Addictive TV

Scris pe 05.06.2008 de Cypher

Wikipedia spune despre televiziune ca provoaca dependenta, insa nu ofera referinte suplimentare. Si am fi tentati sa nu credem, daca n-ar fi existat Graham Daniels si Peter Tolly. Printr-o serie de mijloace subversive audio-vizuale cei doi isi tin victimele sub control ore in sir, provocandu-le stari mentale deosebite. Simptomele includ chef de dans, pupile dilatate si zambete largi, determinand subiectii sa caute a repeta experienta cat mai curand posibil. Stie toate acestea oricine a asistat la vreun party cu cei doi, iar cine nu, poate afla mai jos chiar de la dansii…

There's one thing anyone who's seen you guys play seems to wonder : "what are they doing?". So, what is it exactly that you do up there on the stage, technique-wise?
Tolly: DJing, but instead with DVD turntables. Scratching, both audio and video, again using DVD turntables, VJing all the video sources together, triggering audio/video samples with AV sequencing software, that kind of thing. But it also depends on what show we're performing too - whether it's a club set or a live cinema project, the two are quite different.
Graham: Yeah, our current live cinema project, The Eye of the Pilot, involves a live guitarist and a lot more kit, like two laptops, MIDI controllers, three audio mixers as well as three DVD turntables, our audio/video mixer and so on. Technique-wise it's a very rehearsed project, much like any band, each of us knowing 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 from laptop and so on.

Any thoughts on Pioneer's new toy, the SVM-1000 A/V mixer, whose development you've been involved with? At 5500 Eu, that takes the cost of Pioneer's AV rig (including a pair of DVJ's) to nearly 10000 Eu, hardly affordable for the bedroom VJ/DJ.
Graham: The SVM-1000 isn't really designed as a bedroom piece of kit though, it's made for clubs - it's designed to be a club install. And yes, right now Pioneer's kit is quite expensive, but then it's professional equipment, like their top of the range audio gear, like their CDJ-1000s etc that professional DJs use. Companies like Numark do make lower cost equipment of this kind, like their own DVD turntables, an audio/video mixer and so on which is much better priced for - as you call it - the bedroom VJ/DJ artist.

How does the creative process work for you? Who makes the beats and who makes the visuals?
Graham: Well, both the audio and the video are done completely simultaneously, with me and Tolly sitting side by side swapping files backwards and forwards and simply creating a piece. We start by looking for audiovisual samples in the footage - I should point out that they have to work both aurally and visually, and then we begin the process of constructing a piece, always making sure the pictures also do what we need in terms of narrative or composition.
Tolly: Yep, it's just the long old struggle, no different to music composition, trying stuff out, seeing what works, but with the added complication of thinking in two mediums at once! It's something we've had to work out how to do from first principles really to achieve what we need. It's not easy to describe, but it's kind of a cross between film making and composing, the difference with us though is that we don't separate out the processes for audio and video - we treat them as part of just one thing, and hopefully that shows in the end results.

In your sets you can only mix your own productions (since you make both the music and the video). Doesn't that get a bit repetitive sometimes?
Tolly: What, like a band always playing their own material?
Graham: Yeah, last time I saw U2 or in fact Radioactiveman or even last week when I saw Ulrich Schnauss, all of them played all their own tracks they've played for years. Isn't that what bands and acts do?

Hollywood seems to have a thing for you lately - after "Take the Lead" and "Snakes on a Plane" you've recently done a trailer for Paramount's "Iron Man". Ever think about getting involved with film production, and not just remixing?
Tolly: Well, that was Graham's background - film production. And I was involved in theatre production for years, scoring music for plays.
Graham:Yes, already been there and done that, as they say! That's how I got into doing this in the first place and how I first met Tolly. I was a television producer, and before that was an assistant director working on films and television commercials. I do like production, but found my passion was more in editing and producing than being on set.
Tolly: Can I just say, that with Iron Man, it's the first time Paramount have ever done this, entering the realm of film remixing and letting artists rework and audiovisually remix one of their movies - I think it's fantastic that they're doing this, and every time a major player gets into the idea it's definitely a step forward for the remix genre.

