Gary Steel gets nostalgic for VHS tape, while young folks just get real and use it to their own ends

WHY, JUST YESTERDAY I was talking at length with an old friend – while having an extended vinyl nostalgia listening session – about how just about every redundant format had made a comeback of some sort (even cassettes!) except for VHS tapes.
It turned out that both of us had cupboards full of mouldering VHS tapes waiting for the time and expertise to digitally transfer them – or at the very least, go through them to decide what’s worth transferring before dumping the tapes.
Unfortunately, in my case, both of my VCR recorders are also mouldering, and neither is working well enough to do what it was designed to do – play a VCR tape from beginning to end.
After this two old guys grizzling about the state of the world conversation, lo and behold, I heard about local band Street Chant, who have produced their latest video clip using nothing but crappy old VHS tapes. Brilliant!
The single, ‘Salad Daze’, was ‘shot’ and mixed on the “charming but obsolete VHS format using an old, temperamental ‘70s camera and a cheap late ‘80s video mixer,” according to the shooter and mixer, Damian Golfinopoulos. (Is that name for real?)
“I insisted that we do away with all the baggage usually involved in making a video: lighting, storyboards, ideas, crew, tripods, etc. I had faith that regardless of what we did, that the VHS would sort it all out.”
We say: That’s the spirit!
“For most of the shoot I used a borrowed chunk of Blu-tac to keep the camera attached to my recording unit. If I got too excited this would detach and I would have to quickly plug it back in. We lost many great moments because of this. I also neglected to use a microphone for most of the shoot, instead I learnt to lip-read.
“The band insisted on shooting part of the video in a horrible new suburban outpost development called ‘stone fields’. I think this was somewhere in East Auckland next to a quarry.

“We needed to hire a diesel generator, as there was no other way to power up the equipment.

“For the first hour my equipment wouldn’t work. This was stressful: the weather was oppressively hot, the band were bored and irritated, the builders in the neighbourhood seemed hostile and the loud generator drew too much attention to us. I eventually figured out a trick to get the record head working on one of my machines and I had to lie to the band saying it was all fine: I knew perfectly well that I might be wasting an entire day and that the footage might not be captured.

“At one point Alex (drummer) suggested we go for a drive and ‘shoot’ the neighbourhood, ‘like in hip-hop videos.’ We dumped the diesel generator awkwardly on the backseat of his small car and drove around for 20 terrifying minutes. I couldn’t think straight with the violent sound of the generator inside the car. Even a small accident could mean instant death for us, the generator was an explosion waiting to happen. I would die in a burning wreck with my stupid VHS equipment and Alex clawing my eyes out.

“We did not die however and some of the footage was used. I should have brought a tripod.”

Good on them for using redundant technology and using it to their advantage. What I want to know is: why hasn’t anyone cottoned on to how great old VHS tapes SOUND. You can record eight hours of non-stop music and the quality is awesome. GARY STEEL

PS, here’s the video clip:

Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here

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