INTERVIEW: XAVER XYLOPHON FOR KNOR'S "IT'S HAPPENING"
Xaver Xylophon is a German illustrator, animator, writer and filmmaker whose talents are just as extraordinary as his birth name. We first saw Xavers talents in his film “Roadtrip” which we wrote a little about here. We were utterly impressed with his distinct art style and storytelling. As we dug deeper into Xaver’s work we came across a music video he made for his friend KnoR (who makes some hauntingly stunning electronic music). After watching it, and falling deeply in love with it, we had to reach out to Xaver and ask him a couple questions, that he was glad to answer.
Growing up, did you draw a lot? What were some of your favorite things to draw?
Yes. I've been drawing since the day I was able to hold a pencil. I'm really grateful towards my two-year-old-self that this little fella invested so much time into practicing how to draw circles and kites. When I grew a little older I moved on to football players and cowboys as motifs. Then superheroes (batman), after that home made movie posters (mainly for trilogies by george lucas) and with the arrival of puberty I moved on to sketching out loads of naked ladies...
What and when was the moment that you realized your love for animation/illustration?
To be honest, I never really had a proper love for animation (okay, I admit that cried when I watched "Dumbo"). But it is more a love for drawing and the movies. I think I like drawing because it is somehow a form of meditation, and it helps you to see things differently. And I like movies…well, because they're the movies :) At some point I realized that you actually can combine the two and make "wanna be movies" with drawings (my parents refused to buy me a video camera). I guess deep down I wanted to make "proper" films but I never had the budget nor the social skills, but I could draw…
Does your animation require more work on paper or on computer?
I hate to admit it, but it's all done on a computer. I love tactile stuff, but it eats up all your time…Somehow I found a way to draw with a wacom in photoshop, that for me almost feels like working on paper.
At least for my graduation film "roadtrip" I did all the backgrounds with crayons on paper. I really missed the "undo" function though…
We're really inspired by people who are self-employed, what made made you stray away from working for an agency/studio, but rather for yourself? How's it worked out for you so far?
I had a little amount of agency experience when I was young in the form of internships. I realized that in a big company you're either a pair of helping hands without a brain or, if you're the brains, all you do is talk on the phone and write emails…I wanted to keep enjoying my work the way I did in Uni: Be the only one responsible for the outcome of a project, from beginning to end. Even if that means that you have to keep the projects simple and small. Another reason for the freelancing is that I can't manage to get up early :) Most of the times being a freelancer works out fine for me, but there have been a few droughts also, I guess you just have to learn to accept the situation as it is and use the off time wisely…not always easy but after all these years the only real option for me.
How did you come to collaborate with KnoR?
He is the friend of a friend and just asked me. I liked the song and his enthusiasm. Also he wanted a Western – and I thought: Practicing to draw cowboys in my childhood will finally pay off.
In "It's happening", what inspired the western, bounty hunter theme and how does it relate to the song?
As I said, the western theme was KnoR's idea. I think he had it in his mind quite early when working on the song. Especially he wanted to do something about an old man looking back on his miserable life. It's a sad song about lonleyness and regret. To make it a bit less depressing and more entertaining it was transferred into a world that is always fun: The wild west.
We really loved the addition of the fox, can you describe what the intended representation was for it in the film? To us, it was sort of a mirrored image of the hunter in animal form.
That's exactly it :) KnoR had the idea of a mirrored image with a fox to show that the cowboy is driven like an animal. I like foxes, too. So we extended it to some sort of sidekick character. We thought about having a final shot of the fox being killed by a bigger predator, but it eventually got cut.
Can you tell us a little bit about the process of making the music video, did it take a while?
KnoR said, he wants an old and lonely cowboy looking back on his life as a bounty hunter. The rest was up to me. I worked out a storyboard and we had a little ping pong. In general we were on the same page, the only changes were actually about timing the scenes to the vocals of the songs. If you really pay attention, you can notice that the lyrics reflect the cowboys motivation… It took about three months to complete it.
Lastly, what does the future hold for the talented Xaver Xylophon?
As I said earlier, I always wanted to make a "proper" movie. Animation is quite a slow and lonesome business. I miss collaborating with other people. Also, with drawing it seems as if I reached some kind of a dead end for the moment, especially style wise. So I decided to give it a little rest. I experimented a bit and made a few short films with a camera last year. Actually one of them was a new video for KnoR. It went online last week and is called "Don't go". It features a new track and the swiss alps. Right now I'm working on a script for a feature film, a comedy about another encounter with death, that hopefully will go into shooting next winter...