In music production there's a well known affinity for vintage gear, because of its different sound from modern digital gear. Has making visuals lost anything by going fully digital?
Graham: Probably not, because these days if you want a particular look that might once have been created with a particular piece of analogue gear in the past - you can probably find a digital plug-in that emulates it. If you're a real purist, there's probably little substitute for outboard analogue processing with sound, but with the picture side of things it's slightly different - unless, say, you are a purist for film. Basically digital is good, the fundamental problem with analogue pictures is you can't copy them well, the second generation just falls apart. Unless that's the look you're going for, then digital wins every time. Digital means speed too, try making abstract visuals on film or analogue video tape... it's very very slow and difficult! Not impossible of course, because that's what people used to do, but certainly slow.

And now, for the tech geek crowd, tell us a bit about your studio set-ups (both for sound and video production) ?
Graham: To perform, for our AV club sets we use 3 Pioneer DVJ-1000 DVD turntables, a modified and customised Edirol V4 vision mixer that now takes audio (to enable us to cut and scratch audio and video at the same time - we also replaced the T-Bar with a DJ-cross fader), a laptop running VJammPro software, a Pioneer DJM800 or 1000 audio mixer and the Pioneer EFX-1000 effects unit. For our live cinema project The Eye of the Pilot it's all very different again; our set-up also includes 2 fretless guitars (one is a 7 string guitar), two laptops (one with Ableton Live and one with VJammPro) plus midi controllers etc and 3 audio mixers.
Tolly: The studio set up is very different to the live performance rig. We've simply got a bunch of computers running software like Ableton Live, Cubase, Rebirth, Soundscape, After Effects, PremierePro etc, and lots of large hard drives!!! We also have a Grass Valley Edius system which we master a lot of the video side of things on. We've also got keyboards, an original 1971 Moog, DVJ turntables, DVcam decks, an old BetacamSP deck, a couple more video mixers, Genelec monitors, a Mackie 32/8/2 desk and so on... all those kind of things!.

The last year or so seems to have been very busy for you - you've criss-crossed the globe, from Spain to Japan and from Brazil to Kuwait. Any unusual experiences?
Graham: Unusual experiences? Well, Tolly was dragged off by security in Dubai, which wasn't funny at all. Quite scary in fact, it was pretty horrible - especially considering what happened to drum 'n' bass DJ Grooverider last year too, who's still in prison out there.
Tolly: Yeah, it was certainly no fun and it was really worrying at the time, and even scarier looking back. When we arrived at Dubai airport, I was unceremoniously marched off and was, how can I put it politely, comprehensively searched, if you know what I mean...!!! I had my DVD set on me and they were keen to know why we had loads of DVDs with us. They went through every track and when they found a copy of our Sex Pistols remix, they straight away assumed it was some kind of pornography as it had the word "sex" written on it and they kept insisting "this is porn! this is porn!". They let me go after about an hour. I was very lucky.
Graham: As part of that tour, we also played in Saudi Arabia, a fascinating and quite an unusual experience, especially being somewhere where alcohol was illegal - the same in Kuwait. Actually, I know a great unusual experience! We were playing in Brazil a couple of years ago and halfway through our set there, outdoors and in front of Sao Paulo's famous Museum of Sound and Image, the mayor himself walked on stage and stopped the performance! It was some local political in-fighting in the run up to Brazil's general election in 2006 but we ended up in all the newspapers there as a near fight broke when the stage got invaded by the press, the audience and security! The funny thing though is that actually gave us huge exposure in Brazil and we've since played there quite a few times now!
Tolly: We also got to visit Bhutan, in the Himalayas - filming for our next live cinema project. It's a stunning and breath-taking country that doesn't allow many people to visit. That was an incredible experience, like stepping back in time. We stayed with Buddhist monks in a monastery in the mountains, where they had no electricity - we had to take a lot of batteries!
Graham: ´┐Żand, er, once - completely by accident I should point out! We flooded a hotel room in Hamburg, Germany - looking back, that was funny.

