By John Hood
The clip could’ve come straight from a campaign created by Mad Men’s Don Draper himself — or at least have been culled from a cache of the ad cat’s infamous quips. It echoes the obvious (“happiness is the smell of a new car”); then adds volume (“and a billboard that screams… You are OK!”). It ties into the sublime (“nostalgia is a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone”); then tightens the binds (“it takes us to a place we ache to go again”). It spins like a top, whirls like a Dervish, turns like the world and likely will leave you downright dizzy. “It lets us travel the way a child travels — around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know are loved.”
Way back in the imaginary when, Draper equated the sensation with “a carousel”. But were the Mad Man workin’ his groove thang in The Day and Age of the DJ, he’d undoubedtly say it’s like a record, baby. Or it can be anyway, when that record spins us right round the bend and back again. And if Draper was driven by Ford to get what it takes, he’d definitely wanna pair with a record roarful enough to tell the whole wide world that “This is What it Feels Like”.
The thing is though, the clip isn’t a component of any campaign, and it wasn’t devised by some 21st Century version of AMC’s diabolically cool advertising exec. It’s simply what comes about when the world’s #1 DJ, Armin Van Buuren, teams with a keen-eyed video director like Pixelheaven’s Svenno Koemans, and the two create an extraordinarily vivid visual to back the positively epic new track. And it’s what goes down when perhaps the most uplifting breakup song of all time turns it into a bona fide global smash. In short, this is what it looks like when “This is What it Feels Like” gets clipped.
SFF Style reached the wicked quick Koemans in Amsterdam as the absolutely massive AVB clip hit 1.5 million YouTube views and asked him how Ford found such favor — and how the roar of two brand-spanking new Mustang Shelby GT500s helped make such a soarful song soar even higher than anybody designed.
Whose idea was it to head for the California desert for “This is What it Feels Like”?
It was our (Pixelheaven’s) idea. Armin van Buuren wanted to have a sort of “buddy/prank road movie” but had the idea to shoot it in Florida. (Which would’ve been logistically better, because the shoot was planned in between two gigs in Miami and Brazil.) We convinced him that the story would fit better in California, mainly because of the light we were seeking and the fabulous locations (i.e. Roy’s Motel in Amboy).
Was this the first time you shot on that fabled stretch between Vegas and LA?
No. As I lived for two years in Hollywood, we were always were attracted by the beauty of Death Valley and the Mojave Desert. Sometimes it feels like you’re in a Quentin Tarantino movie. You don’t have anything like this in Europe.
What does that particular area of America mean to you personally (and to Europeans in general)?
For me, it is very much related to the “Americana” spirit of pioneering. You’ll find villages in places, that keep you wondering why people would ever want to live there in the first place. But when they leave again, it gets even better; beautiful abandoned places full of stories, serving as perfect movie backdrops. It has a sort of melancholic feel, I guess.
What came first, the convertibles or the concept (or did they kind of go hand-in-hand)?
The concept of the buddy/prank movie came from Armin, we added the racing aspect, the girls and Ron Jeremy, in order to make it more visual.
The reason to go for convertibles was a creative decision. It just looks better on film.
Had you driven a Ford Mustang before this video shoot?
Yes I did. I had a black Mustang GT when I lived in LA.
Was it a droptop?
In LA I always want to have a convertible. That’s the general conception of us Europeans. The real LA people prefer a closed roof. In the summer they are probably right, haha!
Why did you decide to use this particular ride?
The release of the video plus the album would coincide with the show of Armin van Buuren in Madison Square Garden and Miami. We therefore wanted to have a cool American look and feel. Muscle cars, beautiful girls and California go well together. The rest of the world loves it too.
Did Pixelheaven approach Ford or did Ford approach Pixelheaven?
We approached the PR department of Ford Netherlands and, after having read the script, they convinced their US partners to go for it. A week later, the cars were waiting for us at LAX. We were amazed by the way how Ford handled this so fast. When the video was shown at the Geneva Car Convention, I heard they were very happy with the result,
Now that you’ve driven the latest Ford Mustang Shelby, what’s your impression?
The GT is as good as any fast Audi or BMW. The Shelby is just unbelievable and impressive. We love the sound and the raw power of it. It will always be one of those rare cars that boys dream of..
What do the Dutch think about American muscle cars anyway?
We grew up with Starsky & Hutch and Dukes of Hazard…what do you think 🙂