"Hum (Reluctantly) Shoots A Video"
by Gil Kaufman
Matt Talbott, lead singer and guitarist for Hum, is looking a little distressed, even though today is a big one for he and his comrades in the band. Today, filming of the group's first video for the song "Stars" on their RCA major-label debut You'd Prefer an Astronaut is taking place. Talbott is stressed because the camera crew in his house is running roughshod over the quaint fixer-upper he and his girlfriend just moved into in a quiet residential neighborhood in Champaign, Illinois. The unlikely front-man of this noisy quartet, with his non-rock, almost nerdy glasses, shaggy hair and hang-dog expression, looks like he'd be more comfortable working a slide rule than a slide guitar. While a dad plays catch with his daughter in the front yard next door and muddied teenagers hop into their cars after baseball practice at the high school across the street, Talbott watches helplessly as the fireplug of a director, madman Tony Vegas, bellows for some loud, funky party music on the set and the temperature in the living room climbs above eighty degrees.
Such is the dilemma of a small-town rocker who just wants to make music but gets discovered by the majors and learns that he sometimes has to play the game. Frankly, Talbott would rather show you the garden he and his girlfriend are working on, with tomatoes and several kinds of peppers already planted, than watch the parade of freaks Vegas has lined up for his vision of a fruit-filled cocktail party-cum-orgy. One of the only saving graces for Talbott is that the majority of the freaks are friends of the band and local musicians who have volunteered to have their wardrobes and buzzes augmented with kaleidoscope jackets and plenty of free beer.
The exception, however, is a tattooed older gentleman who goes by the name Rodgers. Rodgers arrived with Vegas, who allegedly has no permanent address and owns only a camera and two BMW motorcycles (one of which he purchased from the Illustrated Man). Rodgers mostly sits quietly in a corner gumming fruit rinds. His arms, ears and torso are covered with vivid patterns and swirls, his wrinkled ears heavily pierced with metal posts and huge rings, his quiet demeanor punctured only by random utterings of the phrase, "I only drink well water." Vegas, on the other hand, is a whirling dervish of sound and vision who somehow makes himself stand out among a room full of silver-faced, afro-wigged and otherwise harlequin-dressed freaks, hangers-on and patient siblings. He cranks up the tunes and calls for the next couple, exhorting them to "really get into it because there's two things people in Champaign do, rock and make out." He hands them gigantic fake martinis with kiwi fruit stuffed with watermelon serving as oversized olive garnish and handfuls of massive strawberries they are to feed to each other and pass between their mouths as the camera hovers inches from their sweaty faces.
The video shoot, which began earlier in the day with the band running around in red jumpsuits and silver face and body paint, may be their first and last if Talbott has his way. "It's weird," he says with a grimace, running his hand over the red convertible in his garage, "I have some real aesthetic problems with video in general, especially since I'm not directing it, or we're not directing it. It's somebody else's interpretation of a song and I can tell you right now the way it's being interpreted is not what the song means to me. It's not even close." Bassist Jeff Dimpsey comes over to assuage and compliment Talbott on his smokin' velveteen coat of a thousand colors, given to him by the wardrobe woman. He gingerly thanks him for letting them use the house. Ever the gracious host, Talbott says it was no big deal, except that they made him drive a nail in the wall to hang up an oversized clock, for "mood." Barely suppressing his disgust, he mutters, "You know how much time I spent on this fucking house, we painted those walls by hand with towels."
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