14 minute read



Experimental music producer, DJ, filmmaker, and rapper, Steven Ellison, AKA Flying Lotus, is also the founder of independent record label, Brainfeeder (distributed by Ninja Tunes in the UK). The label, officially launched in 2008 - home to the likes of Thundercat and Lapalux - celebrated 10 years of independent releases in challenging style, as TPi reports…

Flying Lotus has released five of his own studio albums to date, and has produced music for Cartoon Network’s outrageously popular Adult Swim; he’s a man with creative flare and multi-genre talent in abundance. The Los Angeles-based DJ descended on the UK for two shows - in Bristol and London - before heading to South Africa for a NYE spectacular in Johannesburg, all in the name of a landmark birthday.

The crew at the helm of the DJ’s Brixton Academy performance, led by Production Manager & FOH Engineer, Pete Clements, revealed what the unusual, 3D show was made of. Clements has been working with Flying Lotus for the last five years in a dual role. He told TPi about the latest gig: “This is the third incarnation of the Flying Lotus live show, but the first show we’ve done in 3D, where the entire audience wears 3D glasses in order to experience the full effect of the visuals during the set.

“We had some pre-production in that the 10th anniversary of his record label, Brainfeeder, hosted some festival takeovers called Brainfeeder X. The first show was in Japan for Summer Sonic festival, where we had a full line up of Brainfeeder artists, before playing the Adult Swim Festival in Los Angeles,” he explained.

The name Brainfeeder X is taken from the four-LP retrospective which was released in November 2018 and features a 36-track collection of the label’s hits and rarities.

Clements’ role juggling is something he’s used too: “I have been doing this dual role for a number of years with a few of my artists, each one is unique, and the balance of the role really depends on the demands of each set-up - and your supporting crew. The Flying Lotus show is really a PM job, rather than any substantial mixing; I simply take a stereo feed from the stage, voice up the system, check the lines and then put my PM hat back on. As the show is quite production-heavy, that has to be my main focus each day.

“Flying Lotus wanted to deliver a new show for the Brainfeeder 10th anniversary, and he was ambitious with his line-up for the event. He wanted to spend money on getting the right support acts, which meant that I had to find a way of delivering a 3D show without freighting a 3D screen over from America as this would have massively eaten into our budget,” he said.

The prized line up included Thundercat, Ross From Friends, Lapalux, Dorian Concept, Gilles Peterson and Iglooghost.

Clements continued: “With the line-up and budgets agreed, we started exploring the idea of using projection and designed an entirely new show around that concept. My main objective was to deliver a great looking show on time and in budget for these great artists.

“Due to costing constraints and the transatlantic location of the main members of this production, we didn’t have a production rehearsal at all, although I did spend a lot of time at the Colour Sound Experiment’s warehouse trying out different types of screens and projectors to see what was going to work the best for our set up.”

PROJECTION PERFECTION Clements described the show’s projection elements as “one of the most challenging aspects of the show.” The reason? “No one does



“Flying Lotus wanted to deliver a new show for the Brainfeeder 10th anniversary, and he was ambitious with his line-up for the event.”

Production Manager & FOH Engineer, Pete Clements

3D projection for live events, it is such an uncommon practice, that we had to get a screen and polarisation filters manufactured especially for the show as no one had them available to hire.”

After doing a lot of research, it seemed that CPL was the only specialist with any first-hand experience of stereoscopic projection. “They did a really decent job for us, but it was a learning curve for me, for sure!” he said. The brief for CPL was to install a 3D stereoscopic projection solution. CPL’s Event Director, Lee Gruszeckyj, was project managing these elements of the gig. He told TPi: “Utilising Hologauze material as the projection surface as a backdrop to the DJ set, we too the system into the three venues: Bristol, Brixton, and Johannesburg, each with different rigging options and screen sizes to suit the space.

“The 3D element was passive, using polarised filters in front of the projection lenses. We decided to use 4 x 20k Panasonic projectors, as left eye / right eye, splitting the signal using a Datapath X4 wall controller. Panasonic projectors were chosen because we could benefit from the camera line up kit. Allowing us to line up the projectors in a very short period of time.

