Stay High Crew Interview -

I first encounter with the guys from Stay High Crew Production by meeting LC, a young & talented Taiwanese rapper from Taipei city. He introduced me to them the third day after my arrival in the city and said that they were the team behind some of the nicest music videos out there. He added that I should meet them which I promptly replied: "yes, why not?". It was November from last year that I visited their Studio space and met the whole squad. Mickey & Phate were there. I spent the afternoon exploring their creative nest. However, I didn't plan any meeting with them afterward. When I came back in town, I sent a message to Mickey and we set up a meeting and discussed their past, love for Street Culture and involvement in the Video Production.

à Taipei : une discussion avec Stay High Crew Production

Interview & Photography Farade Nicolas

please, click on to read the few video’s links.

Tell me a little bit about yourself first, who are you, and what are your respective background…
Mickey: 28 years old, born and raised in Taipei. I am a video maker & filmmaker and I just starting to learn how to DJ…I went in a public Art School, probably one of the best in Taiwan but I didn’t graduate, I drop out because at that time I already had my own company with my partner, but maybe we will keep this story for another moment!

Phate: I was also born and raised in Taipei. In High-school I went to Taipei Fuhsing Art School where I studied graphic design and packaging. I was interested in graffiti when I was younger, even know I still have interest in that specific Art form, I don’t do it out as much as I used to. My crew’s name is TFC. From time to time I am commissioned to do an art piece. Last year I won a GMA award (Golden Melody Awards) for a music cover I created, winning this prize is a pretty big in Asia! I am now mainly focusing on video, so Graffiti is just a hobby…

In Taipei, it is pretty hard to find areas where graffiti is everywhere, right?
Phate: It used to have a lot before here and there but with the new government policy, they just decided to clean pretty much every area where you could find some...

So basically like in Europe, the sentence is quite hard if you’re getting caught doing some…
Phate: Indeed, but you just got a minor ticket, not like your kind of amount, here it’s pretty cheap around 6 000 NT$ (approximately 170€).

Yes, it is way cheaper indeed… Tell me, What happens next?
Phate: When I graduated in Junior High School and went to College I met the guys from How We Roll, I joined their crew and decided to work alongside them and actually shot my first video for one of the member, Barry Chen.

When was that?
Phate: Seven years ago. Therefore, I kept shooting more videos for them. A bit later, one of them started a brand called MJFresh, I worked in the store and that’s when I shortly stop making videos because I was too busy. This is around the same time that I met Mickey because he came to the shop and I knew he was also working with them...

So that’s when you began to work together?
Phate: No actually right after I quit my job. We just started to hang out, discussing stuff, brainstorming and one of my close friends thought that it could be great if Mickey & I work together on projects!

What about the materials, could you tell me with what types of equipment you were shooting at first and how it evolved through time?
Mickey: Well, in the beginning, it was with my Mom’s help that I could get some equipment, she bought my first camera, a

Canon EOS 60D.

Phate: Mine was a Canon EOS 550.

Mickey: I didn’t have any other pieces of equipment so the quality wasn’t that great but you know we tried and we were still able to make a lot of things with what we had. Later we bought a Panasonic GH4, right after we borrowed some money, built the company from the ground and rent a studio.

This one…?
Phate: Not yet, at first, we were working at my house, it was a really small place! Just a few months later we decided to find another spot, and we moved to this one...

Why did you decide to do an Art School, is it something that you always wanted to do?
Mickey: Well, my parents are working for the Government they are not into Art as much as I was and just like many kids of my age, I enjoyed Street Culture, I delved into it at an early stage of my life.

What kind?
Mickey: Pretty much anything I’d say, mostly music,

skateboarding and such things you know, the casual stuff, nothing really specific man! Even know I got myself involved in those different cultures, I wasn’t good at it, I mean doing skateboarding, and making music wasn’t my thing so I had to figure out what I liked. Taking pictures was something that I was thrilled to do, doing videos came a bit later.

So when you joined Art School you aspired to make videos?
Mickey: Perhaps, I am not quite sure because my major was Filmmaking but I didn’t know I was really going to make something out of it when I started… I guess I was experimenting.

What’s your favorite movie?
Mickey: I would say that I have two which are Menace to Society () & Yi Yi () a Taiwanese movie made by Edward Yang…

Oh, it’s funny I watched it before coming here last year, it is a fantastic film.
Mickey: Yes it is, it has influenced me a lot.

Phate: I love watching Action & Superheroes movies.

So when exactly did you shot your first video?
Mickey: Well for me it all happened pretty randomly, one of my friends that I met during Art School came to me and basically asked me to shoot a music video, I replied that I couldn’t, that I didn’t know how to do so but he insisted so I tried!

What was the first project you guys worked on together?
Mickey: Mickey: I think the first one was with the musician Tipsy on the song TPC (), in 2014. It was also our first musical project with a budget of 100 k…

I guess it all depends on the artist when it comes to the financial aspect right, about their needs and creative direction?
Mickey: Definitely, it changes depending on the client, however, I would say 50k would be a good start for us, to develop something concrete.

Who does what, how do you divide the amount of work?
Phate: To be accurate we both directed for this video and hired cameramen. However, the editing was done by someone else.

It was the first time we worked with someone else on a project, to produce the after effects on the video.

