NOTE: This story is one of many collaborations to come between Austin Fusion Magazine and AMFM Magazine. Linda Hughes of Austin Fusion shot the photographs of the models for the Royal Court of Ashes, and Charlie Terrell digitally altered the images to create an exquisite tapestry of a living fantasy world, which will be displayed during the Masquerade Ball later this month. The team that created these images include: Bobbi Douglas (hair, makeup), Lars Ronson (stylist), Kelli Wilson (hair), Dina Chavez (wardrobe).
Here, AMFM’s Christine Thompson talks with Terrell about his work.
Terrell: The way I make money is I’m a video concert and video content provider. All of the stuff you see behind the bands, I make that stuff. For example, you saw Maroon 5 and the duet with Christina Aguilera on the American Music Awards, all the stuff that was going on behind them on the screens, I did all that.
Terrell: They’re like little films that I make. I’ve done lots of tours – Aerosmith, Motley Crue, Meatloaf, Maroon 5, Dave Matthews, Rascal Flatts, Toby Keith, Megadeth, and Disturbed. That’s all I remember right now — there’s others.
AMFM: I hate to ask you, but I’m going to anyway. Which one was your favorite so far, and why?
Terrell: They’re all different. With Rascal Flatts we had the most money, and at one point we had 14 screens. The floor was actually video too. We covered it with the same clear coating on the outside of the space shuttle. So I got to work with the whole floor and as far as design that was a real challenge. But it was fun! If you were in the nose bleed seats, I’d have water going on, and it looked like they were walking on water. That’s something I had never done before.
AMFM: What kind of challenges are presented by something like that?
Terrell: It’s insane, months of work. It all has to sync up with the band. Some bands use click tracks, some don’t. It’s always better if they do, then my work syncs up with the band.
I would say the last thing I did with Tommy Lee was pretty fun, he had a roller coaster drum set that would go upside down, in a circle and it had video in the middle. He and I worked on that together. Tommy’s like a 14-year-old boy — he’s sweet, and creative, and full of energy. Great drummer too.
I really enjoyed doing the Disturbed stuff because I did a lot of country music when I started and that tends to be more literal and more safe. So when I got to do Motley first, and then Disturbed – well, number one, the guys in Disturbed…David Draiman, Dan Donegan, they know what they want. I like clients that are real picky and know what they want. Some clients just say, “Whatever you want to do.”
I tend to work best with artists that are very particular and very surgical in their ideas, ‘cause that’s kind of the way I am. I would say right now that I’m having a blast working for Megadeth, ‘cause me and Dave Mustaine are hitting it off great. He’s letting me go wild and do what I want, but he’s very discerning and that’s extremely rewarding.
AMFM: IF you can go wild and do whatever you want, then all the stops are pulled, right? Anything you can think of?
Terrell: No! The budgets, that’s something interesting to talk about. I do the same work whether I get paid a little or a lot and that always depends on the artist.
AMFM: But isn’t it better to have a larger budget because then your bigger ideas can be brought to fruition? Or, do you work around it?
Terrell: Yeah, but sometimes limitations can be a blessing, and that’s a great aspect of creativity. Limitations, that’s the way a lot of beautiful things gets created.
AMFM: Necessity is the mother of invention?
Terrell: Something like that. When you’re put in a box! That’s why a a lot of first-time filmmakers make such great films — they have to creatively work themselves out of things that they can’t afford to do. A lot of times you will see people with excess, and that’s what ruins art, because they have too much freedom.
AMFM: I won’t say Hollywood.
Terrell: It extends to all art, in my opinion. Hollywood would be an easy target, but you see that everywhere, in all kinds of art. Music, painting – anything. Then there’s true artists, it doesn’t matter how much they have, they do good with both.
AMFM: Let’s talk about the creative spark and where it comes from for you. For example, where did the idea for the Royal Court of Ashes come from?
Terrell: That’s a funny question. They told me I wrote something about it. My mind is always going, I’m always thinking of concepts. I wanted to do a series of paintings. The one I did before this one (The Royal Court of Ashes) was based on pagan females in the woods. People say you shouldn’t use the word pagan.
AMFM: What’s the new word, then?
Terrell: I don’t know, but people are kind of spooked by that in Texas.
AMFM: People are always spooked by spiritualism and religion, no matter what kind.
Terrell: Well, paganism is a celebration of nature. I guess people associate paganism with Satanism, but in this day and age, people should realize all that stuff is kind of silly.
AMFM: So, the woman in the Disturbed video you made, what does she represent? She looks like she’s got a lot of authority and power.
Terrell: Well, that was Lena Yada. My concept on that was this: the song is about a wolfman and changing into a wolf. They had a lot of submissions from other directors, and that was the first thing they proposed– “a guy turns into a wolf and kills everybody.” I thought that I had to go somewhere completely opposite, because that’s the last thing I wanted to do — it’s been done so many times.
AMFM: As beloved as that old storyline is!
Terrell: I stole part of the idea from “Kwaidon” (it won the Special Jury Prize at the 1965 Cannes Film Festival, and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film). There’s a myth in Japan about YuKi Ono, which is the snow witch. She comes and freezes people and takes their souls. Typical mythological scene. I was fascinated by that character, and it’s a great film. By the way, I steal all of my ideas.
AMFM: Me too.
Terrell: People are weird about that these days, but I’ve yet to see anyone come up with anything original in a very very long time. But I think the juice is finding all your influences, and then mixing them up. Just like Dubstep, DJs mixing songs. You take all the art that you know, you mix it together in your own blender, and then it comes out with your own original take on it.
Anyway, I was fascinated with the idea of this Yuki Ono living in the forest. And all of Disturbed’s videos are very clean. So I thought the first thing I’m going to do is put dirt and mud all over them. They’re a very hard band, I don’t want it to look like a stylist went and bought them clothes for this video. We covered em in dirt, then we shot outside at Spiderwood Studios here in Austin.
AMFM: Spiderwood’s a really nice studio.
Terrell: It was a great experience. So my idea, was this woman haunts the woods, and controls these white wolves. The white wolves are an extension of her, and they hunt for her, and kill for her, and she feasts on the blood of the animals and that’s how she gets her power. So it’s a Japanese ghost story mixed with your typical fear of the woods story.
AMFM: Where did you get the idea of how to dress her and all the paint on the face?
Terrell: I’ve been looking at a lot of African tribal stuff, which I love, and also in India and New Guinea they do some beautiful face painting. I wanted her to be a geisha, but not a typical geisha. I thought, “What if she had a blood cross on her face?” It’s interesting — one man when he saw it thought it represented the Church of England, because it was a symbol used by White Supremacists in London. The Union Jack that you see is not really the official flag of England. The official flag is a red cross on a white field.
Written by Christine Thompson of AMFM Magazine
Photos By Linda Hughes, Art by Charlie Terrell
Models include : Emily Kaye, Model 8, Lauren Bruno