Do you think of yourselves as VJs, AV artists or something else?
GRAHAM: Good question. We think of ourselves as AV artists – but a lot of people still don’t know what that means.
TOLLY: Some people have called us visual DJs, but that sounds crap!
Can you tell us a bit about your live performance technique?
TOLLY: This really depends on what show we’re doing – whether it’s a club set or a live cinema project, two very different things.
GRAHAM: Yeah, our current live cinema project, The Eye of the Pilot, involves a live guitarist and a lot of kit, like two laptops, MIDI controllers, three audio mixers, three DVD turntables, an audio/video mixer and so on – so it’s quite different to one of our club sets, which is a much simpler set-up. The Eye of the Pilot is also a very rehearsed project, much like any band – so we each really know the part we’re playing, and during the performance we have to cue each other, Tolly often whispers count-downs to me in certain sections and when Alex – our guitarist – plays a particular riff, that’s a sign to trigger a certain audiovisual sample and so on.
TOLLY: We work so much together though, that pretty much we instinctively know what the other is about to do anyway!
One of the running themes of this series of interviews has been the standardization of a pair of DVD decks and a vision mixer as a club set up. VJ Anyone felt this would be a good idea. Do you think this would be a good thing?
GRAHAM: This really depends whether you’re talking strictly about VJing, as this kind of set-up clearly wouldn’t work for acts like ourselves where we’re also doing the audio. But in the world of VJing, yes any standardization is a good thing!
Obviously what you do requires a lot of equipment, particularly computers, on stage. Is it difficult to get people to look past the equipment and focus on you as performers?
GRAHAM: Stage presence is actually quite important to us. We definitely don’t hide behind laptops.
TOLLY: We don’t only use laptops though, and are quite clearly doing obvious DJ tasks like cueing up, beat-matching, scratching etc and so yeah it’s quite clear our hands are full actually doing stuff.
Take The Lead Addictive TV remix . This video won Addictive TV an Adland award, and was also the first ever Hollywood approved remix of a movie.
Is there any new technology on the horizon that you are really keen to get your hands on?
GRAHAM: A teleport, save all that traveling to gigs – wouldn’t that be great?!!
TOLLY: We’ve just been given the brand new Pioneer SVM-1000 audio/video mixer that over the last couple of years we were involved with the development of, working on early designs, testing the prototypes, brainstorming ideas for filters etc. It’s a bit big, but a nice piece of kit and should really help push the whole AV thing to a much wider audience.
I’ve noticed there is a lot of focus on the DJ magazine poll of the top 20 VJs, which has rated you very highly for several years now. Obviously it’s been very helpful for you, do you think it’s beneficial to the wider scene, or just the people who appear on it?
TOLLY: Well, both really.
GRAHAM: Yeah I agree. Over the last four years we’ve been lucky enough to have come number one twice and also number two twice. I think it gives great validation to the genre in the wider music business and because the poll is voted on by the readers of DJ Magazine, it is public recognition for individual acts and artists – and that can only be a good thing.
Robin Brunson from Hexstatic raised some questions about some the artists in the poll not really being from the VJing scene, is that true/do you think it’s a problem?
GRAHAM: Well, the VJ poll’s always included artists who work with both video and music, no matter what their background. Realistically, do artists in the poll all have to come from “the VJing scene” as defined by a particular person? I don’t think so. Personally if we had anything to do with the poll, which we don’t, I would also be very open about who could be included. In the DJ poll, there are fantastically skilled scratch DJs up against some guy playing cheesy House off his laptop – but they’re all in the same poll…!
TOLLY: Part of the problem I always think with so called “scenes” is that people like them to be some kind of exclusive club, which in reality they’re simply not. Particularly VJing – which is an ever growing movement encompassing a whole plethora of approaches to visuals and their performance.
Addictive TV rocking the main Dance Tent at Glastonbury Festival 2007, where they played a “silent disco” headphone set
I was interested to discover that Serato works with video now. What do you think the consequences of that are likely to be?
GRAHAM: Hopefully that more DJs will get into using video! It’ll be a stepping stone to the next level though, as the big question is ‘what video content are DJs going to play?’ If it simply means DJs just play music videos and don’t get into producing AV, that’s not very progressive and runs the risk of not going anywhere.
