You often hear people who don't know modern electronic music bemoaning the performance of a solo electronic musician or DJ, but regardless of what your opinions are on what constitutes "performance", the show must go on; and go on hugely. There may be one person on stage, but a full orchestra puts these shows on without a hitch... usually. We asked Andy Alexander about his role, what his day to day is on the road, and how he makes Flume shows booming, beautiful spectacles. The idea of the roadie, the stage manager, the tech; on the surface appears to be a relaxed gig and the world travel something to be envied. Well it is, but here is a real view from the inside of the Flume tour. Here is how the doughnuts are made -->
Show notes - from Andy Alexander:
I'm the stage manager for the Flume show. It’s a job title borrowed from theatrical production; and can be synonymous with production manager in a music context. As the stage manager I am an all-around tech and the point person for communications between Flume touring crew and local crew and other specialists like pyro and security. On a typical day we take care of the most important thing first: really good coffee (Australians are particular about their coffee). Then we get to our venue as early as possible, meet everyone, assess the physical space and a work day begins:
I unpack Harley’s keyboards, drum samplers, midi controllers, sound cards and computers and set them up on Harley’s desk along with the “infinity prism” as we call it - a sound-reactive high tech sculpture. The infinity prism (which has its own custom circuitry, drivers and separate computer to run its programs) and Harley’s desk share a platform that can easily be rolled on and off the stage.
The main and backup audio channels coming from Harley’s system are connected to the monitor system on stage (our communications also travel on this system) and to the main PA, which is then sweetened and optimized for max power and clarity. We double/triple check all audio is 1,000,000% operational.
Part of the show experience depends on powerful and expressive lighting. We build our own lighting and video rigs for headline tours each morning of a tour or connect to the existing systems (at huge festivals these systems can be jaw-dropping with flames shooting out and millions of watts of power). At this point our LD can begin programming the various scenes and changes that make up the lighting element of the show.
The lush bespoke videos are one of my favorite elements of the show. a bit of proprietary <cough> scripting allows them to be mixed, processed and layered much like the audio channels of a given song - yielding a synced expressive whole vibe that leaves people entranced. We take care to be self contained with this system and carry our own video scalers, switchers and network interfaces, allowing us to plug into multiple or different video systems.
In the hour leading up to the show I get continuous updates from the tour manager, venue, our crew. We triple check our comms and various systems (the last and most important part being that Harley is ready) and we all give a green light and the lights go down. When we are ahead of schedule we can collect ourselves or have a laugh before launching into the show.
During the show I field any requests from Harley and members of the team while keeping an eye on the stage; trying to anticipate any possible malfunctions or situations that could be a distraction from the show, and address any glitches in the lighting/video/people who feel they must dance on stage "right now".
After the curtain goes down I make notes or changes to files/video/audio/inventory and ready the gear for the next show.
After many years of working and traveling as a stage manager it has been really cool to keep up with technology and current music - two of my favorite things. I think I'm also addicted to stress though; my worst nightmares have come true during shows on many occasions, but the thrill of a technically perfect show where everyone is getting the vibe - it's totally worth it.
Andy is co-founder of Beat Hollow Records, and makes his own sounds under the name Nightey. His debut full length is soon in the offing here at beathollow.com and beyond.
Here's the debut EP from a mysterious outfit (quite possibly comprised of locals who choose to remain anonymous), passed on to the Cream by Brian Siskind of Fognode, Good Rester and Ponychase fame. It's the latest release on his Beat Hollow Records label, named for the stellar 2001 post-rock album he reissued in January. Those Drones (no relation to Those Darlins) sounds like someone's been making origami with pages from an encyclopedia of electronic music, folding ambient soundscapes into shuddering trance tracks and propulsive house jams.
Happy Friday, chums. Before we move any further with this week’s fresh tracks, I have to note the following: If you’re still sleeping on Amerigo Gazaway’s Yasiin Gaye: The Return (Side Two), which we shared with you yesterday, you’re really making a foolhardy move. I need you to go back and listen to that. Anyway, moving on, follow me below to hear some further freshness from the likes of Wild Cub, The Wans, D. Striker, Jawws, Good Rester and Brian Siskind. As always, see past weeks in fresh tracks here, and if you’ve got something for us, email cream[at]nashvillescene[dot]com.
And oh hey, speaking of Siskind, he and his Beat Hollow Records are also releasing his own Live at Rothko Chapel, “a guided sonic meditation, acoustically tailored and specifically crafted solely for and in reverence of the sacred space of the Rothko Chapel.” Beautiful, meditative stuff that you can stream above or purchase on vinyl right here. Dig in.