We are the robots. A computer is messing with the electrical signals in our collective brain. If we all become one whipped-up sweat drop then this is our heart calling... punters and players alike enjoying the binary finery of computer pulse orgies.
Out on the dance floor we're more wired than we think – while the DJs with their slick slabs of vinyl are widely celebrated as the lords of the dance, the difference between a good night out and a mind expanding experience is often in the hands of the (mostly) unseen wizards at the controls of some very serious light and sound technology.
Geoffrey Rose – Laser Special Events, Sydney
If the technical crews who work to create high energy at dance parties and raves around Australia were to select a Grand Master they would probably choose Geoffrey Rose of Laser Special Events. A degree in Physics (UNSW) opened his mind to the magical properties of precisely filtered light and its potential to create eye dazzling art.
While his international reputation as a laser artist has been established at mainstream events such as the World Expo in Portugal, Rose gained underground credibility for his art with a very different audience in the rising dance party scene of Australia over the last decade.
His performances with the Laser Goddess (choreographer and dancer) Tracey Burke at numerous events such as Prodigy (State Sport Centre, Sydney), Eclipse (Illicit, Melbourne) and Red Raw (Metro, Melbourne) were about "Elevating of spirits and an appreciation for technical perfection – by taking technology out of the box of the computer and into real space."
Rose has used up to four technicolour lasers in these performances to hit 3" mirrors a hundred metres away on Burke's elaborate RoboGirl costumes and spin a web of light fantastic over mesmerised crowds: "(It's) the purity, the wrap-around effect encompassing the audience," he says, "And with Tracey, the perfection is humanised and reworked with fluid and organic elements."
The future of precise light according to Rose is a collision between lighting and laser technology: "Using lenses on lights like magnifying glasses to intensify it, rather than wasting light to create shapes and colours; creating structures in space with a control on intensity that normal lights allow -- a system with the control of a laser without the fragility and cost. Lasers are really laboratory instruments."
Favourite tech: Aquarius 2 laser system - English + scanning system with computer (worth $100,000) "It has live keyboard control so the operator can interact live and in total sync with the music rather than have preset programs."
Paul Chambers - Beyond the Brain, North Coast NSW
Paul Chambers has a techfetish: "My favourite technology is like my favourite techno music - the latest, freshest and juiciest gear I can find or afford to get my hands on. A lot of lasers, lights and sound are totally great but it's integrating them with other elements in unique combinations that I find exciting."
Chambers is at the leading edge of psycho-spiritual party production through bush trance events in the lush environs of Byron Bay, northern NSW. But it's not all psychedelic doof music and trippy lights up north. Chambers talks with equal enthusiasm about culture jam happenings like Thursday Plantation's Homecoming Ball, which will feature a string quartet before charging into full-blown techno, or the planned Industrial fashion show set to take place during Byron Bay's official New Year's Eve celebration this year.
Whether they're dancing to Vivaldi or DJ Visceral, Chambers hopes his productions "help people have a great time -- and that they can see and feel the connections between all the music and creative expression. The aim is to produce events that are both going-off parties and genuine works of art."
Travellers and locals in Northern NSW can look forward to more electrically-charged celebrations this summer which continue the mystical legend of the internationally famous Beyond the Brain parties.
Mention Beyond the Brain to any trance-traveller and you're likely to hear a passionate manifesto for the global community and the technology which makes it happen. Chambers can't stop smiling when he recounts his epiphany at a recent Beyond the Brain party which starred ethnobotanical guru Terence McKenna: "The event took on a life of its own -- it brought a dance party crew and much of the wider community together in a truly multi-dimensional, multi-media happening. I feel proud to have been a part of it."
Club profile: ARQ, Sydney
Recently opened on Flinders Street (just off Sydney's gay strip Oxford Street) ARQ is a testament to what an almost religious dedication to hi-tech and massive amounts of money can score. A spokesperson for ARQ said the mega-million investment was aimed at "Enhancing the enjoyment of the music -- with a good operator and the best gear you can SEE the energy level. We use colour and varying tempos and key to control the intensity of the crowd." According to ARQ management, the moving head and mirror luminaires, strobes, pinspots, colour washes, lasers and the huge (7 1/2 tonne) hydraulic lighting sculpture will certainly give the crowd something to look at - "but the operator is the crucial element for optimising the energy".
Club profile: QBH, Melbourne
Melbourne's biggest nightclub is committed to mind-expansion through carefully controlled technology. Marcus Johns, General Manager, says you can have the best tools in the world, but they're useless if not used properly. "It's all in the operation," says Johns, "We can have people come here totally straight and just enjoy the lighting and the music and feel great. The show evolves over the night and from week to week -- so each time you come you get another presentation."
Johns believes the public's expected standard for sound has gone through the roof over the last five years with home stereos now featuring surround and mega bass. "They (dance audience) are now very sound aware, and understand the difference between good and bad acoustics.
QBH keeps its crowd pumping with high quality bass orientation through eight double woofer bass cabinets (1,600 watts each), clear Mids and Highs, an EV X-Array System with compressors and processors and Yamaha Equalisers. The whole system was designed in a CAD Architectural application with acoustic properties of the room mapped and speaker positions plotted to maximise efficiency and minimise dead spots and booming areas. Speakers were then hung exactly to spec.
