My personal discovery to James Wallace’s latest project, Skyway Man, was sort of like watching a highly anticipated sequel film before ever seeing the series’ first masterpiece. The genius behind his latest song and video for “Creation // Someday” can easily be appreciated at first listen. But knowing that there is an entire back catalogue of exceptional folk brilliance is an exciting find.
Wallace’s beloved project, James Wallace And The Naked Light, is a celebrated Nashville group that brings to mind groups like My Morning Jacket, Neutral Milk Hotel, and The Barr Brothers. It’s hard not to compare the two Wallace lead projects seeing as they are both motivated by the same driving spirit, but in his latest release “Creation // Someday”, there is a genuine tenderness to the song that makes it unprecedented. We were fortunate enough to chat with James Wallace and ask him about this new endeavor, and his latest video.
Play Too Much: The new music is incredible. I’m curious, what came first; the music or the new name? What made you decide to make the change?
James Wallace: I knew from the start this could wind up not being a JWATNL album. I’d just finished mixing and was flying to California for a couple weeks. I was reading a book about heists and con-artists. One of them was named, ‘The Skyway Man”. When I read that, I just looked out the window and thought ‘if no one else has this name, and I still like it when I’m flying home in two weeks, I’ll take it.’
Play Too Much: Ha, that’s awesome. Tell us a little bit about the song; the writing process, inspiration, etc?
JW: I’m positive that in a dimension near-to-ours, there’s a cosmic Lomax archive of Exorcism/Prayer/Release traditionals that follow the same form as this tune. But over here, unless there’s one hiding in some Captain Beefheart outtake, the only other one you’re gonna hear is called “Shadow” by The Great White Jenkins. I’m pretty sure this was the first time this form ‘made the jump.’ I was obsessed with it for years. Even asked several members of the now defunct band to play on my attempt at it (Matthew E. White, Pinson Chanselle, Nate Matthews).
PTM: Why did you choose to make a sci-fi epic for this track?
JW: Ever since working on the “Worse Things Have Happened” music video for JWATNL with Drew Bourdet, we both wanted to do another which somehow continued the story. “Creation // Someday” felt like the perfect track, because it was so open ended. It seemed the best backdrop to hang all the strongest ideas without worrying if we were staying true to whatever story the song was trying to get across.
PTM: Where was this video filmed?
JW: We shot it all in one day in Pacifica, CA and on a public beach in San Francisco (near the Cliff House). I think we wrapped around 9pm after having set my alarm for 3:45AM that morning. The edges of that day are blurry. There was a lot to get in the twilight of dawn, I remember.
PTM: That sounds incredible. I’m sure with such a long day there were a few crazy moments?
JW: We’d rented a giant commercial fogger called the IGEBA TF-35 which is basically a bazooka that blows fog (read Carbon Monoxide) into most scenes. We all breathed way too much of it throughout the day, especially Wiley, who was in charge of it’s operation. It was arguably cooler looking than even any of our own props. It came in a giant flight case that we had to lug up a steep hill to get to the top of the cliff. Eventually we abandoned the case behind a rock and just took the fogger because it was too bulky. Later on we returned to find the case was gone, which was terrible because we nearly had to beg the man who owned it to let us rent, and the case alone was easily worth over 500 dollars. I spent a good 20 minutes at the bottom of the hill with the others, hustling around in my astronaut suit asking if anyone had seen it. Eventually, a group of fisherman who spoke little english started pointing ecstatically down the beach. My friend Wiley and I ran blindly in that direction, prepared to tackle someone. Turns out, Pacifica was having it’s volunteer ‘clean up the beach day,’ and some good samaritans were just about to lob it into a dumpster. The victory walk back up the beach was the single biggest morale booster of the day, next to when beers arrived around 6pm.
PTM: Wow, that’s unbelievable. Ok, so I have to know, how did you come up with the video concept and locations?
JW: Drew picked the first location. I visited a few months prior to shooting and we drove out there, sat on the cliffs, and spaced out on ideas for a while.
PTM: How involved were you in the making of this video?
JW: I was tasked with finding Martha (the planetary woman), and organizing/finding some other team members. I’ve worked quite a bit as an Art Assistant in film/tv production under other people, so I felt excited to be on the coordinating side.
PTM: Very cool, it’s always nice to hear artists that are hands on with their videos as well. Who do you want to shout out for helping make this video possible?
JW: Drew Bourdet and cinematographer Dustin Lane, of course. They have a certain collective genius that’s bigger than both of them. Wiley Rogers for manning the fogger and designing the Monolith with his brother Cooper. Martha Coates who signed on very last minute, and was stayed in character all day, especially when eating the alien shellfish tentacle over and over again.
James Teninty and Cory Ring for assisting Camera, and of course Lauren Rourke who not only produced, but dressed and dirtied both of us meticulously.