FADER Five: Death From Above 1979’s Movie Picks You’ve Probably Never Seen

In this edition of our FADER Five column, the noisy Toronto duo talk about the weird films they’re obsessed with.

September 19, 2014

In our newly minted FADER Five column, we ask the artists and producers orbiting our universe to riff on a theme and serve up five gems of their choosing. 

Jesse F. Keeler and Sebastien Grainger, the dudes who make noisy rock as Death From Above 1979, love watching films together. They always have. "When I first went over to Jesse's house to play music, I took the train, and then he picked me up," Grainger told me when we met up in Manhattan during the press run for The Physical World, the long-awaited follow up to their rabidly loved 2004 debut.  "He was still living at his parent's house, where we played in the basement. Then I went up to his room, and he just started putting in VHS tapes, like, random shit: Putney Swope, an awesome Who concert, some German movie with a girl with huge cans. It was like, 'These are my interests.' It was a friendship primer." So, instead of chatting about the intricacies of their new LP or their decade-long hiatus, we talked about five weird movies—from early De Niro to contemporary sci-fithat have impacted them over the years, both as a duo and as individuals.

Putney Swope (1969)

JESSE F. KEELER: When I think of New York City, I pretty much only think about Putney Swope and Taxi Driver, but Putney Swope in particular. It's about an advertising agency where the head of the advertising agency dies of a heart attack. There's the token black guy, who is the music director of the company, and they have to immediately vote on who will replace the CEO of the company. Because they can't vote for themselves, they all vote for the black guy thinking that no one else will vote for him. So he immediately fires every single one of them. All this absurd, absurd, crazy stuff happens, and it's amazing because absolutely no one is safe. Every group, every idea, every sacred cow anyone has gets fucking butchered in this film. The first time I saw it, I was still living in my parents house, and I remember I came home stoned. It was on television, and I watched it just like, "Ah, what am I seeing? I have to find this again.” If the makers of Putney Swope were to actually pick through our music over the years, I'd get a big bill—cause it's all over the place. 

SEBASTIEN GRAINGER: I was listening to Louis CK on Marc Maron podcast, and he mentioned Putney Swope. That's one of the biggest influences on Louis CK and his humor actually. That's why nothing's sacred to him either.

Hi, Mom! (1970)

KEELER: Hi, Mom! is one of Robert De Niro's very first films. I'm looking out this window at New York buildings right now, so that's why I'm thinking of his films. Hi, Mom! is about this guy who wants to be a filmmaker and no one will give him any money, so he ends up going to a porn director guy to get a loan, and gets just enough money to rent this tiny shithole apartment and has this little camera with a long lens. He decides to just film the people in the apartment building across from him. He starts filming this one apartment of girls and notices there's one always at home when the rest of them go out, so he goes over there one day, he's like, “Hi, I'm your computer date.” It’s absurd. 

GRAINGER: Computer date! That’s what everyone does these days. It’s just called a date now. 

Rumble Fish (1983)

GRAINGER: It's a Francis Ford Coppola film. He made it the same year as he made The Outsiders, with a lot of the same cast. It’s based on a book by the same author, S. E. Hinton, about two brothers: Rusty James and Motorcycle Boy. Rusty James is the younger brother. His older brother was the gang president in their town and then he just, like, buggered off. Rusty romanticizes the gang life. Laurence Fishburne plays a fight pimp in the movie, you know, he sets up rumbles for people. It's kind of like an art house view of gang life, and it’s beautifully shot. 

KEELER: The soundtrack is done by Stewart Copeland from The Police, and the sound mix is really bizarre, like the soundtrack is way too loud, so sometimes there's dialogue happening and you can barely hear it. It's one of my favorite movies, though. I have tattoos of both characters, because I feel like you could take from both of them. You could be as dumb and as innocent as Rusty James and you could be as enlightened as Motorcycle Boy. 

Under The Skin (2014)

GRAINGER: It's really really really really good. It was made by Jonathan Glazer—he made that “Rabbit in Your Headlights” video, and Radiohead videos—and it stars Scarlett Johansson. I don't even want to give away what it's about. It's very visual; there's not a lot of dialogue and it's super tense. I go to the movies all the time, and there's a lot of pretty good stuff, but this is a brilliantly made film. It gives me hope for filmmaking. I think I went to see it based on a review that said it was like a tribute to Kubrick in a sense. It's that, you know, immersive experience. 

Buffalo ’66 (1998)

KEELER: I went to see that film originally in theaters because of a review that said this guy—Vincent Gallo—wrote the film, directed the film, stars in the film, but also demanded that every single camera shot was exactly what he wanted. He would fight and argue and threaten not to do it unless every shot was the way he wanted. I remember going to see it; there weren't a lot of people in the theater and I was sitting right in the middle. I laughed at the jokes, but not a lot of people were laughing. They were going to have this serious "art" experience.

GRAINGER: There’s so many jokes in it! This film was something we always watched together, and when we lived together, we would put it on to show people. It's the kind of movie I would put on just to fall asleep, because I have such trouble sleeping, and I know I can just put it on; you know the tone, you know all the moves, you can just kind of sit comfortably. It's like pajamas. We met Vincent Gallo years later, at a music festival in Belgium. I was watching Marilyn Manson from the press pit and then Jesse texts me: "Dude I'm backstage with Vincent Gallo."

KEELER: After we hang out a bit, Marilyn Manson is still playing and he's like, "Let's go watch Brian Warner." And then we go up into the press pit right in front of the stage and as soon as Marilyn Manson comes out, Gallo's just like "Brian Warner! Brian Warner! You phony balogna from Florida!" He kept calling him a phony bologna over and over again.

FADER Five: Death From Above 1979’s Movie Picks You’ve Probably Never Seen