When MuchMusic compiled its Top 200 videos of 2012 list, sitting rather unobtrusively at number 77 was gloom-rapper D-Sisive's "Don't Turn The Lights Out" feat. Neverending White Lights.
Seventy-seventh isn't exactly viral sensation territory, but it was a clear victory for the man born Derek Christoff. See, a white-rapping thirtysomething "middle class fat kid in glasses" — his words — doesn't usually get these kind of mainstream breaks. Even one whose resume includes Juno and Polaris Prize nominations, endorsements from the likes of Tom Waits and stages shared with some of the biggest names in rap throughout the years.
For his part, D-Sisive is only now beginning to understand how come the RT-directed video, which features a comely young couple on the run in a dangerous, vaguely "No Country For Old Men"-style adventure, could score some modified success.
"I don't know," D-Sisive tells HuffPost Canada Music when asked why that particular song, a throw-in bonus track for the deluxe edition of his 2011 album "Run With The Creeps" became a hit. "To be honest, it's a mystery to me and it's something I'm trying figure out and the more I investigate the more confused I become. Maybe it's because it's the one time I'm just not walking in a cemetery. Because television likes to embrace things that aren't in cemeteries.
"Maybe it's because Lana Del Rey made desert videos hot. Maybe it's because we had younger people in the cast and that I was in it as minimal as possible, not showing me sweating in the desert. I don't know."
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D-Sisive has been in the video making game for a decade-and-a-half at this point and the return on investment has been decidedly mixed.
"I shot my first video in '98. I was 18 years old. It was MuchFact http://www.videofact.ca/
funded. It was called 'Lost Sight' http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Yp-SyWO1LI off my very first cassette EP. It actually did get pretty decent rotation. It aired on 'Rap City,' which, back then it aired right after school. So people in my high school saw it — I was high school famous. Then there was a huge gap where I didn't make music, but since I came back in like 2008 I've probably made 14-15 videos."
Those videos, which included the afore-mentioned walk through the cemetery ("Die In Amsterdam"), compiled stock footage of washing machines ("Laundry Room"), and peculiar animatronic singing gorillas ("The Story Of An Artist") were odd, uncompromising and low-budget.
"I probably averaged $500 per video in costs," says D-Sisive. "For example the 'Die In Amsterdam' video, it's not a masterpiece. We did it on literally zero budget. We went to the cemetery where my parents are buried and we we just did it in a couple takes. It was about half an hour before we got kicked out of the cemetery. In my career that was my time when I was extremely obsessed with cemeteries, like a high-school girl in a photography class."
One of the things that has changed is that D-Sisive has finally unlocked the code to get MuchFact funding. There's some complicated television licensing bureaucracy behind its genesis, but MuchFact basically exists to help fund smaller Canadian acts' videos with the implied understanding that the resulting clips will get some play on MuchMusic or MuchMoreMusic. These grants are heavily sought after and when you get one it means you can actually make a video that isn't just laundromat stock foootage.
"MuchFact has always been something that I chased and chased and got turned down," says D-Sisive. "Probably around 25 times. And it's funny, because you get offended when you get turned down. And I'm sure I'm not offending anyone at MuchFact when I say this, I'm sure they know, but what makes me laugh now is I've finally been let in. And it's incredible to be here. But now that I've been let in it's making more sense to me how they pick what gets money. Like, maybe I didn't need a video for a song about my parents dying."
That said, D-Sisive's most recent video "When We Die We Die Together" featured scenes of a boozy Irish wake singalong around a casket as well as, ubiquitously, him trudging through a cemetery.
The Davin Black video is beautifully shot — professional, like you'd expect from a marquee musician. But that "cemetery" stigma may have foiled its chances of success. Comparatively, "Don't Turn The Lights Out" has almost 80,000 YouTube views to that video's 10,700.
Like someone who's slowly finally learning this video-making game, though, word has it D-Sisive's next video, for a song called "Friend Of Mine" will is switching out the graveyard for a schoolyard. In it two children dressed like himself and producer/running buddy Muneshine. There's no cemetery and he's in it as minimally as possible. Sounds like it could be a hit.
Mini me. On set of the Friend Of Mine video shoot. http://t.co/aN6mMxt4oF— Derek was D-Sisive (@dsisive) June 29, 2013
D-Sisive plays Toronto's Drake Hotel on July 11.