Hammer & Tongs


Written by Hannah Grantz
15 Wednesday 15th December 2010
Hammer & Tongs, the team behind an enormous catalogue of British music videos for the likes of Blur, Pulp and Skunk Anansie. More recently they made their first film, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy which they followed up with Son of Rambow. We spoke to the duo about their time behind the camera.


OK, so, which do you prefer, music videos or films?
Garth Jennings: I like it all. I think we’re sort of spoiled, Nick and I, because we get to do everything. We’ve done music videos, commercials, short films, feature films... and actually so far it’s all been great. Films are more absorbing I suppose, because they take longer and certainly more in the direction we’re going now, but we still love making music videos.
Nick Goldsmith: Apart from when things are going really badly on a music video, and then we prefer making films and vice versa.

What’s your favourite music video that you’ve produced?
GJ: I sort of fluctuate with what my favourite ones are. I tend to like the most recent thing we’ve done but the last thing we did was a year ago for Vampire Weekend. It was an absolute hoot to make. But a lot of videos on the DVD are from way back so it’s sort of like bringing out the family photos. They do bring back very fond memories. Like doing Supergrass's 'Low C', it was an absolute joy to make and what’s nice watching it is it looks like it on the screen for me still. It shows how much fun we were having. There’s not many I don’t like - a few, but you won’t ever see those.
NG: Mine is probably Supergrass too. Like Garth said, we had so much fun making it and I think it comes across in the video.

What are your favourite videos you haven’t produced?
GJ: Well, you know, Chris Cunningham is pretty good, isn’t he? I mean, he makes good stuff, but not that we could ever do that. I’d never think of flipping my guts inside-out and things like that but I like to see it. The videos I really like are the stuff we used to see when we were growing up. There was a video for Paul Simon, You Can Call Me Al, with Chevy Chase. I remember thinking that was amazing. And there was a Cars video, You Might Think, again seeing all those ones... the ones sort of inspired were the ones I still wish I had a hand in.
NG: I like that video of The Cure when they’re in the cupboard (Close to Me - Ed)

How long have you two worked together?
GJ: We’ve known each other years. We were talking about this the other day, we’re like old guys now. It felt like forever we were the new guys, because when you’re getting started you’re constantly trying to prove yourself and that kind of thing. And suddenly, you’re the old guys. We’ve known each other nearly twenty years and been working together about seventeen years.

OK. So who thought of the milk carton?
*Nick points to Garth*
GJ: Yeah that’s my fault. The milk carton was sort of floating around as an idea that we’d seen in America. They don’t have that here. I always liked that idea. There was this show called The Littlest Hobo and it was about this dog that would go from town to town helping people out…basically it was a new version of Lassie. It was sort of like, how lovely if a milk carton would actually do what it says and it would go looking for the kid. And then that track came in, then it just sort of... you know, the walking motion just seemed to go with it. Then we wrote a story around it. You never expect with those silly ideas that people will go for it. Then once they say yes you’ve got to work out how on Earth you’re going to do it.

I’m so curious, how did you (Nick) do the cigarette magic trick in your home videos?
NG: You can see it!

I can’t see it!
NG: You can see it on there which is terrible because everyone will now know that it’s not really magic. If you watch it closely you can see it.
GJ: You’ve got to know where to look.

Who have been your favourite artists to work with?
NG: We’ve done a number of videos for the same artist so it’s been lovely to be able to build up a relationship with some of them. People like Supergrass, The Wannadies, Pulp, and Badly Drawn Boy, we’ve done a number of videos for all of those.
GJ: Almost every time we did a video though, like if we were going to do a Pulp video, someone would say, “Oh they’re a nightmare to work with.” Whoever you work with, someone would always warn you, “they’re a nightmare.” And they never were in any of the videos and we’ve done like 70. We always got on with people, and not because of what we’re like but because most people just want to do something good and it was always actually good fun.

Do you see a problem with music videos losing their popularity? MTV has about one video on per day now.
GJ: It’s more like the TV has lost their interest in it, or the audience. But on YouTube and things now it’s amazing. I think people just don’t watch them in the same way they used to. We used to watch it all on MTV or a couple of music shows, but now you share links on YouTube. So it’s interesting. We’ll do a video for a band like Vampire Weekend, it’s made for no money; it’s practically a freebie, and it’s shot on video, there’s nothing special in terms of budget, and then it has fourteen-million hits. I wonder whether so many people would have seen that if it was only out on television, because actually it’s harder to compete with the Beyoncés of this world, even though they make amazing videos. It seems like it’s more of a free for all, and again if you make something good it has more of a shot of being found. You don’t have to worry about TV programmes.
NG: Yes. I agree.

What’s next?
NG: We’re just working on our next feature film. We are just finishing off the script at the moment so it’s too early to talk about the actual story but hopefully we’ll start it early next year and that will be amazing.

No hints?
NG: It’s animated.
GJ: That’s quite a good hint.
NG: That’s it.

A retrospective DVD, The Hammer & Tongs Collection, is out now and contains over twenty of Hammer & Tongs’ favourite music videos, a few short films, artist interviews, and a home movie documentary. Preview it below:

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