Essie Gang, a music collective that originated through being friends. The group have now decided to respectively focus on their individual disciplines. Armin Druzanovic, Views TV founder has stayed as the leading creative force, directing videos for Essie & Smokepurpp to name a few. Where Kill has moved over to do management and consultancy for some of the UK’s biggest acts. In a environment where friendships are short lived, it is both inspiring and commendable to see a group of individuals succeed together as well as on their own.
I sat down with Armin to discuss how Views TV has developed over the years but to grasp a greater understanding behind the creative thinking around his journey into the industry.
Who would you say you are in your own words?
Armin : A legendary visionary. We all just help everyone in different ways.
Where did you grow up?
Armin : I grew up in Waterloo, so South East London. I was there for 19 years, moved to Tower Bridge. Still in South East, to be honest that’s actually where “Essie Gang” came from, Essie is a pronunciation of SE, if you know what I mean. A lot of people don’t know that it’s the spelling of the pronunciation.
Kill : But half the mandem are from North.
Armin : Yeah, but me and Octavian and a few others went to school in South. Some of the others, like Kill went to Brit School – I never qualified. But that’s where you (Kill) met Octavian, I never even knew you then.
So where did it start for you?
Armin : It started with Kill, he was the original director. He did like High Focus, stuff like that
Ocean Wisdom days.
Armin : Yeah, he brought me in and was like, this is what we’re doing. But myself, I’d say I started with Octo. Supremebeing was the first – one of Octo’s first cool videos and songs. Coming out of Brit School, these man were in a band, shit was different then – things weren’t simple. There’s some people that aren’t here. But the main foundation is obviously Octo, Myself, Kill and Jordan. Octo would come up to me and be like we need to shoot a video… right now. At the time I’m the only person accessible to him.
So before all the music, how did you guys all meet?
Kill : I came to your yard with Octo.
Armin : From school days, we were the only ones that were really just open-minded enough to just do our thing. Our school was for gang bangers.
Kill : Obviously when Octo came to Brit, it just opened his mind up again, all of a sudden he’s just around people who want to make it. That rubbed off on Armin, and the rest of the mandem.
Armin : Everyone just played their role man, I think that was it. Everyone was put into place by the universe, there was never a recruitment stage. We just used our resources, resourcefully.
When you put it that way, it’s sick that Essie has gone from just a group of friends to a fully moving machine. In the sense that you deal with Creative, Kill more management and then the rest of the guys the music. But you’re still there with everyone you started with, you’ve all just found your own talents. There wasn’t no “We need a video guy, or a manager” or this or that, you guys just done it.
Armin : Yeah man, I would do like artwork and stuff. I don’t really focus on that shit but you know, if you can do it you can do it. It’s hard to get people to do stuff for you outside of your own circle, they don’t believe in you, you and your friends do.
Especially at that stage too.
Armin : Yeah yeah, that stage is a horrible stage, no ones fucking with you. You’re just some guy persuading people that you’re sick.
Kill : Yeah it kept Octo on track too, if we were busy it meant he was, he was homeless these times. He lived between Brighton and our yards.
Armin : Yeah it was like he lived 2 lives – he’d go missing for a month, we’d be doing our thing, videos for other people in the scene. Then he’d turn up out of nowhere and it’d be work mode with him. It was always personal though – there was no money involved, but he’d get the most attention. Compared to people who were even giving us money, ‘cos we didn’t believe in them most of the time, it was business. They wanted the service, they got it. We were young. Now it’s different.
So the first proper video to you was Supreme Being, you’re also doing other videos these times as well. Even like the Nike Air Max video.
Armin : The Nike one was a good one still, It was literally one of our first brand projects.
Kill : That was a good one for us, shout out Alex for that one he didn’t have to put us on like that. We weren’t really popping like that then, we were just kind of keeping a float. Obviously, Alex rated the ting and we made it work.
Where it all changed up, visually and musically was Party Here though man. That was where the music and the videos just clicked, we were stuck on 1000 views, 800 views. We never put up a video on Link Up TV or SB.TV. Not for any reason, apart from that they were charging, and we couldn’t afford it.
It’s hard though fam ‘cos if he was on Link Up, he wouldn’t have buss – he’s the different one in this scene. You can’t compare him to anyone here.
Armin : Exactly, it’s a tastemaker thing.AMe and Kill were calm though because we had a service that will never go out of trend, people always need videos. We were lucky ‘cos we could hustle. We even used to hire Octo to be the runner on our sets. Don’t get it twisted – he wouldn’t do a good job. But we’d just get him to roll zoots, you know – make sure we didn’t forget kit and sometimes carry some bags. That’s was his job, we made opportunities for our friends, we would bring no random people in.
Back to the journey, you do Supreme Being, Nike Air Max – is there any others?
Armin : If I’m being honest, the way it happened was fucking fucked! Everything before Party Here, was pretty much irrelevant.
Party Here was a seminal moment in U.K music, still to this day there hasn’t been another sound like it. Coming at a time where you had to have a very particular type of song to even get listened to at a party let alone, 2-3 wheel-ups.
Armin : We had a lot of friends man, a lot of help, a lot of favours. That video was made off £50 – that was the budget. We spent that to hire the studio and that’s actually it.
What was the moment that you felt like this video has actually hit. You know, people are really taking it in now, it’s going up, it’s going off. What’s it like?
