Low-tech legend Chris Knox is an accomplished musician, animator, writer, cartoonist, and filmmaker. The former punk shaman brings a consistently energetic eclecticism to all his work no matter what medium it forms in, his particular genius taking full flight in the DIY aesthetic of his films and videos.
Shambling amateurism, possibly endearing, definitely homemade and unique. Knox, when asked asked how a good friend would describe his style
After being diagnosed with breast cancer, TV presenter Helena McAlpine enlisted a chorus of NZ's most recognisable music voices to cover Chris Knox’s classic love song. McAlpine was determined that mothers, daughters, wives and friends get the message that the “best form of defence against breast cancer is to catch it early”. Directed by Toa Fraser, the video for the NZ Breast Cancer Foundation awareness campaign shows a run of well-known Kiwis holding pictures of women they love, in front of a backdrop of Derek Henderson photos. McAlpine died on 23 September 2015.
This hit animated series about five Auckland school kids was created by Elizabeth Mitchell and theatre group Naked Samoans. This episode sees Vale (Oscar Kightley) dealing with deadlines, punch-ups and prima donnas as he rushes to write and direct the school musical. In the audience are HRH Prince Charles, Chris Knox, Scribe and Helen Clark, who all end up joining in during a showstopping final number about togetherness. "Stop the violence. We're honkies and Asians, horries and curry munchers. Morningside for life."
Chris Knox has described this love song as being “about as naked as I get” and “utterly heartfelt in a way that ‘Not Given Lightly’ only hints at”. So it’s no surprise the video is perhaps his most personal, with striking images of his long-time partner Barbara Ward’s face, sometimes projected on and merged with Knox’s own image. Mix in some classic low-tech Knox animation and the simple big red heart image of the Beat album cover - and it’s a poignant little gem.
Backch@t was a magazine-style arts and culture show that appealed, from the opening acid-jazz theme tune, to a literate late-90s arts audience. Fronted by media personality Bill Ralston, the show included reporters Mark Crysell and Jodi Ihaka, and Chris Knox appears as the weekly film reviewer. In keeping with Ralston’s journalistic background, Backch@t took a ‘news’ approach to the arts, debating topics in the studio and interviewing the personalities, as well as covering the sector stories.
NZ On Air funding gave director Chris Knox a little more budget than usual and it looks like he enjoyed the experience. Knox and Alec Bathgate perform with bandaged balaclava-like heads and weird painted face masks - English Patient meets a K-Road flower cult - while an upside down world flickers in the background. Mad but great.
Gluey Gluey is an ode to snot and other gross bodily functions - and the clip illustrates this theme with disgusting relish. Like a Roald Dahl story imagined with song: giant nose-picking shots, snot eating, underpants itching, and more. Not for hygiene freaks or the generally faint-hearted.
In his typical one-man band style, Chris Knox’s music video for 'The Joy of Sex' keeps things simple for maximum effect. A strobing array of colours flickers as an animated image of Knox lists a series of contrasting word pairs — love/lust, yes/no etc — like some kind of health teacher gone mad. Manic animation matches his quick riffs, shifting and becoming more complex as the song reaches its conclusion. 'The Joy of Sex' was the opening track on Knox's sixth solo album Yes!!
In 1994 Chris Knox and Alec Bathgate decided they needed more dwarfs. Having released dozens of songs as duo Tall Dwarfs, they asked fans to send in rhythm tracks, then used selected results as creative fuel for their 1997 album Stumpy. This short film brings the Dwarfs' gleefully low-fi approach to the world of album promotion. Knox and Bathgate alternate performances of various tracks from the album (including some naked keyboarding from Knox) with appearances by various offspring, mates and musicians, free-associating on the word stumpy.
