Director Adam Smith on The Chemical Brothers: Don't Think

Categories: Profiles

The Chemical Brothers have been touring as an electronic-music duo for more than a decade; the team has won Grammy awards and accolades for its hard-hitting dance music -- and the amazing visual show that the act puts together. On Wednesday, February 1, select movie theaters around town will screen The Chemical Brothers: Don't Think, an exclusive concert event filmed at a live show in Japan last year. We caught up with Adam Smith, the film's director (and the Chemical Brothers's longtime visual collaborator) to talk about the process.

Westword: How did you begin collaborating with the Chemical Brothers?

Adam Smith: I was doing visuals for various clubs they were sometimes DJing at, so we kind of met that way. And they were called the Dust Brothers then, not the Chemical Brothers. So we met, and I really liked their music and they liked what we were doing with visuals and stuff, and then they decided they were going to do a live show -- it was only twenty minutes long in those days -- and they said, will you come and do some visuals. At that time I was doing visuals under the name of Vegetable Vision, and we did their first show. I've been involved with every show ever since.

That was about eighteen years ago. It's grown as they've grown, from a twenty-minute set to two hundred people, and that was a two-meter screen, and now it's fifteen thousand people, and hour and a half set and a thirty- to forty-meter screen. The first gig we did outside of London, we couldn't get a transit van, we ended up traveling in an ice cream truck, and now there's three or four trucks with a whole crew and equipment. It's been quite a journey.


And where did the idea for the film come from?

It's from this set that was on the tour last year, they didn't have an album to promote, so they were able to choose whatever songs they wanted from their incredible back catalog and make the ultimate Chemical Brothers live set. And there are some new songs in there, and visually, we've reached a point where we had the set three months in advance and programmed the lights to go with the visuals to a level that we've never done before. There's a real interaction that goes on between the lights and the visuals where a dancer on the screen might whack his hand down and all these lights go up. It was just time, we'd never documented it, so there's no record of a full Chemical Brothers set. It's really important to do it, if we hadn't done it now then would we ever do it? There's a part of the film that says "Don't Think," and that was kind of the creative mantra.

What was it like for you to jump into a project of this size? Did you have any experience in film before that?

It's the first film I've done, but I've done some music videos, I did "Galvanize" for Chemical Brothers and ...

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