TRIGGER WARNING: domestic violence and abuse
It’s kinda hard to believe that Dick Dastardly (real name Dean Thomas), a staple player in Cardiff’s Hiphop scene for the last 18 years, only released his debut solo EP in 2021 via Bard Picasso. His follow up track ‘Give Me Love’ was aptly released on Valentines Day this year, with a video featuring Lady AB (Annabelle Johnson) and shot by Charlie JPEG.
Produced by Raph Stormwalker, the track includes a sample of a woman’s voice ‘Give me Love so that I can kill’… which provides the anchor for Dastardly’s lyrics, which he describes as ‘an anti-love song within a love song’. The track is about abuse – both physical and mental, portrayed in the video through using S&M imagery and tightly shot in an attic space, giving the video a claustrophobic feel. When writing to the track, Dean wanted to capture the desperate feeling of wanting to be loved, but also a dark undertone which was reflected in the music. He had pictured the video throughout the writing process and enlisted Charlie JPEG to co-direct, film and edit what Charlie says was the hardest shoot he has done to date.
Because of the subject matter, the three artists, while not professionals in dealing with trauma, had to ensure that they approached the shoot in a trauma informed way. Pushing personal boundaries portraying something that sits uncomfortably close to home, they were conscious to create an environment where they could fully support one another throughout the process. Capturing the content in an honest and open way, whilst also protecting themselves was a tough job, but one which most definitely brought them closer together. Music can be a healing process, but a process which brings up things that are often buried extremely deeply and supporting one another through this is an important part of collaborating with others on creative projects.
The close relationship that Dean and Annabelle have in real life is what makes this video possible. They were able to explore the blurred lines between abuse and kink, sexualisation and normal, through Annabelle’s portrayal of a fantastical character sucking the soul from the other person in an abusive relationship. The tricky question of how to visualise trauma creatively is one that Annabelle was able to bring to life through approaching the project in a playful way. She was able to find a balance in the love/hate nature of the character she was playing through using humour within the darker content of the track and visuals, with the sci-fi element of the whip giving an extra layer to the overall fantasy.
Once the video was shot and edited, there began the problematic process of promotion. Facebook’s ban on sex and nudity, and the choice of the thumbnail image with the ball-gag, mean that the promo was removed from the platform, making it difficult to get the video seen. Charlie JPEG’s private story about the project was also flagged. A whole other conversation could be had around algorithms dictating how we express ourselves through music videos, but also how the choices we make in our content can affect others and how this can be approached. Annabelle being aware of the possibility of children seeing the video was something to be carefully thought about because as we all know, once something is out there it can be seen by anyone. Representing sexually empowered material, with a realisation that the intention behind the project is bigger than any one person, combined with the potential for the video to impact positively on somebody, means that Lady AB is proud they had the strength to give it a go.
Watch ‘Give Me Love’ on youtube:
Catch Lady AB at Fractal, 20th May in Bristol
Lady AB and Dick Dastardly both feature on Dirty Alex’s recent single ‘Built to last’
Purchase Great Ape Fist by Dick Dastardly: Great Ape Fist | Dick Dastardly (bandcamp.com)
Look out for his new project ‘8 Billion People in the World & I’m Stuck Here With You’, due out this summer, as well as an EP with well-respected producer DJ Alkemy and a spoken word EP.
As well as networking and taking bookings for shows outside of Wales, Charlie J is editing together footage filmed on a recent trip to Australia. He’s also working on an album so keep your eyes peeled for that!