One Fell Swoop offers more DIY ingenuity from the man who has made an art form out of simplicity: a hand hypnotically moves back and forth, revealing a new notepaper lyric with each motion. The result makes for a surprisingly mesmerising video, with interludes of Knox singing in front of a chaotically shifting background seeming startling by comparison. Some neat visual effects near the end leave Knox’s face disappearing into the background, a noticeable leap from the rest of the clip’s lo-fi sensibilities. Knox directed the video with then partner Barbara Ward.
A wry tribute to sheep in NZ culture. Thoughtful but humorous interviews with David Geary, Chris Knox, Dick Frizell and Michael Parekowhai pull the wool away from our collective eyes and examine NZ's much-ridiculed relationship with sheep. Ovine artists' images, souvenirs, pets, shows for tourists, and songs and plays feature. The doco also examines their foundational role in the country's economy. This was one of the first documentaries made by Greenstone Pictures, which has gone on to become one of NZ's top TV production houses.
A plasticine masterpiece by Chris and sculptor Barbara Ward (with whom he shares two children) comes in the twisted style we have come to know and love. High/low-lights include a gruesome impaling and spit roasting, self mutilation on a grand scale (including extreme acupuncture) and general addled paranoia. God bless CK.
Chris Knox wears a Madonna head-set mic and John Lennon sunglasses, with a t-shirt and bright yellow shorts, as he walks along Auckland's Ponsonby Rd singing and playing guitar. In background inserts Knox himself plays a mad air-guitar-playing chorus and censor. Very simple, but full of cheek and characteristic CK energy.
Scenes of ordinary domestic activities such as cooking, knitting and doing the washing feature with the pixelated face video effect usually reserved for criminals and the like. Knox doesn't appear in the video, but directs in his usual simple but slyly clever way.
A compilation of four short ditties from the Tall Dwarfs’ Fork Songs album - ‘Wings’, ‘Lowlands’, ‘Oatmeal’, and ‘Two Humans’. The linked clips all feature assorted forms of stop frame animation and film scratching - Wings has a hand-drawn animated border; Lowlands uses the phone book as a background for a range of animated doodles; Oatmeal does unspeakable things with two raw chickens and other meat products; and Two Humans flickers through what seems like hundreds of different human faces. Simple but clever, as is the Chris Knox way.
Indie legend Chris Knox puts the posturing of Movember to shame in this animated single-frame clip. Knox goes from long hair to no hair, hairless to hirsute, bald to bearded, and every style in between. Has there ever been a more effective choreographing of one’s own personal style and grooming? A DIY high concept masterclass of Knox's directing talents. Brilliant!
Chris Knox's partner, artist Barbara Ward, directed this promo for 'My Dumb Luck' (from the LP Seizure) - a fun black and white animation featuring a troupe of crazy skeletons. Dem bones disperse, disintegrate and do their discombobulating thing in this delightful dance clip set to the manic beat of Knox's song.
Chris Knox directs his own face in this video for his classic Kiwi love song. The camera gradually pulls out from an extreme close up of Knox's face to a living room full of family and friends. Jump-cutting on the beat, Knox, with trademark simple-but-effective style, effectively fuses lyrics, song and an impassioned performance. Interestingly, in his ScreenTalk interview, Knox says he now regrets using a solarising video effect in the later part of the clip.
This Richard Riddiford-directed comedic thriller plays out in pre-crash 80s Auckland with the CBD skyline changing daily, brick-sized phones, shadowy corporations on the rise and the share market on everyone's lips. With a second harbour crossing due to be announced, a telephone operator (future events maestro Mike Mizrahi) and a waitress moonlighting as a dominatrix (Lucy Sheehan) become ensnared in a web of corporate greed and blackmail. Chris Knox contributes the soundtrack, and extensive outdoor sequences include a memorable chase scene at Kelly Tarlton’s.
This is one of Chris Knox's earlier video making efforts, and, like many Knox clips, was shot on location in his own Grey Lynn backyard. Knox and fellow Tall Dwarf Alec Bathgate feature in flickering TV screen images, as do scenes of ordinary domestic life. The strange comedy and tragedy face masks look like they're carved out of mouldy orange peel: a very Chris Knox attempt at making composting fun!
