Cassette tapes have had a rough go in the past couple of decades, falling from their place as the pinnacle of audio recording to an obsolete media, and their demise was the subject of Parker Thiessen’s latest stop-motion short film Fin d’une époque (End of an Era).
“The concept is basically just a cassette. [It] starts in the grass, crawls up to a four-track recorder, sticks itself in and then starts spitting its guts out and kind of sets itself on fire—sort of finally letting go that it’s an obsolete media,” Thiessen explains over the phone following standing in on CJSR, where he regularly hosts a show called Ruining Radio.
The film won Thiessen The Spirit of FAVA Award, a special jury prize given out at this year’s FAVA Fest and he plans to create a stop-motion sequel that sees the cassette seek its revenge—much like he feels it has in the music industry recently with bands issuing cassette releases alongside digital.
Music happens to be another large portion of Thiessen’s workload, along with a lengthy list of other endeavours such as graphic design, curating the monthly experimental music showcase Ramshackle Day Parade and working as FAVA’s rentals coordinator. In addition to performing as part of the psychedelic bands Krang and Zebra Pulse, Thiessen directs music videos.
“I really like experimental music a lot,” he adds. Thiessen graduated from the design studies diploma program (motion image major) at MacEwan University in 2010 and went on to work as a cameraman at CityTV for three years after graduation. “It tends to lend itself really well to the visual element and it’s already quite abstract, so you’re free to create.”
Thiessen has produced music videos for Born Gold (“Grip”), Eamon McGrath (“Dark End of the Street”) and Wand (“There is a Place”), to name a few and he is currently in the midst of videos for Pizzeria, Jom Comyn and Rhythm of Cruelty. Of course, being a musician himself often helps Thiessen understand and determine what will work for a band and what will not.
“I think you just kind of think, ‘Is this something I would want to do a music video of?’” says Parker, citing Nick Cave as one of his ideal video collaborations for his dark, southern-gothic vibe. “You see the music video from the perspective of a musician instead of the perspective of a filmmaker sometimes … you’re not necessarily thinking as much about having a story or something like that, [you're] more just thinking about the visuals that go along with that music.”
But Thiessen doesn’t see his varied resumé as anything out of the ordinary in Edmonton’s arts community. It’s rare you’ll meet someone who doesn’t do a multitude of things within the creative sphere and Thiessen says it allows Edmonton to be a city that makes it easy to bring projects to fruition.
“I play in a couple of bands, so doing music videos is kind of a natural transition for me, and I do graphic design, so doing things like album covers and posters and stuff like that. It sort of all revolves around the music aspect, but it all kind of works together really well,” he says, adding parts of the multi-tasking-ethos could be credited to our never-ending winters. “If you’re a creative person you’re kind of forced to come up with things to create. It’s a very DIY city. I know even the people that are kind of higher up—a lot of the bigger bands, bigger graphic designers and bigger filmmakers—are also very approachable and they’ll help you and that kind of thing. Opportunities are everything in the city if you look for them.”
Fin d’une époque (End of an Era): https://vimeo.com/88486744
Music video for Rhythm of Cruelty: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DZWQ93Lig4