For the latest single and video from his Born To Be album, Tomás Doncker takes a deep dive into Bob Dylan’s 1965 gem “Maggie’s Farm,” relocating the song from Big Pink to the Dockery’s Plantation and extruding all new levels of interpretation from an established classic.
“I remember seeing the ‘Hard Rain’ special on TV when I was a kid,” he says, recalling Dylan’s landmark 1976 live TV event. “I already knew who he was and liked some of his songs, but seeing him with this huge band shattered my perception of what music could be. It was a ‘holy shit!’ moment. At first I thought it was a cool song, a lot more rhythmic than a lot of his songs; Dylan’s not exactly a groove guy. Then, over time, I learned the lyrics and came to realize it’s an anti-slavery folk-blues tune coming from a perspective of self-empowerment and awareness. Then the thing that really made the song stick was his mocking view of the slave masters; the characterizations, the ma and pa. It’s gone from slave owner to migrant bosses (my guess is he was probably thinking about Cesar Chazvez and the plight of migrant farm workers that the media was covering at the time) to the government – they’re all clowns. I wanted to really emphasize that groove I heard, and ramp up the blues aspects lurking beneath the surface.”
Doncker gave the song to filmmaker Chris Padula, took a hands-off approach, and let him run with it. The result is an interpretation of the song neither Dylan or Doncker surely imagined, a visually jarring four-minute horror film that melds vintage grindhouse/low-budget cinema with modern editing and video effects to create an experience that falls somewhere between psychedelic and unsettling – but also triggers an immediate desire for repeat viewing.
“I already had a pretty good degree of familiarity with the song,” Padula relates, “but after I heard Tomás’ version (which was a bit more aggressive than I expected), and thought about it for a bit, I came up with the idea of trying to do a complete horror film in only three or four minutes. The idea is that the farm is the monster or the demon, and the guys are its servants. The guy swinging the axe is kind of initiating the sacrifice or the ritual so they can take control. It’s about that sacrifice. The original intent is that they’re trying to break free from the demon they’re getting fed to by the people above them. The analogy is the farm being the place where you lose your soul. It’s this little horror movie about people getting sacrificed for the farm, and I leave it to everyone to decide for themselves who won. I do it in a wackadoodle way with all the fire and the blood. Even though it’s aggressive there’s a very stable direction, musically, and my idea was to key in on that aggressiveness and explode all over the place with fast editing and almost subliminally short bursts of continuity. I was concerned the style for the initial horror theme might not work, but I think it complements it well.”