s really a case of keeping an ear out for new music and searching it out. I try to keep an open mind, it’s funny how when you really listen to a lot of new stuff, things do just jump out at you. Most of the time when we film artists for WLT they aren’t even signed, as was the case with Florence and the Machine. Working with artists at that level is a joy because they are as flexible and enthusiastic as you.
How is it any different to your run of the mill recorded acoustic performances?
I felt as a director that live music video wasn’t doing it’s own thing. I felt it was caught between trying to sound as good as a produced album and as slick as a music video. It shouldn’t be either one of those, because it ends up being a poor copy. This is live music and thats exactly how it should be, warts and all. It’s funny how after years of working in studios and multi-camera set-ups, that I should be pushing single camera, on the street corner performances.
People and fans should get a hint about the personality of an artists, that’s something I felt was lacking. I want WLT to represent the artists, not to be something they are being shoehorned into or packaged. Music happens everywhere and anywhere, if you are talented you don’t need much. We leave a certain amount to improvisation, bands sometimes play railings or find other ways to create an instrument they don’t have with them. This makes the track they play totally unique, that’s what I think fans and music lovers like. There’s a feeling it could all go wrong at any moment, just like going to see a gig.
The films have a really recognisable look to them – what did you shoot them on?
I use a stills camera with video capability, this allows me to shoot like a 35mm film camera. I chose it because I’ve only got one camera. As director, I can’t cut to another angle. But I can pull focus, drawing the viewers eye to where I want them to look. It’s kinda like editing but done on the fly, visually through camera and live. It’s not easy when you’re in a busy place and you only get one take!
Finally, what can we expect in the coming months from WLT and who would you like to film the most?
We’ve been striking gold with Florence and now Speech, so more of the same really. Some great artists have been showing interest in filming with us. I can’t really comment till it happens but it’s all exciting. We’d love to start shooting WLT abroad too, there’s so much great music coming out all over the place. The Temper Trap are over from Australia touring. If we don’t get them, go see them, it gets a big WLT thumbs up.