Armin : I think it was the label thing, that’s what made it real and made it realise it was actually working. Years of sitting on 1000 views. The channel and Octavian were both unknown, underground – they kind of put a light on us. People were interested in what we could achieve in the future. Labels hate the fact that they have to go to Link Up or GRM Daily, I think they maybe saw us as the place they could home all of their left-field music. It’s all alternative music on the channel, it ain’t no Link Up TV shit.
People would message us like, can we get our song on there. Or labels like, can we do this or that. The route we took, was more a friends vibe. It was pretty steady, it was an exclusivity thing. I felt like some time down the line I’d regret putting other people on the channel if it wasn’t right.
How do you prepare for what’s next?
Armin : You know what it was. There was 2 fronts to the name Views, one being the “image”, which is the channel, how many people are watching it, who’s on it. But we also had the outlet that allowed us to go into labels and for example, do production for music videos. That allowed us to take in work and build a team. We just built a production team, but in terms of marketing and whatnot, the image comes naturally. SB.TV for example will have a marketing manager etc. But with us, that’s all to come still. There’s still much more to figure out. I’ve got plans to start a session like Boiler Room would do for example.
There might be another Essie Gang out there somewhere, so fuck it – putting them in the session and making a day of it. We’ve been fucking around with different styles, like 360 camera’s. We just shot Octo’s last headline show, which is still due to come out, we filmed it on that. It’s a whole different viewing experience, full show – you know what I mean? No ones done that, you can watch Octo, as if you’re there. We’ve been working with stuff, but there’s no rush man. Most of our time got occupied by production. Doing production is hard. You’re dealing with a camera man with 2 assistants, before we went from just being the guys with the camera.
Let’s move on from there, Party Here goes off. You’re leading his creative, you’re doing his videos. The next video is Hands?
*Kill has already stopped the interview 3 times to try and explain how and why Hands is his favourite video. We finally got here*
Kill : That video for me is a beautiful moment, that video is actually mad. Watch it again when you go home, it’s actually a mad vid. It’s just the guys, there’s no budget again. Just us man and the camera. The snow, all of it – you can’t plan that shit.
Armin : You know what it is. Octo’s done his thing, right? He’s off the channel, you know – the label made him move on. Now, I’m doing what I was doing in the beginning anyway. Michael, Jordan, Leon – they’re all still building. Now it’s just about building up the playground.
What was the process behind shooting Hands?
Armin : To be honest, we almost scrapped it. Without the last snow scene we didn’t have enough. Berlin isn’t that fun and interesting to look at. Then it was snowing, we was like – this is it. That gave us Hands.
You do Hands, what’s next?
Armin : 100 Degrees. It was a simple, location based idea to be honest with you. In the edit, I’d always figure it out. We didn’t have budget, or time. It was all too instant. Octo will probably say the same when you interview him. He’ll come now, and we’ll shoot a video down there in the next 10 minutes. I guess I realised I was sick at doing it on the spot. Even the Smokepurpp video that’s gonna come out. We was in his yard for like 20 mins, shot something – then got burst later on. The only time we started planning stuff was with Jordan.
Then there’s Leon, with –
Armin : Yeah Crash The Coupe. See Leon (L3), he’s always loved spitting and free styling or whatever. One day he’s driving his car and he’s actually crashed it looking at a ting. True story. He made it, we listened to it. We was like this is lit, and we said fuck it let’s do a video for it. Now it’s sitting there on 40k views, that’s good for someone niche like Leon – on his first track too.
He’s still developing his sound, we’ve had our ups and downs. Like we had LSD come out on the channel, but we took it down. It was one of them ones, later on down the line I started not liking it. We’re constantly learning, but also keeping safe. We’re never tryna’ do something that could fuck us up.
Then Michael comes in with 1 tune with Octo and Skepta, it’s mad how the game works. Octo’s been grinding for like 4 years and then, Vibes (Phantom) steps in and goes silver. But I guess that’s what you do it for. Even chatting about this now I’m clocking. Views is more than a channel, even when you’re writing this – it’s a movement. I think it’s harder when you’ve got budget, because you’re not making something out of nothing anymore.
What’s going on with J Rick right now?
Armin : Jordan just seems like a producer right? He went and established himself as like a Mura Masa type creator. You compose the music and utilise people like singers, that’s what he does. He doesn’t rap, he just wants to be the mastermind behind it all. When he started, we were given budget but only enough to cover travel. We just levelled up, shot Jordan’s last video in Iceland but we still only had travel covered. So it still felt like we were making something out of nothing.
Is there any advice you’d give to up and coming videographers/directors or just young people in general?
Armin : My advice for anyone starting in this video thing, going from nothing. You have to find interests in the artist. It’s the chemistry between you and the artist that’s going to pay off in the long run. If you’re a video slag, and you’re banging out videos cos you want the money, you’re not gonna get anywhere.
Remember, me and Kill done so many videos and we don’t even remember them. Octo was the only one where there was nothing in front of us to make it happen, but we actually just cared. You ain’t gonna’ do your best if you don’t fuck with it. Work with the world, don’t force things. Like don’t DM AJ Tracey asking him to shoot a video, that day will come. Think outside the box, you don’t need budget. We’re walking proof of no budget gang. Even Thai and Lewis, when the first ting’ came out, there wasn’t no big budget.
Check out our interview with Flex God Daps for Behind The Camera here.