A selection of sketches from this award-winning skit based comedy series featuring Willy de Witt, Ian Harcourt, Peter Murphy and Dean Butler (with occasional animation by Chris Knox). The Hoons display their all of their charm and tact at the beach — but cruising for action (in a car truly worthy of them) results in a heated confrontation with one of their rivals. The classic Norman the Mormon also features, alternative Dunedin bands of the 1980s are lampooned and Lucy Lawless makes her TV debut in an ad spoof that anticipates her future role in Spartacus.
Chris Knox's grungy collage-style clip suits this mournful song perfectly. The sequence offering multifarious images of what “turning brown” might mean — from a deep tan to race-swapping — is a particular delight. The shot of Knox's daughter Leisha as a toddler, with the scratched in message "there is always hope" gives the clip a surprisingly poignant ending. In his ScreenTalk interview for NZ On Screen, Knox recalled it was a technical problem that led to him scratching directly onto the film, in the style of his hero Len Lye.
This trippy animation follows the spirit of a person killed in a motorway car accident. The life force (wairua) runs through forest and beaches on its journey to Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Rēinga). En route it meets tourist buses and other spirits, before reaching the gnarly pohutukawa and making the leap towards Hawaiki-Nui. There's a real native joy in seeing contemporary 80s animation enliven ancient Māori spiritual concepts. Joe Wylie (Toy Love's Bride of Frankenstein) was in charge of the animation team; The Clean provide the soundtrack to the all-stops-out finale.
A simple line drawing animation for this little ditty from the Slugbucket Hairybreath Monster EP. The video features smoking sharks, animated versions of the Slugbucket character, Alec Bathgate, and Chris Knox himself. It’s fitfully low-tech as usual, but the clip still manages to use correct apostrophes throughout!
Being one of Tall Dwarfs’ more experimental tracks, it probably makes sense that the accompanying video would be as perplexing. Chris Knox shows his penchant for bizarre DIY animation as line drawings of creatures morph into lines of lyrics, then into human figures who keep losing their heads. The song itself does little to provide any easy answers, the minimal vocals rumbling out of a swamp of muddy riffs. Both 'Disease Day' songs appeared on 1984 EP Slugbucket Hairybreath Monster, which website All Music called "another chillingly perfect gem".
The video for this track from the Slugbucket Hairybreath Monster EP features expressionist shadows, odd science experiments in the basement, Frankenstein-like freaks, a flickering TV set, and an amateur brain transplant — demonstrating clearly that grunge-master Chris Knox is a major horror fan.
RWP presenters past (Barry Jenkin aka Dr Rock) and present (Karyn Hay) discuss clips selected by Jenkin whose choices very much reflect his musical epiphany at the hands of punk in the late 70s. This segment features three local acts and provides the opportunity to see a somewhat distant Johnny Volume (guitar in the Scavengers on their classic 'Mysterex') and to observe Chris Knox's considerable musical and visual progression from the punk of the Enemy to the altogether more experimental Tall Dwarfs (with one of Knox's classic animated clips).
Directed by Chris Knox, this performance-based video features assorted strange props including a doll, a mannequin and half a pig's head. The song title is Caroline's Dream, and the video has a dreamlike quality, or should that be nightmare? And what is Chris Matthews doing writhing about on stage with his pants undone?
Chris Knox mines his immediate, 1981-era surroundings for this elaborate stop-motion clip. Record players go crazy, sleeping bags swallow people, and hardly anyone on screen seems to have a face. On the telly are Springboks and protests, plus the Ready to Roll top 20 countdown. And all this unravels a full two decades before editing programme Final Cut Pro made homespun hip again, and directors like Michel Gondry (The Science of Sleep) started popularising the craft aesthetic.