Behind the Noise: Interview with Evan Deng
Shannon: Hey Evan! First off, I want to thank you for doing this interview with us! Before we move into the music questions, let's start off with an icebreaker.
Shannon: If you could have one exotic animal as a pet, which would you choose?
Evan: Hands down, I would choose a Plesiosaur. I love the ocean, it’s my biggest source of inspiration– the smell, the vastness of it all, I find it so beautiful. I also love dinosaurs, although a Plesiosaur is not technically a dinosaur, but I would definitely keep a Plesiosaur as a pet. I imagine we would travel together and catch squid for food.
Shannon: For any of our readers who are discovering you and your work for the first time, how would you like to introduce yourself?
Evan: Hi, my name is Evan, nice to meet you! I’m a music video director based in New York City and I started a collective for LGBTQ+, Asian, and BIPOC filmmakers, musicians, and creatives just a little over a year ago. It’s called Family Video Store and our mission is to increase the visibility of underrepresented artists within the entertainment industry. I like to use a lot of vibrant colors in my work and my favorite show growing up was Super Sentai (aka the original Japanese Power Rangers), which really informed that aesthetic.
Shannon: I see from your social media that you recently did a shoot for Galore Magazine! That’s so exciting!! How was that experience and what is the difference between a photoshoot versus a video shoot?
Evan: The shoot was incredible! Namasenda is one of my favorite artists of all time, I first discovered her at the beginning of the pandemic when I started getting into PC Music, Alice Gas, Donatachi, and other acts pioneering this “happy hardcore” sound. It’s basically like 2000s rave music but on amphetamines, if you can imagine how intense that would be. Naomi was so sweet in person and so down to Earth, but I do feel bad for making her put raw squid on her head. She has a crippling fear of cephalopods but she said she was down to do it for the art. I still feel guilty.
Shannon: What inspired you to be on the creative/directing of the music business instead of the songwriting/ performing side?
Evan: Interestingly enough, I grew up taking a lot of music lessons. Piano, singing, guitar, but I was quite the troublemaker as a kid and so none of them really stuck with me. I convinced my parents to let me quit, but the one thing I stuck with was art class. I was still pretty mischievous there but painting and drawing really helped soothe my mind and keep me from getting the zoomies. I remember borrowing my dad’s camera when I was eight years old or so, and I started making little videos in the house with stuffed animals and toys and such. Then I started involving my friends from church (I was raised in a pretty strict, religious, Chinese household) and my videos started evolving into YouTube skits and short films. I distinctly remember this one series I did called “OREO,” basically a spoof of the Saw franchise. I had my big filmmaking moment when I found a prop foam brain and blew my friend Larry’s head off. He hid the foam brain in his hood and when he fell to the ground, the brain rolled out of his head. I was awestruck and from that moment forward, I knew my real passion was in the pictures. I went to the theater with my father a lot, there wasn’t much else to do in suburban New Jersey. We would watch maybe two, three movies at a time, driving back home at 3 am absolutely braindead. But I never stopped loving music or at least listening to it. Headphones are on everywhere. I would imagine unreleased music videos in my head listening to Lady Gaga, Kesha, the Black Eyed Peas, (it was 2009). My parents always discouraged my love for film and didn’t think it was realistic, so I pursued a career in business and enrolled in the University of Michigan intending to study Economics. But by senior year of high school, I started making videos again, and I had just made one for an assembly at my school. It played in front of the whole school and I remember my teacher pulling me aside the next day, and she said that I had a real talent and it would be a shame if I didn’t put it to use. I told my parents I was changing my major to film, and they were quite devastated. But I knew if I didn’t pursue something I was genuinely passionate about, I would’ve suffered a greater wrath than just my parent’s disapproval.
Shannon: What are your favorite and least favorite parts about being a director?
Evan: I can’t really say I have a least favorite part about directing, can I say sometimes it’s too much fun? It can be tough to have so much creative control because you don’t have anyone else to fall back on other than yourself. As a director, you kinda have to take full responsibility for the set. If your producer messes up, that’s still on you. If the artist shows up late, that’s still on you. It’s definitely a lot of pressure but it’s why I keep my crews small and work with people I genuinely trust and have love and admiration for. My favorite part is being able to have fun and exploring creative ideas with my friends, no strings attached to the outcome.
Shannon: If you could direct for any artist, who would you choose and why?
Evan: SOPHIE, no explanation needed.
Shannon: If you could shoot anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
Evan: I love to travel, and I tend to travel quite spontaneously. I think Tokyo would be really fun, but also Paris, Berlin, or Stockholm. Side note, has anyone ever shot a music video along the DMZ?
Shannon: Who is your biggest inspiration when it comes to directing?
Evan: My favorite filmmakers are Věra Chytilová for her bold visuals and radical ideologies, John Waters for his queer themes and embracement of camp, and Shinya Tsukamoto for Tetsuo: The Iron Man and that film alone. I’ve always been drawn to Swiss Style and anti-design, so I use a lot of Helvetica in my work. I’m also hugely inspired by Andy Warhol, Peter De Potter, and Alexander McQueen. Honorary mention to Gaspar Noé for his title sequences, although I’ve heard he’s a terrible person.
Shannon: What is the most important aspect of directing in your opinion?
Evan: I think the most important aspect of directing is making sure your cast and crew are having fun. They can’t just be doing a good job, they need to actively be having a good time. At the end of the day, filmmaking and musicianship is a passion and there’s nothing worse than an uptight environment that drains that passion away.
Shannon: What can we expect from you in the future?
Evan: More music videos for sure, but I’m also focusing on my mental health and overall wellness this year as well. I tend to feel urgency in my work like I’m always in the rat race, but I’m trying to slow down and reprioritize my friends, family, and relationships. I’ve always been needlessly competitive but I’m slowly starting to realize that my only real competition is with myself. As long as I can be a better person than who I was yesterday, I’m happy being that and nothing more.
Shannon: Thanks so much again for doing this interview Evan! We look forward to seeing new work from you soon.
Check out Evan's social media below, and watch his reel here!
Evan Deng's Social Media
Family Video Store | Website | Instagram