“All four of the projectors were on a network, and aligned using Panasonic’s Geometry Manager Pro software alongside the auto screen kit to allow for geometry adjustment. Ultra-short throw 0.3 lenses were used with the projectors to enable us to hide them on stage and give us the required throw distances. The Johannesburg show was slightly different; we chose to use dual output Barco Image Pros to split the outputs to L-R, and to manage the content, as we had multiple inputs for this gig.”

Running the Brainfeeder visual content was Flying Lotus VJs, David Wexlar and John King.

The video rigging elements were supplied by Colour Sound Experiment. A truss frame measuring in at 12m x 6m, 4 QX-30 Dado, 12 QX-30 3m truss, and 3 x 500kg LV hoists with two rigging points were required.

The show’s visuals were created by the hugely talented Strangeloop Studios team. Strangeloop has been providing content and visual direction for FlyLo since the early days of Brainfeeder, following his notoriously diverse and eclectic aesthetic.

LIGHITNG AND LASERS Colour Sound Experiment has supplied a number of Clements’ productions over the last few years, and will work together this summer across a number of new projects. He commented: “They are an easy team to work with, their Project Manager Alex Ryan is very hard working and always happy to go the extra mile to ensure that the show is a success. They also have a big stock of GLP impression X4 Bars, which we use a lot of in this show.”

The lighting design was about “framing both the artist and the 3D element of the show” added LD, Sam Tozer. “I found it extremely difficult to balance intensity and ‘effect’ so that the lighting complimented the stage without detracting from the visuals.

“We used a very simple rig of the GLP X4 Bars under risers and some Robe CycFX 8 in the roof. Compliments have to go to the Philips Nitro 510c for the flashy moments too,” he noted. The full rig comprised 3 x Robe BMFL spots, 8 x Robe 600 LED Washes, 24 x Philips Nitro 1510c, 42 x Robe CycFX 8, 42 x GLP impression X4 Bar 20, 4 x Martin by Harman Professional Viper Smoke Machines.

For control, a 16-Way Data Rack, a grandMA NPU and two MA Lighting grandMA 3 consoles were on the rider. Colour Sound Experiment also supplied the lighting rig’s rigging and utilised 4 x 15m QX-30 black truss, a 12m QX-30 black truss and a 9m QX-30 black truss. For hoists, 14 x EXE-Rise 1000kg LVs were used on 17 points of rigging.

Tozer continued: “As there weren’t any production rehearsals, I wanted to use a console that I was very familiar with. The show also


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Lasers were also key to the performance, and added a little ‘wow factor’ when the big beats dropped. Clements commented: “I hadn’t actually worked with ER Productions before, but our Lighting Designer, Sam Tozer, used them on a recent project and recommended their services. I have to say that they really delivered the goods and the laser show was incredible, so much so, that after the show, Flying Lotus himself immediately requested that we add lasers to all future shows and so we freighted them out to South Africa for our NYE show at Afropunk. ER Productions were great to work. The big laser drop was one of the standout moments of the show.

Being described by the camp as “a very collaborative process” by Tozer, it was the LD who approached the team at ER Productions. The company’s Ryan Hagen stated: “Originally, we were going to supply LaserBlades for the downstage edge as a focus, but as we moved forward with Sam it was clear we needed to allow for a wider, more flexible scope, with both the look of the show and from an operating prospective.

“We recommended the use of three lengths of pre-rigged Kinekt truss which allowed us to load in the 30 Kinekts quickly and efficiently. The Kinekt truss rigging time is so fast we can rig hundreds of laser units in the time it takes to hang a truss. Our new Beam-er and Strike-er laser products have also been designed in the same housing, so now we have a modular flexible array of products that can utilise these rigging

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functions,” he added. “Once we were flown and focussed, we handed over to Sam Tozer, who operated ER’s server mode workspace, designed specifically for use with a lighting console. The server mode offers 16bit movement so it’s nice and smooth as opposed the 8-bit older version. Alongside this we supplied 4 x higher powered scanners upstage to cut through the Kinekt wall. To finish the rig off, we supplied 12 more Kinekts for the DJ podium / riser. To summerise, we provided three layers at different depths so that the rig was incredibly versatile, and in server mode, would be userfriendly.”