Have you got any broader predictions for the visuals ‘scene’? Is it getting bigger or more influential?
GRAHAM: Yes, it’s certainly getting bigger, new artists are appearing all the time, and it’s definitely influencing mainstream media – particularly TV advertising and music videos. As Tolly just said, it’s now a growing field encompassing a whole range of approaches to performing visuals, and those styles will just migrate outwards.
Can you tell us a little bit about the current Optronica festival that you are doing in Paris?
GRAHAM: The exhibition is actually organised by Françoise Lamy here, one of the festival directors of Optronica. It’s at Le Cube and runs for six months till July and features interactive installations and video work from loads of AV artists doing great stuff, developing their own software and so on; like U.S. artist Brian Kane from total AV pioneers EBN and French band Ez3kiel who are doing some great stuff audiovisually. We’ll have an installation there too called Sportive, that we recently created for the Adidas “Art in Sport” exhibition in China for this years 2008 Beijing Olympics. So if anyone is going to Paris over the next few months, go and check the whole thing out!
Any other projects you’ve got coming up?
TOLLY: Next up is another movie remix for one of the Hollywood studios, for a new action movie coming out. We’re creating a web viral for the films promo campaign. We’re also playing at South by Southwest in March, the big music showcase in Austin, Texas – that should be amazing.
GRAHAM: And more on the art tip, fitting it around other projects and gigs, we’re working on our new live cinema project ‘Sampling the Culture’ about the isolated Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, which this year becomes the World’s newest democracy. It’s a very closed off country that not many people have ever been allowed to go to, let alone film there. They only allowed television seven years ago and most of the country still has no electricity. We spent time there last year, filming ancient dance rituals in a monastery with Buddhist monks in the mountains. Absolutely incredible place.
TOLLY: …and it should be finished by the summer, as we’re doing a big event in Liverpool later this year as part of the 2008 European Capital of Culture celebrations.
GRAHAM: And with gigs, we’ve got a series of dates coming up in the States and in Europe – particularly looking forward to Prague, as we’ve not played there before. And dates in Tokyo, Shanghai and in Bangkok again.
The way I see it the club scene has changed a lot in the last few years, and unless you are prepared to either run your own club night, or get co-opted full time into someone else’s dream, it can be quite difficult.
VJs used to make up for the fact that DJs are pretty boring to watch, but I’ve noticed that many clubs have live acts now due to the resurgence of live music, so the VJ has had to seek new avenues for their art.
Back in the 90s not so many people could get their hands on the equipment, but these days you can just get your mate down with the visualzer from iTunes and get some visuals going in about 10 seconds. That’s changed the market a lot.
At the moment it seems you need to be applying for media arts related grants that don’t really accept that all we are doing is partying with pictures. You end up making up a load of guff about your good time stuff, or playing at media arts/VJ contests at which everyone is sitting down chin stroking, which is not why I got into VJing.
I have found myself writing songs on my guitar and getting a band together and not really worrying, and maybe doing some free parties to keep my hand in. Though having said that, it was a great experience doing Optronica last year, plus I got invited to the Stockholm arm of Pixelvark last October.
But those were the only 2 gigs I did last year. At the moment I’m sitting on my stuff and developing slowly whilst doing lots of other things. I am always up for the gig – I have a mass of stuff that has only rarely been seen outside Glasgow. For the moment I’m just happy to not be sitting on a speaker stack getting battered twice a week. I have a gig lined up at a possible party in Durness (the most northern village in the UK!) in July at some time. I just got knocked back from Scottish arts council for a 16mm loops/maxMSP project, so thinking on basically…
My own work has moved mainly on-line now as it allows for interaction with the viewer/user directly. It also seems to be a free space a bit like clubs were to me a while back. I am still exploring how image and sound connect but have moved some of it into real life using digital photography and Flash software to create audiovisual “instruments”.
For more check www.instantactionobject.org for more.
A short documentary about Vitascope
So where do I think the VJ scene is going? Well for a start it’s definitely growing and growing, I’ve been active in this area for a while and it’s very exciting to see the visual/sonic art thing mushrooming into an entity of it’s own. There has been a long, ongoing quest to perfect this stimulation for centuries, and now it’s kind of ubiquitous among the general public.
