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The Brains Behind Blimp

John Hassay is a music video commissioning legend and founder of Colonel Blimp, which is the subject of a Mirrorball retrospective. He talks to me about his groundbreaking work with Spike Jonze and Ro...

John Hassay is a music video commissioning legend and founder of Colonel Blimp, which is the subject of a Mirrorball retrospective. He talks to me about his groundbreaking work with Spike Jonze and Roman Coppola that led to the birth of Blimp.

“It’s mad to think that there’s been, what, 10 years now of Mirrorball,” John Hassay tells me. “I was first invited in 1999 to do a seminar with Roman Coppola where they wanted me to play a video commissioner.” Seven years on he’s visiting for a retrospective of Colonel Blimp, the music video production company he founded which has perhaps the most talented roster of promo artists in the UK.

Hassay’s first major commission came about when his then landlord Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim) asked him to come up with an ‘anti-video’ for his 1998 single ‘Gangsta Trippin’. “I knew I needed to get something that was shocking and entertaining and I knew I needed to get a name,” he recounts. Step forward Roman Coppola and Spike Jonze.

In the end, Coppola took the job of helming ‘Gangsta Trippin’ and proceeded with a purity of purpose. “The treatment was simply ‘let’s blow s**t up’,” Hassay remembers. His next commission saw Spike Jonze enter the frame and create a piece of music video history. “Spike finished Three Kings on the Friday and was starting Being John Malkovich on the Monday,” Hassay recalls of the experience. “So we shot the video for [Fatboy Slim’s] ‘Praise You’ in twenty minutes on the Sunday night.”

After this stellar start, Hassay founded music video commissioning company New Selecta where he faced a familiar problem. “I was discovering new talent but they were then being snapped up by the major labels and I would get a pat on the head,” he says. “I though maybe I should start to sign these people up myself.”

In 2002 he began assembling an enviable core of creative talent that formed the basis for Colonel Blimp, including celebrated creatives such as Blue Souce and Traktor. The inventive and groundbreaking work of Lynn Fox for FC Kahuna’s ‘Hayling’ set an early high quality mark for Blimp.

It’s been followed by astounding work such as Dougal Wilson’s provocative promo for Benni Benassi’s ‘Satisfaction’ and Ben Ib’s inspired lunacy for Goldie Lookin’ Chain. This duo, along with Simon Willows, will be in Edinburgh for the retrospective to talk about their work with Blimp. Like Hassay, this retro will be an informative and entertaining blast.

Mirrorball: Colonel Blimp retrospective is on 17 August at Cineworld.

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