Written by Bria Evans
Bria: Where did the inspiration for the Devil is A Lie visual come from?
Ashley: It was actually pretty simple. The title of the song hit me as literal. "The Devil Is A Lie" so what does that mean? The devil lies; he'll paint pictures in your head about what is acceptable and what is not. He will come to you dressed as people you would confide in and trust, then he'll have you sinning and behaving in an unacceptable manner. So that's where I came up with the two priests sinning and being in your face with it. They are not Godly men. They are the devil; and are lying to you while dressed as people you would/should trust. I had also been binge watching American Horror Story on Netflix [laughs].
B: How was the casting process for the priests? Was it easy or difficult getting two older white men to mimic Rick Ross' and Jay Z's verses?
A: The awesome thing is that I shoot and cast so frequently that I have a list of headshots of people who know who I am and really want to work with me because they’ve worked with me in the past. So, for the crazy bizarre shit I come up with, actors are usually excited to take a stab at it. What's hard is making sure that they can pull it off…especially since they do these projects on a one day’s notice. It's such a huge culture clash so at times it can be difficult.
B: The reaction to the visual has been amazing since it went viral across the web. Are the reactions what you expected?
A: I actually thought the video would have done a little better than what it did. However, the critique on it has been more than what I expected. It went a little further beyond the entertainment aspect and people have taken more notice of its artistry. I think that is pretty cool.
B: You have encountered some forms of visual plagiarism through your previous works. Is that still a concern of yours at this point?
A: I hate that with a passion. If I was well known, then I could care less, but since I'm a guy with a child who’s struggling to pay bills, it kind of sucks and is a disappointment that your own brothers would do that to you. But I have a new focus this year. I'm putting out tons of viral content. Some will be good while others will be great. I'm really focusing on branding myself and letting the cyber world know who Ash Innovator is. My goal is to have a strong web presence by next year. So hopefully when these things occur in the future there will be more potential for backlash and artists will have their hands forced to work with me. I just want to put out dope shit and feed my family. That’s why I do this.
B: It's obvious that you have a distinguished vision that sets you apart from your colleagues; but it seems labels don't care about vision anymore, only the budget. How do you plan to defeat that mold?
A: I don't have an answer for that just yet. As I said before, my goal is to pop off so hard virally that artists feel like they have to work with me. My vision is different, it is unique and many artists don't like the ideas that I come up with on paper. They would rather deal with someone else that has a stronger track record with cookie cutter videos. It's hard for me to sell my ideas because it’s a different concept coming from a director that they don't know anything about. But this year is going to be big for me. After I develop my fan base, they'll do all of the work for me. See, a lot of artists or even people for that matter are followers. They won't do anything until someone else does it first, then they scream that they were the first one with it. I'm going to let the people on the internet that genuinely like my work take care of my cosigning. Once I pop off…having a video directed by me will become some sort of a novelty. I think it’s easy to identify my work, not just because I use actors, but because the concepts are so bold and in your face. My style will become a brand that’s similar to Hype [Williams], X [formerly Little X], Glazer, etc. who all have very specific styles. I want my brand to be like the Versace of videos…every artist feels like he needs one. That’s my goal for the future.
B: What's next on Ash The Innovator's to-do-list as a filmmaker?
A: I just released my favorite video yet. It’s inspired by Macklemore's Grammy sweep over Kendrick but I guarantee [you] that no one would get that reference. It'll go right over everyone’s heads but they'll love it because it’s entertaining as hell. [Check out the video here]
Check out more of Ashley Smith's film work here.