The Artist Explains: Cult Fantastic - 'Need That Rush'

LA-based musician Cult Fantastic talks to us in depth about gun violence, narcissism,  apathy, celeb culture and his funky and freaky indie single and visuals for 'Need That Rush'. 

Cult Fantastic Explains:
Where was the video for 'Need That Rush' filmed?

I live in Los Angeles, so it was a natural choice go to locations like the Hollywood sign and the Walk of the Stars to film those scenes that convey the sociopath character's warped lust for fame. It got really crazy when I was filming with a giant selfie stick walking down Hollywood Boulevard through swaths of tourists while dressed in full costume as the sociopath. You see a lot of wild stuff in Hollywood, but as mass shootings continue to skyrocket in the States, people everywhere are increasingly on edge. Even amidst the freaks, junkies, and street performers of Tinsel Town, I was very understandably hitting a nerve filming this video—which is the point. I knew there was going to be no way around disturbing crowds of people who happened to be visiting the locations during the filming, which was unfortunate. But what would be much more unfortunate is if anyone watching this video doesn’t walk away haunted enough by the reality in which we live to do something about it.

How does the video connect to the song?
If you look closely at my hand in the scenes filmed from the first-person shooter perspective, you will very clearly see it shaking as it holds the gun. Writing this song and filming this video were extremely difficult creative processes for me. Gun violence and mass shootings are personal issues for all of us in 2018, no matter who we are or where we live. It’s a sad truth about our world, and especially so when it comes to American values and the bloodlust for violence as celebrity. In the States, we wonder why so many people’s psyches are fundamentally breaking down, causing them to commit unspeakable acts of violence. And then we swipe, scroll, and click over to our favourite shows, films, and games which are too often blood soaked and increasingly glorifying the people behind the trigger. I’m a public school teacher who has had to reassure students while a shooter rampaged the high school down the street where many of their older siblings were trapped. I’m a father who has had to answer to my five- and seven-year-old children when they ask what an active shooter is after having a drill at school. And I’m a music fan who has scanned every row and seat at shows with the sickening hope that if someone opens fire, maybe my friends and I will be among the lucky ones who get to leave the venue alive. This is not civilisation. It’s madness. While a casual listener might groove along to the music of ‘Need That Rush’ without listening closely to its lyrics, the imagery of this video is unavoidable. I created it as a call for us to make different choices before the next tragedy strikes because I believe that each one of us matters and that our choices both define us and shape our world.

Are there any behind the scenes stories?
At multiple points over the course of filming this video, I had to confront the very real possibility that a police officer might see me dressed in costume as the sociopath character, holding a gun (fake, unbeknownst to them), and open fire on me. At one point while I was filming the sequence when the character is looking at himself in the public restroom mirror, a security guard entered and I immediately removed the mask and explained what I was doing and why I was making a video about gun violence. I could have left the camera rolling but I didn’t want any more trouble, because I had the fake gun tucked under my shirt and didn’t know if he was going to search me or call the real cops. There were countless other moments while filming on freeway overpasses, in crowded city streets, and even on a college campus when people encountered me in costume as the sociopath! and were visibly perturbed. I had to stay on the move during the filming because I was sure at some point I’d hear a siren and see the lights of a squad car. But the only time I actually did see the police was when a celebrity made an appearance at a famous store in Hollywood. Hundreds of people crowded the street with their phones raised above their heads, hoping to capture a picture or some video footage to post. The celebrity’s entourage included police motorcycles, squad cars, and the like, so it really looked like the crowd was getting selfies at a crime scene—except I was the only one pointing the camera back at the crowd. But for me, the moment that matters most is seeing the American flag rippling in the wind at half mast, filmed just after the Parkland shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida in which 17 innocent people died and 17 others were wounded from a senseless act of violence. As a teacher, I’m required to be objective in the classroom when students discuss, read, and write about political issues like gun control in America. But there’s nothing political about a child’s right to safety. We all bleed red. When my students ask me what we are doing to ensure this never happens again, the only honest thing I can tell them is that I don’t know. That’s not ok. What can we expect to see from a generation growing up with the message that they’re not important enough to protect from school shootings?

Could you tell us about the ideas/themes/imagery used?
At its most basic level, the lyric ‘need that rush’ addresses a sociopath’s desire to gain notoriety through acts of violence. Is this song taking us through a sick fantasy or did this person actually carry out a mass shooting? For me, what really matters is that Western society (particularly in the United States) more and more ‘needs that rush’ of violence, both real and virtual. Perhaps to the extent that the line between is increasingly blurred, maybe even beyond recognition at times. So we never see if the character in the video fulfils his fantasy, but it doesn’t matter because everybody loses when so many of us are regularly getting off on bloodshed. Maybe Hollywood or even America itself is trending towards sociopathic tendencies. 

Is there a message the video is trying to convey? 
Often, we find ourselves caught up in the constant flow and noise of our feeds. We can easily get carried away with feelings of discouragement and overwhelm when it comes to what’s happening in the world around us. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can make a choice to unplug from our screens more often and reconnect with ourselves and each other. We can think about our actions and what we are modelling for our children. And we can demand more from our leaders. As of July 30 of this year, there have been 199 mass shootings with fatalities in the States in 2018 alone (compared to 3 in Canada and zero in the U.K.). In the U.S., we are making a collective decision for this to continue happening. Until each of us takes a difficult look at our values and choices, until we make the health and safety of our children the top priority that holds our attention above all! the noise of modern life, it will continue—not because it is inevitable, but because we allow it to. Our children deserve better. We can do better for them. If we put our basic needs for compassion and connectedness before our individual desires and impulses, if we emphasise the “we” over the “me”, we will take a huge step towards replacing violence with peace.

Interview Feature by Karla Harris