Today, local singer-songwriter Steven Mercyhill released “Anesthetic,” the second song and music video from his upcoming album, Nonfiction.
The song and video follows the release of “You Are Your Own Undoing,” an ambitious music video that Mercyhill made with local filmmaker Robert Banks. That video was shot at the haunted former funeral home, the House of Wills, as well as the abandoned amusement park Chippewa Lake and the ruins of St. Joseph’s Byzantine Church in Cleveland.
Banks handled cinematography for "Anesthetic" as well.
Inspired by acts such as Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Prick and Filter, Mercyhill enlisted many respected veteran musicians for the album, which features contributions from Sean Beavan (Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, Pucifer), Michael Seifert (Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Tori Amos, Fountains of Wayne), Jim Stewart (Welshly Arms, Eddie Levert), Tom Baker (David Bowie, Ministry, My Chemical Romance), and Abbey Road's Miles Showell (The Beatles vinyl remaster, Portishead, the Church).
Michael Seifert and Jim Stewart did the sound engineering. Mercyhill wrote it, sang it, produced it, arranged it, played all the guitars and keyboards and wrote all the parts.
The video uses some footage from two of Banks’s films, Outlet and Reduxx.
“The song was recorded over a disjointed period of several months and, variously, was worked on in about four different studios altogether,” says Mercyhill. “I sang the first line of the first verse in one studio, and then, about six months later, sang the rest of the song in a different studio. The music video required a lot of planning and pre-production and took eight months to shoot and edit. As the central theme revolves around a ‘house of cards’ with the lead actress required to also star as all of the card faces, we had to set up two separate photo shoots just for that alone.”
Mercyhill bought outfits and props for the royalty card suits and figured out poses for each card. He then had to find a printer who could do different pictures for each of the 13 card faces in the four suits. He also had to figure out how to build a house of cards that could be put together and knocked down repeatedly.
“All of my ambitious ideas for this video were only made a reality because of the incredible talents of the lead actress Diane Ziska,” he says. “I had one scene in mind that required a female stilt walker and, as she was a Facebook acquaintance of mine, I had seen her post a few pictures of herself doing that, so I reached out to her. At first, that was to be the extent of her role. But when we met in person, I found out all the other talents she had and knew I had to talk her into being the lead because I could envision using everything she could do for different parts of the song. Foremost among her other abilities is the fact that she’s also a professional aerialist. I very much wanted to use that in my video. However, for the scene I had in mind, I knew we would need a green screen and her aerial rig is 18-feet high, and, of course, it has to have a good deal of clearance above that as well.”
Mercyhill says he knew of only one commercial studio in Cleveland, Creative House Studios, with ceilings high enough to accommodate her rig.
“So, I rented it for an afternoon and off we went,” he says. “It was, by far, the single biggest expense of the project and a whole lot of effort for what amounts to about nine seconds of footage, but it’s a really nice scene, so I’m glad we did it.”
In addition, Mercyhill commissioned Cleveland sculptor, Damian Vendetti, to create a mask inspired by the robot in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis for one, very brief scene, in the end sequence.
“I love what he created so much, it now hangs on the wall in my living room,” says Mercyhill.
The final scene in the music video was shot at the now shuttered Phantasy Nite Club.
“A lot went into the making of this song and video; hopefully, it shows,” he says.
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