Eye-candy is served up in super doses: Genesis 16 colour laser with Pentium computer control and Intelligent lighting running off another computer. Plus a 5 metre truss lighting ball (1.8 tonnes), Future Lights with 360 degree rotation, Ambient Lighting, dance mirrors. and miles of optical fibre lighting throughout the venue. "It's DMX compatible," explains Johns, "Meaning that the DJ and lighting guy can control it via computer and change the mood of the room. Starts off Red and moves through the spectrum throughout the night".
Oz - Squiffy Vision, NSW
Squiffy Vision creates melting moments with sound and vision at large events throughout Australia including Beyond the Brain, Earthcore and Thursday Plantation's Homecoming Ball. " We create environments that help people get past the drudgery of their ordinary mindstates by relaxing them or shocking them into being open to new mind states," says Squiffy Vision's Production Manager Oz, "Freedom means taking full responsibility for your life. The events we do are a communal vibe."
Oz works with 1970s gear mostly and Digital Video Animators Strobes, Quasars and lasers plus a subliminal neural trigger -- smell: "We use cold fan-forced smells to enhance different colour/sound harmonics," says Oz, "And oil on hot coals to take the audience on a journey."
Colour is an important ingredient too. Oz explains that colour light can balance the harmonics in a room: "Every note has a harmonic in beat, pitch and colour." It's all about deep pulse, binaural coding. Red = Lust or anger, "It depends which way you go especially the vocal and musical content," says Oz, "Shapes harmonise with colour, sound and our chakras. Subliminal and obvious effects are created to induce relaxed states in the audience. Part of the evolution of body/mind/spirit. Mass self organisation evolves to the point of sustainability -- and once people become self organised the mass self organises."
Di James - 4th Dimension Vision Mixing
Di James mixes vision -- video and still images -- in synergy with the music booming out of soundsystems at underground events such as ODD at Centrepoint in Sydney, Koxbox at Sydney Uni's Wentworth Building and numerous events on the north coast.
What is the 4th Dimension? Imagine a DJ cutting and fading several tracks to create new patterns -- but instead of dropping vinyl or CDs James blends vision live alongside the DJs: "For me, it's a synchronisation of sound and vision to create a space where people feel free to cut loose and immerse themselves in the environment", she says.
Working with a base (bass) of VHS videos she develops in preproduction, James delivers lush 3D animations and a live video feed of the crowd into her mixing desk then out to a projector and its huge screens above the dance floor.
Right now she owns a couple of monitors, a VCR and a VHS video camera -- down from the 4 VCRs and an MX-12 mixer she worked with in Byron Bay. According to Di, vision mixing at parties is still an under-used medium and thus promoters rarely budget for its worth in creating the vibe. "I have to hire most of my equipment when I perform in Sydney," says James, "and the repairs and servicing of this equipment is expensive due to its hitech nature. But, on my big wish list there is a DLP projector, an MX-50 vision mixer, DVD players instead of VCR players, small LCD monitors, a digital video camera and a Non Linear Editing system with a firewire card for pre- and post- production. AND a sponsor!"
Drawn to her art as a means of directly enhancing party goers' moods in real time (rather than the static nature of paintings or the linear flow of film), James believes many of her images mightn't be immediately registered in the audience's mind during the event "but may provide a trigger for a later response to viewing similar imagery. Ultimately the aim is to broaden the person's perceptions of themselves and the universe. People from many indigenous cultures have had traditions of shamanic dancing. And hell, dancing's good exercise."
Urs -- Happy People Productions, Mullumbimby, NSW
Whether he's dancing and trancing on the beaches of Goa (India) and Kho Phangan (Thailand) or in Mother Nature's finest playgrounds in Switzerland and Byron Bay, Urs believes the Happy People need powerful bass for a smiling face: "I wouldn't mind a couple more bass bins (sub woofers) so we make even more sound -- the louder we play the better god can hear us!"
You can imagine the dancing in Heaven when the Happy System starts pumping: 16 JBL 15 inch bass bins , 8 AT C 10inch drivers, 8 JBL horns , and 8 JBL bullets --- a compact system by club standards, but powerful all the same. Urs smiles as he explains his list of other toys: "This shows you that we are running this rig with active 4 way crossovers powered with 2 x 3K and 2 x 2K QSCs, 2 x 0.5K Jeils for the tops, a Klark 40 channel graphic mixer and a DBX 1066 compressor gate -- they're all there to make sure we have best HIFY STEREO."
Urs' passion for powerful technology began at formative full moon parties on the beaches of Goa, where he tuned in with up to 5000 "drunken, stoned and tripping hippies and Indians partying together on the beach in South Anjuna". Inspired by these wild beach frolics Urs developed his DJ and promoting skills in Switzerland before landing back on Goan beaches in the early 80s with new sounds to help the hippies and Indians find joy through dance. "(I played at) India's first night club Flying Dragon Jungle Express -- the disco fever was on in Europe and so we disturbed the hippies with their reggae and salsa but in no time they adapted to the new trend and Goa was on the way to becoming the Mecca for experimental dance music." During the last two decades Urs and his Happy People have played for all kinds of crowds, from 100 to 200 in Boracay, several thousands at Australian events such as Green Magiq and Trance-Zen-Dance, right up to 20,000 at the Zoom parties in Switzerland. This New Year you'll find the Happy People in Byron for the Millenni-Yum Clockbuster Groove: "Hope to meet you some time on a rocking dance floor for Happy People Productions and the Millenni-Yum crew, love URS."