ANDY MORTON PROFILE
It is half-time in game 6 of the NBA play-offs. Andy Morton has been watching the game on a laptop in his kitchen since NO’s photo shoot has commandeered his living room. Half-time allows Morton a 20-minute window to talk.
“I’m a complete NBA fanatic, I think it’s an incredible sport. The New Orleans Hornets are a young team and there’s a point guard called Chris Paul who’s not a point guard, he’s a point god.”
Morton can shoot the breeze about anything. His interests are assorted and it’s straight up impossible to put him in a neatly labelled box. He’s a basketball fan. An expectant father. A drummer in a band. A film director. His hard rock and hip hop music collections rest together in happy unison. This is a guy who is polite and friendly and once called a colonel – third in charge of the Malaysian defence force – ‘dude’.
The oft-started, rarely-crossed bridge to directing began when Morton was asked to help film a Slayer gig in Melbourne. The fact Morton wasn’t a cameraman . . . a minor detail.
“[The production company] trusted that I’d be able to point a camera and do a decent job. So my job was to be on stage with the band and shooting really close and it was just too much fun and I thought, ‘Fuck yeah, I’ll ride with this and try go down this path’.”
Coming back to New Zealand, the directing gods continued to throw good omens Morton’s way, including an intercepted phone call.
“A friend of mine’s band called Sommerset got their very first music video, and ’cause my brother [cinematographer Aaron Morton] is in film they rang me asking to talk to him for some advice and I was like, ‘Man, I’ll do it!’ They were like, ‘ . . . What?’ ’cause I’d never talked about getting into that shit with them. After a bit of arm-twisting they let me do it. It was a basketball-orientated video, which was kind of silly because those guys are unco as shit.”
Turns out New Zealanders love their shit unco. Morton’s clip for Streets Don’t Close became the most played clip on music video channel M2 back in the day.
“From there was a domino effect, doing another video and another and deciding that’s what I’m going to do. Now, 40 videos later, I’m lucky to have shot them all over the world. It’s been cool.”
All over the world included a guerrilla shoot in New York for Morton’s own band Cobra Khan, sans the other four members. Instead, Morton moseyed through the pulsing streets of NYC with a camera, a cameraman, a lyrics sheet and a recording of Cobra’s song Black Box. New Yorkers in all their don’t-give-a-fuck glory – hyperactive school kids, a guy hammering some pizza, the homeless – scanned a couple of lines, waited for Morton’s cue and punched the song out. Pretty much every person who was filmed made the cut.
The clip is entertaining and its energy culminates until almost palpable, but Morton’s international gigs aren’t always a walk in Central Park. Directing television and film has landed him in Iraq, Lebanon, Europe, the Islands, Egypt, Antarctica, Japan and Syria. Yet the only Morton shoot to almost derail was in San Francisco.
“I had a massive opportunity to do a video for Pharoahe Monch and in the States you have unions and teamsters and it’s complicated. We had permission to shoot Pharoahe’s entire show [at Rock The Bells] on film and steady-cam and after 30 seconds we got ripped off the stage and weren’t able to do that. They saw us setting up, they knew we were gonna film it, then 30 seconds in, that’s when they decided to fuck with us.
"I had a lot of footage of Pharoahe already in the can but it was a total shock to be denied the steady-cam on stage. I decided to grab the camera myself and bail into the crowd where I shot on a long lens in amongst them. I got some amazing footage you don't often see in videos because it's me amongst 50,000 other people.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking because here I am doing my first video for an international, in my opinion arguably one of the top five rappers of all time, and that happened. It was definitely a ‘what the fuck?’ moment. But it all worked out wicked – we’d been hanging out with Mos Def and Talib Kweli so I got them to be in the clip too. Pharoahe fucking loves that video so it turned out for the best.”
After filming gigs with Snoop Dogg, The Wailers, Suicidal Tendencies and Jay-Z, plus Dave Grohl drumming for Killing Joke in an LA recording studio, Morton is now channelling his directing talent into commercials and longer-format film.
"I've been fortunate with my work to have travelled a lot and meet some really interesting and great people. I love it and I just wanna keep getting better at it, keep doing bigger and more exciting and gnarly work. I ain't slowin' down – I’m just getting started."
by Rebecca Gin | NO Magazine | Issue 2