Geoff Gamlen is one of three people who make up Eclectic Method. Of our four interviewees Eclectic Method are perhaps most straight forward in terms of characterising themselves as pure entertainment in the form of music and live visuals. They have produced visuals for U2, Fatboy Slim, MTV and Faithless.
How do you feel about being called VJs? I know you’ve released an album called ‘we’re not VJs’
First and foremost we are DJs, we play the music, and we know from technical mishaps that our sets work without the video! We often describe ourselves as video DJs.
Can you tell us a little bit about your performance Technique?
We play a selection of instrumentals, hip hop, breaks, electro and DnB, off CD decks. Over the top of this we use Pioneer DVD decks to play video and acapellas synchronised with the instrumentals. This means we can scratch the video and the vocal over the top of the instrumental, which gives us plenty of room to improvise. All our sets are completely live in that sense, and we hardly do any planning. At the moment we are trying to work more on turntablism.
We’ve got an enormous library of stuff to dip into when we are playing – Ian [Edgar] is our video collector and we get to take round a big crate of DVDs when we play live. I like DVDs, I’m always dropping them everywhere and spilling beer on them, having them ransomed….
That’s actually happened?
Yeah in Sao Paulo, but fortunately the promoter bought them back for us. I think it was a matter of honour for him, we did say we didn’t want him too!
Eclectic Method’s take on Bad Ass
Do you think it would be helpful if there was some kind of core concept of the VJing ‘thing’ that people could identify with? I’ve spoken to other people about the DVD decks/vision mixer becoming a standard.
I think at the moment it’s a question of picking your own niche really, and there is quite a lot of healthy rivalry. It’s a question of trying to do something a bit fresher.
Do you see a link up between specific musical genres and video ones?
At the moment there is a grass roots movement to sync up audio and video effects – delay, and reverb etc. for visuals. Through that I suppose we might see that some audio effects in a specific genre translate to a particular kind of visual.
How do you think your style of performance fits in with the range of styles that are out there?
For us the music and the audio must go together rhythmically. If you don’t do that you have to look for some kind of other way for the audio to hold hands with the video, if indeed there is audio. Our AV experience is about making the music more enthralling.
We draw a distinction between ‘arts’ and ‘entertainment’. We see ourselves as entertainers, and although we might try to stop and make you think for a bit occasionally, its never for long enough to make you feel uncomfortable. We have played at events with more arts orientated acts who have made audiences less comfortable through the intensity of the visuals.
I wonder how immersive you aim to be? I can imagine there might be a worry that the audience would simply be watching TV in a club.
There was a concern early on that visuals might take the focus away from where you wanted it to be, but it didn’t turn out that way. It helps a lot if there is more than one screen, if you can have a couple of walls then it almost turns into a very impressive light show.
Where do you source material from?
We’ve actually done some work with the Getty film library, which was fantastic because they have such a large collection of old material.
Where do you stand on the legalities of gathering material?
There was no decision at the beginning to keep everything above board, but it mainly is. All of our live performances are covered under VPL, which is equivalent to the arrangement the clubs have so that DJs can play music without paying rights. It is controversial if we try to sell our material, and I understand entirely why! In the past we have put out limited amounts of bootleg stuff, because we felt we were doing something new and that justified it.
Do you have any feelings on where copyright law is going at the moment?
Absolutely, it’s relaxing. You just have to look at the deal that the four majors have done with youtube, giving them pretty much carte blanche. They know they can’t control distribution, but attempts to make money out of copyright material are more and more the focus of litigation.
Any big technological developments on the horizon?
The pioneer SVM is looking very exciting. It’s a sound and vision mixer and it should be very interesting. It will be a bit pricey though.
I’ve got the impression that the whole AV thing is almost on the cusp of something, do you feel that?
Well yes, the technology only becomes more accessible and there are more and more people doing it. However it’s felt as though we are on the cusp of things for some time now.
What projects have you got coming up at the moment?
Our magnum opus is going to be a DVD with all our own music and a rights-free video, so that we can actually sell it this time! We all produce music, I do a lot of breaks, and then we will invite guest performers in too. The video will be from the public domain, and stuff we shoot ourselves, for example of the guest performers and of us on stage. We want to start work on it very soon, it’s a big project.