Synergie à Cream '98
I'm finaly in front of that scaffold. 200 feet of metal stuff that
Paget William's team have artfully assembled this afternoon. And when I
imagine it with the screens and the lights in it. It pretty much looks
like what I tought It would on paper, which is a good start. Except,
now, it's true, da 3d thing made of pipes... It's so amazing to just
think about things and make plans for them, and then see them take
shape without even touching them. Lighting designer François Roupinian
usualy has a team of "hands" working for him, but my installations are
a bit too non standard, so I'm used to build my installations by
myself. Now I don't even have to scratch a nail, well it's cool! But
seriously, I can't wait to get down to the production part myself.
Unroll kilometers of wires, unpack cool tech and connect stuff. It's a
bit like X-Mas under the tree, execpt I don't get to keep the gear
afterward, too bad ;-) Is is so much more fun than Rerolling the cables
full of sticky goo, and repack and leave the place...
Actualy even tonight I couldn't resist and I tried to hack the (tv) cable for our show. The union here charges 500 dollars to install it, no kidding! but it's okay with them if we run our own wires from a nearby room, providing we find our own feed. Which means following one single wire, lost amongst 100 of others, in a wire duct, under 2 inches of thick, greasy, dirty muck. It was real cool! Honest! I got to drive the huge scisor lift in the tunnel... eh! he!
So far, I haven't talked about sound very much and light only just a bit. As you might have guessed, the sound part of the event is just as much (and maybe more) complicated than the whole video setup. Doing sound in such a acousticaly hostile room requires a level of expertise that very few people have in this city. Eddie Friedman was the guy behind it all and he did an admirable job. For each events, he builds spec and data sheets in which each speaker is identified, so that if let's say, a mid-range tweeter blows in speaker number 43, he can shut just that one down immediately. I will try to put my hands on those spec sheets for you and have him talk a bit about his job. I did sit a bit behind him while he wasn't noticing and I must say I was very impressed. One of my dreams is to integrate more sound bites into the general audio mix. It is fairly complicated because it involves a real close collaboration of everyone involved and possibly a few rehearsals with the DJ, but we came prettty close this time and you should see that in our next performances.
The light part was conceptualized by François Roupinian. We are friends since a few years now, but I have been a fan of his work since longer than that. Our paths often crossed since he has been the main lighting designer for just about every big rave and gay events in town. He is now studying at the École Nationale de Théâtre, a very reputed theatre school in this city. I believe it was a though choice for him since nobody there seems to understand what he's trying to do. As expected though, the more "classical" training he received there really shined at Cream. Since Swirl he also connected with Jimmy (from old skool Synergie) amd he's working with contemporary art dancer Isabelle Choinière. It has been a project of ours since a long time to work in close collaboration for an event, and I can only hope that more are to come. I will try to get bit of feedback from him as well.
Appart from these two people, the visuals team for the night included our own VJ team with visual artists Olivier Sorrentino who recently finished his Master's thesis at UQAM, Laurence Cailbot from France who also studies in arts, Russel Vaz, better know under the name Hypnotika that you can see at many raves as well as his assistant, Brent McLennan. Marie-Claude from "La Petite Grenouille Rose" visuals was also with us as well as two Radio-Canada journalists: foreign countries reporter Miguel Legault who works at RDI (he built the small intros in between the Djs and together we shot plenty of rollerblading travelings in the endless corridors of the Stadium), Jean-Hugue Roy from the Branché weekly show on Radio-Canada wrote the text that you could see displayed from time to time in the mix. Actualy, the full list of collaborators is even longer than that.
Believe me, i'm not the "Oscars thank you" kind of guy and i usualy leave the cinema rooms b4 the credits have finished to roll. In raves, I often find that selfishness and egoes and attitudes are sadly too often the norm. Great humble teamwork is only rarely encoutered, so i usualy prefer to praise the work of individuals than that of the "team" i'm part of. It is quite rare that amazing teamwork is accomplished with so much fun, so efficiently and with an almost lack of frictions (which is just short of incredible when considering the insanity of the task at Cream) which suggest a high dose of real respect from everyone to everyone. So just for once, please allow me to be a bit exhaustive.
here's the complete visual line-up:
Set-up gofers and everyone
One very special thanx go to Christian Farley for being the stage manager, actualy providing one of the first efficient, coordination i've ever seen at an event, while maintaning the necessary measure of improvisation and chaos required to keep life interesting for everyone. If you felt that the show was running very smoothly, he's the guy you should thank.
Synergie and Francois Roupinian are responsible for the general visual conception of the event, and me for technical planification and set-up (supervision, really) of the scaffolding and DJ screen as well as the direction and supervision of the video crew (as if there was much to direct), operation of the preprod studios and Web site update... and a bit of VJing too.
Francois Bazinet from the Sona isn't in the line-up but he helped define the general artistic guidelines, the cube at the Sona is also a joint (hum!) concept.
I'm sure i forget a few people who made it happen, like the security of the stadium who were looking somewhere else, in various very convenient occasions...
If you like what you saw, you must thank ALL these people, really. I am very proud of having been a member of that team. And when i talked in previous mail about the magic of seeing his ideas go from paper to steel (and to bits and pixels and light), they are the magicians! i'm just a rabbit @->->---
Ce soir c'est vrai. Toutes les strcutures, inertes jusqu'à présent, prendront vie sous l'assaut de la musique, de la lumière et des images, envahies par les gens et devenant elles mêmes, des "grandes dames" de la fête.
My equipment is finaly back home, I am slowly readjusting to life without dialing 9 before my calls (I had brought my phone there with me), to non-"Hochelaga Pizza" food, walls that aren't made out of tons of concrete and regular Montreal-type streets and sidewalks with cracks for (the hell with the Expos wait 'till somebody starts the world's first underground tunnel rollerblading skateboard/blades contest in there).
The event has gone very well... from my point of view at least. I felt somewhat uncomfortable to have all that space unused at the back of the stage to ourselves while people were so packed in front of us. Although, with the heat coming up, I must say we felt it maybe a bit more than they did and we certainly smelled it even more ;-) Not that we really had time to even worry about all that, but we had our own share of the bad sides too.
The spaceship impression continued as I had to wear a walkie-talkie to be in constant communication with the other crews and the security in case of an emergency. At first it was just a bit annoying, but as the music pumped louder and louder, and the batteries got emptier and emptier, it morphed into some kind of "grand control to Major Tom" Appolo to NASA sound generator. Of the conversations you couldn't hear zit unless you put both hands on top of that ear and you had a third hand to close the other. But the crackling conversations were much mor einteresting anyway. As expected, after a while, evryone got bored of this cumbersome piece of technology. We reverted to smoke signals instead ;-)
I went on the stage myself once in a while to play with the screens switcher/chaser, or to make the video transitions. I chose to sractch on my friend's images instead of mine for a change. Initialy I had kept a part of Carl Cox set to scratch on, but my friends we so much into it and I had my own satisfaction with the screens, the setup and the coordination of all involved. It was just fair that I take the backseat, they more than deserved it.
We play without a schedule coming and going and changing image sources and "instruments" on the fly, as we need or as we feel like, actualy it's not uncommon for us to "leave a good chunk of music" to our friends if they seem to be aching to make some images for it. I don't know if many other teams work like that, but it's something that i'm quite happy with and that I like to watch in action.
Then the best thing I can do is stand back and make sure that they can perform at their best, by providing them with some "in-flight" refueling of images, of water bottles, of red bull and anything else, helping them keeping the stage clear of the garbage, already played tapes and other people who aren't supposed to be there. I also have to make sure that the gear is working fine at all time since the setup is a bit too "exotic" for my guests. Such performances are real test for the equipment and are dangerously straining cables and connections. Anything that isn't attached will fall because of the vibrations of the stack of speakers nearby. Any liquid is a risky proposition above such a well furnished collection of knobs and switches, although sometimes, you just have no time for a pit stop.
I was trying to find some kind of climatic ending. Well, it might be very unthrilling to you, but, when I saw my friends Thomas and Brainstormer arrive at noon to help me undo the setup, it certainly was my own private climax. I'll spare you the the very "unglamourous" : ) rest of us untangling all that spaghetti and doin' some aerial acrobatics while we should be sleeping. As for the show, well, there are little parts that are just too hard to describe, like the freedom feel of having all the gear working well and at your command, plenty of cool friends around, going head to head with a very decided British gentleman who excels at playing amazing music, while in front of us people are cheering and jumping and grooving and generaly going nuts, as far as the eye can see, unified by the rythm, as best as any ancient tribe. Someday soon, I might stop going for all that, actualy each time i've done something really draining and not artisticaly satisfying enough, all my friends have witnessed me saying that it was my last, until something even more trippy came along that I couldn't refuse. I have no idea for how long this will go on like that. But that last image was certainly something to tell my kids about.
nous / us