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Dan King: The King of Music Videos.

June 20, 2014

DanKing01onlineText by Tyler Horst. Image by Kate Harrold.

If the name of Dan King‘s Old City photography studio, Overkill Studio, is inspired by anything in particular, it’s certainly not the design aesthetic. The space is roomy and bare – and just a little bit cold on a winter afternoon – accented by a few works of oozing street art mounted on formal canvases. Sectioned off by a makeshift wall to protect his gear from his artist friend’s spray paint, King’s side of the studio looks like a blank slate – ready to be transformed into just about anything.

Sitting down at a table made from found wood, rescued on a whim, the music photographer and videographer begins to elaborate on the importance of spontaneity.

“I approach video kind of like a jam session,” he says. “I’ll have some sort of weird prop or little conceptual thing and shoot around that and have fun.”

He’s not just pulling stuff out of thin air though. King’s foray into the visual side of music began many years ago as a digital media student at Drexel University. During his senior year, he started interning with magazine, shooting shows and slowly getting access to the movers and shakers in local music. From there, his talent took him where he needed to go.

“The Philly music scene is super tight-knit,” explains King.

One contact usually leads to another, and lasting relationships with musicians can produce some pretty stellar work.

“Some bands get to work with someone who really helps them grow, and Dan is that for us,” says Dominic Angelella of indie-pop act DRGN King, the band that King has worked most closely with. “There’s a synchronicity in the relationship.”

It’s only when you know somebody really well that you can throw a party at his house, film it and turn it into a music video – which is essentially what happened for DRGN King when King shot “Wild Night.”

“It was like improv video,” King says. “The best comment I got was when somebody said, ‘This video looks like it was edited on Vine.’”

There’s a dual tendency in music videos to either emulate a short film, extending the narrative well past the borders of the actual song, or to simply make the experience as visual and visceral as possible. King favors the latter. It’s not that his videos are orderless displays of light and sound, but rather that the concept for a video only exists to anchor the visuals.

“If you’re hanging out with friends and you’re like, ‘Yo, check out this song,’ you’ll just go to YouTube and type it in,” King says. “You might watch the video but probably you just want to listen to the song. So the stuff that I do just tries to capture the feeling of the song so someone can jump in at any moment and experience the song through the video.”

King’s videos are an expression of tone and mood. They are an exploration of light and color, and how these formal elements complement the energy of the music.

He queues up his video for Rone’s “Stranger” on his desktop computer. To shoot the video, King and rapper Rone hopped over to Nantucket for an afternoon to frolic about at the annual Daffodil Festival. Aside from a few stylized shots of Rone rhyming underneath a lighthouse, the rest of the video is simply King following the rapper around like a documentarian as Rone happily explores the brightly lit festival grounds. The people you see him hanging out with? King and Rone didn’t even know them before that afternoon. It’s a simple concept, with just the barest glimpse of a story, translated into a visually compelling piece gliding smoothly along with the “summer jam” vibe of the song.

This kind of shooting leaves a lot of work to be done after-the-fact. Though he says he’s getting better at editing in-camera by not overshooting, the bulk of King’s hours are spent in post-production. He enjoys it this way though. With a lot of fun shots to consider, the possibilities for what a video can ultimately look like are many.

“I like to keep a punk-rock attitude about it,” King says about his approach to editing.

He doesn’t stress too much about the technical side of things but rather keeps moving things around until it looks good.

“It’s kind of like doing takes when recording a song,” he says.

It’s this understanding of music, and especially visual media’s evolving relationship with the scene, which makes King’s work so vital.

“The visual side of music is necessary because music is on the web,” explains King. “Bands need their brand.”

That’s where King comes in. He creates the look and feel, the visual identification with the music that audiences increasingly crave. He takes the ideas and expressions of the artist and funnels it into an image, whether it’s still portraits or dynamic videos.

If seeing is believing, then King is helping to make music a reality.

One Comment
  1. June 20, 2014 5:24 pm

    Reblogged this on Humongulous.

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