Ruffmercy throws Super 8 film and 90s rave footage into his psychedelic music video compositions
The Bristolian animator talks us through his latest endeavours, which includes a trip back to the 90s for a new track released by The Chemical Brothers.
- 18 May 2021
- Ayla Angelos
In Russ Murphy’s world, real-life faces, moves and grooves are replaced with a kaleidoscopic splash of patterns, marks and scratches. The Bristol-based animator and director – who also goes by artist name of Ruffmercy – knows how to work a solid collage, and employs a fine-tuned mesh of analogue and digital processes to do so. It certainly takes some skill to complete one of these works, and we’re not the only ones who think so, either. Over the last ten years, Russ has been working as a director within the creative realm of music videos, releasing numerous films for musicians such as Thom Yorke, DJ Shadow, Nightmares on Wax, Jon Wayne, Tom Mische and Loyle Carner plus many more.
We last wrote about his work back in 2018, at the time of releasing his video for Thom Yorke’s film score of the remake of Suspiria. Ever since, he’s continued to work at steady pace on music videos and adverts, releasing a few of his own art pieces and short experimental films on the side. “It’s possible that I have become more focused in recent months on the type of work I want to be making,” he tells It’s Nice That, “and I am currently working on a way to exhibit my work in galleries and make more of my art available for sale as prints.” Besides this, he’s also started dabbling with Super 8 film, throwing the grainy and anarchic topography of the medium into his signature blend of paint and animations.
With a portfolio so refined as Russ’, you might be surprised to hear that he started off in broadcasting. Originally from Doncaster, he’d move around quite regularly as a child due to his dad being in the RAF. “The only thing I was really good at school was drawing, so that’s where I focused my efforts,” he says, heading to Leeds to study design and illustration, while steering predominantly towards animation. After graduating in 1995, he took a role at MTV in the On-Air department, creating adverts for shows and title sequences. Three years later and he went freelance, working at MTV, Nickelodeon and the BBC, before taking up a position as creative director at an LA-company named Superfad. He returned to London after helping set up an office there, and a couple of months in he realised his passion for music videos. “So I left to go freelance again, building up a portfolio of music videos,” he notes. “When I had a few under my belt, momentum picked up and they became my full-time job.”
GalleryRuffmercy: The Chemical Brothers, The Darkness That You Fear (Copyright © Ruffmercy, 2021)
A typical day for the esteemed animator now begins with dropping off his kids, shortly followed by a swim or cycle and then sitting down with emails and a coffee. Even with a project underway, though, he’ll always make time for a quick sketch or test animation – “something for fun” – which fuels the imagination and keeps him active. Other times, a bike ride usually does the trick, as does the work of comic artist and animator Jamie Hewlett, who’s currently a key inspiration for his works. “I’m always amazed at the way he draws his characters,” says Russ. “Looking at my work, it’s probably not easy to see the influence, but when I look at how much he’s achieved and is still relevant today, I get inspired by that. Jame also kindly posted some of my work a couple of times, the non-video work. This gave me a great confidence boost which inspired me a lot. That was very cool of him, I wish I could draw that good.”
One of Russ’ most recent endeavours has seen him finish up a video for The Chemical Brothers, animating to a new track called The Darkness That You Fear. Having long been a fan of the band since the mid-90s, Russ was more than thrilled to take on the task – especially since he’s always been “blown away” by the music videos that tend to accompany their songs. “It felt like a significant moment for me,” he adds. The result of which is a throwback to the 90s, to the times of raving, sweating, touching and to the fast-tempo beat; a high contrast to the world we’re currently finding ourselves in. His characteristic flair for colour and collage drives the scenes, meanwhile the ravers shimmy about the frame to the backdrop of vibrant psychedelia. Along with a positive and supported team, Russ marks this as his favourite job he’s had in a while. “The concept for this video was really simple,” he explains, “to edit together 90s rave footage and mix it with colourful animation to highlight the lyrics and message of the song.”
Russ is a fine example of how you can succeed by doing the work that you love; by compiling crafty animations for a whole host of established musicians. In the near future, he plans to release some videos that have currently been brewing, along with a couple of album covers. And that’s not quite it; he also pans to launch a selection of prints, and has been asked to create the live visuals for an experimental electronic musician Sasu Ripatti. “Although, with the world in chaos, we are not 100 per cent sure when that will begin. I’m also looking at producing a short film this year. We’ll see.”
Ruffmercy: The Chemical Brothers, The Darkness That You Fear (Copyright © Ruffmercy, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she was interim online editor in 2022/2023 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima.