“Every part of London reminds me of someone/A part of my life that’s not now/It is not now” - ‘When I Met You’ (Madam, 2016).

‘When I Met You’ is the first single from ‘Back to Sea’, the third album from Madam, the project of London-based singer-songwriter and actress Sukie Smith.

‘Back to Sea’ will be released on Smith’s own label Shilling Boy Records on the 1st July, and will be accompanied by a series of video films, the first of which for ‘When I Met You’ was released, along with the single, on the 26th March.

The video film, as she has described it in her press release, is “directed by Devon Dickson, and, set in the badlands of Bethnal Green, Hackney Wick and Stratford, it is a late night journey of memory, regret, fury, violence, but ultimately of survival.

Two separate entities, which combined become much more than the sum of their parts ...

The song is about a boyfriend getting beaten half to death, taken to hospital, expected to die and what happened while he/she was there.”

The film is about the aftermath of the events in the song – the anonymous cab ride giving Sukie the space to relive the events that have just unfolded, joined by the people who ghost ride in her mind as comfort or trouble.

Subterranean and tense, it is about the thousands and thousands of stories playing out in this huge city.”

Pennyblackmusic has been following the progress of the atmospheric ‘Back to the Sea’ since Sukie Smith and Madam played an extraordinary set of songs entirely drawn from it – then a work-in-progress - at our own 15th anniversary gig at the Lexington in London in May 2014. Sukie Smith wrote to Pennyblackmusic about the making of the video.

“Devon Dickson is a director I met while he was still studying at the Royal College of Art. I actually met Gina Birch from the Raincoats to potentially be in her graduation film, but she thought I was better for Devon’s project so introduced me to him...Devon and I made a film called ‘Wedlock’ which won awards and was shown at film festivals and launched his career. It was a very sad /brutal story about a child dying, so there is nothing really Devon and I are afraid of exploring in emotional terms.

I began to think about ‘When I Met You’ as a first single and Devon seemed the perfect choice. It helps it’s his favourite track on the album...

I had some ideas of what I wanted to do...abstracting the emotional journey of the song into an actual London journey, Devon and I talked through some ideas and really quickly pulled this film together.

The cab was driven by an artist who wishes to remain anonymous, partly because I think some of his work is associated with his passengers...so he drove me and Devon in the cab while Adriana and Smaranda (assistant directors) and the other passengers followed us in a separate car. We would drive/film and then swap passengers over and drive/film some more.

The characters are all real friends who mean a great deal to me. They are artists or musicians and, with Devon kneeling in the front part of the cab filming through the window, we played the track, and they talked or interacted with me as we drove and drove and drove...everything was improvised...nothing was planned in the cab...it was all suggested by the song or by the location.

The act of being driven round streets that mean something to yo, affected all of us...going past childhood homes, or areas where significant events had occurred..."every part of London reminds me of someone."

The reason we shot around those areas is two-fold: practically, we wanted some sodium light in the cab and space to film us moving freely, so the wide modern parts of the regenerated Stratford, which were almost duel carriages, worked .

With Hackney Wick, it is murky and undefined, low level, light industrial warehouses, menacing in their anonymousness, studios/factories/fuck knows what happens in them.

Bethnal Green is lawless in my mind and sort of the best of London if you want to feel all life is here...

We met in Hoxton Square and then drove for hours round those streets, taking in some of Whitechapel with Barts, that huge Victorian hospital, becoming horribly relevant as the the song played "watched them push holes in your mouth and staple up your skin..."

I am connected to those areas historically on both sides of my family. Relatives have been married and buried in Bethnal Green church for generations...but for my specific life,East London...it knows my secrets...

The girl in the cab...in terms of the film, who is she?...Is she someone I save? Is she me? Is she what has happened in the song? All of those things...This song is about protection in lots of ways....of ourselves, of the man in the song...survival...

It wasn't hard to be upset, no acting required, only memory, reliving the events of the song...also being affected by the men who I was travelling with as we were filming...thinking about who was here in my life right now, thinking how those stories might play out...being driven is strange. You are active, but with no effort, leaving so much space for your mind to dwell on nuance...

So something magical happened because of this film…

We shot for two days, a week apart. The artist/cab driver was an acquaintance who I didn't know very well, only through friends of friends. It was very generous and kind of him to drive us for free for the two nights...he said it was interesting to him and he was glad to help another artist...we finished the second night’s shoot well after midnight. It was so rainy. Everyone goes. He said he would drop me home...more kindness....We start talking. He asks me if I trained as an actress. I say yes. He asks where. I tell him. He says how odd as he knew someone that went there a long time ago, that I wouldn't know her. He tells me her name. They had apparently gone out with each other. She was the love of his life. They lost touch. He always hoped one day she would get in his cab so he could make up for bad things that were said. He was very sad it had ended the way it had...Well, of course because London is ridiculous and magical, I had been speaking to this VERY girl that morning. She and I were in the same year together at college...What are the ridiculous chances of that? Me and him were just stunned at the coincidence and oddness...Cut a long story short. They are massively in touch with each other now. All wrongs are righted. Who knows what will happen?.All because of a chain of creative decisions/kindness/openness etc...

That's why I guess I said the song references all the stories that are happening in London simultaneously...everyone affecting everything.”

The main photographs the accompanies this article is from the video for 'When I Met You', directed by Devon Dickson. The other sleeve that accompanies this article was taken by James Alexander. The 'Back to the Sea' album cover is by Rachael Robb.

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