Thursday 21 July 2016


Something unforeseen happened last week in popular culture: a skateboarding video broke the internet. Rodney Mullen’s “Liminal,” was the top-trending video on Facebook (its trailer was No. 1 in the days just before the release).
Twelve years in the making, the four-minute video is a gorgeous "4D" sequence of impossible maneuvers, paired with an equally stunning musical score by longtime rocker, skater and composer Dhani Harrison.
Selecting someone to create the most-anticipated skateboarding video in recent history couldn't have been an easy task, but Harrison was the "absolutely obvious" choice, says Mullen.
Mullen was the first skater ever to accomplish an ollie, or popping a skateboard into the air with only the feet, on flat ground, among many other tricks. For those innovations Mullen, who turns 50 on Aug. 17, is widely considered the most influential skater in the world.

Appropriately enough, he and DHANI met on the way to a skateboarding documentary. "Ben Harper and I were driving to 'The Bones Brigade' premiere in San Diego in 2012 when Dhani called,” explains Mullen. "Ben put him on speaker to finally introduce us."
They discussed a mobile app that Harrison, the son of George Harrison, was working on with photographer Steven Sebring. The app, "The Guitar Collection: George Harrison," catalogs and displays Harrison's father's guitar collection in 360-degree images. Although Mullen was injured, within a year he began test shooting. Two years later, Mullen started filming tricks inside of a camera-covered dome. After editing wrapped this summer, the two began collaborating on the score.
"Our approach was to connect on the movements of the piece, so that it created a sense of arc and story," says Mullen. "Music evokes so much emotion, and we wanted to build that into the part as much as we could."
"There were a couple of highlights in terms of the tricks that were crucial to emphasize, musically," he continued. "But because Dhani is a skater he already essentially knew that. We were so in-tune as we worked together, especially towards the end, that all I had to do was halfway point to one part, and he would pick up and take it exactly where it should be, which is so hard when it comes to music. That kind of connection is such a gift."
Harrison calls the project "the most fun and most complicated thing I’ve ever worked on." Recently, he sat down with Red Bull Music to discuss the project, the elusive and undeniable link between skating and music and whatever happened to his old Rodney Mullen deck. Your score is the perfect match to both Rodney’s meta-level of tech skateboarding and this new 4D medium, which we’ll get into. And like the skating, the music has huge range. There are metal riffs, fuzz bass, slow techno, even chanting. What was the approach?

Dhani Harrison: Well, Rodney skates at night so there’s no way of knowing what’s going through his mind. We talked and I said, "Look, go through anything you’d like and just bring it all in." So he got a bunch of my music and was listening to stuff, which I did not expect. There’s an interlude on a record of mine called "Fear of Missing Out." It’s the record where Steven [Sebring] and I started working together and the record I did right after working with Ben [Harper]. Rodney found that record and he said "This is where it’s living. In this world." We started from that place.
There’s a mysterious and undeniable link between music and skateboarding. Ben Harper has said they "feed off each other like nothing I’ve ever known." You’ve been skating about as long as you’ve been playing music, and a number of pro skaters play music, or at least have good taste in music. Are they related?
[Laughs.] I always wanted to do music for skateboarding videos. I grew up watching every skate video, and a really good tune and a really good skate part — you’ll never be able to hear the tune ever again or watch that trick again without thinking about the tune or thinking about the skating. They’re married. I can still tell you what song was playing over Matt Hensley’s part in "H-Street" [Whole Lot Less//Sub Society]. And if you’re lucky enough to be scoring a part where people get their mind blown, then it’s a powerful multimedia experience. Lately I’m not doing so many records, more scoring more films and TV, so that question became "What’s the most impressive visual thing?" And when Steven first started working on this 4D technology, I thought we could write something specifically for this skateboarding, rather than just dropping a tune in.
It’s also a coincidence that this 4D technology is rooted in a music app you developed with Sebring, where viewers can examine each of your dad’s guitars from any possible angle.
We did that on a turntable with one camera. It took three hours per guitar. But now with the energy dome, you can just put a guitar in the middle and go boop, and it’s all there in one second. It comes to the mobile device within a minute, where you can manipulate the image. But when that first image ever came up, I saw it in my brain. I said to Steven, "You’ve got to put Rodney Mullen in there."
The most interesting thing about 4D is that video is just the beginning. That what we see, this short moving picture, is only one option for all the things that can be created from the data captured in the energy dome. As the co-producer on "Liminal," can you explain this?
What you see on the video is a tiny, tiny, tiny little sliver of information that was captured. Every single trick is captured from every angle. Theoretically you could make a hologram out of every trick. You could walk around it. You could use your phone to spin Rodney around and see where he flips the board. You could control it in VR [virtual reality]. You could print the tricks out on a 3D printer and make Rodney action figures!
What could that mean, music-wise?

There could be whole soundtrack just for the information we’ve recorded.
Exit question: Is it true you had Rodney’s board growing up?

Yes. And I took an axe to it.

Because I was so, so frustrated. His skating looked like something we could all do, but it wasn’t.

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