Some questions for Stephano Barberis, an award-winning music video director and resident of Provinceton, a neighbourhood in Cloverdale.
What’s on your iPod right now? "Oooh that changes so often. A mix of new and old. Mostly electronic artists, and classical. From Sia, Caribou, Photay, Monarchy, to Goldfrapp and Erasure, to Vivaldi and Handel. And Italo disco. I love discovering new music no one’s heard yet, but that’s pretty difficult with the internet."
You’re won dozens of awards for your direction of music videos since the 1990s. What’s your favourite?
"When you’ve directed over 140 music videos, they all become a big blob in your head of favourite shots and challenging experiences. They’re kind of like when parents have kids – they can’t pick a favourite. All of them have been the progression of my own personal ‘film school,’ so I kind of cringe at the early ones. Actually, I cringe at every one of them about a month after making them."
How did a Greek-Canadian kid from Kitimat become such an in-demand video director?
"If you tell me, we’ll both know. I think it’s about being born with a storytelling soul, a good eye and a burning love for music. I love anything dramatic and anything that draws out emotions in people. I want to get inside people and move them somehow – make them feel. I think that’s in my DNA. I love beauty, and I can see it in everything like it’s magic that we’ve all become numb to until we’re reminded of it. It also doesn’t hurt that my brain seems to be an idea factory."
You weren’t originally a fan of country music, but that’s where you’ve made your mark. How did you warm up to that genre?
"To be honest, I think every genre has a crap quotient and a gold quotient. My love is melody – it’s king. It’s the language every human was born knowing. I’m obviously a pop/electronic/alternative guy but I think I connect with all artists and I know what the songs need. When I think of ideas, there is an energy there that transcends all genres."
Some people might be surprised that you create electronic music, as Breathe Of My Leaves. Is that your true love?
"Yes, I do truly love electronic music. I think it’s limitless. Not EDM, per se, but even folky electronic music with many melodic layers. I think melody comes across so purely with electronic sounds, and juxtaposing that with the human voice is a feeling that I can’t put into words. I’m especially a fan of vintage analogue synths. Of course, none of this detracts from the beauty of the sound of the plucking of a taut metal string, or a pure note from a piano."
What was the first concert you ever attended as a fan?
"Honeymoon Suite in Kitimat at the Tamitik Arena when I was a kid. They were fantastic. In fact, growing up, I was obsessed with a lot of Canadian bands and gave them preference (same as UK bands)."
And the most recent concert? "I directed the shooting of Dallas Smith’s Tippin’ Point tour a couple months ago, so I was at a few of his shows. He’s just so good. I take it you mean while not working, though? Then it’s Erasure in Seattle, for the fifth time, I think. They’re the best pop songwriters of all time, and their shows are explosively good. The showmanship is incredible, especially when you think it’s only two guys and one is behind some synths and a computer. And two backup singers. The crowds go insane and they still sell out pretty much every show 30 years into their career."
What’s next for you?
"More music videos! I’m also finally working on the beginning stages of my first movie. It oddly fell in my lap after some people in the U.S. film industry saw my new director’s reel I released last November. It’s supposed to shoot here and a few locations in Europe. I hope it continues to move forward, as it’s right up my alley."
as told to Tom Zillich