The laser system was controlled by LD Sam Tozer and assisted by Laser Techs Tom Vallis and Ivan Dokmanović.

AUDIO ACTIVITIES Once the trickier show design elements were in place, Clements could don his FOH cap, and this one, it seems, was a far more familiar fit. “The Flying Lotus audio set up is actually very straightforward,” he said. “He is a very experienced producer so the actual mixing really all takes place on stage. The set list is different every night and it’s really dynamic, so the mix engineer ends up being part mixer and part mastering engineer, using a lot of EQ and compression to keep the show sounding great and balanced.

“The atmosphere of his gigs need to be both massive and delicate at the same time; the job is really to follow Flying Lotus’ lead with what he’s doing on stage and enhance that for the audience.” Specifying - from BCS Audio - an Avid Profile at FOH, Sennheiser 5000 Series radio microphones, and Radial Engineering DIs for what is a standard DJ set up. Clements has gone to BCS for audio needs regularly over the last 10 years. He furthered: “They stock L-Acoustics K1 & K2 boxes which



covers pretty much everything that I need, they maintain and package their equipment very well and they also have a great crew. Couple that with very competitive pricing, it’s a no brainer for me to use them. The L-Acoustics PA they put into Brixton was perfect for this show; crystal clear sound with massive headroom and loads of sub bass!”

BCS Audio’s Dave Shepherd picked up the story: “Our brief was to ensure that good, even coverage was attained, with a large sub element to cope with some serious bass line! Pete and I had discussions, and used the same system as we have used in this venue together many times before. BCS have done a huge amount of shows at Brixton Academy, so we have a good knowledge of the venue.”

The L-Acoustics system in London comprised 24 x K2, 16 x KS28 and 6 x Kara. The system was driven on LA12X amplifiers and controlled with Lake LM 44 digital processing. The stage has a mixture of L-Acoustics side fills and d&b audiotechnik M2 wedges. At FOH, two DiGiCo SD10s were supplied, with DiGiCo SD9 and SD11 desks being provided for the support acts. The BCS crew was completed by FOH System Tech, Oli Crump, Monitor Tech, Kevan Snuggs and Stage Tech, Tom Woolsey.

TRANSPORT TALK Phoenix Bussing’s Stewart Scott dealt with Clements following the production manager’s recent experience and consequence choice to once again use the bussing giant. In this instance, the artist wanted a large bedroom which Phoenix is able to provide on many of its coaches. Scott stated: “I like to meet all the production and tour managers I deal with personally, so I went to the Bristol leg of this mini tour, met Pete and made sure everyone was happy with the bus. After a cuppa tea on the bus with him, it seemed that everything was perfect!”

For trucking, Fly By Nite was also a known choice for the PM, who began working with FBN during his time with British



rock starlets, London Grammar. Account Manager Matt Jackson said: “We’ve looked after Pete’s tours ever since then, but this was our first time working with Flying Lotus. We provided trucks for the Brixton / Bristol – two-day showcase, with a 26-tonne descending on Bristol and an Artic for Brixton. For us, it was a super easy project – a threeday schedule in total, and a small, smooth show to finish last year on, and Pete’s a good guy to work with.” FBN’s lead drivers were Phil Gude in Bristol and Conner O’Hara for Brixton.

A NICHE PRODUCTION In conclusion, PM Pete Clements noted: “Brixton was definitely a niche production; we had a total of eight acts performing with minimal changeover time and very limited space, and our last two Brainfeeder X events have both been on big festival stages, so the real challenge was to get everyone on and off stage efficiently. I couldn’t have done it without my Stage Managers, Paul Frost & Pete Thomas.

“The project was also a first for 3D projection… no one else has done this as a full live show to my knowledge, and we managed to deliver projection, lasers and epic lighting all at the same time!” TPi Photos: courtesy of Brainfeeder www.brainfeedersite.com www.bcsaudio.com www.coloursound.com www.cpl.tech www.strangeloop-studios.com www.er-productions.com www.phoenix-bussing.co.uk www.flybynite.co.uk