Surrey’s Stephano Barberis in a promo photo for his Breathe of My Leaves music project.

Surrey’s Stephano Barberis in a promo photo for his Breathe of My Leaves music project.

10 questions for Stephano Barberis, Surrey’s award-winning music video director

A Q&A with the man who also makes music as Breathe of My Leaves

What was the first concert you ever saw?

“Honeymoon Suite in Kitimat, B.C., as a kid. I was obsessed with all Canadian music like Gowan, Strange Advance, Glass Tiger, Platinum Blonde, Bryan Adams, etc. It was either UK synthpop or Canadian pop for me. Also, it was surreal having such big stars (at the time) come to a town of 14,000, and it blew my mind. I remember not even really understanding the concert experience. Like, ‘Wait, these people are here in my home town to perform songs of theirs that I love, and they’re live, in front of me? Do we dance or stand in awe?’ I think I was in shock.”

And the most recent one?

“Erasure at the Orpheum on their latest tour. My favourite band since being a kid and they still release incredible pop albums every two years and tour to promote them like clockwork. Always sold-out. It’s an out-of-body experience that involves goosebumps and tears of happiness. I can’t go with a bunch of friends because I don’t want them all to see me breaking down in ecstatic tears. Only the wife is allowed to see that mess. The show before that was Goldfrapp, then Depeche Mode – all on their latest tour stops in Vancouver.”

What’s more fun for you these days, making videos and making your own music?

“Well, making music is a solitary artist thing where it’s like painting in brushstrokes that are completely driven by me. Directing is more of a team effort where I create ideas then depend on a team to pull them off with me. Obviously, my career is film so it’s more fulfilling having success there, but as for fun, I think making music is less stressful and an oddly expressive outlet because the entire process is me. I do write, direct, edit and colour most of my videos, so, lots of control there, but I still need to keep the record labels, musical artists and managers in mind. It’s like directing is steering a battleship and making music is steering a row boat.”

(Q&A continues below)

• RELATED STORY: Award-winning Surrey director gives his country video reel an electronic soundtrack.

How has making videos changed since you did your very first one, on the day Princess Diana died back in August of 1997?

“This would be a two-hour conversation with you and I in voice.… Because I didn’t go to film school and was thrown into the role of director, it has been a learning curve throughout. Everything was shot on film and there were so many different jobs that were all done by different people in the full process. It’s so strange now that everyone has been forced to be a jack of all trades (and often a master at none haha!). Crews are smaller. People don’t shoot on 35mm film anymore, even though it’s had a ‘vinyl-esque’ resurgence amongst film aficionados. I shot almost 100 music videos on 35mm film, even when the entire industry had shifted to shooting on digital cameras like Reds. I remember a lot of people in my industry laughing at me for being stuck with film, but I didn’t care. The economics of competing with the cost-effectiveness of digital forced me to switch as well. Digital has come a long way but still doesn’t look as good as 35mm film. Now, it’s ‘cool’ again to shoot on film to appear edgy, but what can you do?”

If not your current job, what would you be doing professionally?

“Anything where I would create. I’d be a songwriting musician. I went to school for city planning, initially, so I’m obsessed with urban design and maps. I also love plants and trees, so maybe something to do with the ecology or designing gardens. An architect. Or a chef. Actually, no. I wish there was such a job that entailed bringing good news to people in hospitals or other places. I’d love to be a ‘good news bringer’ the most. I’d do that day and night and smile in my sleep.”

Of all the country artists you’ve worked with, what’s your personal favourite video you’ve made?

“Only if you first tell me who your favourite child is. ;)”

What’s the count for the number of video awards you’ve won to date?

“42 (not that anyone is counting).”

You’re the biggest Erasure fan I know. What’s up with that?

“Hahaha I’m such a big fan that I’ve already brought it up before you asked! I guess it can get summed up with this: in music, melody is king – and nobody can craft a pop melody (and countermelodies) like them. Nobody in history. And probably nobody in the future ever will. I’m a Gen X’er – cut me some slack. We have discerning taste in songwriting.”

• RELATED VIDEO/STORY: Barberis films country artist Jade Mya for ‘Dirt Covered Rhinestone’ clip.

Ever think of doing a concert playing Breathe of My Leaves music live?

“Yes! I’ve been asked a few times. A few bars around town have also asked me to but I’m just a dude at my computer. I would need a permanent vocalist and I would probably make it like a Broadway musical but with synthpop and dancers/actors doing the strangest things with the strangest outfits. I’d love to do a show where it’s all about humans who land on an alien planet and have adventures, find love with giant metal and crystal alien birds and it turns into some sort of interstellar strip show/over-the-top extravaganza with everyone having weird, glowing genitals and offspring emerging out of heads etc.”

What’s your next video project?

“I have seven music videos lined up into late May, all of which have been pushed and jumbled to different tentative dates (and those keep changing) due to some evil virus monster (that we’re going to defeat soon). I was scheduled to direct one in L.A. on April 7 but that has been pushed back up to Canada – God knows when. Everyone is in a holding pattern, understandably. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. I guess I have some time to dream and create stuff.”

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