LA art collective/production company the Masses this morning released a new Modest Mouse video, directed by the late actor Heath Ledger, of the song “King Rat.” Ledger collaborated with his fellow Masses colleagues animator Norris Houk and longtime Terry Gilliam associate/storyboard artist Daniel Auber, a French expat living in LA who met Ledger on the set of Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm.

Ledger worked on the video while he was living in London in the fall of 2007 and figuring out the character of the Joker in The Dark Knight. Last summer while working on a story on the Masses, I sat down with Auber in his Hollywood apartment (a beautiful space once, he says, occupied by Joan Crawford) and he showed me his storyboards for the Modest Mouse video (as well as stunning boards of Gilliam's upcoming The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus). As he went through the pages, Auber recalled the two weeks he spent working on the Modest Mouse project with a green-haired Ledger in London. “He had a lot of free time,” recalled Auber. “He would only shoot a few days a week. It wasn't overwhelming. His character and his schedule were very much distributed over many months. He was acting one day, two days a week. Free time for London, and his friends.”

They worked on the Modest Mouse project, Auber sketching and Ledger riffing on the story. Ledger had been making plans to co-direct a whaling documentary, and the subject was much on his mind.

It is in this context that Modest Mouse's “King Rat” was created. It debuted on MySpace music this morning. Most important in all of this: download the video from iTunes in the first month and your $$ will go to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, “an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organization committed to ending the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species. Sea Shepherd uses direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas.”

Watch a high-res version of Modest Mouse's “King Rat” video here.

(Obligatory conflict-of-interest note: I contribute writing on a gratis basis to the Masses' website, and am listed in their masthead I have not, however, written anything about the Modest Mouse video for them.)

LA Weekly