Avola Music Video Interview: “Cave Rave” is the Thrilling Stuff of Welcome Nightmares

Simultaneously an idyllic dream and a raging nightmare, video artist Michelle McKay‘s latest music video for Portland musician and multimedia artist Veronica “Vern” Avola (who goes by the moniker Avola) is an unbelievable journey through transformation.
Set to slow-growing sonics which rumble as though they are moving slowly through geologic timescales, the music video for “Cave Rave” uses a blend of software programs and two weeks of “around-the-clock rendering” of AI images to embrace a wide range of colorful entities that morph in and out of one’s consciousness. Among them, one catches explosive glimmers of flickering rainbow entities which oscillate endlessly between friendly and foreboding, whether they are demons, clowns, princesses, butterflies, cats, or everything literally in-between.
In the following Q&A, McKay and Avola discuss spatiality, artificial intelligence, and the desire to get their view counts up. Help them out.


Avola – “Cave Rave” Music Video

This article is a part of our Compare & Contrast Series, where we analyze a creative project from its many varied viewpoints. VIEW THEM ALL


First off, I love this video so much because of the many worlds it seems to unravel within it and the many tiny details one can glean from it viewing after viewing. I feel like watching it 10,000 times on repeat. How did you all come to conceptualize the piece?

Michelle McKay (Video Artist): Thank you. Haha, well, it currently has 31 views on Vimeo, so please get those numbers up. This piece came about for me because I was in the mood to make a video after a long hiatus. I have a real love-hate relationship with video art. It’s always a tedious process for me at first, but once I get into the project, I begin to love it. I stan Avola so I offered, and Vern happened to be making a new album, Psykor, so it just worked out. Vern is this amazing god-tier musician/creator who is also so incredibly supportive of other artists, so this was a dream collaboration for me.

I picked the track “Cave Rave” because it’s so spatially interesting; it has a dramatic build and a cinematic quality that activates my imagination. I knew that I wanted to try something with AI, [so] we talked about that, and I also wanted to make sure that I was using AI in an intentional way that worked, and not just using the technology for technology’s sake.

Veronica Avola (Musician): So… I have been following Michelle’s work for quite some time, and am a mega fan of her video work and music! (*Vern’s Shameless Plug Alert* CHECK OUT “PERSONALITY TEST,” a duo with Natasha Henton). When Michelle offered to make video magic for my music my heart fluttered! As soon as I finished my album, Psykor, I sent the tunes, asked her to pick out whichever song she wanted, and fully encouraged her to make whatever she envisioned, because everything she does is so damn cool.

Avola Cave Rave Music Video Interview w Michelle McKay
Avola Cave Rave Music Video Interview w Michelle McKay
Avola Cave Rave Music Video Interview w Michelle McKay
Avola Cave Rave Music Video Interview w Michelle McKay

How did you come to collaborate together on the piece, and what is your creative workflow like?

Michelle McKay (Video Artist): I thought our creative workflow was ideal because I had a really inspiring, textured, ambient piece of music to respond to and the creative freedom to just follow my instincts and experiment. Vern said something like, “You can make it as weird as you want” or something to that effect, lol, and let the music speak for itself and trusted that I would come up with something.

Veronica Avola (Musician): I knew that I could trust that whatever came out would be incredible. I just wanted Michelle to let her freak flag fly.

Faces shifting through many moods are a recurring motif throughout the piece, starting with the mood-picker board from the very beginning. How did you all settle on that as a focal point and why?

Michelle McKay (Video Artist): I thought the idea of the creepy stock photo witch hands administering the pain scale was just a funny visual. I have a demented sense of humor. That, the Virgin Mary Geocities .gif collage, the AI sequence, and the clouds were the visual focal points for me, and I was thinking in terms of making everything visually fluid. I had a narrative in mind but didn’t want it to be too obvious or forced.

I wanted the AI part to look ephemeral and organic, like an extension of the clouds, and messed around with the settings to get that look. Everything was post-processed using a program called Flowframe, which smoothes out transitions and gives it that morphing effect.

Veronica Avola (Musician): I wasn’t part of the process as Michelle was working. Mostly I would check in very occasionally, and she would send screenshots of wild stuff, and I would say things like “WOWOWOW.” I have to say, when I was watching this video, I felt like when Michelle heard the music, a portal opened up, and she was able to see into my mind, and then figured out how to visualize my subconscious. I think the first thing that came out of my mouth while I was watching the finished video with my partner was, “I FEEL SO SEEN RIGHT NOW.”

Avola Cave Rave Music Video Interview w Michelle McKay
Avola Cave Rave Music Video Interview w Michelle McKay
Avola Cave Rave Music Video Interview w Michelle McKay
Avola Cave Rave Music Video Interview w Michelle McKay

The pace of the visuals flows extremely well with the slow progression of the track. Was there any particular approach you took to ensuring that the flow felt appropriate to the vibe of the track?

Michelle McKay (Video Artist): I used the ACG player on my PC to visualize the audio for “Cave Rave.” It generates lo-fi 00’s screensaver-esque audio reactive visuals. I screen recorded that, edited it, and used that as the base input video for the AI sequence in Stable Diffusion. Since the input video was responding to the audio, the final result appears to be in sync with the music, but it’s sorta subtle because it’s been processed through AI.

Here are some pics of the process because I can’t even understand what I just said:

Avola Cave Rave Music Video Interview w Michelle McKay
Avola Cave Rave Music Video Interview w Michelle McKay
Avola Cave Rave Music Video Interview w Michelle McKay

Is there anything else you would like to add? Any interesting anecdotes or tidbits? (I’m sure you have many!)

Michelle McKay (Video Artist): It took about 2 weeks of around the clock rendering to generate the AI parts. AI is truly terrifying and fascinating at the same time. If you aren’t familiar with Loab, the AI demon, you should Google her… I was watching to see if she would turn up.


Written by
Vee Hua 華婷婷

Vee Hua 華婷婷 (they/them) is a writer, filmmaker, and organizer with semi-nomadic tendencies. Much of their work unifies their metaphysical interests with their belief that art can positively transform the self and society. They are the Editor-in-Chief of REDEFINE, Interim Managing Editor of South Seattle Emerald, and Co-Chair of the Seattle Arts Commission. They also previously served as the Executive Director of the interdisciplinary community hub, Northwest Film Forum, where they played a key role in making the space more welcoming and accessible for diverse audiences.

Vee has two narrative short films. Searching Skies (2017) touches on Syrian refugee resettlement in the United States; with it, they helped co-organize The Seventh Art Stand, a national film and civil rights discussion series against Islamophobia. Reckless Spirits (2022) is a metaphysical, multi-lingual POC buddy comedy for a bleak new era, in anticipation of a feature-length project.

Vee is passionate about cultural space, the environment, and finding ways to covertly and overtly disrupt oppressive structures. They also regularly share observational human stories through their storytelling newsletter, RAMBLIN’ WITH VEE!, and are pursuing a Master’s in Tribal Resource and Environmental Stewardship under the Native American Studies Department at the University of Minnesota.

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