You're certainly at the top of your game, and DJ Mag's last four yearly VJ polls seem to be recognition of that. So where do you see yourselves 10 years from now ?
Graham: I think we'd like to still be doing then what we like doing now; and that's playing live shows - but maybe bigger more complicated ones - and creating interesting content. I think we'd like to do a few more long term creative projects, maybe collaborate with some other artists. Maybe do a couple of albums, which of course would be audiovisual - so probably on DVDs or Blu-ray or whatever format evolves...
Tolly: On a beach in the Bahamas would be quite nice too...!

You certainly don't seem to mind having your videos spread around the web, so one could say that moving beyond just music or just video, piracy doesn't really affect you. One could also say that since the end product of VJ-ing (which is a new medium) was never sold on a large scale, nobody thought about sharing as piracy. What are your thoughts on the issue?
Graham: It's complicated, I'd be lying if I just said it was simple. I think a world where you could legitimately sample all kinds of content and pay a fee proportionate to the commercial or artistic usage would be ideal, it really would. But of course it's very difficult to achieve in practice. Creative Commons is a great movement because it's trying to move in that direction, but it's still limited by the kind of content that it tends to control.

Also, you seem to rely heavily on sampling, both audio and video (using clips from a film and using its sounds to make the beats). Since clearing samples is often prohibitive for the non-mainstream artists, do you thing copyright law should change in that regard?
Tolly: What we need is the Hollywood studios to allow sampling in the same way you can sample music, i.e. it shouldn't be prohibitively expensive or difficult and as long as they saw there was a benefit in it for them, they'd let artists do it. Maybe one day it'll happen...
Graham: I think the more commercial remixes are done for the major studios, the more people in those companies will be forced to think about the issues involved with a sampling based artistic culture. And lets face it, sampling is here to stay. It just depends on how long it takes for it to be embraced commercially, which partly depends on how well artists can argue the case that it can be beneficial to allow sampling. You need visionary people inside the film companies to get behind the idea - the lawyers and accountants just won't listen to a bunch of artists unless someone on the inside tells them it's a good idea and they can make more money by allowing it rather than by trying to stop it.

Last time you've been to Romania, you played on a Saturday night at a fairly traditional party venue, and Sunday in the National Contemporary Art Museum. Obviously, the sets you played were different in tone. With so many novel uses of technology and approaches to the creative process, where does the border between art and entertainment lie for you?
Tolly: We don't see any borders, it's all part of the same field for us..
Graham: Yeah, it's no different to artists like Jeff Mills or Richie Hawtin who cross the same 'border'. Art and entertainment are two different animals but living in the same cage as it were! So whether in night clubs or in art spaces, VJing and performing audiovisual projects just needs to be treated slightly differently, it's not rocket science. For example, our current live-cinema project "The Eye of the Pilot" we've only ever performed in cinemas, theatres, museums and art centres - it's not right for a club environment, it's much more of a 'sit down and watch' experience. Defining what is and isn't 'art' is practically impossible, so we prefer where possible not to have labels and simply see it all as one field.

In the last 20 years or so, seeing a DJ as part of a band has gone from highly unusual to commonplace. Do you think VJ's could go the same route or will the DJ take on the role of the VJ as well?
Graham: It's already happening. I've seen many bands that have a VJ as part of the act, up there on stage with the rest of the band. Sayag Jazz Machine are a great French band doing exactly this. Their VJ also makes most of their music videos too.
Tolly: And many DJs are also starting to take on the role of VJ too, mixing dance music from DVDs that are already edited with abstract graphics. So it's both routes really…

And finally, in your own sincere, honest, unbiased, non-influenced and expert opinion, is TV addictive? Is it an unspeakable threat to our children, our livelihood and the known Universe?
Tolly: Mmmmm, yes - having worked as an expert in the field of media addiction for a long time now, I can honestly say that yes our kind of TV is most definitely addictive, so we recommend that people start with just one of our tracks - maybe online, and then slowly work up to a whole live set.
Graham: Yep, but alternatively you can just go - screw that, I want to get smashed - and watch a whole live set with absolutely no preparation. It's more like crack cocaine that way, big rush, high addiction rates, and you don't have to worry about the threat to your children, as you will have sold them to get your next fix.