Why so?
Phate: Simply because we thought he had talent. Unfortunately, we didn’t like the final result so we made two cuts. I think we didn’t enjoy the result after all, it was just something else, something that we couldn’t relate to…

Mickey: After this experience, we thought that every time one of us is directing a video, he should also take care of shooting everything. We always respect each other ideas, we don’t have any sort of problem when it comes to finding new thoughts, and discuss to resolve a situation. It is all about exchanging the right information and advice.

Yes, it all about trust. I figure that also, the time you take to shoot a project is always changing…
Phate: If someone wants us to produce their music video, we have to hear the song first and foremost then we can sit, chat and figure what we are going to do. Oh and to reply to your

question about the division of work and especially about the editing aspect, it is definitely easier and a common thing if the one who has shot the video is also taking care of the editing part, it is way faster like this.

Has it ever happened that once the video completed, you got the shots you wanted but realized once the day is over and looking at the files that something is missing, that you should have focused on something else instead…
Phate: You mean, if we don’t have a specific sequence?

Phate: Then we go back and shoot what’s missing. It is not a huge problem, we can manage and talk with the Artist, his team and figure out a way to get this thing fixed asap.

How long does it take you to find ideas for a video?
Phate: Depends on the song, if we think the music is pretty cool, ideas come quickly, perhaps one minute just to get some creative insights or at the opposite, if we are not really into it,

it can more time find a concept.

So, you don’t have any problems producing projects you don’t really enjoy in the first sight.
Mickey: Not really, it could reveal other challenges. If we are feeling a connection with the artist and the overall project seem interesting we’ll make it happen, even if they don’t have the money we are usually charging. It is also about supporting the community, for the culture. And what you get would be at the same level as any other productions we made.

You are also working on Commercial Projects.
Phate: For sure, we don’t want to be trapped doing the same stuff every time, we are open-minded and want to develop our brand to any kind of contents.

Mickey: Yes man, we could always find a way to make something happen.

Phate: Therefore a lot of our close friends are rappers, independent artists that are not signed to a Major label so they

don’t have that kind of money to invest in their visual…

Mickey: I think our videos are averagely better than any other production crew simply because we dived into the Street Culture, it is a lifestyle that we always lived and been inspired by, we cannot fake it. For sure, we don’t want to be trapped doing the same stuff over again. You have to be open-minded.

True. What was the first Hip Hop artist you listened to?
Mickey: I think at that time my favorite artist was Limp Bizkit, I used to listen to a lot of 80’s Punk Music like Discharge and also Nu Metal when I was in high school, I was really into their aesthetic too, the way they dressed, their spirit. I was also an huge fan of Eminem & 50 Cent. The first Hip Hop music video I stumbled on was I think was from Outkast. I can’t figure out the name but I remember that it blew my mind!

Phate: Eminem & 50, hands down.

What is the main challenge of having your company?
Mickey: Ourselves. We need to stay focus and highly motivated. It is about staying relevant, true to ourselves our ideas and our craft, Art is the main motivation.

Are you sometimes thinking about doing different videos format, long lengths videos such as documentaries or even short film?
Mickey: Yes, we thought about it. It has been four years in the business and we are working on a lot of different projects

on business and we are working on a lot of different projects on a daily basis so I think we just have to find the time, and somehow money to invest to produce our contents. As now we want to make as much money as we can and as we said before, build a bigger and stronger brand…

How many videos did you make?
Mickey: I think near one hundred.

Phate: The smaller ones aren’t online, only the biggest one we were involved in are on our website!

And when the video is complete, did you received any complaints about the final piece…?
Mickey: Sometimes it could happen. They are not like « Oh I don’t like it » it is just about details you know.

Phate: Yes, they would be like, « Wait, at this (specific seconds) could you change this, or this? » kind of things. It could be frustrating but it is the job…

What would be your dream job?
Mickey: I would be love to direct a movie! I have a script which I wrote when I was younger for my College application. It would be a forty minutes film.

Phate: I don’t really know, it is hard to tell because I can shot Hip Hop music videos. I don’t worry much about this kind of stuff anymore. That being said, if you ask me to direct a video for the tell of Jay Z or Eminem, it wouldn’t be a problem, I could handle it. So like Mickey said, to be able to direct & shoot a movie, that would definitely be the next level.

Where’d you go if you could tomorrow?
Phate: Amsterdam man!

What are your thoughts about the Taiwanese Hip-Hop scene?
Mickey: It is getting better and better.

Phate: Definitely, there are a lot of young kids who are doing great shit…

Your thoughts about the Generation Z?
Mickey: They are pretty much all fucked up in my opinion primarily because of the Internet and social medias. These are way too convenient for people, you know? You have to decide what you want to do in life and I guess with those networks & Internet it is too easy to choose a path to follow. Everything is going way faster and people want things quickly nowadays. Of course, it helps because you can be whoever you want in a day but it is about finding balance once again, you have to be careful and not be fucking blind by what you’re seeing. Do your research first. I think the main problem in Taiwan is that people don’t think that much.

Phate: In my opinion, it's not about the fact that they are not thinking. However, they don't understand what they are seeing over the Internet, they don’t take a step back and take the time to digest the information people are posting. They believe everything they see. It is more than important to dig further the surface, to search for to the principal sources….