“These past six months I’ve really had to take a look at what [the music] lifestyle is doing to me.”
Miles Maxwell, whom you know as GGGAMESSS or any number of other monikers, is poised to release a new album called Final this week on his label, Colossal Squid Records. To celebrate, Vehlinggo is premiering the wildly enrapturing stock-footage music video for lead single “Shutterstock (It’s OK).”
The video will keep your attention, with its crafty use of found footage, while the song’s syncopation, Maxwell’s compelling vocals, and some fiery synth work will rip atoms from your soul.
I’m Sure You Have Questions…
…. about this video. Luckily, Maxwell is here to help.
Vehlinggo: What was your motivation behind the video? It makes sense to use Shutterstock stock footage for a video for a song called “Shutterstock.” But what was your motivation beyond that? In this content-obsessed landscape, are we just living in Shutterstock’s world?
Maxwell: The video is kind of a story about getting sucked into an image of yourself that isn’t real, how a lot of our pursuits turn out to be pure ego the closer you look.
I liked the idea of using Shutterstock footage with the watermark, so that people could see the type of visuals that had become a commodity. This is the footage that’s in demand — these are the images that for whatever reason are being sold on the internet.
It kind of looks like success and happiness, but at the same time it feels like just a bunch of pharmaceutical adverts piled on top of each other. I think it really reflects in a generalized sort of way what so many of us are chasing. It’s the culmination of all the imagery that everyone with an internet connection gravitates towards. At the same time, you could see in a lot of the actors’ faces that they were doing something they didn’t believe in; which is how I think a lot of us feel when we begin commodifying our art.
It was also inspired by this subreddit, r/youdontsurf, which is essentially comic strips and skits made solely with Shutterstock footage. I thought it’d be cool to do a whole music video like that, and I just started to get more and more carried away with the possibilities.
A lot of the more obtuse imagery is about shit I’d been through — shit that shaped me as a person — and that feeling of watching the world become alien to you because of some minute thing, like a look in someone’s eyes.
I thought it was cool that Shutterstock let you download as many videos as you want for free with the watermark on it. I know that’s so that you can use it in a presentation, and then when approved you can purchase the footage, but I love the fact that all I have to do is not care about the watermark, and bam, I have an amazing video. It feels a little subversive, like the video is saying it shouldn’t exist.
V: What about the song? What’s it about and what inspired it?
M: The song is about letting go of a dream. For me it’s about no longer trying to succeed in the music world, because that theme has been such a huge engine for me. These past six months I’ve really had to take a look at what that lifestyle is doing to me. It’s not sustainable, at least not the way I’m doing it now.
V: Your new album Final comes out this week. How is it different than your last album, 2016’s Love Simulator, and was there anything that happened to you since that album that has had an impact on the final product of Final?
M: I’ve changed a lot since Love Simulator. I actually released four albums that day, Dec. 10, 2016, for the launch of my label Colossal Squid Records, three of which I personally produced.
The whole thing was overwhelming. I tend to do this to myself. But yeah, a lot has changed in the six months between the two albums, Love Simulator and Final. I’ve lost a bunch of friends, had some of the biggest shows of my life, and went through a really dark depression.
I watched our country lose all hope, then fight to stay afloat and not normalize a Trump presidency and then start turning on each other because of how overwhelmed they were and still are.
People are more alienated from one another than ever before, but there’s a love underneath that’s trying to come out. It’s trying to find a way through our false presentations and rants on social media.
“Final really feels to me like I’ve finally made a complete album — like the summation of all I’m trying to say.”
We have more information than we could ever hope to understand, and it makes us feel powerless. Everyone’s lashing out because we feel cornered, but there’s love underneath it; I’m sure of it.
I wanted to make an album that reflected all this. It feels like something I’ve been trying to say for a long time. Love Simulator was kind of bombastic in my opinion — kind of all over the place. Final really feels to me like I’ve finally made a complete album — like the summation of all I’m trying to say. I’m no longer concerned with “success,” which means I’m not inhibited by outside expectations. So I can just say it.
There’s an accompanying/second album, called Ism, that people who preorder the album will get for free. Combined, they make Finalism, which is the belief that all things are determined by their goals. Or that essentially there’s a plan, and all of this is moving towards something predetermined. So, basically, let go. At least, that’s my interpretation.
V: What else are you up to? There’s your label’s Revenge of the Squid party at Trans-Pecos in Ridgewood, Queens, on June 10, and producing Bunny X’s next album. Could you elaborate on both and add anything else you’re up to?
M: Revenge of the Squid is the continuation of Colossal Squid events. We like to make them these huge parties, where there’s always something to do. We have comedians in between the bands — usually it’s whoever Ari Zeneli brings. He’s my main ambassador of the comedy world — one of the funniest people I’ve ever met and all his friends are hysterical.
We always have video games on free play, projected on the walls; it’s like some sort of underground scene from a 90s movie — like Hackers or that Ninja Turtles scene with the halfpipe and arcade cabinets and crazy cock-rockers playing guitar. Eventually I wanna have a half-pipe at at the CSR events, so we can have skaters as well. This is all just a weird cyberpunk fantasy of mine and I try to realize it more and more with each event.
Mortal DJs and DJ Weegee have sort of become staples of our events. He spins all sorts of crazy shit, a real eclectic mix of like video game music and hip-hop. He opens up the night and spins in between sets. Plus, he’s worked in the comedy circuit for years, so he kind of plays off the comedians. Mortals DJs is an underground vet and one of the most impressive deep-cut DJs I’ve ever seen — always playing some bleeding-edge bass music that I’ve never even heard of. So we have him take over and turn the place into a club atmosphere after the bands wrap up.
13 Manufacturing is sponsoring the event. They actually sponsored the last one as well. They make these incredible revolutionary clothes. Eventually, my whole wardrobe is gonna be nothing but 13. Kyleaf from 13 is also a beast producer — we’ve been talking collab for a little while now. He actually came up with the name Revenge of the Squid. Good [people at 13]. I love them.
All the artists are amazing people that I’ve become friends with through playing shows. Turbo Goth is this amazing duo from the Philippines that I met at this small show on the Lower East Side. They blew my mind and we’ve been doing shows together since — same thing with Bunny X. We met at a show at Sunnyvale and I liked them so much I invited them to do a show with me and George Clanton. We all grew close really quickly and we’ve been working together since. Abbi and Mary [of Bunny X] have actually been real angels in my life.
As far as producing? After the label launch I realized that I enjoyed producing other artists again. (I used to do it back in the day when I lived in Philadelphia — I’ve produced singers and emcees since I was 15.) But I hadn’t done it in years. I mentioned that I wanted to start producing again and my schedule filled up like a week later. So it very suddenly turned into my main source of income.
I got lucky in that all the artists I’m producing are brilliant people that I enjoy hanging out with — Bunny X, Rebel Magic, Huston Shcarr, Payaso Triste, Dylan Mars, The Violence — so I kind of want to focus on that after Revenge of the Squid.
But yeah, I think this event’s definitely gonna be my last big push for a while. I wanna focus on my health for a little while. It’s weird how easily it goes to shit when you’re preoccupied, so I’m gonna try to not be preoccupied for a couple months. Then I’ll see how I feel — I don’t know — a lot can change in a year. So I figure I’ll just put Final out there and let the world do what it wants with it.
I’ll probably still join bills and stuff, but I don’t want to try to force an outcome anymore.
You can pre-order Final at Colossal Squid’s Bandcamp page.