One big step was to name one of its specific forms VJing. Hopefully this will develop as a wider creative art structure under which will live different styles and different groups, from the more commercial market to the abstract independent, from the professional to the enthusiast, and each one of those will be fully recognized within its own genre. Following closely behind Serato, I reckon it won’t be long before some integrated sound and picture “i-see” or “garageband:AV” programs hit the market.
On a more technical level, I think the format of screens as we know them will become increasingly become obsolete, with free spaces and boundless surfaces taking their place. This will fuel a fiercer and beneficial cutting edge competition.
I’m currently in the throes of completing a DVD which will be released through Addictive – It’s a quirky take on different styles of music and atypical classic films. I’m also developing PLATFORM:X – a multi-screen project based around archive footage from 1930 to 1985, featuring live video sampling and jazz musicians.
All this alongside directing image pieces and station branding for Nickelodeon and editing and graphics on adverts and broadcast projects for Channel4 and the Discovery channel!
For more check www.exceeda.co.uk
VJing is getting more mature – audiences are no longer satisfied with a mashup of decorative aesthetic effects. For me the real interest is in AVE performances and performance and installations. These really explore the relations between sound, image, space and time. It’s all about trying to develop new concepts of narration.
At the same time experiments with real time processing and VJing border with interactive installation and give interesting effects. Showbusiness and advertising both use a lot of video – VJs can find a lot of job opportunities if they have easy to use and flexible performance techniques.
My VJing technique is really linked to my broader artistic activities. Very often in my VJ sets I use elements, sketches or pieces of images which are not natively VJ loops. Generally my artistic activities are what I call ‘intermedia’. Some elements and some ideas pass through many different phases and media. They find their place in many different contexts and projects.
My setup depends the most on whether I’m responsible for just the video or video and sound. I find the latter is much more demanding, but also much more interesting.
For video I use a PC laptop running electronica live, 2 or 3 DVD players ( DVJX1 still the best) and my own DVDs, authored as little samplers. For video mixers I use the MX 50, V4 or AVM02. The KAOSS PAD video is a very cool device too, particularly as a sampler for AV sets.
I’m currently working on a concert, a kind of fusion of Mozart and Egyptian music. The video will be very big – a 48 X 6 meters screen on the stage. Technically it’s a challenge! The performance is in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I’m also working on a personal experimental project called “PARACHORA”, a series of abstract videos in the form of water bulb with music of some contemporary experimentalists from France, Poland, China and Japan.
For more check www.myspace.com/milosh_vj
Ever since organizing our first party in Berlin together as Bauhouse in 1995 we have continually worked as producers for audiovisual performances and installations as well as image films and commercials.
We create all our performances, installations and design work as ‘collage on a beat’. It’s a matter of remixing media in general, not just film. The pictures we use don’t give the audience any strict narrative. Rather, their meaning enters into a dialogue with the way they are sequenced rhythmically.
Music and rhythm is what gives our footage a new context. Images provoke music and music provokes images – we play both the same way. From our point of view this approach to audiovisual performances is very important. It’s different to other VJs or DJ/VJ bands.
We have a roughly structured set that we broaden week by week, just like DJs do, manipulating ‘real pictures’ from TV, film, advertising and material created ourselves.
From our perspective the VJ scene is stagnant at the moment. Only a few artists want to get new answers to future aspects of audiovisual structures. With our created software we are able to play audiovisuals like jazz bands play instruments together. We always want to develop the interchange between audio and video. You can see this approach in our films and installations as well as in our performances.
In the end of 2007 we had the first show of our new audiovisual performance ‘Triptych’ in Buenos Aires and beyond this we composed and developed in co-operation with Audi Germany the performance project ‘Symphony’. We were in charge of Audi´s audiovisual brand with several film, commercial and music productions. We bought together an orchestra and topics like speed, nature, man-machine, technique, media and Germany live and audiovisually on an abstract stage.
Three screens hang next to each other like a triptych. We stand under one screen and control the video sequences as drum and music patterns. This set up includes up to 40 musicians interacting with us and playing our composed music parts in combination with our audiovisual rhythmic elements. At this stage of our audiovisual projects the ‘Symphony’ is the perfect audiovisual concert composition. In 2007 we had three concerts in Paris, Buenos Aires and Vilnius.
For more check www.bauhouse.de